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Marburg, Colloquy Of

MARBURG, COLLOQUY OF (Marburger ReligionsgespracK), the name given to a conference of divines held in 1529 in the interests of the unity of Protestant Germany. The circumstances in which it was held, the influence of the men who conducted its deliberations, and the result of its proceedings, combine to render it of no small importance for the history of the Reformation in Germany.

After the Imperial Diet of Spires in 1526 had decreed that all states of the empire should observe the Edict of Worms (1521), banning Luther and his adherents, in such a manner that they should not be afraid to answer it before God and the emperor, the reform movement had received such an access of strength that the Catholic party felt itself menaced in earnest, and in 1529 again passed a resolution at Spires, deigned not merely to preclude any further expansion of the Reformation, but even to prevent it from maintaining the ground already won. This decision was at once challenged, on the 19th of April, by the protest of the Evangelical states (whence the name Protestants); and the effect of this disclaimer was not small. Still, it was devoid of political significance, unless backed by the united force of all the princes and states subscribing to the Evangelical teaching; and this unity was wanting. The feud which raged round the doctrine of the Lord's Supper had already broken out before the first diet of Spires, and had aroused great and immediate 'excitement. At a very early period, however, efforts were made to allay the dissension. Strassburg pronounced for conciliation: but the most powerful and zealous champion of peace was to be found in the landgrave Philip of Hesse, who recognized the absolute necessity from a political standpoint of the union of all German Protestants. It is probable that he had invited Luther to a religious conference as early as the year 1527; but on that occasion he met with a refusal. True, the impression conveyed by the attitude of the Catholic party at the second Diet of Spires had served to awaken the feeling for solidarity among the Evangelicals there assembled; and on the 22nd of April they had even secured the basis for a provisional alliance in the shape of a formula drawn up by Bucer and dealing with the Lord's Supper. But it was obvious that a permanent coalition could not be expected unless some definite understanding on the debated point could be attained; and on the very same day the landgrave despatched to Zwingli an invitation to a colloquy, and received his prompt acquiescence. Melanchthon, who in the tension which prevailed at the synod had shown himself inclined to negotiation, became suspicious on his return, and endeavoured to influence the elector of Saxony and Luther in accordance with his views. The landgrave, however, was so far successful that the beginning of October (1529) saw the colloquy opened in the castle at Marburg. With Zwingli, who had arrived on the 27th of September, he had several interviews of considerable political importance before the Wittenberg divines made their appearance. These interviews settled the preliminaries of an alliance; but they rested on the assumption that the theological feud between Wittenberg and Zurich could be removed, or its violence at least abated.

The proceedings opened on the 1st of October with conferences between Luther and Oecolampadius, and Melanchthon and Zwingli: then on the two following days the discussion proper confined almost entirely to Luther and Zwingli was held before the landgrave and his guest Duke Ulrich of Wiirttemberg, in the presence of more than fifty persons. As regards the main point of contention, i.e. the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, no agreement was found practicable; and the private conversations on the 4th of October, which formed the sequel of the debate, carried matters no farther. " You have another spirit," said Luther. Since the landgrave, however, was reluctant to see the colloquy brought to an absolutely fruitless close, he requested Luther to draw up a list of the most important points of doctrine on which it might yet be possible to arrive at some degree of unanimity. This was done on the 4th of October; and a few alterations were introduced to meet the wishes of the Swiss deputies. The Articles of Marburg, which thus came into being, contain the doctrine of the Trinity, of the personality of Christ, of faith and justification, of the Scriptures, of baptism, of good works, of confession, of government, of tradition, and of infant baptism. The fifteenth article, treating of the Lord's Supper, defines the ground common to both parties even in this debateable region, recognizing the necessity of participation in both kinds, and rejecting the sacrifice of the Mass. It then proceeds to fix the point of difference in the fact that no agreement had been reached on the question " whether the true body and blood of Christ are corporeally present in the bread and wine " (" Nit vergleicht haben wir uns, ob der war leib und plut Christi leiblich im brot und wein sey "). Nevertheless, the adherents of each doctrine are recommended to display Christian charity to those of the other. These articles were signed by the ten official members of the colloquy: Luther, Jonas, Melanchthon, Osiander, Agricola, Brenz, Oecolampadius, Bucer, Hedio and Zwingli. The personal contact between Luther and Zwingli led to no mental rapprochement between the two; but in the following year the Articles of Marburg did good service as one of the preliminaries to the Augsburg Confession, and remain a valuable document for the fundamental principles common to the Lutheran and Reformed Churches.

See T. Kolde, s.v. " Marburger Religionsgesprach," in Realencyklopadief. protestant. Theologie, 3rd ed. xii. 248 seq. (C. M.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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