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dignantly condemn. The famous theses contain no denial of the Pope's supremacy, and little, if any, intentional censure of his conduct. Their severest language had been used by Abeillard four centuries before, and had not been pronounced heretical, when all his opinions were tried, and many condemned. Luther had no idea of teaching any new theory. The doctrine of indulgences was itself an innovation on the theology of the early Church and the Fathers. Luther did not even deny that the Church possessed a treasury of works of supererogation, but only that she had the right to sell such treasure for money. The Catholic Church at present keeps that right in the background.
Thus, when the Pope had issued a bull in support of the indulgences, and attempted to silence Luther by force, he declared that he should never be driven into heresy, and appealed to a general council of the Church. Even then he was persuaded by the Papal Legate to promise to keep quiet, if his enemies would leave him in peace, and to give to the Pope not only this pledge, but a written assurance that he revered him as Christ, and that no sin or error in the Church of Rome could justify separation from her.
Fortunately, the self-conceit of a loquacious champion of the Papacy came to the rescue. Dr. Eck, a professed disputant, who had travelled over half Europe for the pleasure of hearing himself argue, challenged Luther to the ever-memorable debate of Leipzig, where Luther began to oppose the supremacy of the Pope on July 4, 1519. In the course of the discussion, Dr. Eck showed Luther that his opinions had been condemned by the Council of Constance, and thus forced him to either recant or deny the infallibility of the highest authority of the Romish Church. Luther could not recant, and Dr. Eck exclaimed, "Reverend father, if you believe that a council regularly convoked can err, you are to me as a heathen man and a publican."
After this, it was only to be expected that the Pope should issue his bull to condemn Luther's writings and excommunicate his person, and that Luther should burn that bull in open day in the presence of all his students and fellow-citizens, publicly assembled as spectators of what Ranke calls "the crisis
of secession."* Equally natural was it that Luther should find, when summoned before the political and ecclesiastical rulers of Germany, at Worms, that, as he had not advanced a step which his conscience had not forced him to take, his conscience would not allow him to recede.
Thus did honesty of intellect, loyalty to conscience, and fearless discharge of the nearest duty, make Luther the interpreter of his age. The time for successful opposition to Rome was fully come. All the elements of opposition were ready. The old system of government by Emperor and Pope had been just far enough outgrown to become fettering. The German people had risen near enough to freedom to find out that they were oppressed. The peasantry were in perpetual insurrection to recover their lost liberty, and the knights in continual conflict for their hereditary freedom against advancing centralization, for the heterogeneous and loosely connected mass was striving to form itself into smaller but more closely compacted bodies. Advancement of civilization had produced advancement of knowledge.
The printing-press had been invented, just as there began to be a German literature worth printing. Classical learning had been revived, against the will of Rome. Rude versions of the Bible were in circulation, and the works of the great mystics of the fourteenth century, who had successfully defied the authority of the Pope, and proclaimed openly that "they who hold the true Christian faith, and sin only against the Pope's person, are no heretics, for it cannot be proved from Scripture that to refuse to kiss the Pope's toe is heresy, or that the practice is an article of faith." Germany never forgot that her favorite preacher, Tauler, had not only used this language, but had even dared to say, when the Empire lay under the Papal interdict: "The Pope hath no power to shut heaven against poor sinners who have innocently fallen under his ban. Therefore, when any one desires those sacraments whose dispensation the Pope forbids, they shall be freely celebrated, for heed must be given to the word of Christ and his Apostles,
* More than two centuries before this, the Bull Ausculta fili of Pope Boniface VIII. was publicly burnt by King Philip the Fair in Paris. See Milman's Latin Christianity, VI. 318, Book XI. chap. ix.
rather than to the ban which proceedeth out of envy and lust of worldly power." The influence of mysticism over Germany was very great, and was exerted in behalf of the Bible and its doctrine of justification by faith, against the scholastics and their system of indulgences. Although there had been of late little open opposition to Rome, there was much open discontent. Rome had taken advantage of the piety and loyalty of Germany to pillage her without mercy, and even the avarice of Rome was less notorious than her sensuality.
The popular feeling may be shown by the following anecdote of Luther's father. Hans Luther was an honest, pious peasant, not at all intellectual or sceptical. He had been much displeased at his son's becoming a monk. At the grand dinner which celebrated Martin's ordination as priest, he ap ogized to his father for his disobedience, to which he said he had been forced by his conscience and a heavenly vision. The sturdy old miner made answer, to the horror of the priests and monks around him, "It was a pretty conscience that bade thee disobey the Bible, which says, 'Honor thy father and mother,' and the vision which was against that commandment was doubtless a delusion of the Devil."
The country where such a speech could be made with impunity was plainly ripe for reform. Thus Luther's University and his sovereign take his side at once. His fellow-professors become fellow-reformers. The Elector of Saxony refuses to surrender him to the Pope. The bravest knights place their castles and their swords at his disposal. The printers and hawkers are eager to circulate his writings, while those of his adversaries cannot be printed with decent accuracy. So his journey to Worms for trial by the Diet was one continual ovation. The people of Worms itself all exhorted him to confess Christ fearlessly. Even at the Diet, the leader of the German soldiers of fortune clapped him on the shoulder and bade him fight gallantly. A proclamation was posted up in the city where the Diet was in session, warning its members to beware how they touched a hair of the monk's head, for four hundred knights were ready to march with eight thousand infantry to his defence. It is believed that the German princes themselves, and even the Emperor, would have
gladly joined Luther in an attempt to diminish the temporal power of the Pope, and reform the corruptions of the Church, if he would only have retracted the speculative opinions which made it heresy to support him. The whole tide of German civilization was dashing fiercely against the barriers set up by Roman despotism, and Martin Luther rode the crest of the advancing wave.
Of course, only a great man could have weathered such a storm. Here, perhaps, should be given an illustration of Luther's personal influence. He had retired to the Wartburg, and was supposed to have died. The traffic in indulgences was reopened by the powerful Cardinal and Elector of Mayence. A letter soon reached him, saying that Luther was still living, and had written a book against him, which should be published if any more indulgences were sold. The princely prelate quailed before the excommunicated and outlawed fugitive. He not only discontinued the sale, but even stooped so low as to deny the fact, and to thank his "brother in Christ" for his pious solicitude. We may well call these the years of
We must next consider Luther's great doctrines of justification by faith, and the exclusive infallibility of Scripture.
Justification by faith is something more than justification by belief. Luther never taught that intellectual assent to speculative dogmas was sufficient for salvation, and we must all admit that no idea can be fully received as religion by the soul, unless it is also received as theology by the reason. Works, too, mean not merely penances, pilgrimages, and beadtellings, but moral actions in general. Luther knew the importance of doing right, but he knew that doing right was not the whole of religion. He held that our being justified, or accepted as righteous by God, depends more on the principles and ideas which rule our inner life, than on our outward actions. It is not so much what we do, as what we are. Our actions depend wholly on our ruling principles and ideas. If these are pure and spiritual, our whole life, thought, and feeling, word and deed, must be pure and spiritual also. The most spiritual idea is that of God. The purest principle of conduct is that of love to him, and trust in his goodness, or
faith. Faith in God makes him ever present to us, and his presence purifies and transfigures our souls. Then we can work in the patience, love, and strength in which he works.
Justification by faith, not works, has fostered Antinomianism, when received simply theoretically and by immoral men, who have said, if good works do not justify us, they are not worth practising. But no doctrine can be fairly held responsible for all the errors into which it may be perverted by speculation in the interest of immorality. It may be also objected, that the faith by which Luther and most Evangelical Christians believe they are to be justified, is in great part a faith in the atoning blood of Christ. It should be remembered, however, that Luther did not introduce the doctrine of the Atonement. He found it existing in Romanism, as a natural result of the theory of justification by works; for since our own works are plainly insufficient to satisfy the demands of the moral law, we must supply the deficiency by resorting to the works of some one else. The Catholic relied both on the merits of the saints and on those of Christ. That Luther did not see the latter error as well as the former, was one of his own limitations, and not a defect of the doctrine of justification by faith. This doctrine alone can satisfy the want of something better to trust in than our own morality, a want which is not at all satisfied by being ignored.
The doctrine of justification by faith brought Luther into collision with the authority of the Church. He protected himself by an appeal to the authority of Scripture. This appeal he substantiated by his translation of the Bible, which allowed every man to consult it for himself, and still more by teaching that it was to be interpreted literally, without any use of that double or allegorical sense wherein Rome had sought refuge whenever the real meaning was against her. Thus the Bible became, for the first time since the days of Chrysostom, something more than a mirror to reflect back the Church's creed.
It was shown, in a former number of this journal,* that Luther simply substituted the authority of an infallible book
* Christian Examiner for March, 1861, p. 210 et seq.