Luther and the Reformation:, by Joseph A. Seiss
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The first part of this book presents the studies of the Author in preparing a Memorial Oration delivered in the city of New York, November 10, 1883, on the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther. The second part presents his studies in a like preparation for certain Discourses delivered in the city of Philadelphia at the Bi-Centennial of the founding of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There was no intention, in either case, to make a book, however small in size. But the utterances given on these occasions having been solicited for publication in permanent shape for common use, and the two parts being intimately related in the exhibition of the most vital springs of our religious and civil freedom, it has been concluded to print these studies entire and together in this form, in hope that the same may satisfy all such desires and serve to promote truth and righteousness. Throughout the wide earth there has been an unexampled stir with regard to the life and work of the great Reformer, and these presentations may help to show it no wild craze, but a just and rational recognition of God's wondrous providence in the constitution of our modern world. And to Him who was, and who is, and who is to come, the God of all history and grace, be the praise, the honour, and the glory, world without end! Thanksgiving Day, 1883.
A rare spectacle has been spreading itself before the face of heaven during these last months. Millions of people, of many nations and languages, on both sides of the ocean, simultaneously engaged in celebrating the birth of a mere man, four hundred years after he was born, is an unwonted scene in our world. Unprompted by any voice of authority, unconstrained by any command of power, we join in the wide-ranging demonstration. In the happy freedom which has come to us among the fruits of that man's labours we bring our humble chaplet to grace the memory of one whose worth and services there is scarce capacity to tell. Human Greatness. Some men are colossal. Their characters are so massive, and their position in history is so towering, that other men can hardly get high enough to take their measure. An overruling Providence so endows and places them that they affect the world, turn its course into new channels, impart to it a new spirit, and leave their impress on all the ages after them. Even humble individuals, without titles, crowns, or physical armaments, have wrought themselves into the very life of the race and built their memorials in the characteristics of epochs. History tells of a certain Saul of Tarsus, a lone and friendless man, stripped of all earthly possessions, forced into battle with a universe of enthroned superstition, encompassed by perils which threatened every hour to dissolve him, who, pressing his way over mountains of difficulty and through seas of suffering, and dying a martyr to his cause, gave to Europe a living God and to the nations another and an everlasting King. We likewise read of a certain Christopher Columbus, brooding in lowly retirement upon the structure of the physical universe, ridiculed, frowned on by the learned, repulsed by court after court, yet launching out into the unknown seas to find an undiscovered hemisphere, and opening the way for persecuted Liberty to cradle the grand empire of popular rule amid the golden hills of a new and independent continent.
And in this category stands the name of Martin Luther. He was a poor, plain man, only a doctor of divinity, without place except as a teacher in a university, without power or authority except in the convictions and qualities of his own soul, and with no implements save his Bible, tongue, and pen; but with him the ages divided and human history took a new departure. Two pre-eminent revolutions have passed over Europe since the beginning of the Christian era. The one struck Rome and rule of emperors; the other struck Rome and rule of popes. The one brought the Dark Ages; the other ended them. The one overwhelmed the dominion of the Cæsars; the other humiliated a more than imperial dominion reared in Cæsar's place. Alaric, Rhadagaisus, Genseric, and Attila were the chief instruments and embodiment of the first; Martin Luther was the chief instrument and embodiment of the second. The one wrought bloody desolation; the other brought blessed renovation, under which humanity has bloomed its happiest and its best.
The Papacy. Since Phocas decreed the bishop of Rome the supreme head of the Church on earth there had grown up strange power which claimed to decide beyond appeal respecting everybody and everything - from affairs of empire to the burial of the dead, from the thoughts of men here to the estate of their souls hereafter - and to command the anathemas of God upon any who dared to question its authority. It held itself divinely ordained to give crowns and to take them away. Kings and potentates were its vassals, and nations had to defer to it and serve it, on pain of interdicts which smote whole realms with gloom and desolation, prostrated all the industries of life, locked up the very graveyards against decent sepulture, and consigned peoples and generations to an irresistible damnation. It was omnipresent and omnipotent in civilized Europe. Its clergy and orders swarmed in every place, all sworn to guard it at every point on peril of their souls, and themselves held sacred in person and retreat from all reach of law for any crime save lack of fealty to the great autocracy.
The money, the armies, the lands, the legislatures, the judges, the executives, the police, the schools, with the whole ecclesiastical administration, reaching even to the most private affairs of life, were under its control. And at its centre sat its absolute dictator, unanswerable and supreme, the alleged Vicar of God on earth, for whom to err was deemed impossible. Think of a power which could force King Henry IV., the heir of a long line of emperors, to strip himself of every mark of his station, put on the linen dress of a penitent, walk barefooted through the winter's snow to the pope's castle at Canossa, and there to wait three days at its gates, unbefriended, unfed, and half perishing with cold and hunger, till all but the alleged Vicar of Jesus Christ were moved with pity for his miseries as he stood imploring the tardy clemency of Hildebrand, which was almost as humiliating in its bestowal as in its reservation. Think of a power which could force the English king, Henry II., to walk three miles of a flinty road, with bare and bleeding feet, to Canterbury, to be flogged from one end of the church to the other by the beastly monks, and then forced to spend the whole night in supplications to the spirit of an obstinate, perjured, and defiant archbishop, whom four of his over-zealous knights, without his orders, had murdered, and whose inner garments, when he was stripped to receive his shroud, were found alive with vermin! Think of a power which, in defiance of the sealed safe-conduct of the empire, could seize John Huss, one of the worthiest and most learned men of his time, and burn him alive in the presence of the emperor! Think of a power which, by a single edict, caused the deliberate murder of more than fifty thousand men in the Netherlands alone! Efforts at Reform. To restrain and humble this gigantic power was the desideratum of ages.
For two hundred years had men been labouring to curb and tame it. From theologians and universities, from kings and emperors, from provinces and synods, from general councils, and even the College of Cardinals - in every name of right, virtue, and religion - appeal after appeal and solemn effort after effort were made to reform the Roman court and free the world from the terrible oppression. Wars on wars were waged; provinces on provinces were deluged with blood; coalitions, bound by sacred oaths, were formed against the giant tyranny. And yet the hierarchy managed to maintain its assumptions and to overwhelm all remedial attempts. Whether made by individuals or secular powers, by councils or governments, the result was the same. The Pontificate still triumphed, with its claims unabridged, its dominion unbroken, its scandals uncured. A general council sat at Constance to reform the clergy in head and members. It managed to rid itself of three popes between whom Christendom was divided, when the emperor moved that the work of reform proceed. But the cardinals said, How can the Church reform itself without a head? So they elected a pope who was to lead reform. Yet a day had hardly passed before they found themselves in a traitor's power, who reaffirmed all the acts of the iniquitous John XXIII., who had just been deposed for his crimes, and presently endowed him with a cardinal's hat!
When this pope, Martin V., died, the cardinals thought to remedy their previous mistake. They would secure their reforms before electing a pope. So they erected themselves into a standing senate, without which no future pope could act. And they each took solemn oath, before God and all angels, by St. Peter and all apostles, by the holy sacrament of Christ's body and blood, and by all the powers that be, if elected, to conform to these arrangements and to use all the rights and prerogatives of the sublime position to put in force the reforms conceded to be necessary. But what are oaths and fore-pledges to candidates greedy for office? The tickets which elected the new pope had hardly been counted when he absolved himself from all previous obligations, disowned the senate of cardinals he had helped to erect, began his career with violence and robbery, plundered the cities and states of Italy, religiously violated all compacts but those which favoured his absolute supremacy, brought to none effect the reform Council of Basle, deceived Germany with his specious and hollow concessions, averted the improvements he had sworn to make, and by his perfidy and cunning managed to retain in subordination to the old régime nearly the whole of that Christendom which he had outraged! In spite of the efforts of centuries, this super-imperial power held by the throat a struggling world. To break that gnarled and bony hand, which locked up everything in its grasp; to bring down the towering altitude of that olden tyranny, whose head was lifted to the clouds; to strike from the soul its clanking chains and set the suffering nations free; to champion the inborn rights of afflicted humanity, and conquer the ignorance and imposture which had governed for a thousand years, - constituted the work and office of the man the four hundredth anniversary of whose birth half the civilized world is celebrating to-day.
Time of the Reformation. It has been said that when this tonsured Augustinian came upon the stage almost any brave man might have brought about the impending changes. The Reformers before the Reformation, though vanquished, had indeed not lived in vain. The European peoples were outgrowing feudal vassalage, and moving toward nationalization and separation between the secular and ecclesiastical powers. Travel, exploration, and discovery had introduced new subjects of human interest and contemplation. Schools of law, medicine, and liberal education were being established and largely attended. The common mind was losing faith in the professions and teachings of the old hierarchy. Free inquiry was overturning the dominion of authority in matters of thought and opinion. The intellect of man was beginning to recover from the nightmare of centuries. A mightier power than the sword had sprung up in the art of printing. In a word, the world was gravid with a new era. But it was not so clear who would be able to bring it safely to the birth. There were living at the time many eminent men who might be thought of for this office had it not been assigned to Luther. Reuchlin, Erasmus, Hütten, Sickingen, and others have been named, but the list might be extended, and yet no one be found endowed with the qualities to accomplish the work that was needed and that was accomplished.
Frederick the Wise. The Saxon Elector, Frederick the Wise, was the worthiest, most popular, and most influential ruler then in Europe. He could have been emperor in place of Charles V. had he consented to be. The history of the world since his time might have been greatly different had he yielded to the general desire. His principles, his attainments, his wisdom, and his spirit were everything to commend him. He founded the University of Wittenberg in hope that it would produce preachers who would leave off the cold subtleties of Scholasticism and the uncertainties of tradition, and give discourses that would possess the nerve and power of the Gospel of God. He sought out the best and most pious men for his advisers. He was the devoted friend of learning, truth, and virtue. By his prudence and foresight in Church and State he helped the Reformation more than any other man then in power. Had it not been for him perhaps Luther could not have succeeded. But it was not in the nature of things for the noble Elector to give us such a Reformation as that led by his humble subject. It is useless to speculate as to what the Reformation might have become in his hands; but it certainly could never have become what we rejoice to know it was, while the probabilities are that we would now be fighting the battles which Luther fought for us three and a half centuries ago.
Reuchlin. Reuchlin was a learned and able man, and deeply conscious of the need of reform. When the Greek Argyrophylos heard him read and explain Thucydides, he exclaimed, "Greece has retired beyond the Alps." He was the first Hebrew scholar of Germany, and served to restore the Hebrew Scriptures to the knowledge of the Church. He held that popes could err and be deceived. He had no faith in human abnegations for reconciliation with God. He saw no need for hierarchical mediations, and discredited the doctrine of Purgatory and masses for the dead. He bravely defended the cause of learning against the ignorant monks, whom he hated and held up to merciless ridicule. He was a brilliant and persuasive orator. He was an associate and counsellor of kings. He gave Melanchthon to the Reformation, and did much to promote it. Luther recognized in him a great light, of vast service to the Gospel in Germany. But Reuchlin could never have accomplished the Reformation. The vital principles of it were not sufficiently rooted in him. He was a humanist, whose sympathies went with the republic of letters, not with the wants of the soul and the needs of the people. When he got into trouble he appealed to the pope. And though he lived to see Luther in agonizing conflict with the hierarchy of Rome, he refrained from making common cause with him, and died in connection with the unreformed Church, whose doctrines he had questioned and whose orders he had so unsparingly ridiculed.
Erasmus of Rotterdam. Erasmus was a notable man, great in talent and of great service in preparing the way for the Reformation. He turned reviving learning to the study of the Word. He produced the first, and for a long time the only, critical edition of the New Testament in the original, to which he added a Latin translation and notes. He paraphrased the Epistle to the Romans - that great Epistle on which above all, the Reformation moved. Though once an inmate of a monastery, he abhorred the monks and exposed them with terrible severity. He had more friends, reputation, and influence than perhaps any other private man in Europe. And he was deep in the spirit of opposition to the scandalous condition of things in the Church. But he never could have given us the Reformation. He said all honest men sided with Luther, and as an honest man his place would have been by Luther's side; but he was too great a coward. "If I should join Luther," said he, "I could only perish with him, and I do not mean to run my neck intothe halter. Let popes and emperors settle matters." - "Your Holiness says, Come to Rome; you might as well tell a crab to fly. If I write calmly against Luther, I shall be called lukewarm; if I write as he does, I shall stir up a hornet's nest.... Send for the best and wisest men in Christendom, and follow their advice." - "Reduce the dogmas necessary to be believed to the smallest possible number. On other points let every one believe as he likes. Having done this, quietly correct the abuses of which the world justly complains." So wrote Erasmus to the pope and to the archbishop of Mayence. Such was his ideal of reformation - a thing as impossible to bring into practical effect as its realization would have been absurd. It is easy to tell a crab to fly, but will he do it? As well propose to convert infallibility with a fable of Æsop as to count on bringing regeneration to the hierarchy by such counsels. The waters were too deep and the storms too fierce for the vacillating Erasmus. He did some excellent service in his way, but all his counsels and ideas failed, as they deserved. Once the idol of Europe, he died a defeated, crushed, and miserable man. "Hercules could not fight two monsters at once," said he, "while I, poor wretch! have lions, cerberuses, cancers, scorpions, every day at my sword's point.... There is no rest for me in my age, unless I join Luther; and that I cannot, for I cannot accept his doctrines. Sometimes I am stung with desire to avenge my wrongs; but my heart says, Will you in your spleen raise hand against your mother who begot you at the font? I cannot do it. Yet, because I bade monks remember their vows; because I told persons to leave off their wranglings and read the Bible; because I told popes and cardinals to look to the apostles and be more like them, - the theologians say I am their enemy." Thus in sorrow and in clouds Erasmus passed away, as would the entire Reformation in his hands.
Ulric von Hütten. Ulric von Hütten, soldier and knight, equally distinguished in letters and in arms, and called the Demosthenes of Germany, was a zealous friend of reform. He had been in Rome, and sharpened his darts from what he there saw to hurl them with effect. All the powers of satire and ridicule he brought to bear upon the pillars of the Papacy. He helped to shake the edifice, and his plans and spirit might have served to pull it down had he been able to bring Europe to his mind; but it would only have been to bury society in its ruins.
Ulrich Zwingli. Ulrich Zwingli is ranked among Reformers, and he was energetic in behalf of reform. But he fell a victim to his own mistakes, and with him would have perished the Reformation also had it depended upon him. Even had he lived, his radical and rationalistic spirit, his narrow and fiery patriotism, his shallow religious experience, and his eagerness to rest the cause of Reformation on civil authority and the sword, would have wrecked it with nine-tenths of the European peoples.
Melanchthon. Philip Melanchthon was a better and a greater man, and did the Reformation a far superior service. Luther would have been much disabled without him, and Germany has awarded him the title of its "Preceptor." But no Reformation could have come if the fighting or directing of its battles had been left to him. Even with the great Luther ever by his side, he could hardly get loose from Rome and retain his wholeness, and when he was loose could hardly maintain his legs upon the ground that had been won.
Calvin. John Calvin was a man of great learning and ability. Marked has been his influence on the theology and government of a large portion of the Reformed churches. But the Reformation was twelve years old before he came into it. It had to exist already ere there could be a Calvin, while his repeated flights to avoid danger prove how inadequate his courage was for such unflinching duty as rendered Luther illustrious. He was a cold, hard, ascetic aristocrat at best, more cynical, stern, and tyrannical than brave. The organization for the Church and civil government which he gave to Geneva was quite too intolerant and inquisitorial for safe adoption in general or to endure the test of the true Gospel spirit. Under a régime which burnt Servetus for heresy, threw men into prison for reading novels, hung and beheaded children for improper behaviour toward parents, whipped and banished people for singing songs, and dealt with others as public blasphemers if they said a word against the Reformers or failed to go to church, the cause of the Reformation could never have commanded acceptance by the nations, or have survived had it been received. The famous "Blue Laws" of the New England colonies have had to be given up as a scandal upon enlightened civilization; but they were largely transcribed from Calvin's code and counsels, including even the punishing of witches. For the last two hundred years the Calvinistic peoples have been reforming back from Calvin's rules and spirit, either to a better foundation for the perpetuation and honour of the Church or to a rationalistic skepticism which lets go all the distinctive elements of the genuine Christian Creed - the natural reaction from the hard and overstrained severity of a legalistic style of Christianity. With all the great service Calvin has rendered to theological science and church discipline, there was an unnatural sombreness about him, which linked him rather with the Middle Ages and the hierarchical rule than with the glad, free spirit of a wholesome Christian life. At twenty-seven he had already drawn up a formula of doctrine and organization which he never changed and to which he ever held. There was no development either in his life or in his ideas. The evangelic elements of his system he found ready to his hand, as thought out by Luther and the German theologians. They did not originate or grow with him. And had the Reformation depended upon him it could never have become a success. So too with any others that might be named.
Luther the Chosen Instrument. We may not limit Providence. The work was to be done. Every interest of the world and of the kingdom of God demanded it. And if there had been no Luther at hand, some one else would have been raised up to serve in his place. But there was a Luther, and, as far as human insight can determine, he was the only man on earth competent to achieve the Reformation. And he it was who did achieve it. Looked at in advance, perhaps no one would have thought of him for such an office. He was so humbly born, so lowly in station, so destitute of fortune, and withal so honest a Papist, that not the slightest tokens presented to mark him out as the chosen instrument to grapple with the magnitudinous tyranny by which Europe was enthralled. But "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty." Moses was the son of a slave. The founder of the Hebrew monarchy was a shepherd-boy. The Redeemer-King of the world was born in a stable and reared in the family of a village carpenter. And we need not wonder that the hero-prophet of the modern ages was the son of a poor toiler for his daily bread, and compelled to sing upon the street for alms to keep body and soul together while struggling for an education. It has been the common order of Providence that the greatest lights and benefactors of the race, the men who rose the highest above the level of their kind and stood as beacons to the world, were not such as would have been thought of in advance for the mighty services which render their names immortal. And that the master spirit of the great Reformation was no exception all the more surely identifies that marvellous achievement as the work of an overruling God.
Luther's Origin. Luther was a Saxon German - a German of the Germans - born of that blood out of which, with but few exceptions, have sprung the ruling powers of the West since the last of the old Roman emperors. He came out of the bosom of the freshest, strongest, and hardiest peoples then existing - the direct descendants of those wild Cimbrian and Teutonic tribes who, even in their heathenism, were the most virtuous, brave, and true of all the Gentiles. Nor was he the offspring of enfeebled, gouty, aristocratic blood. He was the son of the sinewy and sturdy yeomanry. Though tradition reports one of his remote ancestors in something of imperial place among the chieftains of the semi-savage tribes from which he was descended, when the period of the Reformation came his family was in like condition with that of the house of David when the Christ was born. His father and grandfather and great-grandfather, he says himself, were true Thuringian peasants.
Luther's Early Training. In the early periods of the mediæval Church her missionaries came to these fiery warriors of the North and followed the conquests of Charlemagne, to teach them that they had souls, that there is a living and all-knowing God at whose judgment-bar all must one day stand to give account, and that it would then be well with the believing, brave, honest, true, and good, and ill with cowards, profligates, and liars. It was a simple creed, but it took fast hold on the Germanic heart, to show itself in sturdy power in the long after years. This creed, in unabated force, descended to Luther's parents, and lived and wrought in them as a controlling principle. They were also strict to render it the same in their children. Hans Luther was a hard and stern disciplinarian, unsparing in the enforcement of every virtue. Margaret Luther was noted among her neighbours as a model woman, and was so earnest in her inculcations of right that she preferred to see her son bleed beneath the rod rather than that he should do a questionable thing even respecting so small a matter as a nut. From his childhood Luther was thus trained and attempered to fear God, reverence truth and honesty, and hate hypocrisy and lies. Possibly his parents were severer with him than was necessary, but it was well for him, as the prospective prophet of a new era, to learn absolute obedience to those who were to him the representatives of that divine authority which he was to teach the world supremely to obey. But no birth, or blood, or parental drilling, or any mere human culture, could give the qualities necessary to a successful Reformer. The Church had fallen into all manner of evils, because it had drifted away from the apostolic doctrine as to how a man shall be just with God; which is the all-conditioning question of all right religion. There could then be no cure for those evils except by the bringing of the Church back to that doctrine. But to do anything effectual toward such a recovery it was pre-eminently required that the Reformer himself should first be brought to an experimental knowledge of what was to be witnessed and taught. On two different theatres, therefore, the Reformation had to be wrought out: first, in the Reformer's own soul, and then on the field of the world outside of him.
What the Reformation was. It is hard to take in the depth and magnitude of what is called The Great Reformation. It stands out in history like a range of Himalayan mountains, whose roots reach down into the heart of the world and whose summits pierce beyond the clouds. To Bossuet and Voltaire it was a mere squabble of the monks; to others it was the cupidity of secular sovereigns and lay nobility grasping for the power, estates, and riches of the Church. Some treat of it as a simple reaction against religious scandals, with no great depths of principle or meaning except to illustrate the recuperative power of human society to cure itself of oppressive ills. Guizot describes it as "a vast effort of the human mind to achieve its freedom - a great endeavour to emancipate human reason." Lord Bacon takes it as the re-awakening of antiquity and the recall of former times to reshape and fashion our own. Whatever of truth some of these estimates may contain, they fall far short of a correct idea of what the Reformation was, or wherein lay the vital spring of that wondrous revolution. Its historic and philosophic centre was vastly deeper and more potent than either or all of these conceptions would make it. Many influences contributed to its accomplishment, but its inmost principle was unique. The real nerve of the Reformation was religious. Its life was something different from mere earthly interests, utilities, aims, or passions. Its seat was in the conscience. Its true spring was the soul, confronted by eternal judgment, trembling for its estate before divine Almightiness, and, on pain of banishment from every immortal good, forced to condition and dispose itself according to the clear revelations of God. It was not mere negation to an oppressive hierarchy, except as it was first positive and evangelic touching the direct and indefeasible relations and obligations of the soul to its Maker. Only when the hierarchy claimed to qualify these direct relations and obligations, thrust itself between the soul and its Redeemer, and by eternal penalties sought to hold the conscience bound to human authorities and traditions, did the Reformation protest and take issue. Had the inalienable right and duty to obey God rather than man been conceded, the hierarchy, as such, might have remained, the same as monarchical government. But this the hierarchy negatived, condemned, and would by no means tolerate. Hence the mighty contest. And the heart, sum, and essence of the whole struggle was the maintenance and the working out into living fact of this direct obligation of the soul to God and the supreme authority of His clear and unadulterated word.
Spiritual Training. How Luther came to these
principles, and the fiery trials by which they were burnt into him as part of
his inmost self, is one of the most vital chapters in the history. His father
had designed him for the law. To this end he had gone through the best schools
of Germany, taken his master's degree, and was advancing in the particular
studies relating to his intended profession, when a sudden change came over his
life. Religious in his temper and training, and educated in a creed which
worked mainly on man's fears, without emphasizing the only basis of spiritual
peace, he fell into great terrors of conscience. Several occurrences
contributed to this:
(1) He fell sick, and was likely to die.
(2) He accidentally severed an artery, and came near bleeding to death.
(3) A bosom friend of his was suddenly killed. All this made him think how it would be with him if called to stand before God in judgment, and filled him with alarm. Then
(4) he was one day overtaken by a thunderstorm of unwonted violence. The terrific scene presented to his vivid fancy all the horrors of a mediæval picture of the Last Day, and himself about to be plunged into eternal fire. Overwhelmed with terror, he cried to Heaven for help, and vowed, if spared, to devote himself to the salvation of his soul by becoming a monk. His father hated monkery, and he shared the feeling; but, if it would save him, why hesitate? What was a father's displeasure or the loss of all the favours of the world to his safety against a hopeless perdition? Call it superstition, call it religious melancholy, call it morbid hallucination, it was a most serious matter to the young Luther, and out of it ultimately grew the Reformation. False ideas underlay the resolve, but it was profoundly sincere and according to the ideas of ages. It was wrong, but he could not correct the error until he had tested it. And thus, by what he took as the unmistakable call of God, he entered the cloister. Never man went into a monastery with purer motives. Never a man went through the duties, drudgeries, and humiliations of the novitiate of convent-life with more unshrinking fidelity. Never man endured more painful mental and bodily agonies that he might secure for himself an assured spiritual peace. Romanists have expressed their wonder that so pure a man thought himself so great a sinner. But a sinner he was, as we all; and to avert the just anger of God he fasted, prayed, and mortified himself like an anchorite of the Thebaid. And yet no peace or comfort came. A chained Bible lay in the monastery. He had previously found a copy of it in the library of the university. Day and night he read it, along with the writings of St. Augustine. In both he found the same pictures of man's depravity which he realized in himself, but God's remedy for sin he had not found. In the earnestness of his studies the prescribed devotions were betimes crowded out, and then he punished himself without mercy to redeem his failures. Whole nights and days together he lay upon his face crying to God, till he swooned in his agony. Everything his brother-monks could tell him he tried, but all the resources of their religion were powerless to comfort him or to beget a righteousness in which his anguished soul could trust. It happened that one of the exceptionally enlightened and spiritual-minded monks of his time, John Staupitz, was then the vicar-general of the Augustinians in Saxony. On his tour of inspection he came to Erfurt, and there found Luther, a walking skeleton, more dead than alive. He was specially drawn to the haggard young brother. The genial and sympathizing spirit of the vicar-general made Luther feel at home in his presence, and to him he freely opened his whole heart, telling of his feelings, failures, and fears - his heartaches, his endeavours, his disappointments, and his despair. And God put the right words into the vicar-general's mouth. "Look to the wounds of Jesus," said he, "and to the blood he shed for you, and there see the mercy of God. Cast yourself into the Redeemer's arms, and trust in his righteous life and sacrificial death. He loved you first; love him in return, and let your penances and mortifications go." The oppressed and captive spirit began to feel its burden lighten under such discourse. God a God of love! Piety a life of love! Salvation by loving trust in a God already reconciled in Christ! This was a new revelation. It brought the sorrowing young Luther to the study of the Scriptures with a new object of search. He read and meditated, and began to see the truth of what his vicar said. But doubts would come, and often his gloom returned. One day an aged monk came to his cell to comfort him. He said he only knew his Creed, but in that he rested, reciting, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." - "And do I not believe that?" said Luther. - "Ah," said the old monk, "you believe in the forgiveness of sins for David and Peter and the thief on the cross, but you do not believe in the forgiveness of sins for yourself. St. Bernard says the Holy Ghost speaks it to your own soul, Thy sins are forgiven thee." And so at last the right nerve was touched. The true word of God's deliverance was brought home to Luther's understanding. He was penitent and in earnest, and needed only this great Gospel hope to lift him from the horrible pit and the miry clay. As a light from heaven it came to his soul, and there remained, a comfort and a joy. The glad conclusion flashed upon him, never more to be shaken, "If God, for Christ's sake, takes away our sins, then they are not taken away by any works of ours." The foundation-rock of a new world was reached. Luther saw not yet what all this discovery meant, nor whither it would lead. He was as innocent of all thought of being a Reformer as a new-born babe is of commanding an army on the battlefield. But the Gospel principle of deliverance and salvation for his oppressed and anxious soul was found, and it was found for all the world. The anchor had taken hold on a new continent. In essence the Great Reformation was born - born in Luther's soul.
Luther's Development. More than ten years passed before this new principle began to work off the putrid carcass of mediæval religion which lay stretched over the stifled and suffocating Church of Christ. There were yet many steps and stages in the preparation for what was to come. But from that time forward everything moved toward general regeneration by means of that marrow doctrine of the Gospel: Salvation by loving faith in the merit and mediation of Jesus alone. Staupitz counselled the young monk to study the Scriptures well and whatever could aid him in their right understanding, and gave orders to the monastery not to interfere with his studies. On May 2, 1507, he was consecrated to the priesthood. Within the year following, at the instance of Staupitz, Frederick the Wise appointed him professor in the new University of Wittenberg. May 9, 1509, he took his degree of bachelor of divinity. From that time he began to use his place to attack the falsehoods of the prevailing philosophy and to explore and expose the absurdities of Scholasticism, dwelling much on the great Gospel treasure of God's free amnesty to sinful man through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, on which his own soul was planted. Staupitz was astounded at the young brother's thorough mastery of the sacred Word, the minuteness of his knowledge of it, and the power with which he expounded and defended the great principles of the evangelic faith. So able a teacher of the doctrines of the cross must at once begin to preach. Luther remonstrated, for it was not then the custom for all priests to preach. He insisted that he would die under the weight of such responsibilities. "Die, then," said Staupitz; "God has plenty to do for intelligent young men in heaven." A little old wooden chapel, daubed with clay, twenty by thirty feet in size, with a crude platform of rough boards at one end and a small sooty gallery for scarce twenty persons at the other, and propped on all sides to keep it from tumbling down, was assigned him as his cathedral. Myconius likens it to the stable of Bethlehem, as there Christ was born anew for the souls which now crowded to it. And when the thronging audiences required his transfer to the parish church, it was called the bringing of Christ into the temple. The fame of this young theologian and preacher spread fast and far. The common people and the learned were alike impressed by his originality and power, and rejoiced in the electrifying clearness of his expositions and teachings. The Elector was delighted, for he began to see his devout wishes realized. Staupitz, who had drunk in the more pious spirit of the Mystic theologians, shared the same feeling, and saw in Luther's fresh, biblical, and energetic preaching what he felt the whole Church needed. "He spared neither counsel nor applause," for he believed him the man of God for the times. He sent him to neighbouring monasteries to preach to the monks. He gave him every opportunity to study, observe, and exercise his great talents. He even sent him on a mission to Rome, more to acquaint him with that city, which he longed to see, than for any difficult or pressing business with the pope.
Luther's Visit to Rome. Luther performed the journey on foot, passing from monastery to monastery, noting the extravagances, indolence, gluttony, and infidelity of the monks, and sometimes in danger of his life, both from the changes of climate and from the murderous resentments of some of these cloister-saints which his rebukes of their vices engendered. When Rome first broke upon his sight, he hailed it reverently as the city of saints and holy martyrs. He almost envied those whose parents were dead, and who had it in their power to offer prayers for the repose of their souls by the side of such holy shrines. But when he beheld the vulgarities, profanities, paganism, and unconcealed unbelief which pervaded even the ecclesiastical circles of that city, his soul sunk within him. There was much to be seen in Rome; and the Roman Catholic writers find great fault with Luther for being so dull and unappreciative as to move amid it without being touched with a single spark of poetic fire. They tell of the glory of the cardinals, in litters, on horseback, in glittering carriages, blazing with jewels and shaded with gorgeous canopies; of marble palaces, grand walks, alabaster columns, gigantic obelisks, villas, gardens, grottoes, flowers, fountains, cascades; of churches adorned with polished pillars, gilded soffits, mosaic floors, altars sparkling with diamonds, and gorgeous pictures from master-hands looking down from every wall; of monuments, statues, images, and holy relics; and they blame Luther that he could gaze upon it all without a stir of admiration - that he could look upon the sculpture and statuary and see nothing but pagan devices, the gods Demosthenes and Praxiteles, the feasts and pomps of Delos, and the idle scenes of the heathen Forum - that no gleam from the crown of Perugino or Michael Angelo dazzled his eyes, and no strain of Virgil or of Dante, which the people sung in the streets, attracted his ear - that he was only cold and dumb before all the treasures and glories of art and all the grandeur of the high dignitaries of the Church, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, exclaiming over nothing but the licentious impurities of the priests, the pagan pomps of the pontiff, the profane jests of the ministers of religion, the bare shoulders of the Roman ladies. Luther was not dead to the æsthetic, but to see faith and righteousness thus smothered and buried under a godless Epicurean life was an offence to his honest German conscience. It looked to him as if the popes had reversed the Saviour's choice, and accepted the devil's bid for Christ to worship him. From what his own eyes and ears had now seen and heard, he knew what to believe concerning the state of things in the metropolis of Christendom, and was satisfied that, as surely as there is a hell, the Rome of those days was its mouth.
Luther as Town-Preacher. On his return the Senate of Wittenberg elected him town-preacher. In the cloister, in the castle chapel, and in the collegiate church he alternately exercised his gifts. Romanists admit that "his success was great. He said he would not imitate his predecessors, and he kept his word. For the first time a Christian preacher was seen to abandon the Schoolmen and draw his texts and illustrations from the writings of inspiration. He was the originator and restorer of expository preaching in modern times." The Elector heard him, and was filled with admiration. An old professor, whom the people called "the light of the world," listened to him, and was struck with his wonderful insight, his marvellous imagination, and his massive solidity. And Wittenberg sprang into great renown because of him, for never before had been heard in Saxony such a luminous expositor of God's holy Word. Luther made a Doctor. On all hands it was agreed and insisted that he should be made a doctor of divinity. The costs were heavy, for simony was the order of the day and the pope exacted high prices for all church promotions; but the Elector paid the charges. On the 18th of October, 1512, the degree was conferred. It was no empty title to Luther. It gave him liberties and rights which his enemies could not gainsay, and it laid on him obligations and duties which he never forgot. The obedience to the canons and the hierarchy which it exacted he afterward found inimical to Christ and the Gospel, and, as in duty bound, he threw it off, with other swaddling-bands of Popery. But there was in it the pledge "to devote his whole life to the study, exposition and defence of the Holy Scriptures." This he accepted, and ever referred to as his sacred charter and commission. Nor was it without significance that the great bell of Wittenberg was rung when proclamation of this investiture was made. As the ringing of the bell on the old State-house when the Declaration of Independence was passed proclaimed the coming liberties of the American colonies, so this sounding of the great bell of Wittenberg when Luther was made doctor of divinity proclaimed and heralded to the nations of the earth the coming deliverance of the enslaved Church. God's chosen servant had received his commission, and the better day was soon to dawn.
Henceforth Luther's labours and studies went forward with a new impulse and inspiration. Hebrew and Greek were thoroughly mastered. The Fathers of the Church, ancient and modern, were carefully read. The systems of the Schoolmen, the Book of Sentences, the Commentaries, the Decretals - everything relating to his department as a doctor of theology - were examined, and brought to the test of Holy Scripture. In his sermons, lectures, and disquisitions the results of these incessant studies came out with a depth of penetration, a clearness of statement, a simplicity of utterance, a devoutness of spirit, and a convincing power of eloquence which, with the eminent sanctity of his life, won for him unbounded praise. The common feeling was that the earth did not contain another such a doctor and had not seen his equal for many ages. Envy and jealousy themselves, those green-eyed monsters which gather about the paths of great qualities and successes, seemed for the time to be paralyzed before a brilliancy which rested on such humility, conscientiousness, fidelity, and merit.
Luther's labours. Years of fruitful labour passed. The Decalogue was expounded. Paul's letter to the Romans and the penitential Psalms were explained. The lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians were nearly completed. But no book from Luther had yet been published. In 1515 he was chosen district vicar of the Augustinian monasteries of Meissen and Thuringia. It was a laborious office, but it gave him new experiences, familiarized him still more with the monks, brought him into executive administrations, and developed his tact in dealing with men. One other particular served greatly to establish him in the hearts of the people. A deadly plague broke out in Wittenberg. Citizens were dying by dozens and scores. At a later period a like scourge visited Geneva, and so terrified Calvin and his ministerial associates that they appealed to the Supreme Council, entreating, "Mighty lords, release us from attending these infected people, for our lives are in peril." Not so Luther. His friends said, "Fly! fly!" lest he should fall by the plague and be lost to the world. "Fly?" said he. "No, no, my God. If I die, I die. The world will not perish because a monk has fallen. I am not St. Paul, not to fear death, but God will sustain me." And as an angel of mercy he remained, ministering to the sick and dying and caring for the orphans and widows of the dead. Collision with the Hierarchy. Such was Luther up to the time of his rupture with Rome. He knew something of the shams and falsities that prevailed, and he had assailed and exposed many of them in his lectures and sermons; but to lead a general reformation was the farthest from his thoughts. Indeed, he still had such confidence in the integrity of the Roman Church that he did not yet realize how greatly a thorough general reformation was needed. Humble in mind, peaceable in disposition, reverent toward authority, loving privacy, and fully occupied with his daily studies and duties, it was not in him to think of making war with powers whose claims he had not yet learned to question.
But it was not possible that so brave, honest, and self-sacrificing a man should long pursue his convictions without coming into collision with the Roman high priesthood. Though far off at Wittenberg, and trying to do his own duty well in his own legitimate sphere, it soon came athwart his path in a form so foul and offensive that it forced him to assault it. Either he had to let go his sincerest convictions and dearest hopes or protest had to come. His personal salvation and that of his flock were at stake, and he could in no way remain a true man and not remonstrate. Driven to this extremity, and struck at for his honest faithfulness, he struck again; and so came the battle which shook and revolutionized the world.
The Selling of Indulgences. Luther's first encounter with the hierarchy was on the traffic in indulgences. It was a good fortune that it there began. That traffic was so obnoxious to every sense of propriety that any vigorous attack upon it would command the approval of many honest and pious people. The central heresy of hierarchical religion was likewise embodied in it, so that a stab there, if logically followed up, would necessarily reach the very heart of the oppressive monster. And Providence arranged that there the conflict should begin. Leo X. had but recently ascended the papal throne. Reared amid lavish wealth and culture, he was eager that his reign should equal that of Solomon and the Cæsars. He sought to aggrandize his relatives, to honour and enrich men of genius, and to surround himself with costly splendours and pleasures. These demanded extraordinary revenues. The projects of his ambitious predecessors had depleted the papal coffers. He needed to do something on a grand scale in order adequately to replenish his exchequer. As early as the eleventh century the popes had betimes resorted to the selling of pardons and the issuing of free passes to heaven on consideration of certain services or payments to the Church. From Urban II. to Leo X. this was more or less in vogue - first, to get soldiers for the holy wars, and then as a means of wealth to the Church. If one wished to eat meat on fast-days, marry within prohibited degrees of relationship, or indulge in forbidden pleasures, he could do it without offence by rendering certain satisfactions before or after, which satisfactions could mostly be made by payments of money. In the same way he could buy remission of sins in general, or exemption for so many days, years, or centuries from the pains of Purgatory. Bulls of Authority were given, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to issue certificates of exemption from all penalties to such as did the service or paid the equivalent. Immense incomes were thus realized. Even to the present this facile invention for raising money has not been entirely discontinued. Papal indulgences can be bought today in the shops of Spain and elsewhere. Leo seized upon this system with all the vigour and unscrupulousness characteristic of the Medici. Had he been asked whether he really believed in these pardons, he would have said that the Church always believed the pope had power to grant them. Had he spoken his real mind in the matter, he would have said that if the people chose to be such fools, it was not for him to find fault with them. And thus, under plea of raising funds to finish St. Peter's, he instituted a grand trade in indulgences, and thereby laid the capstone of hierarchical iniquity which crushed the whole fabric to its base. The right to sell these wares in Germany was awarded to Albert, the gay young prince-archbishop of Mayence. He was over head and ears in debt to the pope for his pallium, and Leo gave him this chance to get out. Half the proceeds of the trade in his territory were to go to his credit. But the work of proclaiming and distributing the pardons was committed to John Tetzel, a Dominican prior who had long experience in the business, and who achieved "a forlorn notoriety in European history" by his zeal in prosecuting it.
Tetzel's Performances. Tetzel entered the towns with noise and pomp, amid waving of flags, singing, and the ringing of bells. Clergy, choristers, monks, and nuns moved in procession before and after him. He himself sat in a gilded chariot, with the Bull of his Authority spread out on a velvet cushion before him. The churches were his salesrooms, lighted and decorated for the occasion as in highest festival. From the pulpits his boisterous oratory rang, telling the virtues of indulgences, the wonderful power of the keys, and the unexampled grace of which he was the bearer from the holy lord and father at Rome. He called on all - robbers, adulterers, murderers, everybody - to draw near, pay down their money, and receive from him letters, duly sealed, by which all their sins, past and future, should be pardoned and done away. Not for the living only, but also for the dead, he proposed full and instantaneous deliverance from all future punishments on the payment of the price. And any wretch who dared to doubt or question the saving power of these certificates he in advance doomed to excommunication and the wrath of God. Catholic divines have laboured hard to whitewash or explain away this stupendous iniquity; but, with all they have said or may say, such were the presentations made by the hawkers of these wares and such was the text of the diplomas they issued. A dispensation or indulgence was nothing more nor less than a pretended letter of credit on Heaven, drawn at will by the pope out of the superabundant merits of Christ and all saints, to count so much on the books of God for so many murders, robberies, frauds, lies, slanders, or debaucheries. As the matter practically worked, a more profane and devilish traffic never had place in our world than that which the Roman hierarchy thus carried on in the name of the Triune God.
Luther on Indulgences. Luther was on a tour of inspection as district vicar of the Augustinians when he first heard of these shameful doings. As yet he understood but little of the system, and could not believe it possible that the fathers at Rome could countenance, much less appoint and commission, such iniquities. Boiling with indignation for the honour of the Church, he threatened to make a hole in Tetzel's drum, and wrote to the authorities to refuse passports to the hucksters of these shameful deceptions. But Tetzel soon came near to Wittenberg. Some of Luther's parishioners heard him, and bought absolutions. They afterward came to confession, acknowledging great irregularities of life. Luther rebuked their wickedness, and would not promise them forgiveness unless contrite for their sins and earnestly endeavouring to amend their evil ways. They remonstrated, and brought out their certificates of plenary pardon. "I have nothing to do with your papers," said he. "God's Word says you must repent and lead better lives, or you will perish." His words were at once carried to the ears of Tetzel, who fumed with rage at such impudence toward the authority of the Church. He ascended the pulpit and hurled the curses of God upon the Saxon monk Thus an honest pastor finds some of his flock on the way to ruin, and tries to guide them right. He is not thinking of attacking Rome. He is ready to fight and die for holy Mother Church. His very protests are in her behalf. He is on his own rightful field, in faithful pursuit of his own rightful duty. Here the erring hierarchy seeks him out and attacks him. Shall he yield to timid fears and weak advisers, keep silence in his own house, and let the souls he is placed to guard become a prey to the destroyer? Is he not sworn to defend God's holy Word and Gospel? What will be his eternal fate and that of his people should he now hold his peace?
Sermon on Indulgences. Without conferring with flesh and blood his resolve was made - a resolve on which hung all the better future of the world - a resolve to take the pulpit against the lying indulgences. For several days he shut himself in his cell to make sure of his ground and to elaborate what he would say. With eminent modesty and moderation his sentences were wrought, but with a perspicuity and clearness which no one could mistake. A crowded church awaited their delivery. He entered with his brother-monks, and joined in all the service with his usual voice and gravity. Nothing in his countenance or manner betrayed the slightest agitation of his soul. It was a solemn and momentous step for himself and for mankind that he was about to take, but he was as calmly made up to it as to any other duty of his life. The moment came for him to speak; and he spoke. "I hold it impossible," said he, "to prove from the Holy Scriptures that divine justice demands from the sinner any other penance or satisfaction than a true repentance, a change of heart, a willing submission to bear the Saviour's cross, and a readiness to do what good he can." That indulgences applied to souls in Purgatory serve to remit the punishments which they would otherwise suffer is an opinion devoid of any foundation. "Indulgences, so far from expiating or cleansing from sin, leave the man in the same filth and condemnation in which they find him. "The Church exacts somewhat of the sinner, and what it on its own account exacts it can on its own account remit, but nothing more. "If you have aught to spare, in God's name give it for the building of St. Peter's, but do not buy pardons. "If you have means, feed the hungry, which is of more avail than piling stones together, and far better than the buying of indulgences. "My advice is, Let indulgences alone; leave them to dead and sleepy Christians; but see to it that ye be not of that kind. "Indulgences are neither commanded nor approved of God. They excite no one to sanctification. They work nothing toward salvation. "That indulgences have virtue to deliver souls from Purgatory I do not believe, nor can it be proven by them that teach it; the Church says nothing to that effect. "What I preach to you is based on the certainty of the Holy Scriptures, which no one ought to doubt." So Luther preached, and his word went out to the ends of the earth. It was no jest, like Ulric von Hütten's Epistles of Obscure Men, or like the ridicule which Reuchlin and Erasmus heaped upon the stupid monks. It raised no laugh, but penetrated, like a rifle-shot, into the very heart of things. Those who listened were deeply affected by the serious boldness of the preacher. The audience was with him in conviction, but many trembled for the result. "Dear doctor, you have been very rash; what trouble may come of this!" said a venerable father as he pulled the sleeve of Luther's gown and shook his head with misgivings. "If this is not rightly done in God's name," said Luther, "it will come to nothing; if it is, let come what will." It was honest duty to God, truth, and the salvation of men that moved him. Cowardly policy or timid expediency in such a matter was totally foreign to his soul. In a few days, the substance of the sermon was in print. Tetzel raved over it. Melanchthon says he burnt it in the market-place of Jüterbock. In the name of God and the pope he bade defiance to its author, and challenged him by fire and water. Luther laughed at him for braying so loud at a distance, yet declining to come to Wittenberg to argue out the matter in close lists.
Appeal to the Bishops. Anxious to vindicate the Church from what he believed to be an unwarranted liberty in the use of her name, Luther wrote to the bishop of Brandenburg and the archbishop of Mayence. He made his points, and appealed to these his superiors to put down the scandalous falsities advanced by Tetzel. They failed to answer in any decisive way. The one timidly advised silence, and the other had too much pecuniary interest in the business to notice the letter. Thus, as a pastor, Luther had taken his ground before his parishioners in the confessional. As a preacher he had uttered himself in earnest admonition from the pulpit. As a loyal son he had made his presentation and appeal to those in authority over him. Was he right? Or was he wrong? No commanding answer came, and there remained one other way of testing the question. As a doctor of divinity he could lawfully, as custom had been, demand an open and fair discussion of the matter with teachers and theologians. And upon this he now resolved.
The Ninety-five Theses. He framed a list of propositions on the points in question. They were in Latin, for his appeal was to theologians, and not yet to the common heart and mind of Germany. To make them public, he took advantage of a great festival at Wittenberg, when the town was full of visitors and strangers, and nailed them to the door of the new castle church, October 31, 1517. These were the famous Ninety-five Theses. They were plainly-worded statements of the same points he had made in the confessional and in his sermon. They contained no assault upon the Church, no arraignment of the pope, no personal attack on any one. Neither were they given as necessarily true, but as what Luther believed to be true, and the real truth or falsity of which he desired to have decided in the only way questions of faith and salvation can be rightly decided. The whole matter was fairly, humbly, and legitimately put. "I, Martin Luther, Augustinian at Wittenberg," he added at the end, "hereby declare that I have written these propositions against indulgences. I understand that some, not knowing what they affirm, are of opinion that I am a heretic, though our renowned university has not condemned me, nor any temporal or spiritual authority. Therefore, now again, as often heretofore, I beg of one and all, for the sake of the true Christian faith, to show me the better way, if peradventure they have learned it from above, or at least to submit their opinion to the decision of God and the Church; for I am not so insane as to set up my views above everything and everybody, nor so silly as to accept the fables invented by men in preference to the Word of God." It is from the nailing up of these Theses that the history of the Great Reformation dates; for the hammer-strokes which fixed that parchment started the Alpine avalanche which overwhelmed the pride of Rome and broke the stubborn power which had reigned supreme for a thousand years.
Effect of the Theses. As no one came forward to discuss his Theses, Luther resolved to publish them to the world. In fourteen days they overspread Germany. In a month they ran through all Christendom. One historian says it seemed as if the angels of God were engaged in spreading them. At a single stroke, made in modesty and faith, Luther had become the most noted person in Germany - the man most talked of in all the world - the mouthpiece of the best people in Christendom - the leader of a mighty revolution. Reuchlin read, and thanked God. Erasmus read, and rejoiced, only counselling moderation and prudence. The Emperor Maximilian read, and wrote to the Saxon Elector: "Take care of the monk Luther, for the time may come when we will need him." The bishop of Wurzburg read, and was filled with gladness, and wrote to the Elector Frederick to hold on to Luther as a preacher of the truth of God. The prior of Steinlausitz read, and could not suppress his joy. "See here," said he to his monks: "the long-waited-for has come; he tells the truth. Berg means mountain, and Wittenberg is the mountain whither all the world will come to seek wisdom, and will find it." A student of Annaberg read, and said, "This Luther is the reaper in my dream, whom the voice bade me follow and gather in the bread of life;" and from that hour he was a fast friend of Luther and his cause, and became the distinguished Myconius. The pope himself read the Theses, and did not think unfavourably of their author. He saw in Luther a man of learning and brilliant genius, and that pleased him. The questions mooted he referred to a mere monkish jealousy - an unsober gust of passion which would soon blow over. He did not then realize the seriousness which was in the matter. His sphere was heathen art and worldly magnificence, not searching into the ways of God's salvation. The great German heart was moved, and the brave daring of him whose voice was thus lifted up against the abominations which were draining the country to fill the pope's coffers was hailed with enthusiasm. Had Luther been a smaller man he would have been swept away by his vast and sudden fame. But not all was sunshine. Erasmus wittily said, Luther committed two unpardonable sins: he touched the pope's crown and the monks' bellies. Such effrontery would needs raise a mighty outcry. Prierias, the master of the sacred palace, pronounced Luther a heretic. Hochstrat of Cologne, Reuchlin's enemy, clamoured for fire to burn him. The indulgence-venders thundered their anathemas, promising a speedy holocaust of Luther's body. The monasteries took on the form of so many kennels of enraged hounds howling to each other across the spiritual waste. And even some who pronounced the Theses scriptural and orthodox shook their heads and sought to quash such dangerous proceedings. But Luther remained firm at his post. He honestly believed what he had written, and he was not afraid of the truth. If the powers of the world should come down upon him and kill him, he was prepared for the slaughter. In all the mighty controversy he was ever ready to serve the Gospel with his life or with his death.
Tetzel's End. Tetzel continued to bray and fume against him from pulpit and press, denouncing him as a heresiarch, heretic, and schismatic. By Wimpina's aid he issued a reply to Luther's sermon, and also counter-theses on Luther's propositions. But the tide was turning in the sea of human thinking. Luther's utterances had turned it. The people were ready to tear the mountebank to pieces. Two years later he imploringly complained to the pope's nuncio, Miltitz, that such fury pursued him in Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland that he was nowhere safe. Even the representative of the pope gave the wretch no sympathy. When Luther heard of his illness he sent him a letter to tell him that he had forgiven him all. He died in Leipsic, neglected, smitten in soul, and full of misery, July 14, 1519.
Luther's Growing Influence. Six months after the nailing up of the Theses, Luther was the hero of a general convention of the Augustinians in Heidelberg. He there submitted a series of propositions on philosophy and theology, which he defended with such convincing clearness and tact that he won for himself and his university great honour and renown. Better still, four learned young men who there heard him saw the truth of his positions, and afterward became distinguished defenders of the Reformation. His cause, meanwhile, was rapidly gaining friends. His replies to Tetzel, Prierias, Hochstrat, and Eck had gone forth to deepen the favorable impression made by the Ninety-five Theses. Truth had once more lifted up its head in Europe, and Rome would find it no child's play to put it down. The skirmish-lines of the hierarchy had been met and driven in. The tug of serious battle was now to come.
His Appeal to the Pope. Luther made the advance. He wrote out explanations (or "Resolutions") of his Theses, and sent them, with a letter, to the pope. With great confidence, point, and elegance, but with equal submissiveness and humility, he spoke of the completeness of Christ for the salvation of every true believer, without room or need for penances and other satisfactions; of the evilness of the times, and the pressing necessity for a general reform; of the damaging complaints everywhere resounding against the traffic in indulgences; of his unsuccessful appeals to the ecclesiastical princes; and of the unjust censures being heaped upon him for what he had done, entreating His Holiness to instruct his humble petitioner, and condemn or approve, kill or preserve, as the voice of Christ through him might be. He then believed that God's sanction had to come through the high clergy and heads of the Church. Many good Christians had approved his Theses, but he did not recognize in that the divine answer to his testimony. He said afterward: "I looked only to the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, the theologians, the jurisconsults, the monks, the priests, from whom I expected the breathing of the Spirit." He had not yet learned what a bloody dragon claimed to impersonate the Lamb of God.
Citation to Answer for Heresy. While, in open frankness, Luther was thus meekly committing himself to the powers at Rome, they were meditating his destruction. Insidiously they sought to deprive him of the Elector's protection, and answered his humble and confiding appeal with a citation to appear before them to answer for heresy. Things now were ominous of evil. Wittenberg was filled with consternation. If Luther obeyed, it was evident he would perish like so many faithful men before him; if he refused, he would be charged with contumacy and involve his prince. One and another expedient were proposed to meet the perplexity; but to secure a hearing in Germany was all Luther asked. To this the pope proved more willing than was thought. He was not sure of gaining by the public trial and execution of a man so deeply planted in the esteem of his countrymen, and by bringing him before a prudent legate he might induce him to retract and the trouble be ended; if not, it would be a less disturbing way of getting possession of the accused man. Orders were therefore issued for Luther to appear before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg.
Luther before Cajetan. On foot he undertook the journey, believed by all to be a journey to his death. But Maximilian, then in the neighborhood of Augsburg, gave him a safe-conduct, and Cajetan was obliged to receive him with civility. He even embraced him with tokens of affection, thinking to win him to retraction. Luther was much softened by these kindly manifestations, and was disposed to comply with almost anything if not required to deny the truth of God. The interviews were numerous. Luther was told that it was useless to think that the civil powers would go to war for his protection; and where would he then be? His answer was: "I will be, as now, under the broad heavens of the Almighty." Remonstrances, entreaties, threatenings, and proposals of high distinction were addressed to him; but he wanted no cardinal's hat, and for nothing in Rome's power would he consent to retract what he believed to be the Gospel truth till shown wherein it was at variance with the divine Word. Cajetan's arguments tripped and failed at every point, and he could only reiterate that he had been sent to receive a retraction, not to debate the questions. Luther as often promised this when shown from the Scriptures to be in the wrong, but not till then.
Cajetan's Mortification. Foiled and disappointed in his designs, and astounded and impatient that a poor monk should thus set at naught all the prayers and powers of the sovereign of Christendom, the cardinal bade him see his face no more until he had repented of his stubbornness. At this the friends of the Reformer, fearing for his safety, clandestinely hurried him out of Augsburg, literally grappling him up from his bed only half dressed, and brought him away to his university. He had answered the pope's summons, and yet was free! Cajetan was mortified at the result, and was upbraided for his failure. In his chagrin he wrote angrily to the Elector not to soil his name and lineage by sheltering a heretic, but to surrender Luther at once, on pain of an interdict. The Elector was troubled. Luther had not been proven a heretic, neither did he believe him to be one; but he feared collision with the pope. Luther said if he were in the Elector's place he would answer the cardinal as he deserved for thus insulting an honest man; but, not to be an embarrassment to his prince, he agreed to leave the Elector's dominions if he said so. But Frederick would not surrender his distinguished subject to the legate, neither would he send him out of the country. It is hard to say which was here the nobler man, Luther or his illustrious protector.
Progress of Events. The minds of men by this time were much aroused, and Luther's cause grew and strengthened. The learned Melanchthon, Reuchlin's relative and pupil, was added to the faculty at Wittenberg, and became Luther's chief co-labourer. The number of students in the university swelled to thousands, including the sons of noblemen and princes from all parts, who listened with admiration to Luther's lectures and sermons and spread his fame and doctrines. And the feeling was deep and general that a new and marvellous light had arisen upon the world. It was now that Maximilian died (Jan. 17, 1519), and Charles V., his grandson, a Spanish prince of nineteen years, succeeded to his place. The Imperial crown was laid at the feet of the Elector Frederick, Luther's friend, but he declined it in favour of Charles, only exacting a solemn pledge that he would not disturb the liberties of Germany. Civil freedom is one of the glorious fruits of the Reformation, and here already it began to raise barricades against despotic power.
The Leipsic Disputation. Up to this time, however, there had been no questioning of the divine rights claimed by the hierarchy. Luther was still a Papist, and thought to grow his plants of evangelic faith under the shadow of the Upas of ecclesiasticism. He had not yet been brought to see how his Augustinian theology concerning sin and grace ran afoul of the entire round of the mediæval system and methods of holiness. It was only the famous Leipsic Disputation between him and Dr. John Eck that showed him the remoter and deeper relations of his position touching indulgences. This otherwise fruitless debate had the effect of making the nature and bearings of the controversy clear to both sides. Eck now distinctly saw that Luther must be forcibly put down or the whole papal system must fall; and Luther was made to realize that he must surrender his doctrine of salvation through simple faith in Christ or break with the pope and the hierarchical system. Accepting the pontifical doctrines as true, Eck claimed the victory, because he had driven Luther to expressions at variance with those doctrines. On the other hand, Luther had shown that the pontifical claims were without foundation in primitive Christianity or the Holy Scriptures; that the Papacy was not of divine authority or of the essence of the Church; that the Church existed before and beyond the papal hierarchy, as well as under it; that the only Head of the universal Christian Church is Christ himself; that wherever there is true faith in God's Word, there the Church is, whatever the form of external organization; that the popes could err and had erred, and councils likewise; and that neither separately nor together could they rightfully decree or ordain contrary to the Scriptures, the only infallible Rule. To all this Eck could make no answer except that it was Hussism over again, which the Council of Constance had condemned, and that, from the standpoint of the hierarchy, Luther was a heretic and ought to be dealt with accordingly.
Results from the Debate. Luther now realized that the true Gospel of God's salvation and the pontifical system were vitally and irreconcilably antagonistic; that the one could never be held in consistency with the other; and that there must come a final break between him and Rome. This much depressed him. He showed his spiritual anguish by his deep dejection. But he soon rose above it. If he had the truth of God, as he verily believed, what were the pope and all devils against Jehovah? And so he went on lecturing, preaching, writing, and publishing with his greatest power, brilliancy, and effectiveness. Some of the best and most telling products of his pen now went forth to multitudes of eager readers. The glowing energy of his faith acted like a spreading fire, kindling the souls of men as they seldom have been kindled in any cause in any age. His Address to the Nobility electrified all Germany, and first fired the patriotic spirit of Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer. His book on The Babylonian Captivity of the Church sounded a bugle-note which thrilled through all the German heart, gave Bugenhagen to the Reformation, and sent a shudder through the hierarchy. Already, at Maximilian's Diet at Augsburg to take measures against the Turk, a Latin pamphlet was openly circulated among the members which said that the Turk to be resisted was living in Italy; and Miltitz, the pope's nuncio and chamberlain, confessed that from Rome to Altenberg he had found those greatly in the minority who did not side with Luther.
Luther's Excommunication. But the tempest waxed fiercer and louder every day. Luther's growing influence the more inflamed his enemies. Hochstrat had induced two universities to condemn his doctrines. In sundry places his books were burned by the public hangman. Eck had gone to Italy, and was "moving the depths of hell" to secure the excommunication of the prejudged heretic. And could his bloodthirsty enemies have had their way, this would long since have come. But Leo seems to have had more respect for Luther than for them. Learning and talent were more to him than any doctrines of the faith. The monks complained of him as too much given to luxury and pleasure to do his duty in defending the Church. Perhaps he had conscience enough to be ashamed to enforce his traffic in paper pardons by destroying the most honest and heroic man in Germany. Perhaps he did not like to stain his reign with so foul a record, even if dangerous complications should not attend it. Whatever the cause, he was slow to respond to these clamours for blood. Eck had almost as much trouble to get him to issue the Bull of Luther's excommunication as he had to answer Luther's arguments in the Leipsic Discussion. But he eventually procured it, and undertook to enforce it. And yet, with all his zealous personal endeavours and high authority, he could hardly get it posted, promulged, or at all respected in Germany. His parchment thunder lost its power in coming across the Alps. Miltitz also was in his way, who, with equal authority from the pope, was endeavouring to supersede the Bull by attempts at reconciliation. It came to Wittenberg in such a sorry plight that Luther laughed at it as having the appearance of a forgery by Dr. Eck. He knew the pope had been bullied into the issuing of it, but this was the biting irony by which he indicated the character of the men by whom it was moved and the pitiable weakness to which such thunders had been reduced. But it was a Bull of excommunication nevertheless. Luther and his doctrines were condemned by the chief of Christendom. Multitudes were thrown into anxious perturbation. If the strong arm of the emperor should be given to sustain the pope, who would be able to stand? Adrian, one of the faculty of Wittenberg, was so frightened that he threw down his office and hastened to join the enemy. Amid the perils which surrounded Luther powerful knights offered to defend him by force of arms; but he answered, "No; by the Word the world was conquered, by the Word the Church was saved, and by the Word it must be restored." The thoughts of his soul were not on human power, but centred on the throne of Him who lives for ever. It was Christ's Gospel that was in peril, and he was sure Jehovah would not abandon his own cause. Germany waited to see what he would do. Nor was it long kept in suspense.
Luther and the Pope's Bull. In a month he discharged a terrific volley of artillery upon the Papacy by his book Against the Bull of Antichrist. In thirteen days later he brought formal charges against the pope - first, as an unjust judge, who condemns without giving a hearing; second, as a heretic and apostate, who requires denial that faith is necessary; third, as an Antichrist, who sets himself against the Holy Scriptures and usurps their authority; and fourth, as a blasphemer of the Church and its free councils, who declares them nothing without himself. This was carrying the war into Africa. Appealing to a future general council and the Scriptures as superior to popes, he now called upon the emperor, electors, princes, and all classes and estates in the whole German empire, as they valued the Gospel and the favour of Christ, to stand by him in this demonstration. And, that all might be certified in due form, he called a notary and five witnesses to hear and attest the same as verily the solemn act and deed of Martin Luther, done in behalf of himself and all who stood or should stand with him. Rome persisted in forcing a schism, and this was Luther's bill of divorcement. Nay, more; as Rome had sealed its condemnation of him by burning his books, he built a stack of fagots on the refuse piles outside the Elster Gate of Wittenberg, invited thither the whole university, and when the fires were kindled and the flames were high, he cast into them, one by one, the books of the canon law, the Decretals, the Clementines, the Papal Extravagants, and all that lay at the base of the religion of the hierarchy! And when these were consumed he took Leo's Bull of excommunication, held it aloft, exclaiming with a loud voice, "Since thou hast afflicted the saints of God, be thou consumed with fire unquenchable!" and dashed the impious document into the flames. Well done was that! Luther considered it the best act of his life. It was a brave heart, the bravest then living in this world, that dared to do it. But it was done then and for ever. Wittenberg looked on with shoutings. The whole modern world of civilized man has ever since been looking on with thrilling wonder. And myriads of the sons of God and liberty are shouting over it yet. The miner's son had come up full abreast with the triple-crowned descendant of the Medici. The monk of Wittenberg had matched the proudest monarch in the world. Henceforth the question was, Which of them should sway the nations in the time to come?
The Diet of Worms. The young emperor sided with the religion of the pope. The venerable Elector Frederick determined to stand by Luther, at least till his case was fairly adjudged. He said it was not just to condemn a good and honest man unheard and unconvicted, and that "Justice must take precedence even of the pope." Conferences of state now became numerous and exciting, and the efforts of Rome to have Luther's excommunication recognized and enforced were many and various, but nothing short of a Diet of the empire could settle the disturbance. Such a Diet was convoked by the young emperor for January, 1521. It was the first of his reign, and the grandest ever held on German soil. Philip of Hesse came to it with a train of six hundred cavaliers. The electors, dukes, archbishops, landgraves, margraves, counts, bishops, barons, lords, deputies, legates, and ambassadors from foreign courts came in corresponding style. They felt it important to show their consequence at this first Diet, and were all the more moved to be there in force because the exciting matter of Reform was specified as one of the chief things to be considered. The result was one of the most august and illustrious assemblies of which modern history tells, and one which presented a spectacle of lasting wonder that a poor lone monk should thus have moved all the powers of the earth.
Doings of the Romanists. For three months the Diet wrangled over the affair of Luther without reaching anything decided. The friends of Rome were the chief actors, struggling in every way and hesitating at nothing to induce the Diet and the emperor to acknowledge and enforce the pope's decree. But the influence of the German princes, especially that of the Elector Frederick, stood in the way; Charles would not act, as he had no right to act, without the concurrence of the states, and the princes of Germany held it unjust that Luther should be condemned on charges which had never been fairly tried, on books which were not proven to be his, and especially since the sentence itself presented conditions with reference to which no answer had been legally ascertained. To overcome these oppositions different resorts were tried. Leo issued a second Bull, excommunicating Luther absolutely, anathematizing him and all his friends and abettors. The pope's legate called for money to buy up influence for the Romanists: "We must have money. Send us money. Money! money! or Germany is lost!" The money came; but the Reformer's friends could not be bought with bribes, however much the agents of Rome needed such stimulation. Trickery was brought into requisition to entrap Luther's defenders by a secret proposal to compromise. Luther was given great credit and right, except that he had gone a little too far, and it was only necessary to restrain him from further demonstrations. Rome compromise with a man she had doubly excommunicated and anathematized! Rome make terms with an outlaw whom she had infallibly doomed to eternal execration! Yet with these proposals the emperor's confessor approached Chancellor Brück. But the chancellor's head was too clear to be caught by such treachery. Then it was moved to refer the matter to a commission of arbitrators. This met with so much favour that the pope's legate, Aleander, was alarmed lest Luther should thereby escape, and hence set himself with unwonted energy to incite the emperor to decisive measures. Charles was persuaded to make a demonstration, but demanded that the legate should first "convince the Diet." Aleander was the most famous orator Rome had, and he rejoiced in his opportunity. He went before the assembly in a prepared speech of three hours in length to show up Luther as a pestilent heretic, and the necessity of getting rid of him and his books and principles at once to prevent the world from being plunged into barbarism and utter desolation. He made a deep impression by his effort. It was only by the unexpected and crushing speech of Duke George of Saxony, Luther's bitter personal enemy, that the train of things, so energetically wrought up, was turned. Not in defence of Luther, whom he disliked, but in defence of the German nation, he piled up before the door of the hierarchy such an overwhelming array of its oppressions, robberies, and scandals, and exposed with such an unsparing hand the falsities, profligacies, cupidity, and beastly indecencies of the Roman clergy and officials, that the emperor hastened to recall the edict he had already signed, and yielded consent for Luther to be called to answer for himself.
Luther Summoned. In vain the pope's legate protested that it was not lawful thus to bring the decrees of the sovereign pontiff into question, or pleaded that Luther's daring genius, flashing eyes, electric speech, and thrilling spirit would engender tumult and violence. On March 6th the emperor signed a summons and safe-conduct for the Reformer to appear in Worms within twenty-one days, to answer concerning his doctrines and writings. So far the thunders of the Vatican were blank. With all the anxious fears which such a summons would naturally engender, Luther resolved to obey it. The pope's adherents fumed in their helplessness when they learned that he was coming - coming, too, under the safe-conduct of the empire, coming to have a hearing before the Diet! - he whom the infallible Vicar of Heaven had condemned and anathematized! Whither was the world drifting? Luther's friends trembled lest he should share the fate of Huss; his enemies trembled lest he should escape it; and both, in their several ways, tried to keep him back. Placards of his condemnation were placed before him on the way, and spectacles to indicate his certain execution were enacted in his sight; but he was not the man to be deterred by the prospect of being burnt alive if God called for the sacrifice. Lying fraud was also tried to seduce and betray him. Glapio, the emperor's confessor, who had tried a similar trick upon the Elector Frederick, conceived the idea that if Von Sickingen and Bucer could be won for the plot, a proposal to compromise the whole matter amicably might serve to beguile him to the château of his friend at Ebernburg till his safe-conduct should expire, and then the liars could throw off the mask and dispose of him with credit in the eyes of Rome. The glib and wily Glapio led in the attempt. Von Sickingen and Bucer were entrapped by his bland hypocrisy, and lent themselves to the execution of the specious proposition. But when they came to Luther with it, he turned his back, saying, "If the emperor's confessor has anything to say to me he will find me at Worms." But even his friends were alarmed at his coming. It was feared that he would be destroyed. The Elector's confidential adviser sent a servant out to meet him, beseeching him by no means to enter the city. "Go tell your master," said Luther, "I will enter Worms though as many devils should be there as tiles upon its houses!" And he did enter, with nobles, cavaliers, and gentry for his escort, and attended through the streets by a larger concourse than had greeted the entry of the emperor himself.
Luther at the Diet. Charles hurried to convene his council, saying, "Luther is come; what shall we do with him?" A chancellor and bishop of Flanders urged that he be despatched at once, and this scandalous humiliation of the Holy See terminated. He said Sigismund had allowed Huss to be burned, and no one was bound to keep faith with a heretic. But the emperor was more moral than the teachings of his Church, and said, "Not so; we have given our promise, and we ought to keep it." On the morrow Luther was conducted to the Diet by the marshal of the empire. The excited people so crowded the gates and jammed about the doors that the soldiers had to use their halberds to open a way for him. An instinct not yet interpreted drew their hearts and allied them with the hero. From the thronged streets, windows, and housetops came voices as he passed - voices of petition and encouragement - voices of benediction on the brave and true - voices of sympathy and adjuration to be firm in God and in the power of his might. It was Germany, Scandinavia, England, Scotland, and Holland; it was the Americas and hundreds of young republics yet unborn; it was the whole world of all after-time, with its free Gospel, free conscience, free speech, free government, free science, and free schools, - uttering themselves in those half-smothered voices. Luther heard them and was strengthened. But there was no danger he would betray the momentous trust. That morning, amid great rugged prayers which broke from him like massive rock-fragments hot and burning from a volcano of mingled faith and agony, laying one hand on the open Bible and lifting the other to heaven, he cast his soul on Omnipotence, in pledge unspeakable to obey only his conscience and his God. Whether for life or death, his heart was fixed. A few steps more and he stood before Imperial majesty, encompassed by the powers and dignitaries of the earth, so brave, calm, and true a man that thrones and kings looked on in silent awe and admiration, and even malignant scorn for the moment retreated into darkness. Since He who wore the crown of thorns stood before Pontius Pilate there had not been a parallel to this scene.
Luther's Refusal to Recant. A weak, poor man, arraigned and alone before the assembled powers of the earth, with only the grace of God and his cause on which to lean, had demand made of him whether or not he would retract his books or any part of them, Yes or No. But he did not shrink, neither did he falter. "Since Your Imperial Majesty and Your Excellencies require of me a direct and simple answer, I will give it. To the pope or councils I cannot submit my faith, for it is clear that they have erred and contradicted one another. Therefore, unless I am convinced by proofs from Holy Scripture or by sound reasons, and my judgment by this means is commanded by God's Word, I cannot and will not retract anything: for a Christian cannot safely go contrary to his conscience." And, glancing over the august assembly, on whose will his life hung, he added in deep solemnity, those immortal words: "Here I stand. I can do no otherwise. So help me God! Amen." Simple were the facts. Luther afterward wrote to a friend: "I expected His Majesty would bring fifty doctors to convict the monk outright; but it was not so. The whole history is this: Are these your books? Yes. - Will you retract them? No. - Well then, begone." He said the truth, but he could not then know all that was involved in what he reduced to such a simple colloquy. With that Yes and No the wheel of ages made another revolution. The breath which spoke them turned the balances in which the whole subsequent history of civilization hung. It was the Yes and No which applied the brakes to the Juggernaut of usurpation, whose ponderous wheels had been crushing through the centuries. It was the Yes and No which evidenced the reality of a power above all popes and empires. It was the Yes and No which spoke the supreme obligation of the human soul to obey God and conscience, and started once more the pulsations of liberty in the arteries of man. It was the Yes and No which divided eras, and marked the summit whence the streams began to form and flow to give back to this world a Church without a pope and a State without an Inquisition. Charles had the happiness at Worms to hear the tidings that Fernando Cortes had added Mexico to his dominions. The emancipated peoples of the earth in the generations since have had the happiness to know that at Worms, through the inflexible steadfastness of Martin Luther, God gave the inspirations of a new and better life for them!
Luther's Condemnation. After Luther and his friends left Worms the emperor issued an edict putting him and all his adherents under the ban of the empire, forbidding any one to give him food or shelter, calling on all who found him to arrest him, commanding all his books to be burned, and ordering the seizure of his friends and the confiscation of their possessions. It was what Germany got for putting an Austro-Spanish bigot on the Imperial throne.
Luther in the Wartburg. But the cause of Rome was not helped by it. Luther's person was made safe by the Elector, who arranged a friendly capture by which he was concealed in the Wartburg in charge of the knights. No one knew what had become of him. His mysterious disappearance was naturally referred to some foul play of the Romanists, and the feeling of resentment was intense and deep. Indeed, Germany was now bent on throwing off the religion of the hierarchy. No matter what it may once have been, no matter what service it may have rendered in helping Europe through the Dark Ages, it had become gangrened, perverted, rotten, offensive, unbearable. The very means Rome took to defend it increased revolt against it. It had come to be an oppressive lie, and it had to go. No Bulls of popes or edicts of emperors could alter the decree of destiny. And a great and blessed fortune it was that Luther still lived to guide and counsel in the momentous transition. But Providence had endowed him for the purpose, and so preserved him for its execution. What was born with the Theses, and baptized before the Imperial Diet at Worms, he was now to nourish, educate, catechise, and prepare for glorious confirmation before a similar Diet in the after years.
Translation of the Bible. While in the Wartburg he was forbidden to issue any writings. Leisure was thus afforded for one of the most important things connected with the Reformation. Those ten months he utilized to prepare for Germany and for the world a translation of the Holy Scriptures, which itself was enough to immortalize the Reformer's name. Great intellectual monuments have come down to us from the sixteenth century. It was an age in which the human mind put forth some of its noblest demonstrations. Great communions still look back to its Confessions as their rallying-centres, and millions of worshippers still render their devotions in the forms which then were cast. But pre-eminent over all the achievements of that sublime century was the giving of God's Word to the people in their own language, which had its chief centre and impulse in the production of Luther's German Bible. Well has it been said, "He who takes up that, grasps a whole world in his hand - a world which will perish only when this green earth itself shall pass away." It was the Word that kindled the heart of Luther to the work of Reformation, and the Word alone could bring it to its consummation. With the Word the whole Church of Christ and the entire fabric of our civilization must stand or fall. Undermine the Bible and you undermine the world. It is the one, true, and only Charter of Faith, Liberty, and salvation for man, without which this race of ours is a hopeless and abandoned wreck. And when Luther gave forth his German Bible, it was not only a transcendent literary achievement, which created and fixed the classic forms of his country's language, but an act of supremest wisdom and devotion; for the hope of the world is for ever cabled to the free and open Word of God. Luther's Conservatism. Up to the time of Luther's residence in the Wartburg nothing had been done toward changing the outward forms, ceremonies, and organization of the Church. The great thing with him had been to get the inward, central doctrine right, believing that all else would then naturally come right in due time. But while he was hidden and silent certain fanatics thrust themselves into this field, and were on the eve of precipitating everything to destruction. Tidings of the violent revolutionary spirit which had broken out reached him in his retreat and stirred him with sorrowful indignation, for it was the most damaging blow inflicted on the Reformation. It is hard for men to keep their footing amid deep and vast commotions and not drift into ruinous excesses. Storch, and Münzer, and Carlstadt, and Melanchthon himself, were dangerously affected by the whirl of things. Even good men sometimes forget that society cannot be conserved by mere negations; that wild and lawless revolution can never work a wholesome and abiding reformation; that the perpetuity of the Church is an historic chain, each new link of which depends on those which have gone before. There was precious gold in the old conglomerate, which needed to be discriminated, extracted, and preserved. The divine foundations were not to be confounded with the rubbish heaped upon them. There was still a Church of Christ under the hierarchy, although the hierarchy was no part of its life or essence. The Zwickau prophets, with their new revelations and revolts against civil authority; the Wittenberg iconoclasts, with their repudiation of study and learning and all proper church order; and the Sacramentarians, with their insidious rationalism against the plain Word, - were not to be entrusted with the momentous interests with which the cause of the Reformation was freighted. And hence, at the risk of the Elector's displeasure and at the peril of his life, Luther came forth from his covert to withstand the violence which was putting everything in jeopardy. Grandly also did he reason out the genuine Gospel principles against all these parties. He comprehended his ground from centre to circumference, and he held it alike against erring friends and menacing foes. The swollen torrent of events never once obscured his prophetic insight, never disturbed the balance of his judgment, never shook his hold upon the right. With a master-power he held revolutions and wars in check, while he revised and purified the Liturgy and Order of the Church, wrought out the evangelic truth in its applications to existing things, and reared the renewed habilitation of the pure Word and sacraments.
Growth of the Reformation. It was now that Pope Leo died. His glory lasted but eight years. His successor, Adrian VI., was a moderate man, of good intentions, though he could not see what evil there was in indulgences. He exhorted Germany to get rid of Luther, but said the Church must be reformed, that the Holy See had been for years horribly polluted, and that the evils had affected head and members. He was in solemn earnest this time, and began to change and purify the papal court. To some this was as if the voice of Luther were being echoed from St. Peter's chair, and Adrian suddenly died, no man knows of what, and Clement VII., a relative of Leo X., was put upon the papal throne. In 1524 a Diet was convened at Nuremberg with reference to these same matters. Campeggio, the pope's legate, thought it prudent to make his way thither without letting himself be known, and wrote back to his master that he had to be very cautious, as the majority of the Diet consisted of "great Lutherans." At this Diet the Edict of Worms was virtually annulled, and it was plain enough that "great Lutherans" had become very numerous and powerful. Luther himself had become of sufficient consequence for Henry VIII., king of England, to write a book against him, for which the pope gave him the title of "Defender of the Faith," and for which Luther repaid him in his own coin. Erasmus also, long the prince of the whole literary world, was dogged into the writing of a book against the great Reformer. Poor Erasmus found his match, and was overwhelmed with the result. He afterward sadly wrote: "My troops of friends are turned to enemies. Everywhere scandal pursues me and calumny denies my name. Every goose now hisses at Erasmus." In 1525, Luther's friend and protector, the Elector Frederick, died. This would have been a sad blow for the Reformation had there been no one of like mind to take his place. But God had the man in readiness. "Frederick the Wise" was succeeded by his brother, "John the Constant." In Hesse, in Holland, in Scandinavia, in Prussia, in Poland, in Switzerland, in France, everywhere, the Reformation advanced. Duke George of Saxony raged, got up an alliance against the growing cause, and beheaded citizens of Leipsic for having Luther's writings in their houses. Eck still howled from Ingolstadt for fire and fagots. The dukes of Bavaria were fierce with persecutions. The archbishop of Mayence punished cities because they would not have his priests for pastors. The emperor from Spain announced his purpose to crush and exterminate "the wickedness of Lutheranism." But it was all in vain. The sun had risen, the new era had come! Luther now issued his Catechisms, which proved a great and glorious aid to the true Gospel. Henceforth the children were to be bred up in the pure faith. Matthesius says: "If Luther in his lifetime had achieved no other work but that of bringing his two Catechisms into use, the whole world could not sufficiently thank and repay him." A quarrel between the emperor and the pope also contributed to the progress of the Reformation. A Diet at Spire in 1526 had interposed a check to the persecuting spirit of the Romanists, and granted toleration to those of Luther's mind in all the states where his doctrines were approved. The respite lasted for three years, until Charles and Clement composed their difference and united to wreak their wrath upon Luther and his adherents.
Protestants and War. A second Diet at Spire, in 1529, revoked the former act of toleration, and demanded of all the princes and estates an unconditional surrender to the pope's decrees. This called forth the heroic Protest of those who stood with Luther. They refused to submit, claiming that in matters of divine service and the soul's salvation conscience and God must be obeyed rather than earthly powers. It was from this that the name of Protestants originated - a name which half the world now honours and accepts. The signers of this Protest also pledged to each other their mutual support in defending their position. Zwingli urged them to make war upon the emperor. He himself afterward took the sword, and perished by it. Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, and even the Puritan Fathers as far as they had power and occasion, resorted to physical force and the civil arm to punish the rejecters of their creed. Luther repudiated all such coercion. The sword was at his command, but he opposed its use for any purposes of religion. All the weight of his great influence was given to prevent his friends from mixing external force with what should ever have its seat only in the calm conviction of the soul. He thus practically anticipated Roger Williams and William Penn and the most lauded results of modern freedom - not from constraint of circumstances and personal interests, but from his own clear insight into Gospel principles. Bloody religious wars came after he was dead, the prospect of which filled his soul with horror, and to which he could hardly give consent even in case of direst necessity for self-defence; but it is a transcendent fact that while he lived they were held in abeyance, most of all by his prayers and endeavours. He fought, indeed, as few men ever fought, but the only sword he wielded was "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
The Confession of Augsburg. And yet another Imperial Diet was convened with reference to these religious disturbances. It was held in Augsburg in the spring of 1530. The emperor was in the zenith of his power. He had overcome his French rival. He had spoiled Rome, humbled the pope, and reorganized Italy. The Turks had withdrawn their armies. And the only thing in the way of a consolidated empire was the Reformation in Germany. To crush this was now his avowed purpose, and he anticipated no great hardship in doing it. He entered Augsburg with unwonted magnificence and pomp. He had spoken very graciously in his invitation to the princes, but it was in his heart to compel their submission to his former Edict of Worms. It behoved them to be prepared to make a full exhibit of their principles, giving the ultimatum on which they proposed to stand. Luther had been formulating articles embodying the points adhered to in his reformatory teachings. He had prepared one set for the Marburg Conference with the Swiss divines. He had revised and elaborated these into the Seventeen Articles of Schwabach. He had also prepared another series on abuses, submitted to the Elector John at Torgau. All these were now committed to Melanchthon for careful elaboration into complete style and harmony for use at the Diet. Luther assisted in this work up to the time when the Diet convened, and what remained to be done was completed in Augsburg by Melanchthon and the Lutheran divines present with him. Luther himself could not be there, as he was a dead man to the law, and by command of his prince was detained at Coburg while the Diet was in session. The first act of the emperor was to summon the protesting princes before him, asking of them the withdrawal of their Protest. This they refused. They felt that they had constitutional right, founded on the decision of Spire, to resist the emperor's demand; and they did not intend to surrender the just principles put forth in their noble Protest. They celebrated divine service in their quarters, led by their own clergy, and refused to join in the procession at the Roman festival of Corpus Christi. This gave much offence, and for the sake of peace they discontinued their services during the Diet. At length they were asked to make their doctrinal presentation. Melanchthon had admirably performed the work assigned him in the making up of the Confession, and on the 25th day of June, 1530, the document, duly signed, was read aloud to the emperor in the hearing of many. The effect of it upon the assembly was indescribable. Many of the prejudices and false notions against the Reformers were effectually dissipated. The enemies of the Reformation felt that they had solemn realities to deal with which they had never imagined. Others said that this was a more effectual preaching than that which had been suppressed. "Christ is in the Diet," said Justus Jonas, "and he does not keep silence. God's Word cannot be bound." In a word, the world now had added to it one of its greatest treasures - the renowned and imperishable Augsburg Confession. Luther was eager for tidings of what transpired at the Diet. And when the Confession came, as signed and delivered, he wrote: "I thrill with joy that I have lived to see the hour in which Christ is preached by so many confessors to an assembly so illustrious in a form so beautiful." Even Reformed authors, from Calvin down, have cheerfully added their testimony to the worth and excellence of this magnificent Confession - the first since the Athanasian Creed. A late writer of this class says of it that "it best exhibits the prevailing genius of the German Reformation, and will ever be cherished as one of the noblest monuments of faith from the pentecostal period of Protestantism." The Romanists attempted to answer the noble Confession, but would not make their Confutation public. Compromises were proposed, but they came to naught. The Imperial troops were called into the city and the gates closed to intimidate the princes, but it resulted in greater alarm to the Romanists than to them. The confessors had taken their stand, and they were not to be moved from it. The Diet ended with the decision that they should have until the following spring to determine whether they would submit to the Roman Church or not, and, if not, that measures would then be taken for their extermination.
The League of Smalcald. The emperor's edict appeared November 19th, and the Protestant princes at once proceeded to form a league for mutual protection against attempts to force their consciences in these sacred matters. It was with difficulty that the consent of Luther could be obtained for what, to him, looked like an arrangement to support the Gospel by the sword. But he yielded to a necessity forced by the intolerance of Rome. A convention was held at Smalcald at Christmas, 1530, and there was formed the League of Smalcald, which planted the political foundations of Religious Liberty for our modern world. By the presentation of the great Confession of Augsburg, along with the formation of the League of Smalcald, the cause of Luther became embodied in the official life of nations, and the new era of Freedom had come safely to its birth. Long and terrible storms were yet to be passed, but the ship was launched which no thunders of emperors or popes could ever shatter. When the months of probation ended, France had again become troublesome to the emperor, and the Turks were renewing their movements against his dominions. He also found that he could not count on the Catholic princes for the violent suppression of the Protestants. Luther's doctrines had taken too deep hold upon their subjects to render it safe to join in a war of extermination against them. The Zwinglians also coalesced with the Lutherans in presenting a united front against the threatened bloody coercion. The Smalcald League, moreover, had grown to be a power which even the emperor could not despise. He therefore resolved to come to terms with the Protestant members of his empire, and a peace - at least a truce - was concluded at Nuremberg, which left things as they were to wait until a general council should settle the questions in dispute.
Luther's Later Years. Luther lived nearly fifteen years after this grand crowning of his testimony, diligently labouring for Christ and his country. The most brilliant part of his career was over, but his labours still were great and important. Indeed, his whole life was intensely laborious. He was a busier man than the First Napoleon. His publications, as reckoned up by Seckendorf, amount to eleven hundred and thirty-seven. Large and small together, they number seven hundred and fifteen volumes - one for every two weeks that he lived after issuing the first. Even in the last six weeks of his life he issued thirty-one publications - more than five per week. If he had had no other cares and duties but to occupy himself with his pen, this would still prove him a very Hercules in authorship. But his later years were saddened by many anxieties, afflictions, and trials. Under God, he had achieved a transcendent work, and his confidence in its necessity, divinity, and perpetuity never failed; but he was much distressed to see it marred and damaged, as it was, by the weaknesses and passions of men. His great influence created jealousies. His persistent conservatism gave offence. Those on whom he most relied betimes imperiled his cause by undue concessions and pusillanimity. The friends of the Reformation often looked more to political than Christian ends, or were more carnal than spiritual. Threatening civil commotions troubled him. Ultra reform attacked and blamed him. The agitations about a general council, which Rome now treacherously urged, and meant to pack for its own purposes, gave him much anxiety. It was with reference to such a council that one other great document - The Articles of Smalcald - issued from his pen, in which he defined the true and final Protestant position with regard to the hierarchy, and the fundamental organization of the Church of Christ. His bodily ailments also became frequent and severe. Prematurely old, and worn out with cares, labours, and vexations - the common lot of great heroes and benefactors - he began to long for the heavenly rest. "I am weary of the world," said he, "and it is time the world were weary of me. The parting will be easy, like a traveller leaving his inn." He lived to his sixty-third year, and peacefully died in the faith he so effectually preached, while on a mission of reconciliation at the place where he was born, honoured and lamented in his death as few men have ever been. His remains repose in front of the chancel in the castle church of Wittenberg, on the door of which his own hand had nailed the Ninety-five Theses.
Personale of Luther. The personal appearance of this extraordinary man is but poorly given in the painted portraits of him. Written descriptions inform us that he was of medium size, handsomely proportioned, and somewhat darkly complected. His arched brows, high cheek-bones, and powerful jaws and chin gave to his face an outline of ruggedness; but his features were regular, and softened all over with benevolence and every refined feeling. He had remarkable eyes, large, full, deep, dark, and brilliant, with a sort of amber circle around the pupil, which made them seem to emit fire when under excitement. His hair was dark and waving, but became entirely white in his later years. His mouth was elegantly formed, expressive of determination, tenderness, affection, and humour. His countenance was elevated, open, brave, and unflinching. His neck was short and strong and his breast broad and full. Though compactly built, he was generally spare and wasted from incessant studies, hard labour, and an abstemious life. Mosellanus, the moderator at the Leipsic Disputation, describes him quite fully as he appeared at that time, and says that "his body was so reduced by cares and study that one could almost count his bones." He himself makes frequent allusion to his wasted and enfeebled body. His health was never robust. He was a small eater. Melanchthon says: "I have seen him, when he was in full health, absolutely neither eat nor drink for four days together. At other times I have seen him, for many days, content with the slightest allowance, a salt herring and a small hunch of bread per day." Mosellanus further says that his manners were cultured and friendly, with nothing of stoical severity or pride in him - that he was cheerful and full of wit in company, and at all times fresh, joyous, inspiring, and pleasant. Honest naturalness, grand simplicity, and an unpretentious majesty of character breathed all about him. An indwelling vehemency, a powerful will, and a firm confidence could readily be seen, but calm and mellowed with generous kindness, without a trace of selfishness or vanity. He was jovial, free-spoken, open, easily approached, and at home with all classes. Audin says of him that "his voice was clear and sonorous, his eye beaming with fire, his head of the antique cast, his hands beautiful, and his gesture graceful and abounding - at once Rabelais and Fontaine, with the droll humour of the one and the polished elegance of the other." In society and in his home he was genial, playful, instructive, and often brilliant. His Table-Talk, collected (not always judiciously) by his friends, is one of the most original and remarkable of productions. He loved children and young people, and brought up several in his house besides his own. He had an inexhaustible flow of ready wit and good-humour, prepared for everybody on all occasions. He was a frank and free correspondent, and let out his heart in his letters, six large volumes of which have been preserved. He was specially fond of music, and cultivated it to a high degree. He could sing and play like a woman. "I have no pleasure in any man," said he, "who despises music. It is no invention of ours; it is the gift of God. I place it next to theology." He was himself a great musician and hymnist. Handel confesses that he derived singular advantage from the study of his music; and Coleridge says: "He did as much for the Reformation by his hymns as by his translation of the Bible." To this day he is the chief singer in a Church of pre-eminent song. Heine speaks of "those stirring songs which escaped from him in the very midst of his combats and necessities, like flowers making their way from between rough stones or moonbeams glittering among dark clouds." Ein feste Burg welled from his great heart like the gushing of the waters from the smitten rock of Horeb to inspirit and refresh God's faint and doubting people as long as the Church is in this earthly wilderness. There is a mighty soul in it which lifts one, as on eagles' wings, high and triumphant over the blackest storms. And his whole life was a brilliantly enacted epic of marvelous grandeur and pathos.
His Great Qualities. Luther's qualities of mind, heart, and attainment were transcendent. Though naturally meek and diffident, when it came to matters of duty and conviction he was courageous, self-sacrificing, and brave beyond any mere man known to history. Elijah fled before the threats of Jezebel, but no powers on earth could daunt the soul of Luther. Even the apparitions of the devil himself could not disconcert him. Roman Catholic authors agree that "Nature gave him a German industry and strength and an Italian spirit and vivacity," and that "nobody excelled him in philosophy and theology, and nobody equalled him in eloquence." His mental range was not confined to any one set of subjects. In the midst of his profound occupation with questions of divinity and the Church "his mind was literally world-wide. His eyes were for ever observant of what was around him. At a time when science was hardly out of its shell he had observed Nature with the liveliest curiosity. He studied human nature like a dramatist. Shakespeare himself drew from him. His memory was a museum of historical information, anecdotes of great men, and old German literature, songs, and proverbs, to the latter of which he made many rich additions from his own genius. Scarce a subject could be spoken of on which he had not thought and on which he had not something remarkable to say."In consultations upon public affairs, when the most important things hung in peril, his contemporaries speak with amazement of the gigantic strength of his mind, the unexampled acuteness of his intellect, the breadth and loftiness of his understanding and counsels. But, though so great a genius, he laid great stress on sound and thorough learning and study. "The strength and glory of a town," said he, "does not depend on its wealth, its walls, its great mansions, its powerful armaments, but in the number of its learned, serious, kind, and well-educated citizens." He was himself a great scholar, far beyond what we would suspect in so perturbed a life, or what he cared to parade in his writings. He mastered the ancient languages, and insisted on the perpetual study of them as "the scabbard which holds the sword of the Spirit, the cases which enclose the precious jewels, the vessels which contain the old wine, the baskets which carry the loaves and the fishes for the feeding of the multitude." His associates say of him that he was a great reader, eagerly perusing the Church Fathers, old and new, and all histories, well retaining what he read, and using the same with great skill as occasion called. Melanchthon, who knew him well, and knew well how to judge of men's powers and attainments, said of him: "He is too great, too wonderful, for me to describe. Whatever he writes, whatever he utters, goes to the soul and fixes itself like arrows in the heart. He is a miracle among men." Nor was he without the humility of true greatness. Newton's comparison of himself to a child gathering shells and pebbles on the shore, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before him, has been much cited and lauded as an illustration of the modesty of true science. But long before Newton had Luther said of himself, in the midst of his mighty achievements, "Only a little of the first fruits of wisdom - only a few fragments of the boundless heights, breadths, and depths of truth - have I been able to gather." He was a man of amazing faith - that mighty principle which looks at things invisible, joins the soul to divine Omnipotence, and launches out unfalteringly upon eternal realities, and which is ever the chief factor in all God's heroes of every age. He dwelt in constant nearness and communion with the Eternal Spirit, which reigns in the heavens and raises the willing and obedient into blessed instruments of itself for the actualizing of ends and ideals beyond and above the common course of things. With his feet ever planted on the promises, he could lay his hands upon the Throne, and thus was lifted into a sublimity of energy, endurance, and command which made him one of the phenomenal wonders of humanity. He was a very Samson in spiritual vigor, and another Hannah's son in the strength and victory of his prayers. Dr. Calvin E. Stowe says: "There was probably never created a more powerful human being, a more gigantic, full-proportioned MAN, in the highest sense of the term. All that belongs to human nature, all that goes to constitute a MAN, had a strongly-marked development in him. He was a model man, one that might be shown to other beings in other parts of the universe as a specimen of collective manhood in its maturest growth." As the guide and master of one of the greatest revolutions of time we look in vain for any one with whom to compare him, and as a revolutionary orator and preacher he had no equal. Richter says, "His words are half-battles." Melanchthon likens them to thunderbolts. He was at once a Peter and a Paul, a Socrates and an Æsop, a Chrysostom and a Savonarola, a Shakespeare and a Whitefield, all condensed in one.
His Alleged Coarseness. Some blame him for not using kid gloves in handling the ferocious bulls, bears, and he-goats with whom he had to do. But what, otherwise, would have become of the Reformation? His age was savage, and the men he had to meet were savage, and the matters at stake touched the very life of the world. What would a Chesterfield or an Addison have been in such a contest? Erasmus said he had horns, and knew how to use them, but that Germany needed just such a master. He understood the situation. "These gnarled logs," said he, "will not split without iron wedges and heavy malls. The air will not clear without lightning and thunder." But if he was rough betimes, he could be as gentle and tender as a maiden, and true to himself in both. He could fight monsters all day, and in the evening take his lute, gaze at the stars, sing psalms, and muse upon the clouds, the fields, the flowers, the birds, dissolved in melody and devotion. Feared by the mighty of the earth, the dictator and reprimander of kings, the children loved him, and his great heart was as playful among them as one of themselves. If he was harsh and unsparing upon hypocrites, malignants, and fools, he called things by their right names, and still was as loving as he was brave. Since King David's lament over Absalom no more tender or pathetic scene has appeared in history or in fiction than his outpouring of paternal love and grief over the deathbed, coffin, and grave of his young and precious daughter Madeleine. "I know of few things more touching," says Carlyle, "than those soft breathings of affection, soft as a child's or a mother's, in this great wild heart of Luther;" and adds: "I will call this Luther a true Great Man; great in intellect, in courage, affection, and integrity; one of our most lovable and precious men. Great not as a hewn obelisk, but as an Alpine mountain, so simple, honest, spontaneous; not setting up to be great at all; there for quite another purpose than being great. Ah, yes, unsubduable granite, piercing far and wide into the Heavens; yet, in the clefts of it, fountains, green, beautiful valleys with flowers. A right Spiritual Hero and Prophet; once more, a true Son of Nature and Fact, for whom these centuries, and many that are yet to come, will be thankful to Heaven."
His Marvelous Achievements. A lone man, whose days were spent in poverty; who could withstand the mighty Vatican and all its flaming Bulls; whose influence evoked and swayed successive Diets of the empire; whom repeated edicts from the Imperial throne could not crush; whom the talent, eloquence, and towering authority of the Roman hierarchy assailed in vain; whom the attacks of kings of state and kings of literature could not disable; to offset whose opinions the greatest general council the Church of Rome ever held had to be convened, and, after sitting eighteen years, could not adjourn without conceding much to his positions; and whose name the greatest and most enlightened nations of the earth hail with glad acclaim, - necessarily must have been a wonder of a man. To begin with a minority consisting of one, and conquer kingdoms with the mere sword of his mouth; to bear the anathemas of Church and the ban of empire, and triumph in spite of them; to refuse to fall down before the golden image of the combined Nebuchadnezzars of his time, though threatened with the burning fires of earth and hell; to turn iconoclast of such magnitude and daring as to think of smiting the thing to pieces in the face of principalities and powers to whom it was as God - nay, to attempt this, and to succeed in it, - here was sublimity of heroism and achievement explainable only in the will and providence of the Almighty, set to recover His Gospel to a perishing race.
His Impress upon the World. To describe the fruits of Luther's labours would require the writing of the whole history of modern civilization and the setting forth of the noblest characteristics of this our modern world. On the German nation he has left more of his impress than any other man has left on any nation. The German people love to speak of him as the creative master of their noble language and literature, the great prophet and glory of their country. There is nothing so consecrated in all his native land as the places which connect with his life, presence, and deeds. But his mighty impress is not confined to Germany. "He grasped the iron trumpet of his mother-tongue and blew a blast that shook the nations from Rome to the Orkneys." He is not only the central figure of Germany, but of Europe and of the whole modern world. Take Luther away, with the fruits of his life and deeds, and man to-day would cease to be what he is. Frederick von Schlegel, though a Romanist, affirms that "it was upon him and his soul that the fate of Europe depended." And on the fate of Europe then depended the fate of our race. Michelet, also a Romanist, pronounces Luther "the restorer of liberty in modern times;" and adds: "If we at this day exercise in all its plenitude the first and highest privilege of human intelligence, it is to him we are indebted for it." "And that any faith," says Froude, "any piety, is alive now, even in the Roman Church itself, whose insolent hypocrisy he humbled into shame, is due in large measure to the poor miner's son." He certainly is to-day the most potently living man who has lived this side of the Middle Ages. The pulsations of his great heart are felt through the whole corpus of our civilization. "Four potentates," says the late Dr. Krauth, "ruled the mind of Europe in the Reformation: the emperor, Erasmus, the pope, and Luther. The pope wanes; Erasmus is little; the emperor is nothing; but Luther abides as a power for all time. His image casts itself upon the current of ages as the mountain mirrors itself in the river which winds at its foot. He has monuments in marble and bronze, and medals in silver and gold, but his noblest monument is the best love of the best hearts, and the brightest and purest impression of his image has been left in the souls of regenerated nations." Many and glowing are the eulogies which have been pronounced upon him, but Frederick von Schlegel, speaking from the side of Rome, gives it as his conviction that "few, even of his own disciples, appreciate him highly enough." Genius, learning, eloquence, and song have volunteered their noble efforts to do him justice; centuries have added their light and testimony; half the world in its enthusiasm has urged on the inspiration; but the story in its full dimensions has not yet been adequately told. The skill and energy of other generations will yet be taxed to give it, if, indeed, it ever can be given apart from the illuminations of eternity.
His Enemies and Revilers. Rome has never forgotten nor forgiven him. She sought his life while living, and she curses him in his grave. Profited by his labours beyond what she ever could have been without him, she strains and chokes with anathemas upon his name and everything that savours of him. Her children are taught from infancy to hate and abhor him as they hope for salvation. Many are the false turns and garbled forms in which her writers hold up his words and deeds to revenge themselves on his memory. Again and again the oft-answered and exploded calumnies are revived afresh to throw dishonour on his cause. Even while the free peoples of the earth are making these grateful acknowledgments of the priceless boon that has come to them through his life and labours, press and platform hiss with stale vituperations from the old enemy. And a puling Churchism outside of Rome takes an ill pleasure in following after her to gather and retail this vomit of malignity. Luther was but a man. No one claims that he was perfection. But if those who sought his destruction while he lived had had no greater faults than he, with better grace their modern representatives might indulge their genius for his defamation. At best, as we might suppose, it is the little men, the men of narrow range and narrow heart - men dwarfed by egotism, bigotry, and self-conceit - who see the most of these defects. Nobler minds, contemplating him from loftier standpoints, observe but little of them, and even honour them above the excellencies of common men. "The proofs that he was in some things like other men," says Lessing, "are to me as precious as the most dazzling of his virtues." And, with all, where is the gain or wisdom of blowing smoke upon a diamond? The sun itself has holes in it too large for half a dozen worlds like ours to fill, but wherein is that great luminary thereby unfitted to be the matchless centre of our system, the glorious source of day, and the sublime symbol of the Son of God? If Luther married a beautiful woman, the proofs of which do not appear, it is what every other honest man would do if it suited him and he were free to do it. If he broke his vows to get a wife, of which there is no evidence, when vows are taken by mistake, tending to dishonour God, work unrighteousness, and hinder virtuous example and proper life, they ought to be broken, the sooner the better. And, whatever else may be alleged to his discredit, and whoever may arise to heap scandal on his name, the grand facts remain that it was chiefly through his marvellous qualities, word, and work that the towering dominion of the Papacy was humbled and broken for ever; that prophets and apostles were released from their prisons once more to preach and prophesy to men; that the Church of the early times was restored to the bereaved world; that the human mind was set free to read and follow God's Word for itself; that the masses of neglected and downtrodden humanity were made into populations of live and thinking beings; and that the nations of the earth have become repossessed of their "inalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"And let the pope and priests their victor scorn,
Each fault reveal, each imperfection scan,
And by their fell anatomy of hate His life dissect with satire's keenest edge;
Yet still may Luther, with his mighty heart, Defy their malice.
Far beyond them soars the soul They slander.
From his tomb there still comes forth
A magic which appalls them by its power;
And the brave monk who made the Popedom rock
Champions a world to show his equal yet!"
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