whether moved by religious considerations, or by way of maintaining the allegiance of their subjects, or in order to seize the temporalities and pious foundations, or, like Albrecht of Brandenburg, to found a principality and a dynasty. We need not here enquire too closely into the motives of which the League of Schmalkalden was the outcome, and may content ourselves with pointing to the fact that even Charles V was, in spite of the victory of Mühlberg, powerless to restore the imperial supremacy or to impose his will on the Protestant States.
The progress of the Reformation, and still more so that of the Counter-Reformation, lie outside the limits of the present chapter; but it may be concluded by a few words suggesting why the abuses which, in the sixteenth century, could only be cured by rending the Church in twain, have to so large an extent disappeared since the Reformation, leading many enthusiasts to feel regret that the venerable ecclesiastical structure was not purified from within—that reform was not adopted in place of schism.
The abuses under which Christendom groaned were too inveterate, too firmly entrenched, and too profitable to be removed by any but the sternest and sharpest remedies. The task was too great even for papal omnipotence. The attempt of Adrian VI had broken down. In 1555, the future Cardinal Seripando, in announcing to the Bishop of Fiesole the death of Marcellus II, who, in his short pontificate of twenty-two days, had manifested a resolute determination to correct abuses, says that perhaps God, in thus bringing reform so near and then destroying all hope of it, has wished to show that it is not to be the work of human hands and is not to come in the way expected by us, but in some way that we have not been able to conjecture. In truth the slow operation was required of causes for the most part external. So long as the Roman Church held the monopoly of salvation it inevitably followed the practice of all monopolies in exacting all that the market would yield—in obtaining the maximum of power and wealth. When northern Europe had definitely seceded, and a large proportion of the rest of the Continent was trembling in the balance,—when what was lost could not be regained and a strenuous effort was required to save the remainder,—the Church at length recognised that she stood face to face with a permanent competitor, whose rivalry could only be met by her casting off the burdens that impeded her in the struggle. To this the Council of Trent contributed something, and the stern purpose of Pius V, followed at intervals by other pontiffs, still more. The permanent supremacy of Spain in Italy checked the aspirations of the Holy See towards enlarging its temporal dominions. The chief source of cause of advance, however, is the action of the secular princes who sustained the cause of the Church during a century of religious wars. The Reformation had emancipated their power as well as the