Carolostadt, Andrew Bodenstein

, one of the reformers, was born at Carlolostadt, a town in Franconia, founded by Charles the Bald in the year 875. The time of his birth is not stated. He was partly educated at home, but studied afterwards in various celebrated schools, and after going through his divinity course at Rome, was admitted doctor of divinity at Wittemberg in 1502, and was appointed professor of the same, and held a canonry and archdeaconry. In 1512, while he was dean of the college, Luther was admitted to his doctor’s degree, which appears to have led to their intimacy, as in 1517, we find Carolostadt one of Luther’s most zealous adherents in opposing the corruptions of popery. In 1519, he held a disputation at Leipsic with Eckius, on free will, in the presence of George duke of Saxony, Luther, and Melancthon, and acquitted himself with so much credit, that Eckius could think of no other retaliation than by applying to the court of Rome, which suspended Carolostadt from all communion with the church.

Thus far Carolostadt appears in a light which was acceptable at least to the friends of the reformation; but about 1521, when Luther was in retirement, he betrayed a violence of temper which has been equally censured by catholics and protestants. Not content with promoting in a legal and quiet way the auspicious beginnings of reformation which had already appeared at Wittemberg, in the gradual omission and rejection of the private mass and other popish superstitions, he headed a multitude of unthinking impetuous youths, inflamed their minds by popular harangues, and led them on to actions the most extravagant and indefensible. They entered the great church of All Saints, broke in pieces the crucifixes and other images, and threw down the altars. He also went so far as to assert that human learning was useless, if not injurious to a student of the scriptures; frequented the shops of the lowest mechanics, and consulted them about the | meaning of the scriptures. He would be called no longer by the appellation of Doctor, or any other honourable title, but employed himself in rustic occupations, and maintained that thinking persons stood in no need of learning, and had better labour with their hands. In consequence of such example and conversation, the young academics of Wittemberg left the university, and ceased to pursue their studies, and even the schools of the boys were deserted. Such was his pride at the same time, that he avowed to Melancthon that he wished to be as great and as much thought of as Luther.

In 1524, when the controversy took place among the friends of the reformation respecting the body and blood of Christ in the eucharist, Carolostadt became the open antagonist of Luther, and approached nearer to the sentiments held now by the majority of protestants; but his previous intemperate conduct at Wittemberg had so lowered his reputation, that he found it expedient to retire to Orlamund, a small town of Thuringia in the electorate of Saxony, where, without legitimate appointment, though with the consent of the inhabitants, he became their spiritual pastor. Here he not only soon broached his opinion of the eucharist, but raised new disturbances by his furious discourses concerning the abolition of images. He appears also to have boasted of having been favoured with supernatural communications, and was represented as a partizan of the turbulent fanatic Thomas Munzer. The university of Wittemberg summoned him to return back, and discharge in person the ordinary duties enjoined him by the statutes in their school and church. Carolostadt promised to obey, provided he could ‘obtain the leave of his parishioners of Orlamund, whom, however, at the same time he is said to have excited to arrogate to themselves the divine right of appointing their own pastor. The elector of Saxony was so disgusted with the insolent letters which they wrote on this occasion, treating the academical claim as a papistical encroachment, that he peremptorily commanded both them and their teacher to submit to the legal authority of the university and the chapter. Luther was also sent to Orlamund; but this appears to have only inflamed Carolostadt’ s zeal to a greater height of imprudence, and his violent proceedings at last provoked the elector and his brother to expel Carolostadt from their territories. Carolostadt, after his departure, wrote letters to his | people.­which were read in full congregation upon the toll of the bell, and were suhscrihed thus, “Andreas Bodenstenius Carolostadt, unheard, unconvicted, banished by Martin Luther.Mosheim and his translator have yielded too easily to this calumny against Luther, which appears to have been wholly unmerited on the part of that great reformer, who about five months afterwards interceded, although ineffectually, for him.

Carolostadt now wandered from place to place through the higher Germany, and at length made a pause at Rotenburgh, where, as usual, he soon raised tumults, and incited the people to pull down the statues and paintings. When the seditious faction of the peasants, with Munzer their ringleader, was effectually suppressed, he became in the greatest difficulties, and even in danger of his life from his supposed connection with these enthusiastic rebels, and he narrowly escaped, through being let down by the wall of the town in a basket. Thus reduced to the last extremities, he and his wife incessantly intreatedboth the elector and Luther that they might be allowed to return into their own country. He said, he could clear himself of having had any concern in the rebellion; and if not, he would cheerfully undergo any punishment that could be inflicted upon him. With this view he wrote a little tract, in which he takes much pains to justify himself from the charge of sedition: and he sent a letter likewise to Luther, in which he earnestly begs his assistance in the publishing of the tract, as well as in the more general design of establishing his innocence. Luther immediately published Carolostadt’s letter, and called on the magistrates and on the people to give him a fair hearing. In this he succeeded; and Carolostadt was recalled about -the autumn of 1525, and then made a public recantation of what he had advanced on the sacrament, a condescension which did not procure a complete reconciliation between him and the other reformers, and indeed affords but a sorry proof of his consistency. We find Carolostadt, after this, at Zurich and at Basil, where he was appointed pastor and professor of divinity, and where he died with the warmest effusions of piety and resignation, ijec. 25, 1541, or 1543. He was a man of considerable learning, hut his usefulness both as a reformer and writer was perpetually obstructed by the turbulence of his temper, and his misguided zeal in endeavouring to promote that by violence which the other | reformers projected only through the medium of reason and argument. That he should be censured by Moreri, Bossuet, and other Roman catholic writers, is not surprising, for he afforded too much ground of accusation; but it is more inexcusable in Mosheim, Beausobre, and some other ecclesiastical historians, to throw the blame of his banishment and restless life on Luther, and highly absurd to insinuate that the latter was jealous of his fame. The comparative merits of the conduct of Luther and Carolostadt throughout their whole connection, have been examined with great candour and perspicuity by Milner. One singularity in Carolostadt’s character still remains to be noticed, namely, that he was the first protestant divine who took a wife. His works were numerous, but are now fallen into oblivion. His followers, who for some time retained the name of Carolostadtians, were also denominated Sacramentarians and agree in most things with the Zuinglians. 1

1 Melchior Adam. Freheri Theatrum. —Mosheim; but principally Milner’a Church History, vol. V. p. 603, 773, 794, 809. A Life of him was published in German by Fueslin, Leipsic, 1776, 8vo. —Saxii Onomast.