HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







Erasmus & Luther: Their Attitude To Toleration -Robert H. Murray Litt.D.

WHILE Erasmus was, in 1517, the intellectual king of Europe, an obscure Augustinian monk was revolving in his mind some of the problems that vexed the soul of the humanist. Luther had spent a depressing childhood. At home there were labour and sorrow. His father, straitened as he was in circumstance, was rugged in appearance, clear-headed in mind, and ambitious in purpose. His mother possessed a timorous conscience and a superstitious piety. Her narrow means hardened her outlook on life, leaving little leisure for the intimacies of family life. In such a home the lad missed that tender affection which so rapidly expands the heart and brain. For the least fault he was flogged till the blood flowed. Religion terrified him. Did he not hear the judgments of the Almighty, of the snares of the devil? In later life he entertained a lively recollection of the beatings he had received, and of the terrors he had experienced. Nor were these lasting impressions of childhood shaken by his school at Magdeburg, where he was with the Brothers of the Common Life. There too he was lonely, and this lonely condition continued till in 1501 he entered the University of Erfurt. His father had prospered, and the undergraduate at last found friends like Lang, Spalatin and Rubianus, and to them he showed that great humanity which characterized him. The death of a friend who passed away suddenly gave his thoughts a serious turn, and he entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt, July 17, 1505. There he passed through a severe and prolonged religious crisis which deepened his sense of the power of sin.

To the classics Luther thought that he owed little, confessing more than once, “I am only a barbarian.” He is no intellectual Melchizedek. His debt, however, was greater than he imagined. Undergraduates imbued with the spirit of humanism had been in his circle, and he could not escape from their influence. He knew well the Latin poets and orators, placing Homer and Virgil first in his regards. Greek he did not commence till he commenced it with Philip Melanchthon in 1518, and he was never familiar with it. Melanchthon has been called the Preceptor of Germany: he was also the preceptor of Luther. He failed to give his friend that love of Greek which meant so much to him, for Luther to the last day he lived preferred the Vulgate to the Greek New Testament. Luther never read the bulk of the writers on history or tragedy. He possessed a bowing acquaintance with the Phædo of Plato: the Ethics and the Physics of Aristotle he knew, though he knew both in a Latin dress. In fact the only book he was familiar with in the original was the Iliad. The Promethean philosophy of rebellion was not in his thoughts. In his works he makes quotations from classical writers. There were then, as now, convenient books of reference, and he used the Margarita philosophica of Reisch, and the Repertory of Jodocus Windsheim. A quotation does not therefore necessarily prove intimacy or indeed any first-hand knowledge of the writer. Sympathy with the past is not in his nature. To some of us the Stoics are feeling after God if haply they may find Him: to Luther they are guilty of a supreme “piece of foolishness.” It is more intelligible that even in 1511 he regards Aristotle as a “relator of fables.” Erasmus, Zwingli and Melanchthon were humanists, whereas Luther was primarily a theologian.

Nevertheless, in his early days Luther was in touch with the new thought. From 1511 to 1516 he examined carefully the commentaries of Lorenzo Valla on the Gospels, and the writings of Pico della Mirandola. He made extensive use of the lexicon of Aleander, and of the Rudimenta hebraica of Reuchlin, leaning to the side of the latter in his famous quarrel. To the books, especially the Psalterium Quincuplex, of Lefèvre d’Étaples he devotes marked attention, though he borrows from him his spiritual interpretation of the Psalms, turning them into the story of the life of Christ. In the second part of his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, the influence of Erasmus’s edition of the New Testament is unmistakable. On August 24, 1516, he wrote to Spalatin that he was awaiting Erasmus’s edition of the works of St. Jerome.

Slightly changing the Voltairian remark we may place it in the mouth of St. Austin, “L’église, c’est moi,” for these words represent the vast and permanent influence of the African thinker. Since the twelfth century his work had been eclipsed until Luther gave it fresh life. There was a new edition of his works in 1489, and another published at Bâle in 1509. From his Erfurt days to 1511 Luther is eagerly studying the Confessions, the City of God, the True Religion, and the Christian Doctrine. Neither the student nor his new master possessed a real knowledge of Greek, and to this day Christianity suffers from their ignorance. St. Austin, like Bishop Lightfoot, made his knowledge definite, giving it rigid form. Shades of meaning were as abhorrent to him as they were to Luther. Neither man could see that a thing is not the less real because its limits cannot be accurately defined. A hill is a hill and a plain is a plain though one cannot fix the point where the hill merges into the plain. George Eliot thought the highest lot was to possess definite beliefs, and such a lot was Luther’s. Legality characterized the Austinian theology just as it came to characterize the Lutheran. John Austin allowed that the earthly sovereign might commit iniquity but not injustice. To St. Austin, God was an irresponsible Sovereign. To Luther this conception was a revelation which he embraced with enthusiasm. To him St. Austin is the very first of the Fathers. For one thing the African doctor emancipated him from the influence of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, and from the sophisms of scholasticism. With St. Austin he realizes the utter weakness of man’s nature, the all-powerful action of grace, the significance of penitence, and the regeneration wrought by faith. Luther’s theology, even in 1513, is more life than learning, more creed than comprehension, more narrow light than broad liberty.

In 1511 Luther went on a mission to Rome, and he saw the sights of the capital of Christendom with rapture. A change had passed over it of which he was unaware, though it was a change pregnant with far-reaching consequences on the work of his life. In 1492 Columbus had pierced the veil which concealed another continent from the eyes of men, and at once the process of transformation began. The centre of Europe had been all-important, whereas now the circumference of the continent assumed this pride of place. As sixteen centuries before Corinth and Athens had yielded their position to Rome and Ostia, so now Venice and Genoa, the home of Columbus, fell before the increasing sway of Cadiz and Lagos. It was the same in the north. The Atlantic immediately dominated the new situation, leaving the Baltic and the Mediterranean no more than inland lakes. Men had looked both ecclesiastically and commercially to the south, whereas now they were to look to the north and the west. Westward ran the course of commerce from Lübeck and Stralsund to Amsterdam and Bristol. The day of such enclosed basins as the Baltic, the Mediterranean—the Suez Canal, the decay of Turkish power, the industrial revival of Italy, and the French conquests have somewhat restored its position—and the Red Sea was over: the day of such marginal ones as the North and China Seas was to come. The historical importance of the Mediterranean and the Baltic was transitory, preparing the way for the Atlantic coast-line. The time taken in the task of preparation was enormous. From the day of the first journey of a Phœnician ship out through the Pillars of Hercules into the Atlantic to the voyage across it by a Genoese sailor, two thousand years elapsed. It was not, however, the Atlantic that really succeeded the Mediterranean: it was the broad world ocean. Significant as the Atlantic coast-line has been, its significance has been enhanced by the circumnavigation of Africa and South America, thereby binding the Atlantic with the World Ocean. The change has been from the Piræus to Ostia, from Venice to Genoa, from Lübcck to Hamburg, and from the Cinque Ports to Liverpool and Glasgow.

Venice is the seaport nearest to the heart of Europe. It was the easiest port by which the German merchants reached the sea, and it was the port by which the Levant merchants consigned their wares. Its position was at once altered by the discovery of the passage round the Cape, which forthwith reduced Venice to secondary rank. It fell to the lot of the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the English, to gain the carrying trade of the world. The swiftness of the change was amazing. Priuli, in his diary, emphasizes the rapid decline of commerce in August 1506, that is, less than eight years after Vasco da Gama doubles the Cape. “It seems to me,” he records, “… to note the special evils falling upon the city of Venice (by the loss) of the trade of the Germans, which was sorely missed these past years. And all proceeded on account of the Portuguese … and this change was reckoned the worst change the Venetian Republic could have.”

The direction of the expansion has, on the whole, been constantly westward, as Bishop Berkeley indicates in his famous poem. In the south it moved with the Phœnician Sea to the Ægean, then to the Mediterranean, ending with its western shores. In the north it moved from the Baltic to the Northern Sea, and thence across the south. It would almost seem as if every great epoch of history had its own distinctive sea. The Greek had the Ægean, the Roman the Mediterranean. The Middle Ages had the Baltic and the North Sea. The Reformation had the Atlantic, and the cosmopolitanism of our day revels in the world ocean. It is hard to the last degree to conceive that in 1492 European man had been over 498, 500 years on the earth, and was for the most part unaware of the existence of any continent save his own. The lack of swift means of communication, the railway, the motor-car, the oil-ship, and the aeroplane left Europe in the throes of birth-pains for a longer period than would now be absolutely necessary.

The fall of Constantinople in 1453 was felt only forty years afterwards in the then remote continent of North America, east and west thus beginning to realize the future intimacy of the union between them. It stirred the Portuguese navigators to a renewal of their efforts to reach India by way of the Cape of Good Hope. Every great movement, widening the geographical outlook of a people, at the same time widens their intellectual and economic outlook. The Crusades effected this important service for the Middle Ages, and the colonization of America effected it for the seventeenth and succeeding centuries. It is, indeed, difficult not to speak of such an event as the discovery of America almost exclusively in terms of geography. Yet the moment people completely realized there was another continent where the eagle of the Holy Roman Empire had never flown, that moment the whole structure of mediævalism was undermined. Columbus discovered a new world beyond, and Copernicus announced new worlds above. Scarcely any discovery of the nineteenth century, not even Darwin’s, had such far-reaching effects as these two which made the Reformation inevitable.

What the Mediterranean had been in the past the Atlantic was to be in the future. The Papacy had been a Mediterranean Power. The Crusades had been Mediterranean wars. Athens, Rome, Constantinople, Venice and Genoa had been notable centres in the Middle Sea. The shores of Western Spain, Portugal, England and Germany were not lapped by its blue waves. The estuaries of the Mersey, the Clyde, and the Lagan resounded to the solitary cry of the bittern and the ripple of a stray fishing boat.

After the year 1492 the leadership of Europe shifted decisively from the south to the west. As Hegel put it, the crossing of the Alps by Julius Cæsar was an event of the same magnitude as the crossing of the Atlantic by Columbus. By both events new spheres were opened out for peoples ready to unfold capacities which were pressing for development. The shores of the Ægean and the Adriatic became what the Breton coast had long been. Cadiz, Lisbon, Cherbourg, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Plymouth and Bristol were the gates through which the busy traffic poured. The tie of Germany, from the tenth to the fifteenth century, had been with Italy, that is with the south. Henceforth the tie was with the north, and with this transfer the rise of Prussia became possible. The two great naval European Powers in the present war unconsciously began their rivalry when the Atlantic assumed the place of the Mediterranean. The cities of Germany soon became aware how closely their fortunes were to be bound up with the success of the Reformation. The boll that has sent forth so many twigs and branches was once a twig itself.

Before the appearance of Sir Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology in 1830, science contemplated changes as catastrophic. Earthquakes, volcanoes, eruptions and floods were the phenomena ordinarily shaping the world. For these Lyell substituted glacial action, the slow denudation by rivers, subsidence and elevation and the like. In the history of mankind the point of view in Luther’s day is similar. The attention of the observer was arrested by such a dramatic scene as the Völkerwanderung, or the irruption of the Turks into Europe. As in geology the mightiest forces are not the vast ones, but the steady, almost imperceptible action of the small powers. Nature never makes a leap. Luther could scarcely see that the horizontal divisions of the mediæval world were to be replaced by the vertical ones of the modern world. There was a contracted world for him. There is a world coterminous with nothing less than the boundaries of the globe for the generations after him.

Sometimes it seems amazing that in a land where the Reformation was shaking men on all sides, where society felt itself young, ardent and passionately eager to explore, such a pessimistic doctrine as justification by faith won adherents. It is more intelligible that it won them in the fourth century in the agony of a dying world. Some, perhaps subconsciously, felt that the labours of Columbus and Copernicus gave a death-blow to the Holy Roman Empire and the Mediterranean Church as they knew them, and their world was as much in its death-throes as the empire of the Cæsars. Besides, justification by faith made an enormous appeal to the growing feeling of individualism.

J. A. Froude realized the significance of the revolution when he wrote in matchless English: “For indeed a change was coming upon the world, the meaning and direction of which even still is hidden from us, a change from era to era. The paths trodden by the footsteps of ages were broken up; old things were passing away, and the faith and the life of ten centuries were dissolving like a dream. Chivalry was dying; the abbey and the castle were soon together to crumble into ruins; and all the forms, desires, beliefs, convictions of the old world were passing away, never to return. A new continent had risen up beyond the western sea. The floor of heaven, inlaid with stars, had sunk back into an infinite abyss of immeasurable space: and the firm earth itself, unfixed from its foundations, was seen to be but a small atom in the awful vastness of the universe. In the fabric of habit in which they had so laboriously built for themselves mankind were to remain no longer.

“And now it is all gone—like an unsubstantial pageant faded; and between us and the old English there lies a gulf of mystery which the prose of the historian will never adequately bridge. They cannot come to us, and our imagination can but feebly penetrate to them. Only among the aisles of the cathedral, only as we gaze upon their silent figures sleeping on their tombs, some faint conceptions float before us of what these men were when they were alive; and perhaps in the sound of church bells, that peculiar creation of mediæval age, which falls upon the ear like the echo of a vanished world.”

Momentous as the revolution in the world of nature, there was a revolution in the world of mind no less momentous. For in 1517 Luther was beginning to give expression to some of the theological conclusions he was painfully reaching. That very year the chief problem in the mind of Leo X was the securing of the Duchy of Urbino: he had the Papacy and he was enjoying it. After him might come the deluge. For a time the attitude of Martin Luther to the questions of the day was that of any member of his order, save that he had thought more deeply and read more widely. When he was preparing his lectures on the Psalms he consulted fathers like St. Austin and St. Jerome, exegetes like Isidore of Seville and Paul of Burgos, thinkers like Reuchlin and Lefèvre. At the age of twenty-nine he was acknowledged as one of the most learned of the Augustinians. His attitude towards heretics is plain in his commentary on the Psalms, 1513–1515. He takes occasion to point out that “All heretics fell through excessive love of their own ideas. Hence it was quite possible what was false should appear to them true, and what was true, false.… Wisdom in its original purity can exist only in the humble and meek.” His dislike of law and lawyers reveals itself both in this Commentary on the Psalms, and in that on the Epistle to the Romans. Before the year 1515 he delivered a sermon in which he emphasize belief and Christian feeling, asking for fewer pilgrimages and outward devotions. His earliest thought is as Pauline as his latest. In spite of his varied attitude to authority the student of his writings sees no break in his thought, no crisis in his ideas. In a sermon of August 1, 1516, he naturally appears as a defender of the authority of the body to which he belongs. “The Church,” he holds, “cannot err in proclaiming the faith; only the individual within her is liable to error. But let him beware of differing from the Church; for the Church’s leaders are the walls of the Church and our fathers; they are the eye of the body, and in them we must seek the light.” Homer and Virgil begin to appear to him as the panegyrists of tyrannicide, and are in fact enemies of the human race. No illumination of the inner light, no works, however great, justify a separation from the Papacy. Nevertheless, he believes that the test of the truth of a doctrine is persecution. It is an easy transition to conclude that if he undergoes this test his view is therefore true. Two years later he is able to assure Staupitz, his learned Superior, “I shall hold the Church’s authority in all honour,” though he significantly adds, “I have no scruple, Reverend Father, about going forward with my exploration and interpretation of the Word of God.” In the Asterisci, 1517, he affirms his belief in his own message: “If Christ and His Word be with me I shall not be afraid.” In the Resolutiones disputationum de indulgentiarium virtute, 1517, he believes, “I am not alone, but truth is with me.”

Did the teaching of Wyclif and Hus modify the mind of the young priest? If it did so, the influence was unconscious. In his early life he denounced the Bohemian heretics and the Picards, as he frequently calls the Hussites. In his Commentary on the Psalms he simply regards them as heretics, and in his lectures on the Epistle to the Romans he singles out the Picard heresy as an instance of the wilful destruction of what is holy. The excommunication of 1520, however, altered his point of view, and he was then enabled to perceive how much he held in common with Hus, and when he read his De ecclesia he upheld its teaching. Hence he writes in 1520: “There had always been a murmur of John Hus in many parts of the German land, and there still survives his memory, and, as it did not fade, I also took it up, and discovered that he was a worthy, highly enlightened man.… See all ye Papists and Romanists whether you are able to undo one page of John Hus with all your writings.” He was clever enough to take advantage of the feeling against Rome which the Bohemian reformer had assuredly stirred up, holding that “it was a tradition among honest people that Hus suffered violence and injustice.” The belief that Hus was condemned by false judges he terms most robust, so that no Pope, or Emperor or University can shake it. Wyclif was a patriotic Englishman as well as an innovating theologian, and his follower Hus was as much a Bohemian as a Wyclifite. Savonarola, with his vision of a perfect State, was as anxious to reform the political outlook of Florence as to renew her theologically. There is a similarity between Luther and his two predecessors in their attitude towards ecclesiastical authority, but it is not sufficient to justify Erasmus from this standpoint, or from the general drift of his teaching, in asserting that if “what he has in common with Wyclif and Hus be removed, there would not be much left.” The resemblance between Hus and Luther is strongly marked. Both belong to the peasant class, and both learnt from their early surroundings that invaluable gift for a leader of men, the art of moving the feelings and thoughts of the masses. Both trusted laymen, and both by the necessities of the case invoked the authority of the State.

In his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Luther still clearly thinks that the bishops and the Church possess an absolute right to condemn false teachers, however much the latter may “utter their foolish cry of ‘we have the truth, we believe, we hear, we call upon God.’ … Just as though they must be of God because they seem to themselves to be of God. No, we have an authority which has been implanted in the Church, and the Roman Church has this authority in her hands. Therefore the preachers of the Church, unless they fall into error, preach with assurance. But false teachers are pleased with their own words because they agree with their ideas. They seem to require the greatest piety, but are in reality governed by their own opinion, and their self-will.” “Whoever declares he is sent by God must either give proof of his mission,” he concludes in true Paleyean spirit, “by wonders and heavenly witness, as the Apostles did, or he must be recognized and commissioned by an authority sent by Heaven. In the latter case, he must stand and teach in humble subjection to such authority, ever ready to submit himself to its judgment; he must speak what he is commissioned to speak, and not what his own taste leads him to imagine.… Anathema is the weapon which lays low the heretic.”

In this commentary the distinction between the framework of the Church and the spirit actuating it appears. There is a protest against the constraints exercised by the religious authority in some directions coupled with laxity in others. Luther attacks the excesses of luxury, asks for a reduction in the number of fasts and feasts, and denounces the exactions and tyranny of the bishops and of Rome. Here are the beginnings of his attitude to the epistle which became the Fifth Gospel of the Lutherans.

In the Commentary on the Psalms, 1513, Luther is as firm as Leo himself in maintaining the final authority of the Church. In 1517 he was not yet prepared to make that appeal to the Bible and the Bible only which was characteristic of his maturer thought. He went behind the Schoolmen to the Bible as interpreted by the Fathers, and of the Fathers St. Austin fell in most with his mood. The question of an absolutely final authority is plainly still in the future. The sermon of February 1517 was the first open attack on the hierarchy. Once he saw the difference between the real and the ideal, there was formed the outline of the conception that the real constituted an obstacle to the ideal. These were no longer contrasts: they were contraries. He, however, holds resolutely that the Roman Church has always maintained the true faith, and that it is necessary for all Christians to be in union with her. On May 16, 1518, he can preach that the real communion of the Church is invisible, deducing the consequences that excommunication cannot cut one off from it, and that nothing but sin can affect it. This idea of the Invisible Church boasts an honourable pedigree, running back to Hus, Wyclif, and to St. Austin himself, who put it forward in the form of the Communio Sanctorum. Clement of Alexandria compares the Invisible Church to a chain of rings upheld by a magnet. It is to him “the Church of the first-born.” To Origen the difference between the Visible and the Invisible Church is the difference between nominal and real Christianity. Men, he believed, might belong to the Visible Church and yet might not belong to the Invisible Church. Men might be cut off from the former, and yet might be members of the body of Christ.

In the sermon of May 16, 1518, Luther asserts that the priest can cut off “corporal, exterior communion,” from worship and the sacraments, which outwardly unite the members of a Church. It is out of his power to deprive one of that “spiritual communion” of the faith, hope and charity which unite the soul to God. About the same time he writes: “A censure of the Church will not in the least cut me off from the Church, if it binds me to the truth.” Inconsistently enough, he tells Mazzolini that he submits himself to the judgment of the Church. Practically he has reached the point of denying that the Church possesses the power of binding and loosing souls. When the Bishop of Vasona degraded Savonarola in absence of mind he uttered the words, “Separo te ab Ecclesia militante atque triumphante.” On the spot Savonarola corrected him, saying, “Militante, non triumphante: hoc enim tuum non est.” The day was to come when Luther was expelled from the Church Militant, but he was always persuaded of his membership of the Church Triumphant.

When Luther surveyed his early thought, he wrote: “Dear reader, if you want to read these writings, remember that I have been, as Augustine said of himself, of the number of authors who have progressed by writing and teaching. I have not been of those who, without work, without research, without preliminary essays, attain immediate perfection and understand at first sight the whole sense of the Scripture.” It is a caution to be borne in mind, for though his fundamental thought scarcely altered, he lived and learned. The Bourbons learned nothing and forgot nothing: Luther was the exact reverse.

As the place of the Church, the Roman Church, recedes in the mental horizon of Luther, that of the Council emerges. Theological reasons are at work: so too are national. When summoned to Rome, he writes directly to the Emperor Maximilian, begging him to have a care for the honour of his University. “What have we Germans to do with St. Peter?” he inquires. On October 18, 1518, he appeals from the Legate Cajetan and the Pope Leo X, badly informed, to one who would be better informed, who will be pointed out to him by the Most High. In November 1518 there appears the Appellatio ad futurum concilium universale, sharpening the appeal from the Pope, who was in error, to the correct judgment of a future General Council. The supporter of the authority of the Church in the Commentary on the Psalms, 1513–15, in the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1515–10, the writer of the sermon of August 1, 1516, is the author of an Appeal to a Future Œcumenical Council. The Church, according to it, no longer proclaimed the true Gospel: there was, in fact, an antithesis between the Church and the Gospel.

In May 1518, he markedly distinguished the private and the public capacity of the head of the Church. In his reply to an ultramontane like Mazzolini, June 1518, he marks the difference between “the fact of the Pope” and the doctrine of the Church. He tells Mazzolini that Italians are not the only theologians who understand the Bible. When Ghinucci cites him to appear in Rome, August 7, 1518, he appeals strongly to the Elector of Saxony to be tried in his own land, and the Saxon Court was stirred by his trumpet-call. The Elector, Frederick the Wise, refused to give him up. He was not, he said, yet convinced that his subject had fallen into heresy. Had this been the case he would have carried out his duty as a Christian prince; but as it was, any action against Luther would only have injured his University. At Augsburg the revolutionary opposes Scripture to the Decretals, rejecting those which do not agree with the Bible. When he leaves that town in October 1518, he receives the Decretals only so far as they were “consonæ … sacræ scripturæ,” and holds the idea that the separate Eastern Churches formed part of the Catholic Church.

In February 1519, in his Unterricht auff etlich Artikell, he deprecates the beginning of a schism. In June 1519, in his thirteenth proposition on the power of the Pope, and in his Resolutiones in September, he examines the origin of the papal authority, and finds it titleless. There is no promise made to St. Peter: the texts alleged in its favour are twisted or false. Rome possesses no more jurisdiction over souls than Constantinople. The primacy is simply a creation of history. The time is not far distant when the Pope, falling from his pride of place, will be proclaimed everywhere as the son of Belial, the Antichrist. In the course of this Disputation with Johann Eck at Leipzig, 1519, he maintains his belief in an Invisible Church, and sets up another authority beside that of the successor of St. Peter. During the discussion he appeals to Scripture as the test by which the Fathers, Popes, Schoolmen, and Councils must be tried in the last resort. What was the relation between the authority of the sacred record and that of a Council? This he has not settled. Perhaps he was not even aware that behind his preference for the Bible lay his own strong judgment. How can he remain within the fold? Has he not attacked the infallibility of both papal and conciliar authority? For in pressing Luther Johann Eck had compelled him to avow his sympathy with Hus in his stand at the Council of Constance. Eck’s controversial instinct was sound. Luther was forced to see that he believed the heretic was condemned most unfairly. Could an unfair condemnation do other than oblige him to reconsider his attitude towards a Council? Moreover, the Roman Church was not the whole Church, for the Eastern Church had never submitted to the Pope or acknowledged his supremacy. Was the Pope such by the command of Jesus or simply by human appointment?

National feelings continued to excite the great revolutionary. When Roman Curialists speak with savage contempt of the “Teutonic beasts” Luther accents the title as proudly as when the Dutch called themselves “beggars.” Papal authority has gone: conciliar authority follows it. In July 1519, he admits the infallibility of the Council in definitions of faith; yet, three months later, even this admission is withdrawn. Do not Councils contradict one another? Have they, therefore, committed error? Did not, for example, the Council of Constance condemn the Christian propositions of Hus? “In that session at least the assembly has simply been a conventicle of the devil.” Hus had the people behind him: so has he. It is easy to understand why Crotus Rubianus wrote to him on October 16, 1519, “Brother Martin, often I surprise myself in looking at you as the father of our country.”

Doubts still remain. In the preface to his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, September 1519, he draws a distinction between the Roman Church and the Roman Curia, the first of which it is not lawful to oppose, while the second ought to be more stoutly resisted by all kings and princes than the Turk himself. Once he accepted the authority of the Fathers, whereas in 1519 he only accepts it when confirmed by the Bible. In short, there was neither Pope nor Council in a position of authority. As for the bishops, if the highest office of the priesthood is the absolution of sins, all are equal. The Pope cannot be superior to the bishop, the bishop cannot be superior to the priest. Lastly, if the sacraments are only signs, and if the order of the priesthood is not a sacrament, there are no longer any priests. The Church, built upon faith, requires no external hierarchy. In Von dem Bapstum tzu Rome wider dem hochberumpten Romanisten tzu Leiptzk, he defiantly tells the world that he does not intend the German people to fall on their knees before Rome.

Before February 24, 1520, he saw Hutten’s republication of Lorenzo Valla’s book on the Donation of Constantine, laying bare the basis of the fictions on which the temporal power of Rome rested. Historically then his former authority was founded on a lie, and, when the foundation was swept away, what remained?

For Luther it is now an easy step to the position taken up in one of the three great tracts of the year 1520, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. The keys have been given to St. Peter, and in his person to the whole Christian Church. As the ecclesiastical function is only the ministry of the Word, all the faithful are priests, seeing every Christian receives by the Spirit the gift of understanding and the gift of interpretation. In June 1520, the appeal To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation consecrates this theory of universal priesthood. In his Von dem Bapstum tzu Rome, 1520, he asserts his belief in a congregation of the saints in faith. Can any one, however, see who is a saint who possesses faith? On November 17, 1520, he formally removes his appeal from Leo X, whom he characterizes as an unjust judge, an obstinate heretic and schismatic, an enemy and oppressor of Holy Scripture. The solution of the question of authority is the convocation of a General Council, free and Christian. He requests the Emperor, the Electors, and the princes to join with him in opposing “the unchristian conduct and the amazing enormities of the Pope.” The work of Luther was as national as Oliver Cromwell’s: the work of Erasmus was as international as William III’s. The reformer’s condemnation, when at last it came, was to him not only an outrage upon religion, but also upon “the German name.” Luther’s pamphlet, Why the Books of the Roman Pontiff and of his Disciples have been burnt by Dr. Martin Luther, appeared in the following year. In it he makes final his break with the authority of the Roman Church, claiming that the Spirit of God has inspired his action. In his Ad librum Ambrosii Catharini Responsio, 1521, he argues that the Church is completely spiritual. Where his principles are leading him he cannot plainly discern. He cannot give them up because he believes them to be rooted in the Bible and his own apprehension of the truth; but in the meantime he leaves the issue to God.

The doctrine of the religion of the individual and of the freedom of conscience seems boldly enunciated. In a sense it is, for Luther builded better than he knew. His mystic view of inspiration has nothing, however, in common with the subjectivity of our day. The conception of doctrinal truth and of a religious society obsesses him always. True, he has overthrown the historic Church. Notwithstanding this, the Church of Faith remained firmly standing.

Luther belongs to a body of men who believe in the truth of the Gospel and on whom God has bestowed His grace. In one sense he is the father of individualism, for he is the man who made justification by faith a force in the world: in another sense he is nothing of the sort. He cannot bear the idea that he stands alone: he belongs to a great communion of all the faithful. In a noble song E. M. Arndt asked the question, “What is the German Fatherland?” His answer was that wherever the German tongue resounds and lifts itself to God in song, there was the Fatherland. The answer of Luther is not unlike. Wherever he met the faithful, there he found the Church. No narrow boundaries of land confined it. It was not limited to Rome, to Jerusalem or to Wittenberg. It was to be met with wherever a Christian bent the knee in prayer and worshipped God from the heart: there was a portion of the Christian Church. Heretics like Hus, and Fathers like St. Austin, were members of it. It included in its bead-roll Greeks no less than Romans. Was this Church a loose incoherent body? It possessed coherence, for the Word of God, with its clear text, imposed on all its members one faith and one law. The Bible is the corner-stone of the building. The adversaries of Luther claim that the Church is on their side, and he no less confidently affirms that the Bible is on his. There is witnessed the spectacle of opposing authorities affording truth an opportunity to emerge.

In Nürnberg Luther was heard gladly by the humanists and clergy, the lawyers and patricians, of that ancient town. There Hieronymus Ebner, Johann Holzschuher, Christoph Scheurl and Lazarus Spengler rallied to his standard. Nor was Nürnberg in any wise unique in its adhesion. Augsburg, Strassburg—it was largely through this town that the Reformation reached France—Schlettstadt, Bâle and Zürich all welcomed the small effective pamphlets and the no less effective caricatures. Multitudes crowded to hear Luther because, as Melanchthon remarks, “they look on him as the restorer of liberty.”

Staupitz turned the attention of Luther to a strong emancipatory force, the spirit of mysticism. Bernard of Clairvaux, Tauler, Suso, Ruysbroeck, Gerson, Gerard de Groote, and the Brothers of the Common Life were active influences with him. Luther admired Tauler so much that from 1515 his sermons became one of his bedside volumes. Like Erasmus he grew tired of scholastic discussions, and, unlike Erasmus, in the silence of his cloister he took refuge in mystic contemplation. There Tauler taught him to feel what St. Austin taught him to think. The soul of man must wait patiently upon God, and must passively receive His grace. Such a conception of the inward life unconsciously turned his thoughts from works and from means of salvation. Mystic religion insisted on the direct relation between man and the personal God revealed in Jesus Christ, and this relationship was realized by love. It broods, it meditates. One process it cannot employ, and that is argument.

His Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans bears emphatic testimony to his adherence to the mystical view of the Church as it was, and as it might be, to the Church of History and to the Church of the Faithful. It also bears testimony to his denial of free will, and this denial the mystics shared. He rated highly the Theologia Deutsch, and the Frankfort knight of the Teutonic Order says in it: “When man is in a state of grace and agreeable to God, he wills and yet it is not he who wills, but God, and there the will is not his own.” “And there is nothing else willed but what God wills, for there God wills not man, the will being united to the Eternal Will.” By the speculative mysticism of Dionysius the Areopagite he was repelled: by practical mysticism he was attracted.

Mysticism then was aiding in changing his views from indeterminism to determinism. In 1516 he believed that works done with grace possess a preparative value, leading to justification. In his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans he carefully explains how the will of man does not in the least belong to the person who wills, any more than the road belongs to the runner. “All is God’s, who gives and creates the will.” We are all instruments of God, who works in all. Our will is like a saw and a stick: this illustration seemed to make a strong appeal to him, for he often employs it. Sawing is the act of the hand which saws, but the saw is passive; the animal is beaten, not by the stick, but by him who holds the stick. Is not the will nothing? Is not God who wields it everything? In spite of theologians and moralists, there is no innate principle, making men discern good and evil. There is only one test of works. If God commands them they are good: if He forbids them they are evil.

Read his comments on the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, verse 28: “Free will apart from grace exercises absolutely no power on behalf of righteousness, it is necessarily in sin. Therefore St. Augustine in his book against Julian terms it ‘rather an enslaved than a free will.’ This Father glorified God and humiliated man to the dust. After the obtaining of grace, however, the will becomes really free, at least so far as salvation is concerned. The will, it is true, is free by nature, but only for what comes within its province, not for what is above it, being bound in the chain of sin and therefore unable to choose what is good in God’s sight.” That is, nature confers freedom to do wrong, but confers no power of doing right. Man’s passions lead him astray; he has no virtues of his own to lead him aright. The moment Luther insists on the complete corruption of man’s nature is the moment he realizes the irresistibility of grace. The certainty of salvation, the doctrine of predestination—these conceptions inevitably follow. It is noteworthy that Schleiermacher insists upon our powerlessness to work out our own salvation, and the complete abandonment with which we must offer our person to God.

Shortly after the conclusion of his lectures on the Epistle to the Romans followed the Wittenberg Disputation in 1516 on “man’s powers and will without grace.” There he urges that “man’s will without grace is not free, but captive, though not unwillingly.” The next year he so limits the worth of indulgences that he is on the high road to their rejection. In the Heidelberg Disputation, April 25, 1518, he declares that after sin free will is will only in name, and that when a man has done the most he is capable of, he commits a mortal sin. Even the saints cannot fulfil the commands of God, for all have sinned, all have come short. Of course this view destroys the doctrine of indulgences, attacking a basis of ecclesiastical power. If the saints have not been able to carry out the law, obviously they have no merits to spare for mortals. The treasury of the Church is empty. If faith alone saves us, if works can do nothing for us, what is the value of the cult of the saints?

God works everything in us; but just as the carpenter, however capable he may be, cannot work properly with a jagged axe, so, in spite of God’s work, sin still remains owing to the imperfection of the tool He uses. Liberty is only a word, “a title,” a mere nothing. The sacraments help men, but they only help men when they are faithful. Baptism and Holy Communion are no longer means: they are signs of our justification. In August 1519, he published the Latin Resolutions on the Leipzig Disputation, and in them the evolution of his doctrine of determinism is plain. Till then he had conceded the freedom of doing wrong, but now even this concession is taken away. “Free will,” he states, “is purely passive on every one of its acts which can come under the term of will.… A good act comes absolutely from God, because the whole activity of the will consists of the Divine action which extends to the members and powers of both soul and body, no other activity existing.” “At whatever hour of our life we may find ourselves we are either the slaves of concupiscence or of love, for both govern free will.” As a result of the fall of Adam human nature remained thoroughly corrupt. Reserve after reserve disappears, and in the Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians he holds no longer that liberty exists in a state of grace. In his De Servo arbitrio he was one day to declare the total absence of liberty. With the first transgression man lost the image of God, though the Word and the Holy Spirit can restore it. Three disputations had been finished, and Luther had come to feel, what Newman long afterwards felt, that when men understand what each other mean, they see for the most part that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless. The effect on the disputant is not to be ignored. He may not affect other people but he affects himself, his views becoming more crystallized as he endeavours to meet his opponent.

The discoveries in a particular field are in a chain of sequence which obliges them to occur in a series. Luther entertains the conception of the slavery of the human will, which ushers in a train of possibilities. Once he grasps this conception, the break with Rome is inevitable, for he feels he is the servant of God, and that therefore his actions are inspired. Similarly, after Columbus announces the discovery of America the fall of the mediæval Church is possible, for it has aspired to be universal, and here was a continent outside it. After Kepler announces the laws of planetary motion the discovery of the principle of gravitation is powerfully stimulated. After Galileo announces the laws of the pendulum, its use in timepieces comes into the foreground. After Sir William Crookes discovers his tube, the way is open for the X-ray. After Hertz discovers the waves associated with his name, wireless telegraphy is only a matter of time.

The doctrines of Luther were startling enough in Wittenberg, but created no impression in Rome. After all, sound requires atmosphere, and there was no atmosphere for this sound in the Vatican. Leo X was so absorbed in the imperial election that such minor matters as the effusions of a mere monk counted for nothing. It was an error in hearing fraught with the gravest consequences. In 1521 the Pope was busy hunting and amusing himself, and business remained at a standstill. Similarly, on some of the most important days of the French Revolution Louis XVI entered in his diary “rien,” meaning that he had no hunting. The historian of thought is often so preoccupied with the evolution of ideas that he ignores, not the circumstances under which they originate, but the external circumstances which seem far removed from their development. It is always a mistake to pass by events: it is a serious blunder with Erasmus, and a fatal one with Luther. In the critical days when the views of Luther began to appear, the contest between Charles V and Francis I prevented the former crushing him, and to the last day he lived he profited by the complications of the foreign policy of the Emperor. If any one cares to give either Francis I of France or Suleiman I of Turkey—or to both—the title of “The Protector of Lutheranism” he will speak the exact truth of the work that the French king wittingly and the Turkish Sultan unwittingly performed. The fall of Rhodes on December 21, 1522, to the Turk was the fall of the last bulwark of Christianity. The terror at papal Rome was as great as when Hannibal stood before the gates of ancient Rome.

Hegel brings the manuscript of his Phænomenology to Jena the very day of the battle between the French and the Prussians, and is surprised to hear that there is a war in progress. The investigation of his thought may presumably be studied in vacuo. The thought of Luther differs by worlds. It is largely conditioned by circumstance, for he was as wonderful an opportunist as Cromwell. No one, held the English Puritan, goes so far as he who does not know whither he is going. Luther goes far precisely for this reason: he never asks to see the distant scene as one step is enough for him. Does not God direct his path? “Non Desideriis Hominum Sed Voluntate Dei” is the moving inscription on the medal struck in 1778 by the Cardinal of York as Henry IX, the last of the Stuarts. It formed the unconscious motto of Luther, for all his labours were due to the will of God, not to the wishes of men.

In the middle of these Disputations Luther turned for support to the Sorbonne. “It has more regard for truth,” he believed, “the mistress of everything, and the Word which guides the Church, than care for power.” In his erroneous belief he forwarded the details of the Leipzig Disputation, the plea against free will, hoping to see the Sorbonne against Louvain and Cologne. There was a moment when, feeling the pangs of despair, he dreamt of flight to France.

This fit of depression passed away—for a time at least—and he continued to develop his doctrine. There is nothing new in his view that God justifies by faith apart from the works of the law. It is older than Peter Lombard, though in him Luther found it. The Master of the Sentences declared that “justitia Dei est que gratis justificat impium per fidem sine operibus Legis.” His attitude is plain in the view that “sequntur … opera justificatum, non præcedunt, justificandum, sed sola fide sine operibus præcedentibus fit homo justus.… Bona opera etiam ante fidem inania sunt.” From St. Austin Luther learnt that the centre of dogma is a proper conception of sin. The African theologian described as penetratingly the City of the Devil as the City of God, and here Luther followed him. The centre of the pupil’s dogmatic position was the irremediable corruption of man. Logically the matter was clear to his mind. Sin, justification and faith were all intimately bound together. The fulfilment of God’s commands is beyond the evil nature of man. Is Christianity then a doctrine of despair? This despair is to Luther the very condition of our salvation. Our powerlessness proves the necessity of our redemption. There is nothing good in us: we possess no merits of our own. Christianity, however, has accomplished all, has won all for us. The Son of Man died that the sons of men might become the sons of God. Faith in God is “a simple obedience of the Spirit.” This faith does not proceed from us, and works apart from us our salvation. It is the faith of confidence, of penitence and of love which realizes in us the very presence of Jesus. Man is nothing, God is everything. “Whoever is united to God by faith becomes just”: he is “at the same time a sinner and a just man, a sinner by the reality of his nature, a just man by the promise and the imputation of God.” What need, then, is there of works? How do they contribute to our salvation? Such was his attitude in 1516 to the problem of justification by faith. He held then with all his might that it is faith and faith alone which saves us. Faith in its turn produces works just as the tree bears fruit, though these works do not and cannot justify or save a man, simply proving “our inward justice.” In a word, faith is in our souls a living law through which God thinks, acts, works in us, substituting his justice for ours, his life for ours, and revealing to us, in the depths of our misery, our healing. In truth Luther is no longer a humanist, he is no longer a mystic: he is a theologian with a system which as effectually shook Europe one way as Columbus and Copernicus shook it another way.

If the mind of man, as St. Anselm contended, contributes tits share towards grasping the mystery of faith, reason at once steps in, and this Luther cannot allow for a moment. His conclusion is that “it is not in the power of man to have faith in God.” God and God alone speaks to whom He wills, illuminates whom He pleases, hiding Himself from the wise and prudent, revealing Himself to babes. Man does not, cannot co-operate with God. In this system unity disappears: dualism appears. There is a divorce between mind and soul, between knowledge and faith. The law of reaction was in full swing. The precise definitions of the scholasticism, of the Aristotelian Church, were revolting to the ardent theologian. For science proper, he admitted, there was room, and his reason is characteristic. Science has for its subject-matter the nature and property of the body. Sacred science, however, must turn aside from the problems of substance and essence, and the like, and must confine its efforts to mourning for our sins, showing true penitence, evincing genuine humility. This method possessed the qualities of its defects. For one thing, it led him to discard, the symbolic interpretations and four senses of the commentators, which emptied the Bible of real meaning. Here he believes that Origen had gone astray. Jerome, too, had no right to interpret the sacred record in the light of history. Thereby he weakened its truth, dimly perhaps perceiving a characteristic weakness of the comparative method, for in its desire to know all it pardons all. Grammar enables us to understand the letter, the inner light, the Spirit. Jesus has power to make us realize his thought.

Luther attempted the old task of vindicating the ways of God to man, but his attempt is a dualism against which our reason recoils. The Alexandrian Fathers proceeded on their task of unity when they reconciled Platonism with dogma. Their labours in the second century were continued by St. Ambrose in the fourth when he united Stoicism with the morality of Christianity. The Pelagians, like Luther, broke the chain of continuity which St. Austin in part restored. The mediævalists took up the work of the African doctor, and Anselm, Abelard, Peter Lombard and Thomas Aquinas completed it, proclaiming the union of faith with the intellect, of grace with liberty. Luther glanced over the solutions of these scholars, and the only one that was at all congruous with his system of thought was St. Austin. Erasmus saw the significance of Origen, Luther his insignificance. One is tempted to speculate on what might have happened if the reformer had possessed sufficient insight to feel the thought of Origen. To this moment his lack of perception of the worth of Origen is a loss to Christendom. An Origen might have a vision of the final unity of truth: a Luther had not a glimpse of it. The reformer was as blind as St. Austin himself was in this respect. Even the limited view he attained, Luther rendered more limited still by the turn he gave it. The Old Testament was contracted to passages in Genesis or the Psalms, with a stray reference to Habakkuk; the New to the Pauline Epistles, or rather to two of them, the Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians. True, there are four Gospels, but even they can be compelled to speak with Pauline accents. “Christ in the Gospel,” he writes in 1519, “requires nothing but faith.… I wish the word merit did not exist in the Bible.” The thought of St. James conflicts with the Lutheran interpretation. This is true, but “the style of the apostle (i.e. St. James) is below apostolic majesty”: it is, comparatively speaking, an “epistle of straw.” In a word he seeks in the Bible for maxims, not for principles: he requires a system, not a synthesis.

Scholars, e.g. Denifle, have analysed the diverse and heterogeneous elements in the doctrines of Luther. They justly deny his originality, showing where he borrowed from St. Paul or from St. Austin, from Occam or Hus, from Carlstadt or Erasmus. They sometimes forget that when he made these borrowings his own, he recreated them, welding them in the flame of his fiery zeal. The ideas of Rousseau are to be read substantially in Montaigne and in Locke. Nevertheless, Rousseau invested them with the shirt of Nessus, rendering them a burning force. Originality is of the highest importance: so too are the energy and initiative which oblige men to recognize the leadership of the man of action, who is sometimes a thinker. Fortunate in many of the circumstances of his life, Luther was not least fortunate in possessing the friendship of Philip Melanchthon. The genius of the reformer was unrestrained, inflexible, and he was a man of action. The genius of his friend was restrained, flexible, and he was a man of thought. Luther cared little for humanism and much for theology. Melanchthon cared little for theology and much for humanism. In a happy moment the two met, and the younger scholar fell under the spell of the reformer. Like Mohammed, Luther thought through his feelings. Like Erasmus, Melanchthon thought through his brain. “La cœur a ses raisons,” wrote Pascal in a pregnant saying, “que la raison ne connoît point,” and the saying is eminently true of Luther. The reformer touched the heart, his friend the head. The grand-nephew of the great Hebrew scholar, Johann Reuchlin, it was fitting that Melanchthon should be Professor of Greek in the University of Wittenberg at the age of twenty-one. He became Præceptor Germaniæ, and he also became Præceptor Lutheri, thereby rendering one of the most valuable services of his life. “I am conscious of having pursued theology only to improve life,” lie said at eight-and-twenty. Luther leant too much to the view that “Pectus facit theologiam,” a saying that is accountable for much weak theology. There is a deep truth in it, but it is a saying that requires to be supplemented by knowledge. Here Melanchthon stepped in. His friend had been a learned man, but in the strain of his active life studies had been cast to the one side. Melanchthon was ever at the side of Luther, and his presence was a clear reminder that the service of Jesus required head no less than heart.

Luther was conscious of the debt he owed his teacher. “I have been born to war,” he wrote in a preface to Melanchthon’s lectures on the Epistle to the Colossians, “with factions and devils, and therefore my books are stormy and warlike. I must root out the stumps and stocks, cut away the thorns and hedges, fill up the ditches, and am the rough forester, to break a path and make things ready. But Master Philip walks gently and silently, tills and plants, sows and waters with pleasure, as God has gifted him richly.” It was a generous testimony to come from one who was older by fourteen years. “This little Greek,” Luther confessed, “surpasses me even in theology.” It takes a man of the stature of John the Baptist to utter the words, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Few men like to think that they are merely forerunners of one greater than themselves. Luther was one of the few. For a time he regarded Melanchthon as a greater man than himself, and thought of him as the coming prophet for whose work he was preparing the way, declaring even so late as in 1529 that he was unworthy to unloose the latchet of his shoe. What Mutianus meant to his circle of admirers, what Melanchthon meant to Camerarius, what Montaigne meant to La Boëtie, what Goethe meant to Schiller, Luther meant to Melanchthon. It was significant of much that Melanchthon’s coat of arms was the serpent of wisdom twined round the Cross. Melanchthon too gained by the friendship. He saw many sides to a problem, he was well aware of the many shades of meaning to be taken out of what seemed a simple passage in the Bible. Like not a few many-sided men, he was fearful, irresolute, inclined to compromise. He proved an admirable corrective to the fearlessness, the resoluteness, the uncompromising spirit of Luther. The reformer saw summits and abysses: his friend saw also the plain lying between them. Side by side they worked in life, and it is surely fitting that their dust mingles together in death. In the Church where Luther nailed his theses the two bodies are buried. The Castle Church of Wittenberg is a place dear to the lover of toleration. On the pavement at the right side lies the tomb of Luther, and it is placed characteristically close to the pulpit. On the left side lies the tomb of Melanchthon, the man who more than any other preserved the balance of his masterful leader. “Mens æqua in arduis,” runs the inscription written under the portrait of Warren Hastings in the council-chamber at Calcutta: it should be graven on the stone covering the remains of Philip Melanchthon.

The labours of Luther and Melanchthon were in no small degree aided by the geographical, astronomical and economic revolution which was in process in their time. The opening up of a new continent, the discovery of new planets, and the export to Europe of the new silver created a ferment which left the minds of men ready to receive fresh impressions. The results of the labours of Copernicus and Columbus are familiar to all, but the part that the muleteer of Potosi played is sometimes overlooked. He was travelling along a steep mountainside. His mule slipped, and in his anxiety to save himself he clutched at a bush, which yielded a little to his pressure. The tearing up of some of the roots disclosed a mass of silver, and in this seemingly accidental fashion the metal once more altered the destinies of mankind. In the domain of matter, cause and effect exercise a widespread and wellnigh irresistible influence. The silver comes to Europe, raising prices, making labour dear, and thereby changing the tillage system to pasturage. In the agricultural world men are upset, and as the cake of custom is irretrievably smashed they are not so unwilling to hear strange doctrine as their fathers would have been.

Powerful as the discovery of the new silver was on the course of the Reformation, had the muleteer of Potosi not discovered it, some other man might. The Peasants’ War of 1525 would have come—in another form—if Luther had never translated the Bible. In this domain weather has interfered with the most disconcerting results. What was the effect upon the seventeenth century of the fog which darkened the battlefield of Lützen? Would the French Revolution have broken out in 1789 had not the winter preceding it been so terrible? It would doubtless have come wearing another guise, though the guise might not have permitted a Reign of Terror, and therefore afforded less opportunity for the genius of Napoleon.

In chemistry the mixture of two atoms of hydrogen with one of oxygen invariably produces water, and the form of the instruments of the mixture matters not. In history the method of the mixture of the atoms is more significant than the elements brought into contact. Even in chemistry oil and water do not mix. What misery the world would have been saved had Luther and Erasmus been as sympathetic towards each other as Luther and Melanchthon were. The characters of Luther and Erasmus could neither be assimilated nor amalgamated. Would the Reformation have been so successful had not five such men as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer and Knox appeared simultaneously? Frederick the Great gives the other point of view when he insists that “the older one becomes the more clearly one sees that King Hazard fashions three-fourths of the events in this miserable world,” a conception which Cyprian held. Voltaire is never tired of dwelling on the small springs on which the greater events of history turn. Was Gibbon right in his belief that if Charles Martel had been defeated at Tours, the creed of Islam would have overspread the greater part of Europe? If Mohammed had been killed in one of the first battles he fought, would a great monotheistic creed have arisen in Arabia? What turn would events have taken if Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedon, had been as incompetent as Commodus, the son of Marcus Aurelius? In the spring of 323 B.C., the control of the framework of civilization from the Adriatic to the Panjab rested upon the single will of Alexander. He was snatched away, and the union, perhaps premature, of East and West passed away with him. What form would French art have assumed had not Charles VIII set out on his expedition to Italy, thereby making France feel the influence of Giotto, the founder of modern painting? It is easy to speak of the inevitable working out of cause and effect, but is the solution quite so simple? Had Frederick the Great never lived, would Prussia have begun the war of 1740, which started the country on the career which made the present war possible? In 1878, had the bullet of Nobiling cut short the days of Wilhelm I and given his son the throne ten years before 1888, the history of Germany would have been fundamentally altered. Indeed, had Frederick the Noble lived in all probability the devastation wrought from 1914 to 1918 would never have occurred. There has been a destroying revolution in Russia since March 1917. There would have been a preserving revolution had Alexander I been succeeded by a ruler like himself in 1825 and not by Nicholas I. The personality of another Alexander I would have effected as epoch-making a transformation as either Luther or Prince Bismarck.

NOTE.—As this chapter deals largely with the place of authority in the mind of Erasmus and Luther, some books on the general question of the place of authority in religion are mentioned. Among the older works there are Abp. Laud’s Conference with Fisher, W. Palmer’s Treatise on the Church of Christ, R. Field’s Of the Church, R. I. Wilberforce’s Inquiry into the Principles of Church Authority, Cardinal Newman’s Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, J. H. Möhler’s Symbolik, and E. B. Pusey’s The Rule of Faith. Among the modern writers are R. W. Dale’s Protestantism, D. W. Forrest’s The Authority of Christ, Bishop Gore’s Roman Catholic Claims, F. J. Hall’s Authority—Ecclesiastical and Biblical, Bishop Henson’s The Liberty of Prophesying, R. W. Inge’s Faith, J. H. Leckie’s Authority in Religion, J. Martineau’s The Seat of Authority in Religion, Lord Morley’s Compromise, W. P. Paterson’s The Rule of Faith, J. Réville’s Le protestantisme libéral, A. Sabatier’s Les religions d’autorité et la religion de l’esprit, G. Salmon’s The Infallibility of the Church, Prof. V. H. Stanton’s The Place of Authority in Matters of Religious Belief, D. Stone’s The Christian Church, Dean T. B. Strong’s Authority in the Church, W. Spens’s Belief and Practice. Obviously this list can easily be lengthened, for all books dealing with the nature of the Church must discuss the degree of authority she possesses. Martineau’s book is destructive in its criticism, and the weakness of Salmon’s book is similar. The works of Forrest, Leckie and Paterson are suggestive. Dean Strong packs much information into a narrow compass: his fifth and sixth chapters deserve careful perusal. Dr. Stanton’s book is increased in value by the patristic, mediæval, Reformation examples he adduces, and by the penetrating discussion to which he subjects them. Mr. Spens invests the whole question with force and freshness.








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com