Today we return to our little series (See my Oct.10 and 17, 2013 posts.) on Frederick III’s defense of the newly published Heidelberg Catechism (1563) before the Holy Roman Emperor at the Diet of Augsburg held in 1566. Because neither the Catholic nor Protestant princes of Germany were pleased with Frederick’s conversion to Calvinism and subsequent introduction of it into the Palatinate region (of which he was Elector), and because the Emperor was concerned about the unity of his realm, Maximilian (II – emperor from 1564-1576. See picture to the right.) called for Frederick to appear before a diet in Augsburg and defend himself, his new faith, and his new catechism.
And as far as his prospects of being favorably heard and his Reformed catechism being approved were concerned, things did not look good in the least. Frederick had few friends at this diet, since the Catholics were clearly against him and the Lutherans had also turned against him, with few exceptions. In fact, a special decree had been introduced against him, just days before his appearance at the diet. To help see how serious – even bleak – things looked we once again we quote from James I. Good’s The Heidelberg Catechism in Its Newest Light (1914):
The Maximilian, after a conference with the Protestant States, issued a decree against Frederick. The decree was that Frederick must give up the endowments he had taken from the chapters of Neuhaus and Sinzheim, and set aside his novelties in Sponheim. The decree also ordered that all the Calvinistic novelties, which he had introduced into his churches and schools, were to be cast out. If he did not do this he would be deposed, and the Elector’s hat would be transferred to his son, Lewis (Louis -cjt). The dukes had triumphed. The ban of the empire was about to be placed on Frederick. We thus see how nearly did it come to pass that the Heidelberg catechism should be utterly suppressed in Germany. Had it been done we never would have had our catechism. All this reveals the tremendous crisis on Frederick, with the probability of his losing his case. Nothing saved him and his catechism, – but himself. And the fourteenth of May, 1566, in which he made this memorable defense, will ever go down in the history of our Church as one of its greatest days (pp.191-92).
Next time we will conclude this series and consider Frederick’s wise and godly testimony before the Emperor at this diet – and its subsequent outcome.