Bucer, Martin (DNB00)
|←Buc, George||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 07
|Buchan, Alexander Peter→|
BUCER, MARTIN (1491–1551), protestant divine, was born of humble parents at Schlettstadt in Lower Alsace. The proper spelling of his name is undoubtedly Butzer; it is form is employed by himself, and ordinarily by his German contemporaries, except when they latinise his name into Bucerus (cf. the jest related by Melchior Adam, Vita Buceri, 105, which also explains the Latin equivalents Emunctor and Aretirlus Felinus; in Greek he called himself Βοίκηρος). In his fifteenth year he was, against his will, placed as a novice in the Dominican monastery in his native town, and he remained a monk till 1521. At Heidelberg, where he studied Greek and Hebrew, he in April 1513 had an opportunity of hearing Luther dispute on the dogma of free-will; a correspondence ensued, and Bucer began to long for emancipation. He became acquainted with several leading humanists, all was more especially patronised by Capito. Soon he thought it prudent to take refuge, first in some other sequestered spot, and then in Franz von Sickingen’s castle, the Ebernburg, near Creuznach, where at this time Hutten and many other fugitives enjoyed the knight's hospitality. But through skilful aid he ultimately found no great difficulty in obtaining a papal brief, in consequence of which he was on 29 April 1521 declared free from his monastic vows, though of course he still remained a priest. In an interview at Oppenheim on 13 April 1621 he had tried to induce Luther to divert his course from the diet of Worms to the Ebernburg, but failed, and Bucer had thereupon loyally accompanied the reformer on his dangerous journey. Immediately after (possibly even before) his liberation from his vows, Bucer entered the service of the Count (afterwards Elector) Palatine Frederick hilt he soon felt ill at ease, especially amongthe dissipations of Nürnberg. In May 1522 he obtained his dismissal, and entered upon the incumbency of Landstuhl, Sickingen's barony, near Kaiserslautern (Melchior Adam’s account of this part of Bucer’s life is confused). Soon after his establishment here he was married to Elisabeth Pallass (Schenkel), or Silbereisen (Baum), who had for twelve years been the inmate of a nunnery, but who made him an excellent wife. Bucer’s marriage is memomble as one of the earliest marriages of ordained priests among the reformers; it was followed by Bugenhagen's in 1522, Zwingli's in 1524, and Luther’s in 1625.
From Landstuhl Bucer, at Sickingen's suggestion, undertook one or two journeys in the interests of the reformation, falling into peril in the Netherlands. Soon, however, he was generously dismissed by his patron, and on passing through Weissenburg in Lower Alsace accepted an invitation from Motherer, parson in that town, to fill the post of preacher at his church. Here he in a series of sermons advanced Lutheran views, and recommended the study of the German Bible. Great excitement ensued, and both Motherer and Buwr, having declined to appear before the Bishop of Speier, were excommunicated by him. Eucer hereupon made a pnblic profession of his doctrine, but finally both he and his friend, with their wives, were obliged to ily to Strassburg, where they arrived at the end of April 1523, and at first took refuge in the house of Bucer's father, now a citizen of the town.
In Strassburg the reformation had many sympathisers, and Matthew Zell was already preaching ‘the gospel’ to the people in the nave of the minster. Capito, who had recently assumed a dignified ecclesiastical position in the city, still observed a hesitating attitude. Bucer’s arrival and hold announcement of his marriage to the spiritual authorities therefore created much interest, and he was at first only allowed to lecture, as it were, privately in Zell's house. As a citizen‘s son, however, he was protected by the town council against the bishop, who demanded his surrender, and was allowed to plead his cause both by word of mouth and in writing. His lectures on the New Testament, some of which he gave in the cathedral, were numerously attended, and in December 1523 he was appointed a salaried daily lecturer on the scriptures. He was now one of the seven prenchers recognised at Strassburg as the representatives of the cause of the reformation. Jacob Sturm, in the town council, and Capito's, who had by this time declared for the reformation, were, with Buoer and Zell, its chief promoters. In March 1524 the hishop excommunicated several married priests, among whom, however, there is no mention of Bucer; and in the same month the guild of gardeners, whose religious views were of an advanced character, elected him priest at St. Aurelia’s, a parsonage in Capito's provostsbip. Though much drawn to Zwmgli, he continued for a time to maintain an independent attitude as to the use of images and pictures, and his view of the eucharist was not as yet wholly divergent from Luther's. But the difficulties of the Strassburg reformers increased as the city hecame the refuge of victims of religious persecution. Both Capita and Buoer showed hospitality to French and Italian refugees, through whom Bucer in particular set on foot schemes for the propagation of protestantism. Less welcome to him were the anabaptists who took refuge in the city and Carlstadt, whose dispute with Luther was already notorious. In October 1524 the images were removed out of Bucer’s church, and St. Aurelia’s wonder-working grate was closed; and in the following month Bucer, while giving an account to Luther of the simple reformed worship in use at Strassburg, requested in the name of his brethren a more explicit statement of Luther's dogma conoeming the eucbarist. Probably Bucer had been alienated from the Lutheran view on this head through the induence of Rodius (Rode, of Utrecht), who visited him about this time (Köstin, i. 717; cf. Baum, 304-5). Luther's reply was his ‘Address to all Christians in Strassburg,’ warning them against the errors of Carlstadt. Soon after this Bucer, with Capito and Zell, bravely attempted in a personal interview to persuade a large band of insurrectionary peasants to abstain from violence.
The hardest and most thankless task of Bucer's life began when in 1525 the conflict between Luther and Zwingli which turned mainly, though not altogether, on the encharist, declared itself. The Strassburg preachers, who distinctly placed themselves on the side of the Swiss reformer, were roughly handled by Melanchthon, and sarcastically criticised by the Erasmians, against whom guest did his best to defend his position. Luther, having in November declined a friendly overture from the Strassburgers, was further irritated by observations on the eucharist introduced by Bucer into his Latin translation of Luther's ‘Church Postil’ (1525), and Luther’s follower, Bugenhagen, had a similar grievance against the same translator`s version of his ‘ Commentary on the Psalms.' Meanwhile, the friendliness between the Strnssburg and the Swiss reformers increased, Bucer also placing himself decisively on Zwingli’s side against anabaptism, with certain milder phases of which his friend Capito was not altogether out of sympathy (1527). At the great Bern disputation (January 1528) he distinctly declared in favour of the Zwinglian doctrine. Soon afterwards he dedicated to the Bern town council his ‘Commentary on the Gospel of St. John,' prefaced by a summary of the proceedings at the disputation. In March 1528 appealed the amplest ‘ Confession' ever put forth by Luther concerning the eucharist, and in June Bucer published a reply in dialogue form, in which he proposed a personal conference between the leaders of the two parties. He had already entreated Zwingli ,to adopt as conciliatory as possible a tone towards Luther, but as yet no sounds except of ire came from Wittenberg. Meanwhile, Strassburg consummated her revolt from Rome by the abolition of the mass (20 Feb. 1529; see ‘Reds me and he nott Wrothe,’ by Roy and Barlow, Arber's English Reprints, 1871, where 'Butzer’ is mentioned among the chief adversaries of the mass). Bucer's activity was of great service in liturgical reform, not only at Strassburg, but also at numerous places in Suahia and Hesse.
The position of affairs in 1529 was so full of danger for the estates, including Strassburg, which had protested at Speier, that a close cohesion among them seemed imperative ; this, however, it seemed clear to Phiilip of Hesse, Jacob Sturm, and others, must be preceded by a theological agreement, the promotion of which now became the main object of Bucer’s endeavours. In these he was greatly aided by Œcolampadius. Bucer’s own views were substantially Zwinglian, but his plan was if possible to formulate the cardinal doctrine of the eucharist after a fashion which, without offending against the laws of logic, might prove acceptable to both Luther and Zwingli. At last the conference was brought about which opened at Marburg in 1529 between Luther and Zwingli, with Buccr and others intervening (1 and 3 Oct. 1529). Notwithstanding Bucer's efforts and concessions (Luther is said to have welcomed him with the humorous reproach ‘tu es nequam’), the one subject on which no agreement was arrived at was the crucial subject of the eucharist. Probably, however, some impression in favour of union had been made on Melanchthon; and, at all events, Bucer was more than ever marked out as the man most likely to conduct further negotiations to a successful issue. That he could hold his own when he chose is shown by his celebrated ‘Apologetic Letter' published shortly afterwards (1630), in answer to Erasmus. Bucer was concerned` in the drawing up of the ‘Confessio Tetiapolitana' presented at the diet of Augsburg in July 1530 by Strassburg, Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau, which diilered most essentially from the ‘ Augustana ' in the article on the eucharist, though goingasfar as possible in the Lutheran direction (when he published it after an intentional delay, in August 1531, he accompanied it by a most conciliatoi ‘Apology’). An interview with Melanchthon, followed by a letter to Luther, having led to no result, Bucer on 25 Sept. 1530 courageously presented himself in person before uther at Coburg, and had the satisfaction of bringing him to express a distinct hope of reconciliation with the ‘sacramentarians,’ or, at all events, with the Strassburgers. Henceforth his plan of action was so to put the desired agreement that Luther might appear to have yielded nothing (cf. Köstlin, ii. 248-9). Soon afterwards Bucer journeyed in the interest of union through a series of towns in the southwest of Germany and in Switzerland, from which he returned to Strassburg in October. Here we find him seeking to facilitate a union with the Waldensian communities, but his more important scheme still remained unaccomplished. While the Wittenbergers were now hoping through him to detach the South German towns from the Swiss, the Zürichers, with the men of Bern and Constance, and even his own Strassburgers, began to suspect his intentions. Among other things which helped to hamper his endeavours was the publication at Hagenan in Alsace of Servetus's book about the Trinity (1531), which, after he had in vain attempted to suppress its circulation, and after Servetus had left Strassburg, Bucer censured in a confutation supposed to be still extant (Tollin, 236). His efforts for union were by no means furthered by the death of Zwingli at Cappel (October 1531), but an almost heavier blow for him was the death of Œcolampadius (November), although he thereby became the acknowledged head of the South German divines. At Strassburg he now presided over the weeldy clerical board ofthe ‘servants of the Word.' He used his authority to induce the Strassburgers at a meeting of the protestant estates held at Schweinfurt (April 1532) to subscribe the Augustana without abandoning the Tetrapolitana, and to accept the articles of agreement drawn up by him, with a proviso safeguarding the maintenance of their simple ritual for ten years. This step was very ill received in Switzerland and elsewhere, and he was left with few supporters of his union polio while at this very time he was blamed at Sltrassburg for drawing too tight the reins of ecclesiastical discipline against the ‘prophets.' He succeeded, however, both in introducing during another tour a considerable measure of uniformity amongst the South German and Swiss churches, and at home in bringin about the establishment of an ecclesiastical constitution through a synod (1533) which may have averted from Strassburg the fate of Münster. The errors of the church there was one among the many subjects which about this time employed his pen. The continuation of his lectures on the New Testament (published in their first edition, 1530, and second, 1636), with Capito's on the Old, was the beginning of systematic courses of higher instruction which afterwards developed into the university of Strass- hurg; and it was he who in 1538 brought John Sturm into the city which owed so much to his labours. Bucer's interests were not confined to Strassburg or Alsace, though nothing came of his efforts to further the design of a reformation in France, in which both he and Melanchthon were to some extent involved (Köstlin, ii. 371, 462; cf Michelet, Histoire de France (2nd ed. 1857), viii. 406-417). Nearer at home he successfully exerted himself for the institution of the church at Augsburg (1531-5).
Meanwhile, he continued intent upon his scheme of finding a basis for a formulated agreement for concordia, between the Lutherans and the South Germans and Swiss; and after holding a preliminary conference at Constance, he met Melanchthon at Cassel (Christmas 1534). Their meeting was cordial, but led to no definite result, and Bucer's labours continued at Augsburg and elsewhere. In April 1536, soon after his return from Basel, where he had aided in drawing up the enchsristic portion of the so-called First Helvetic Confession, he learned that Luther was prepared to discuss in person the question of a concordia. The meeting, which was to have taken place at Eisenach, was actually held at Wittenberg 22-29 May. The concession on the part of Bucer and his companions that the body in the eucharist is received hy the unworthy brought matters to a conclusion; Luther saluted them as his ‘dear brethren in the Lord,’ and articles drawn up by Melanchthon were signed by all (or nearly all) present. Bucer’s work was accomplished, though he well knew what bitterness was to follow, His ‘Retractatio de Cœna Domini’ was in the same year appended to the new edition of his Gospel ‘Commentaries.' The concordia was not approved at Zürich, and in February 1537 Bucer presented to Luther at Smalcald a statement of doctrine which had been drawn up at Basel. Though it is said (Baum, 518) that Luther, whom a most dangerous illness obliged to take his departure to Gotha, whither Bucer afterwards followed him, committed to the latter the general care of the poor church, in the event of his own death, is ‘Smalcald Articles' again went beyond the Wittenberg concordia, and Bucer`s work seemed nearly lost. again. A conference at Zürich in April 1538 proved to him that he had alienated the Swiss, while he only with difficulty obtained the adhesion of the South Germantowns, and all this in order that Luther in some of his last writings might inveigh more vehemently than ever against the ‘sacramentarians.' At least, however, Melanchthon's views had been materially modified, and the Calvinistic development of Zwinglian doctrine had been prepared. With Calvin himself Buoer first came into friendly contact at a synod held in Bern May 1537, and again during the stay of the former at Strassburg, 1538-41. There was much sympathy between them on the subject of church discipline. Among the German reformers Bucer now took a leading position. His signature is appended to the memorable opinion furnished by Luther and others in justification of resistance to the emperor on the question of religion (Köstlin, ii. 411). And in a similar capacity he became involved in the scandal of the Landgrave Philip of Hesse’s ‘second' marriage (March 1540), which he promoted, witnessed, and even helped to defend. A far nobler, though an intellectual work, was his share in the endeavours to bring about a reunion between the contending religions in the empire. Bucer's interview with Witzel was followed in 1540 by the meeting of princes at Hagenau, at which he and other protestant theologians attended, and of which he published an account. Another meeting at Worms was likewise broken up by the catholic side; but the most important of the series was held at Ratisbon on the occasion of the diet of 1541, where on the catholic side the legate Contarini and Julius Pflug, with Eck and Gropper, on the protestant Melanchthon, Bucer, and the Hessian Pistorius, were the leading representatives. Of this interesting and, as it seemed, not wholly fruitless meeting, Bucer likewise put forth a narrative. On his return he found the plague raging at Srassburg ; among its victims were several (three ?) of his children, his wife, and his faithful associate Capito. A twelvemonth later he married Capito's widow.
In 1541 and the following years Bucer was much occupied in assisting the archbishop-elector of Cologne (Hermann von Wied) in his attempt to introduce reformed doctrines and worship into his territories. With Melanchthon he drew up a ‘Book of Reformation’ (1543), to which Luther made objections. From this work, of whichan English version was printed in London in 1547 (see Strype, Ecclesiastical Memorials, ii. i. 41-4), and which itself largely borrowed from a liturgy previously established in Nürnberg and Anspach, the services of the church of England are occasionally derived. Bucer defended his proceedings in the Cologne electorate in two treatises published in 1543, but the collapse of Hermann von Wied's attempt is well known. Before the catastrophe of the Smalcaldic war Bucer attended one more conference on reunion held at Ratisbon in 1516, where the main discussion was carried on between himself and the Spaniard Malvenda. After all was over, and when early in 1548 the Interim was about to be laid before the diet, he was summoned to Augsburg by the elector, Joachim II of Brandenburg, who, being desirous for peace at any price, wished to obtain an authoritative opinion in favour of the proposed settlement. He was detained in something like imprisonment for twenty-two days, but proved less pliable than had been expected, and Strassburg, though all but alone in her resolution, declined to sign the Interim. In the resistance against the necessity nf accepting it which Strassburg maintained for more than a year and a half the preachers unanimously took part, with Bucer and Fagius, Capito’s successor, at their head. But it gradually became evident that the city must give way, and that its spiritual leaders must. take their departure. After preparing, as a species of pastoral legacy, a ‘Summary of the religion taught at Strassburg durintglthe last twenty-eight years,’ Bucer, together with Fagius, applied for ‘leave of absence,' and a temporary pension having been granted them, and generous provision made or Bucer’s family during his peregrination, they quitted Strassburg on 6 April 1549. Bucer had been offered hospitality by Melanchthon, Myconius, and Calvin, and hardly had he and his companions departed when they were invited to professorial chairs at Copenhagen; but they had already bent their course to England. With England Bucer had a connection of longstanding, having been consulted by Henry VIII about his divorce, and more lately, in partial cnnsequence perhaps of the hospitality shown to so many English protestant fugitives at Strassburg, having been in frequent correspondence with Cranmer. The primate, who had already bestowed the regius professorship of divinity at Oxford upon Bucer's former colleague, Peter Martyr, now invited Bucer himself to England, doubtless with a view to his receiving a similar appointment at Cambridge (see Miscellaneous Writings and Letters of Cramner, ed. J. E. Cox, Parker Society, 1846, 423-4). The travellers set sail from Calais on 23 April, and on the same day reached-hardly Cambridge, as Baum says, but-Canterbury (cf. as to Bucer’s visiting Canterbury about this time, Strype, u.s. ii. i. 123). Thence they proceeded to London, where they found Cranmer surrounded by foreign refugees (see Bucer’s letter, noting the want of good preachers and teachers in England, cited by Baum, 551). On 1 May they were most graciously received by the young king Edward VI and the great personages around him, among whom the Duchess of Suffolk soon showed special favour to Bucer. In the first instance he and his companion were, by desire of the king and Somerset, employed upon a Latin version of the Scriptures, with explanations and doctrinal notes, the whole to be afterwards translated into English. Bucer also warmly interested himself in the alfairs of the London congregations of French and German refu-fees, and corresponded with Peter Martyr, whose propositions concerning the eucharist he thought bon Zwinglian (cf. the plain-spoken note in Hallan, Constitutional History, 10th ed. i. 90). His opinion was constantly asked by Cranmer, notably on the controversy about ecclesiastical vestments raised by Hooper on his appointment to the see of Gloucester (see Cramner, Miscellaneous Writings, 428, and note; cf. also Froude, History of England, 12mo, iv. 558-60. Bucer's conciliatory reply, ‘De re vestiariâ in sacris,’ is printed in ‘Scripts Anglioanaf 705-10). At last the arrangements were complete which made it possible to summon Bucer and Fagius to Cambridge, the former as regius professor of divinity, the salary having been raised to 100l. per annum, and Madew having retired in his favour. Fagius, who had arrived at Cambridge in advance, died there on 11 Nov. in the arms of Bucer, who, though himself suffering, had followed his friend as soon as possible. He thus had to begin his new life alone. He was treated with at respect, and soon afterwards created D.D., having been specially recommended by royal letter to the university (Mullinger, ii. 119). It was on this occasion that he delivered a species of inaugural lecture, in which he modestly preferred a seasonable plea in favour of degrees and examinations (Scripta Anglicana, 184-90). On 10 Jan. 1550 he opened a course of lectures on the Epistle to the Ephesians. Before the end of the winter he was joined by his wife and some of his children and servants. He was frequently visited by Parker, Haddon, Bradford, and others. He continued to be frequently consulted by Cranmer, and was specially commissioned with the revision of the first English book of common prayer, though but a small part of the improvements suggested by him was actually carried out (see the ‘Censura,’ &c., in Scripta Anglicana, 456-503, to which is prefixed the Latin version of the prayer book by Alesius, erroneously described by Strype in a assage cited in this dictionary [art Alesius], which should be corrected accordingly; cf. Laurence, Bampton Lectures, 221 ; see ib. 246-247 as to the slightness of Bucer's influence upon the English liturgy. His share in the forty-two Articles of 1553 must necessarily remain a matter of conjecture). In August 1550 he took part in a disputation on the Luthern doctrine of justification to which he had been challenged by John Young, Andrew Pern, and Thomas Sedgwick, and which excited much bitter controversy in the university. On his return to Cambridge from an visit to Peter Martyr, he found that Young had begun a series of lectures against his, teaching, and, as his opponents would not curry on the discussion in writing, sought leave for another and final disputation, with what result is not known (his account of the ‘Controversy’ is in ‘Scripts Anglicana,' 797- 862; cf. Mullinger, ii. 122).
The winter of 1550-1 found Bucer better prepared for mueting its rigour, and various special gifts were sent to him by the young king; his salary was raised, and he was told to spare himself, and not hold himself bound to lecture. He was was encouraged to devote himself to the composition of a work desired by Edward VI as a new year’s greeting-the both comprehensive and practical ‘De Regus Christi’ (in ‘Scripta Anglicana,' 1-170. It seems to have beenfirst published in 1557, and was soon translated into French and German). Scarcely had he completed and presented this work, and recommenced his lectures (the ‘Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians’ published at Basel in 1561 by Trewellius only reaches the fifth chapter), when ill-health, from which he had more or less suffered since his arrival in England, again overtook him. He soon pemeived that his end was at hand. The sick man’s house speedily filled with friends, among them the Duchess of Suffolk, whose two young sons were studying at Cambridge under his tuition, and John Bradford tended him to the last. He died on 28 Feb. 1550-1, after expressing anxiety on his deathbed lest for lack of discipline the English church should full into the errors which had distracted that of his native land (see N. Carr;s epistle, ‘De Obitu Buceri,' in Scripta Anglicana, 867-76). He was buried in Great St. Mary's Church, the whole university and large numbers of burgesses, some three thousand persons in all, attending his funeral. Parker’s funeral sermon and Walter Haddon's speech as public orator are in ‘Scripta Auglicana’ (882-99), followed by a flow of epitaphs and other testimonies in his lxunuur; and the utmost kindness was shown to his family.
During the visitation of the university under Queen Mary on 6 Feb. 1557, the bodies of Bucer and Fagius were exhumed, and, with an elaborate mockery of a real trial and execution, publicly burnt on Market Hill at Cambridge (see the lengthy account in Scripta Anglicana, 915-35). But three years afterwards, in July 1560, under the same vice-chancellor (Perne), who had, it was said, unwillingly figured in this ghastly farce, the university was instructed to make amends by restoring all their honours to Bucer and Fagius (see the narrative, ib. 935-45). Queen Elizabeth appears to have renewed the letters patent by which her brother had granted to any descendant of Bucer the privilege of settling in England with all the rights of an English subject; and in 1593 a grandson of his, afterwards pastor at Basel, was maintained ut Trinity, Cambridge, by the combined liberality of the college and the crown (Mullinger, ii. 182).
[The worst of the charges brought against ‘the dear politicus and fanaticus of union,' as Bucer was called by his friend Margaret Blaurer, will be found arrayed in the dedicatory epistle prefixed to the so-called Scripta Anglicana, or Tomus Anglicanus (fol. Basel 1577), edited by Bucer‘s friend, and for some time regular secretary and companion, Conrad Hubert.. This volume, though intended to form part of a collective edition of all his works, was not followed by any other. It contains all those of his works which were published in England, mqether with some of his earlier writings and various memorials of him. A complete list of his works, ninety-six in number, is given in the appendix to the extremely full and learned biography of him and his chief Suassburg associate published by the late Professor J. W. Baum under the title of ‘Capita und Butzer, Strassburg’s Reformatoren,’ as pt. iii. of Hagenbach’s Leben und ausgewählte Schriften dur Väter und Begründer der reformirten Kirche (Elberfeld, 1860). Among older biographical sketches Melchior Adams, in his Vitæ Eruditorum, is useful; among modern, Schenkel's in Herzog’s Real Encyclopädie, &c. vol. i., and Herzog’s in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, vol, iv. See also, for the transactions between Luther and Bucer, Köstler’s Martin Luther (here cited in the third German edition, 2 vols. Elberfeld, 1883); for the controversy with Erasmus, Drummond, Life of Erasmus (1873), ii, 322; A. Müller, Leben des Erasmus (1828), 349~54. and note; and Erasmi Opera (1703-6), x. 1573 seqq.; for the relations with Servetus, and a very remarkable examination of the development of Bucer's views concerning the Trinity. Tollin's Michael Servet und Martin Butzer (Berlin, 1880); for educationnal affairs at Srassburg, Smith’s In Vie et les Travaux de Jean Sturm (Strassburg, 1855); for the question of Philip of Hesse‘s biography, C. von Rummel's Geschichhe von Hessen (Cassel, 1830), iv. 230-5, and appendix, 209-19, with Kasnin; for Bucer's Cambridge life, Mullinger’s University of Cambridge from the Royal Injunctions of 1535 to the Accession of Charles I (Cambridge, 1854), and Cooper's Athenæ; Cantab. i. 101.]