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

THE principle of authority had received rude assaults at the hands of Luther. In his denunciation of indulgences he had appealed from Tetzel to the Pope. At the Diet of Augsburg he appealed from the Pope ill-informed to the Pope better-informed, and then from the Pope to a Council. Did not Councils, especially on the papal primacy, contradict one another? When the verdict of a Council was used against him he appealed to the Scriptures. When these did not support his positions, he appealed to selected passages of them. Even this was not final. In the last resort he appealed to the conscience of the individual Christian. It is remarkable that the heralds of revolt, not only in Germany, but also in France and Switzerland, are monks or priests: the day of the laymen had not yet come. The Church came to be no more than a community of Christian believers wherever they were to be found. With the people, however, the new authority he gave them was a translation of the Bible in their own speech. This he interpreted with such an infallible accent that he became the Pope of the Protestants. When Simmias demanded “a word from God” to confirm the speeches of Socrates he expressed what all men feel. This “word from God” Luther gave his followers. The Gospel came to the peasant in the sixteenth century, and exercised over him the influence which the philosophers’ doctrine of the rights of man exercised over the French peasant in the eighteenth century. It fostered those habits of critical examination of fundamental truths which constitute the very mainsprings of revolt. The Bible had been known through the medium of the Church, which constituted itself the sole interpreter thereof. It was not, therefore, the competing authority it at once became. A monopoly of salvation has always been fatal to its holders, and no less fatal to the cause of toleration. The possession of the Bible delivered the Lutherans from such a pressing danger. Their founder might claim to be infallible. His claims, however, were examined by the only bar of reason then applicable by the masses, and that was the sacred record. Once upon a time a man was forced to use faith alone, whereas now faith and reason were open to him.

Luther’s attitude to the Bible was no doubt influenced by the Nominalist position, which accepted it as the supreme court of appeal in all matters of faith. Occam, his master, laid down that “Holy Scriptures cannot err, the Pope can,” that certitude in authority belongs only to the Divine Word. D’Ailly held that “an affirmation of the Canonical Scripture has more authority than an assertion of the Christian Church.” According to Biel the verities of the faith rested uniquely on Scriptural proofs. Jodocus Trutfetter, Luther’s old professor at the university of Erfurt, heard from him, “You have been the first to teach me that we must read the canonical books with faith, all others with discernment.” Luther, like Hooker, can tolerate whatever the Bible does not forbid: Zwingli admits only what the Bible has formally laid down.

What Luther requires is certainty. He does not fear that his doctrine is not true, for he knows that his theology “comes from heaven.” Rejecting the authority of the Church, not believing, as St. Anselm did, in the power of intellect, he finds truth in the Bible and in the Bible alone. The Word of God is the supreme reason which dominates all reasons, the proof which supersedes all proofs. Certainty of faith is not in the continuity of tradition, in that long chain which unites the Church of the sixteenth century with that of the Apostolic age, St. Thomas Aquinas to Bede, Bede to the Fathers, the Fathers to the Apostles. It rests completely in the unique testimony to the Scripture taken “in its simplest meaning.” Luther receives truths and definitions: he receives the truths because they are evangelical, and the definitions because they have texts to support them. The outcome was the removal from dogma of all the ideas grafted on to it. They may be true, they may be probable, but if they cannot find scriptural proof they have no binding value on the Christian. Of course he was compelled to sweep away all interpretations save the literal, and this forms one of his greatest merits. It is in the name of scriptural literalism that he preserved the dogma of the real presence and pronounced against the religious radicalism of Carlstadt. Clearness is a prime quality of the record of revelation. Outwardly little has altered, whereas inwardly everything has altered. The adherence to the Bible finishes the work begun by the principle of justification by faith. In the name of Christian liberty Luther overthrew the existing ecclesiastical discipline: decretals, canons, vows, celibacy and ceremonies disappear. At first the binding force of early associations, of religious emotions, forbids the proscription of every rite and remains of the past. John Calvin will come, and others will strip the Church of all treasures of “idolatry,” and will leave it as bare as a Covenanting Chapel. Before the altar will stand the lectern where all may see the open Word of God. The attestation of this Word is the Holy Ghost, Who bears witness to its truth and its authority. The Bible in Luther’s view does not come from the Church. History yields information on the growth of the Canon: it does no more. In the last resort the Bible attests its own inspiration. The Holy Ghost testifies to its Divine character and the absolute authority of the truth contained in it. Five times in a single page he tells us, “The Holy Spirit has written,” and he believes “not a single letter has been written in vain.” “The Holy Spirit is neither foolish nor drunk to utter a tittle, much less a letter, in vain.”

Luther’s criterion of the sacred record was, he thought, plain. “The right text,” he laid down, “by which to judge its books is whether they preach Christ. Whatever does not preach Christ is not apostolic, even though it had been written by St. Peter or St. Paul. And, on the other hand, whatever does preach Christ would be apostolic even though it proceeded from Judas, Pilate or Herod. But this James only preaches the law and obedience to the law, and mixes the one with the other in a confusing fashion. Therefore I will not admit him in my Bible among the number of true canonical writers. But at the same time I will forbid none to place and esteem him as they please.” The last sentence indicates the broad-mindedness of the writer. The whole passage indicates that his condemnation of St. James’s Epistle is comparative, not absolute. Nevertheless, while Luther was unaware of it his criticism undermined the infallibility of the book which meant so much to him, assigning him a place among the beginners of doctrinal critics, though not, of course, among textual critics. He is an ancestor of F. C. Baur: he is not an ancestor of Richard Simon. He anticipates modern criticism. His anticipation, however, proceeds not from the tests of the higher critic but from his faith in Christ. Had Ritschl taught his value-judgments in 1522, the great revolutionary would have appreciated them. As he reads the Epistle to the Hebrews he is convinced that neither St. Paul nor any other Apostle wrote it.

Johannine thought appealed far more strongly to Erasmus than to Luther. The latter is plainly puzzled by the Revelation of St. John the Divine. Still he writes, “As to this book I allow each man to form his own opinion, and will not bind down any one to my own judgment or my own ignorance, I say what I feel.” The modern way in which he looked at the Bible, especially the Old Testament, continually astonishes one. To him it matters little if Moses himself did not write the five books which bear his name. It may well be, he thought, that Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosca contain additions, and have reached their present forms from later writers. He has the insight to see that the book of Job is not a history, but a poem or drama.

Luther expresses his opinion freely on allegory, which, like Melanchthon and Zwingli, was only useful in attracting boi polloi. “Allegories and spiritual significations, when they are directed upon faith and seldom read, then they are laudable, but when they are drawn upon the life and conversation, then they are dangerous, and I am an enemy unto them.… St. Jerome and Origen (God forgive it them) hold thereunto that Allegories were held in such esteem.… Now I have shaken it off, and my best art is Tradere Scripturam simplici sensu, that is to deliver the Scripture in the simple sense; the same doth the deed; therein is life, strength, doctrine and art; in the other is nothing but foolishness, let it lustre and shine how it will. St. Austin gave a rule: Quod Figura et Allegoria nihil probet sed Historia, Verba et Grammatica, i.e. that Figure and Allegories prove nothing at all, but History, Words and Grammar.” It was possible to extract one plain meaning from History: it was possible to extract many obscure meanings from Figure. His method of thought demanded the removal of the allegorical school, and in removing it he performed a notable service to sound exegesis. “I have grounded my preaching,” he said, “on the literal word.” As he grew he discarded any interpretation save this. “I have shaken it off,” he remarked, “and my best art is to render Scripture in the simple sense.” It was only so that the faithful could believe in the priesthood of all believers.

It came as a shock of surprise to the reader to note that in the Bible St. Peter made mistakes and was rebuked accordingly, thus showing little sign that either he or his successors were infallible. It was difficult to think that the extortionate Cardinals were in the line of succession from one who had neither silver nor gold. It was no less difficult to see in the New Testament the precedents for the worship of the Virgin Mary or the Saints, the celibacy of the clergy, the use of indulgences, the veneration of relics and the like. Between the purity and simplicity of the meeting at the upper room in Jerusalem and the then growing architectural and artistic beauty of St. Peter’s, there was a difference sufficient to provoke inquiry.

When first announcing his plan of translating the New Testament into German, on December 21, 1521, he mentions that “our people are asking for it.” In barely three months, with the assistance of a few helpers, he had finished the first rough drafts of the New Testament. He made the Bible a living book, for he had lived it. “Philip (Melanchthon) and I,” he writes to Spalatin, who was then Court preacher, “have now begun to correct the translation of the New Testament; it will, please God, turn out a fine work. We shall need your help here and there for the choice of words; hence get ready. But send us simple words, not the language of the men-at-arms, or of the Court; the translation must above all be a homely one. May I ask you to send me at once the (German) names of the precious stones mentioned in Apocalypse 21, or better still the stones themselves if you can get hold of them at Court or elsewhere?” He asked the names of the birds from a farmer. He was as successful in German as Tyndale was in English, for the two languages are what they are because of Luther’s and Tyndale’s translations. The Authorized Version of the Bible, made in 1611, had many predecessors. Tyndale, Coverdale, Rogers and Cranmer had each a share in its felicity of language. Martin Luther enjoyed no such good fortune, and his matchless translation is largely his own. Recent developments of the ideals of German Kultur find support in his translation. Did he not translate barbarian in 1 Corinthians 14:11 by the significant word undeutsch? Luther took infinite pains in noting the words in everyday use or, as he says, in “looking into the jaw of the man in the street.” “I have,” he said, “no particular, special German language, but I use the common German language so that both the Upper and the Lower Lands may understand me.” His aim was to furnish the ordinary man with a translation in his own tongue. Often Luther, therefore, objected to renderings on the ground that “no German talks like that.” He grumbled at the difficulty in “cramming the Hebrew writers into a German mould. They absolutely refuse to submit to the barbarism of the German tongue. It is as though a nightingale were being forced to exchange its sweet melodies for the call of the cuckoo.” The translation, then, was popular, not scientific. That it completely achieved its object, the after-history of Germany proves. On September 21, 1522, the New Testament appeared with a frontispiece and a number of woodcuts by Lucas Cranach; the title-page bore the words, “Das Newe Testament Deutzsch. Vittemberg.” Neither the year nor the printer’s name was given. Luther received no fee for his great translation any more than for his other writings. His fee was the knowledge that his countrymen were for the first time, on a large scale at any rate, able to read the glad tidings of Christ in their own language. What Erasmus had accomplished for the Greek text Luther accomplished for the German: the one was rendered accessible to the scholar, the other was rendered accessible to the people. The first edition of the German New Testament was in such demand that a new and amended edition appeared in December. New editions were published in Wittenberg in 1526 and 1530. In this town alone sixteen editions were printed before 1557, while there were more than fifty reprints in the rest of Germany. From 1523 to 1524 the Old Testament also appeared. It is not a little remarkable that at the very moment Luther was giving his version of the New Testament to Germany, Lefèvre d’Étaples was giving his less popular one to France.

From 1530 to 1540 there were 34 Wittenberg editions and 72 reprints in other parts of Germany, and from 1541 to 1546 there were 18 Wittenberg editions and 26 reprints. From 1534 to 1584 no less than 100,000 complete Bibles left the press at Wittenberg. Eighty-four original editions and 253 reprints appeared in the translator’s lifetime. It is, therefore, the truth to say that Germany was flooded with the Bible. Cochlæus testifies that even shoemakers and women became so absorbed in its study as to be able in a short time to carry on discussions with doctors in theology. For the one reader of the sacred record before this translation there were fifty after it.

Books had been published in tall and heavy folios, chained on the shelves of a library. Now they are octavo or half-octavo, small and light, moving freely from house to house. The weaver as he regulated his shuttle could take the translation down and read it in a spare moment. A book was no longer a stranger: it was a family friend. The reactionary party were afraid of this, and edicts against Luther’s translation of the Bible appeared in Austria, Bavaria, Saxony, and Brandenburg. Duke George of Saxony on November 7, 1522, ordered that before Christmas all copies in circulation must be given up to the magistrate. The Theological Faculty of Leipzig, in a letter of January 23, 1523, endeavoured to enforce this decree against the reformer’s glossaries and prefaces, even if they were accurate. Jerome Emser, the Duke’s Court chaplain, in a pamphlet supported this attitude, assigning as his reasons the wrong rendering of some passages and the notes appended to others. At the same time he acknowledged the need the new book supplied when he recommended the bishops to commission learned men to prepare an exact translation.

Luther was determined to probe his beliefs by Scripture. Characteristically enough, his statue at Worms represents him as armed only with the Bible. It is easy to multiply quotations from his writings on this point; and it is only by a number of quotations that it is possible to understand how important the new translation was to his position. “Neither Church, nor Fathers, nor Apostles, nor Angels are to be listened to except so far as they teach the pure Word of God,” so he teaches in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, a book beloved by John Bunyan. “Any believer who has better grounds,” he affirms, “and authority from Scripture on his side is more to be believed than the Pope or a whole Council.” Indeed, “without Scripture faith soon goes.” “Whatever is advanced without being attested by Scripture or a revelation need not be believed.” “To this wine no water must be added”: “to this sun no lantern must be held up.” “You must take your stand on a plain, clear, strong word of Scripture which will then be your support.” Such opinions just as surely undermined the authority of the Church as his theory of the priesthood of the believer undermined its sacerdotalism. Wyclif’s chief bequest to posterity was his English Bible, and the most substantial of Luther’s legacies was his German Bible. It made his work immediately acceptable, and ensured its permanence. There are dangers in the individualistic position. “Formerly the people were not so much afraid. The reason is this. In popery we trusted in the merits of the monks and others, but now each one had to trust to and depend on himself.”

As Luther was clever enough to give his doctrines the shield of national feelings, he did not experience serious difficulty in attacking authority, the authority of Rome. The destructive work was comparatively easy. The question was, Could he construct? Could he attain a statesmanlike grasp of the situation? Plainly the Bible—or rather his interpretation of it—must be able to give him clearly defined dogma, a firmly built organization, which was obliged to rely on the support of the prince. In his task his followers discerned that if they had got rid of the Pope of Rome the Pope of Wittenberg was occupying the vacant position. The Bible possessed fresh authority, but the duty of explaining it lay with the new Pope. The Christian man possessed liberty—to the degree Luther allowed him. Faith was necessary, but it was faith as the new theologian expounded it.

Early in his career, in his examination at Augsburg, he gave the Bible the first rank among theological sources, adding that it was certainly being corrupted by the so-called decrees of the Church. In his appeal to the Council he reckons the Bible above the Pope, and he admits the authority of the Council side by side with that of the inspired record. At the Leipzig Disputation he ranks Holy Scripture above any Council, and declares that Œcumenical Councils have already erred in matters of faith. Shortly after this Disputation he and Carlstadt inform the Elector that “a layman with the Scripture on his side is more to be believed in than the Pope and Council without Scripture.” Luther maintains that the Bible may be interpreted by any one, even by the “humble miller’s maid, nay, by a child of nine if it has faith.” “The sheep must judge whether the pastors teach in Christ’s own tone.” He also held that whatever is not against Scripture is for Scripture. Unlike the Puritans and Ulrich Zwingli, and therefore like Richard Hooker, he did not condemn ceremonies to which the people were accustomed simply because they were not mentioned in the Bible. If they fostered piety, and if they were not condemned by the Word of God, they were profitable to the faithful. He was quite willing, for example, to tolerate the presence of the altar and the candles thereon, though he was utterly opposed to the Mass.

In 1522 Luther tells Henry VIII that “against all the sayings of the Fathers, against all the arts and words of the angels, men, and devils, I set the Scriptures and the Gospel.… Here I take my stand, and here I defy them.… The Word of God I count above all else, and the Divine Majesty supports me; hence I should not turn a hair were a thousand Augustines against me, and am certain that the true Church adheres with me to God’s Word.” “Here Harry of England must hold his tongue.” The King would now see how Luther “stood upon his rock,” and surveyed Henry VIII “twaddling” like “a silly fool.” “Each man must believe solely because it is the Word of God, and because he feels within him that it is true, even though an angel from heaven and all the world should preach against it.” The appeal to the people was made all the easier because Luther discarded all reference to the old literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical sense, and in his account of the offenders against the eighth commandment he classifies the foolish and inane dreamers who play with such senses. The words can have no other meaning except the simplest. Of course, this removed the necessity for all acquaintance with artificial rules of exegesis or with practice in mystical speculation. The individual, employing his faculties, might interpret the sacred record as his intelligence allowed him.

Troubles arose when others appealed to this tribunal and refused to accept his decision. In a sermon of 1528 he admits that there is no heretic who does not appeal to the Scriptures; hence it came about that people called the Bible a heresy-book. As Glapion put it, the Bible was a book like soft wax which every man could twist and stretch according to his own pleasure. Two days before his death, in 1546, Luther wrote in Latin: “No one can understand the Bucolics of Virgil who has not been a herdsman for five years; nor his Georgics unless he has laboured for five years in the fields. In order to understand aright the epistles of Cicero a man must have been full twenty years in the public service of a great state. No one need fancy he has tasted Holy Scriptures who has not ruled Churches for a hundred years with prophets like Elijah and Elisha, with John the Baptist, Christ, and the Apostles.” In 1546 many difficulties obscure in 1521 had received illumination, for Luther possessed a mind which grew with the course of the varying problems confronting it.

Luther condemns the authority of the Church just as much as Francis Bacon condemns the authority of the Schoolmen. The former stood between man and God while the latter stood between man and nature. The more closely man approaches God, the better for religion: the more closely man approaches nature, the better for science. The rôle of the prophet is the rôle of each. From the Pope the reformer turned to the Bible on which papal authority rested. From the folios of the Schoolmen the philosopher turned to the phenomena of the earth which the scholastic theory was supposed to record. Bacon was as willing as Luther to obey his maxim, “Da Fidei quæ Fidei sunt,” and he was more willing than Luther to obey the complementary maxim, “Da Scientiæ quæ Scientiæ sunt.” Neither could possibly accept the view that “Ita scriptum est” was final: what man had written man must bring to the test of fact. Their limitations were similar, for Luther neglected the classics as impartially as Bacon neglected mathematics. They were agreed in rejecting idola fori. Both believed that the receptive attitude to truth—the passive attitude, if you will—was the correct one. “Into the kingdom of man, which is based on science, as into the kingdom of Heaven, we can only enter sub persona infantis.” The mind to both men was to be a tabula rasa so far as preconceived notions or idols were concerned. Luther and Bacon manifested a singular freedom from the domain of appearance: reality was the one thing that mattered to them. Outwardly at least the will of man seems to be free, but when Luther penetrated inwardly he perceived that such freedom was a delusion. The point is not whether his view was right or wrong: the point is that he was seeking the reality behind phenomena. The surrender of the will to God implied to him the power to employ the will on behalf of God, just as the surrender of reason to the compelling power of phenomena was to Bacon in reality the discovery of reason. Neither thinker realized the implications of this surrender, and consequently was unable to set forth his conception in a way that appealed forcibly to the understanding. They felt its attraction intensely. They could communicate this intensity of feeling: they could not communicate its intellectual foundation. The outcome of their labour they naturally could not see: Moses is not the only leader to ascend Mount Pisgah. The growth of toleration is as much the work of the one as the growth of science is the work of the other. The reality of the ideas of the two men, their worth and their influence, are manifest to all. The “Souveraineté du but” is the test by which life stands or falls, and tried by that test Luther and Bacon stand erect.

The friend of Cranach and Dürer could not be void of feeling for the æsthetic side of life. There were iconoclastic excesses in the French and the English Reformations: there were none in the German, thanks to Luther. He loved nature, and, unlike Erasmus, wrote enthusiastically on the sweet song of the birds. The humanist, however, was as devoted to music as the reformer. In the beauty of the earth he perceived the same message God had written in the records He had given to the sons of men. The reading of the Bible and the preaching of the sermon drove home to the hearts of the people the new message: so too did the new hymns they sang. Luther realized as deeply as Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun that the ballads of a country were more important than its laws. The whole nation sang itself into Lutheran doctrine. According to Herder “Germany was reformed by songs.” Hans Sachs saluted Luther as the nightingale of Wittenberg. The reformer well knew the power of such fine old hymns as “He who broke the might of Hell,” and “Jesus Christ to-day is risen.” He resolved that his genius should take a new flight, and he composed thirty-seven hymns. Next to theology, he valued the appreciation of music and song as the very gift of God. Among his best efforts are, “Ah God, look down from heaven and see,” “Out of the depths I cry to Thee,” “From highest heaven on joyous wing,” “Dear is to me the Holy Maid” (i.e. the Church), and, above all, “A sure stronghold our God is He.” The last was as fortunate in its melody as in its words. The straying student and the wandering pedlar carried these hymns over the length and breadth of Germany. They were sung by the children at school, by the peasant at the plough, by the weaver at the loom, and they were the last words breathed by the dying man.

Three of Luther’s best-known hymns are taken from the Psalms, above all the forty-sixth, which is imperishably associated with his name. The forty-sixth was the Psalm with which Vincent of Lerins solaced himself in his old age. It was the Psalm that renewed the courage of Demetrius the Don when he defeated the Tartar hordes in 1380. It was the Psalm Luther sang when he felt the strength of the forces arrayed against him, notably during the preparations for the Diet of Augsburg, when he composed his memorable version, Ein’ feste Burg ist unset Gott. It was the Psalm Gustavus Adolphus asked his army to sing on the eve of the Battle of Leipzig, 1631. It was the Psalm Cromwell expounded to the members of his second Parliament when he realized some of the difficulties in the way of accomplishing God’s will on earth. It was the Psalm the Parliament sang at the thanksgiving service in Greyfriars Church when their army triumphed on the field of Naseby, and it was the Psalm chosen as her epitaph by that staunch cavalier, Blanche Lady Arundel. It was the favourite Psalm of the Huguenot of France and the Covenanter of Scotland. It was the Psalm which expressed the feelings of the Protestants of Linz when they were sent into exile to Transylvania before Joseph II signed the Edict of Toleration, 1781. It was the Psalm to which Havelock turned when he understood his danger in 1842. It was the Psalm sung by the revolutionists of Paris and Berlin in 1848.

The forty-sixth Psalm is what Heine called it, the “Marseillaise Hymn of the Reformation”: nevertheless, it differs as profoundly from the “Marseillaise” as the German Reformation from the French. As Hausrath put it, “the trumpets of Gustavus Adolphus and the cannon of Lützen are audible in it.” It reminds us of Torstenson and Coligny, of Cromwell and William of Orange. Frederick the Great characteristically christened it “God Almighty’s Grenadier March.” Here is Carlyle’s noble rendering:

A safe stronghold our God is still,

A trusty shield and weapon;

He’ll help us clear from all the ill

That hath us now o’ertaken.

The ancient Prince of Hell

Hath risen with purpose fell;

Strong mail of craft and power

He weareth in this hour;

On earth is not his fellow.

With force of arms we nothing can,

Full soon were we down-ridden.

But for us fights the proper Man

Whom God Himself hath bidden.

Ask ye, Who is this same?

Christ Jesus is His name,

The Lord Sabaoth’s Son,

He and no other one

Shall conquer in the battle.

And were this world all devils o’er

And watching to devour us,

We lay it not to heart so sore;

Not they can overpower us.

And let the Prince of Ill

Look grim as e’er he will,

He harms us not a whit,

For why? His doom is writ;

A word shall quickly slay him.

God’s Word, for all their craft and force,

One moment shall not linger,

But, spite of Hell, shall have its course,

’Tis written by His finger.

And though they take our life,

Goods, honour, children, wife,

Yet is their profit small;

These things shall vanish all,

The City of God remaineth.

Luther’s hymns consoled men in life; they inspired them at the moment of death. In memory of the two martyrs at Brussels in 1523 he composed his triumphal song, Ein neues Lied wir heben an; its tenth verse laid hold on men:

Their ashes will not rest and lie

But scattered far and near,

Stream, dungeon, bolt, and grave defy,

Their foeman’s shame and fear.

Those whom alive the tyrant’s wrongs

To silence could subdue,

He must, when dead, let sing the songs

And in all languages and tongues

Resound the wide world through.

Charles V possessed resolution and force of character, and with these gifts he combined permanence and persistence in his policy: all these qualities had been denied to his showy rival, Francis I. The eldest child of Philip of Burgundy and Jeanne of Spain, the longer the Emperor lived the more the blood of his mother asserted itself. The Venetian ambassador, Marino Cavalli, points out that the Emperor was pleasing to the Flemings and Burgundians by his goodwill and familiarity, to the Italians by his sagacity and discretion, to the Spaniards by the splendour of his glory and by his severity. The Germans he understood as little as the Stuarts understood the English. His early motto was Nondum, and in spite of the fact that he exchanged it for Plus ultra, it was the motto that justly characterizes his policy towards the Lutherans. The troubles with Suleiman I or with Francis I, with Leo X or with Clement VII, rendered the proper time for solving his religious difficulties “not yet.”

Charles V was at his best in middle life, Francis I in early life. Resources, abilities, and statesmanship had been bestowed upon both sovereigns. Francis dissipated his resources, wasted his abilities, and his statesmanship degenerated into cunning, whereas Charles made some effort to develop his resources, to improve his abilities, and to broaden his statesmanship. Both were persecutors, but here Charles was sincere. The latter persecuted men in the Netherlands and in Spain. In Germany he was tolerant because it suited his policy. He employed neither the rack nor the screw simply because he dare not. His position was insecure, and he had no mind to make it untenable. Moreover, a policy of toleration was certain to divide the princes who adhered to the Lutheran faith. Divide et impera was another of his mottoes. Like Francis, he proved no friend to constitutional liberty. He weakened the Diet in Germany and he ruined the Cortes in Spain. “Heresy is encouraging ideas of liberty,” he wrote to his daughter a few months before his death. How could he allow political freedom when he was resolved to put down religious? For the presence of the freedom to serve God as conscience directs carries with it freedom to serve the State.

Ardent and ambitious, Francis I lived to enjoy the pleasures of kingship: he shrank from its pains and perils. The constitutional life of France he crushed: in his reign of thirty-two years the States-General never met. Henry VIII was a despot under the form of law, whereas Francis I was a despot without the form of law. His mother and his sister adored him, and their adoration, especially his mother’s, allowed his weaker qualities to unfold themselves. Restless in body, he was as restless in mind as Leo X. His-brilliant bearing in tournament and his increasing belief in himself were qualities which imposed upon his world. Bayard regarded him as “a fair prince, if ever there was one in the world,” yet the canvas of Paul Veronese reveals him as the sensualist he really was. Chivalrous he seemed to be, but in his attitude to women his coarseness was at least as evident as his courtesy.

Military glory, the lust of conquest—these attracted the King as the magnet attracts the iron-filings. His reign, however, has only two victories to show, Marignano at its opening and Cerisoles at its close. His foreign policy was inevitably expensive. When its bills had to be paid retrenchment was the order of the day except the King’s menus plaisirs; these remained uncurtailed. His predecessors had subordinated everything to the welfare of France: he subordinated everything to the welfare of himself. By the Treaty of Madrid he sacrificed France, and by the Treaty of Cambrai he sacrificed Italy. Italy took her revenge. She lured the King from his true policy in the north to his false policy in the south. Francis grasped at the shadow and lost the substance.

It was the fashion for the prince to patronize learning, and accordingly the King was such a patron. The Renaissance in the north was taking a Christian form, but this aspect made little appeal to the most Christian King. The greatness of truth, its growth and its deepening apprehension—these were matters outside him. In a natural sense the love of beauty is the love of truth; in an unnatural sense it is possible to separate them, and in this sense Francis loved beauty, external form.

The French King might have been the William III to his Louis XIV, the Holy Roman Emperor: instead of occupying this proud position he was merely a sham Edward III of England, an ignoble Henry IV of France. Charles was a statesman: Francis was an intriguer like Elizabeth, but an intriguer devoid of her insight into the problems of the present and her foresight into the problems of the future. The Emperor possessed some grasp of the complex relations which the age of the Reformation ushered in, whereas the King possessed none save the most superficial. To the latter the reformers were simply pawns in the game which he was playing against his rival Francis, though he never knew it, was the champion of liberty against the overgrown power of Charles: he was the friend of freedom and of reform. All unconscious of his high destiny, he served the cause of toleration. Such is the irony of history. On the other hand, though he was the ally of humanism and the enemy of scholasticism, yet he championed the latter at the expense of the former. He favoured the expression of reformed theology abroad and its suppression at home. Luther naturally felt confidence in his mission when such a powerful ally lent him support, however fitful.

Leo X witnessed this confidence of the reformer in his Divine mission with as much dismay as his easy-going nature permitted. He had excommunicated the heretic in 1520. Now he pressed Charles V, whose candidature for the Imperial throne he had supported, to carry the Bull of excommunication into practical effect. He reminded the Emperor that he would be bearing the sword in vain if he proved less willing to use it against heretics than against infidels, for heretics were worse than infidels. Luther had, however, been condemned unheard. Erasmus and the Elector of Saxony advised the bringing of the case before the arbitrament of learned men. Charles V refused to sign the edict for giving effect to the Bull until he heard the defence the innovator might offer. Accordingly he summoned the Diet to meet at Worms in January 1521. The Emperor was born with a mind holding firmly a binding connexion with the past. With Louis XIV he knew that “l’hérétique est celui qui a une opinion,” and that “l’hérésie est … fatale à la royauté et à toute autorité légitime.” Though he was a Fleming by birth, all his being became Spanish, and he was not influenced by German feeling, by German interest or by German princes. Luther, on the other hand, was nothing if he was not a German to the core, and the strength of his position lay in the fact that he had behind him not only many German rulers, but also the heart of the German people.

An Indian Civil Servant must regulate his watch simultaneously by the longitudes of Delhi and London. The Emperor had a far more difficult task, for he had to regulate his watch simultaneously by the longitudes of Augsburg and Rotterdam, of Rome and Madrid. Not a little of the success of the Lutheran movement was due to this difference in longitude.

The following itinerary of the Emperor illustrates the difficulties occasioned by his many and conflicting interests:

1519.              Saragossa, Barcelona.

1520.              Barcelona, Dover, Canterbury, Brussels, Bruges, Louvain, Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne.

1521.              Worms, Aix-la-Chapelle, Aerschot, Brussels, Mons, Oudenarde.

1522.              Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Dunkirk, Rochester, Greenwich, London, Windsor, Winchester, Toledo, Tordesillas, Valladolid.

1523.              Valladolid, Burgos, Pampeluna.

1524.              Pampeluna, Valladolid, Madrid.

1525.              Madrid, Toledo, Aranjuez.

1526.              Toledo, Seville, Granada.

1527.              Valladolid, Burgos.

1528.              Madrid, Toledo.

1529.              Toledo, Barcelona, Boulogne.

1530.              Bologna, Innsbruck, Roveredo, Innsbruck, Munich, Augsburg, Mayence, Bonn, Spires, Cologne.

1531.              Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle, Brussels, Louvain, Ghent.

1532.              Brussels, Louvain, Cologne, Stuttgart, Ratisbon, Straubingen, Osterhoven, Passau.

1533.              Bologna, Marseilles, Barcelona.

1534.              Madrid, Toledo.

1535.              Alcala, Saragossa, Majorca, Minorca, Sicily, Naples.

1536.              Naples, Rome, Siena, Asti.

1537.              Valladolid.

1538.              Barcelona, Esterlik, Villa Franca, Nice, Genoa.

1539.              Toledo, Madrid, Bayonne, Bordeaux.

1540.              Madrid, Ghent, Antwerp, Louvain, Amsterdam.

1541.              Luxemburg, Metz, Worms, Spires, Ratisbon, Straubingen, Munich, Botzen, Lucca, Genoa.

1542.              Madrid, Valladolid.

1543.              Madrid, Marseilles, Genoa, Cremona, Roveredo, Spires, Bonn, Worms, Mons.

1544.              Liége, Aix-la-Chapelle, Worms, Nassau, St. Quentin, Mons, Brussels.

1545.              Diest, Worms, Cologne, Bonn.

1546.              Utrecht, Luxemburg, Bonn, Spires, Ratisbon, Neuburg, Heilbronn.

That is, Charles was in Germany from October 1520 to June 1521; from June 1530 to January 1531; from January to October 1532; from January to August 1541; from July 18 to August 5, 1543; from January to July 1544; from May to August 1545, and from March to December 1546.

This itinerary convinces one how much the Reformation owed to circumstance, above all the circumstance that the Emperor was so Spanish at heart. It would be a hopeless task to convince a Spaniard that his country is in the debt of Martin Luther for the independence of her crown, that he preserved her from being an appendage of the Empire: nevertheless, it is a fact. Charles practically left the Netherlands a nation.

The Emperor was hampered in his career by his devotion to Spain, by the Lutheran rising, by the contest with France, and by the contest with Turkey. These movements obliged him to scatter his forces when he ought to have concentrated them on the religious revolt. They forced him to temporize with Luther until it was too late for effective action. It is hard to speak in moderate terms of the results of the invasion of Central Europe by the vast armies of Suleiman the Magnificent. It was no empty boast of the Ottoman Sultan that he was master of many kingdoms, the ruler of three continents, and the lord of two seas. In the sixteenth century it is no exaggeration to speak of the Mediterranean as a Turkish lake. The Mohammedan proved a most staunch ally of Luther: the alliance was not a formal one though of its reality there can be no doubt. The survival of Lutheranism was in a measure due to the Turk.

Of all the enemies of Charles V, the most bitter was Francis I of France. He proved a continual obstacle in the path of the Emperor. The victory of Marignano, 1515, made the French king arbiter of Europe. While he was celebrating it his rival was consolidating his forces. The crowns of Castile and Aragon, of Burgundy and Austria, and the Imperial sceptre rested on the head of Charles. Francis was clamped in a vice, as it were, by Charles. On the north there were the Low Countries, on the south there was Spain, and on the east there were Germany and Franche-Comté. What more natural than that he should seek an outlet through the plains of Lombardy? Milan surely was his possession by every right of nature. The campaigns of Bonnivet, of Lautrec, and of the King himself, resulted in the crushing defeat at Pavia, 1525. From that fatal day to the end of his reign in 1547 Francis is planning and plotting alliances in order to recover his position and his prestige. He is the ally of the Protestants of Germany and the Catholics of Italy, he is the confederate of the Pope and of the Sultan, and he is obliged to extend a friendly hand to the schismatic king of England, Henry VIII. Catholics, Protestants, and Mohammedans are all the same to him—if they will but aid him in his attack on the Holy Roman Emperor. The Most Christian King is eager to secure an alliance with the believer in the Koran. Obviously, there is no common bond between these diverse allies. The one point always standing out in the policy of Francis is his unalterable decision to secure the succession of the Visconti: Milan is his great aim throughout. In the rivalry between Francis and Charles the prize of the contest is, not the Imperial crown, which fell to the King of Spain before the outbreak of the crisis, but the fertile plains of Lombardy. To conquer the Milanese in 1515 at the battle of Marignano, to lose it in 1522 at Bicocque, to try to retake it in 1525 at the battle of Pavia, to lose it once more—this is the history of the first part of the reign of Francis. From the origins of the Reformation to the Revolution—except during the Seven Years’ War—the policy of France, in spite of its attachment to Catholicism, consists in sustaining the Protestant princes of Germany against the Emperor. It is at the bottom of the rivalry between France and Austria. Francis I commenced it by encouraging the League of Schmalkald: Henry II followed his example.

Such were the complications Charles had to face when the Pope besought him, January 18, 1521, to publish the Bull of excommunication throughout Germany. Let the Emperor, it pointed out, remember the example of the earlier Emperors, who had constantly fought against heresy. Let him bear in mind how God had blessed him, young as he was, and had entrusted to him the sword of the greatest power in the world. He wore it in vain if he did not employ it against infidels and heretics. Letters written in this strain were sent to the Imperial confessor, Glapion, and to certain princes. In State papers of February 1 and 6, 1521, directed to Aleander by Cardinal Medici, Aleander was ordered to point out clearly to Charles that the new movement concerned the State at least as much as the Church, for the innovators were as intent upon the overthrow of secular authority as of ecclesiastical. No doubt the Pope had personal interests in the matter, but so too had the Emperor, and indeed every prince in his dominions. The very day on which Charles V signed the summoning of Luther to the Diet of Worms Magellan saw the land of India, thus completing the work of Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus.

The Diet met at Worms, January 1521. At the Council of Constance, 1416, Poggio watched with the utmost detachment Jerome of Prague recant his recantation. He contemplated Jerome as a man who is displaying heroic fortitude, and thus describes him to Leonardo Bruni: “There he stood undismayed, unfaltering, not merely indifferent to death, but ready to welcome it—another Cato.” Once more the same spectacle was witnessed, for the courage of Martin Luther was closely akin to that of Jerome of Prague. According to his friend Myconius, when warned that he would be burnt to ashes by the cardinals and bishops at Worms, and reminded of the fate of Hus at Constance, he replied, “Even if they kindled a fire as high as heaven from Wittenberg to Worms, I would appear in the name of the Lord, in obedience to the imperial summons, and would walk into Behemoth’s mouth, between his great teeth, and confess Christ.” To his friend and biographer, Ratzeberger, who uttered a similar prophecy, he retorted, “Nettles wouldn’t be so bad, one could stand them, but to be burned with fire, yes, that would be too hot.” In Frankfort he wrote to Spalatin, who was at Worms with the Elector, in another mood: “We are coming, my Spalatin, although Satan has tried to stop me with more than one sickness. The whole way from Eisenach here I have been miserable and am still in a way not before experienced. Charles’s mandate I know has been published to frighten me. But Christ lives and we will enter Worms in spite of all the gates of hell and powers of the air.” The Waldenses had perished: the Albigenses had also perished. Wyclif had spoken in vain. Hus had died in vain. Were the prospects of success greater in 1521? When the peasant’s son stood for the first and last time in the presence of the successor of Cæsar the future of toleration was at stake. Evolution had failed to provide a remedy, and Luther was convinced that revolution must be tried. In one sense, he stood alone as he faced the members of the Diet. In another sense, he did nothing of the kind, for had he been simply a poor monk neither Emperor nor Diet would have wasted as much time over him as the Council of Constance wasted over Jerome of Prague and John Hus. Behind him stood influential counsellors, and they were every whit as much on their trial as the prophet himself. According to Aleander, nine-tenths of the people were adherents of Luther, while the remainder held the Roman court in deadly hatred. He stoutly defended the teaching of his books and steadfastly refused to recant. Johann Eck, Official of Treves, demanded a plain reply: “Luther, you have not answered to the point. You ought not to call in question what has been decided and condemned by Councils. Therefore I beg of you to give a simple unsophisticated answer without horns. Will you recant or not?” Clear was the reply, constituting both an attack on authority and a defence of reason: “Since your Majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or right reason—for I trust neither in popes nor councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves—unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.” The Spaniards in the audience groaned and hissed this reply, the Germans greeted it with applause. “Here I stand,” he resolutely maintained, “(I cannot do otherwise). God help me. Amen.” He had borne noble testimony at the Diet of Worms, and his testimony constitutes a landmark in the revolt against authority on April 18, 1521. One hundred and eleven years later a scientist was required to witness on behalf of the truth. The sayings “Hier steh’ ich (Ich kann nicht anders). Gott helfe mir. Amen,” and “E pur si muove” measure the distance between Luther and Galileo. On reaching his lodgings Luther gleefully exclaimed, “I am through! I am through!” Progress seldom took a longer step forward than that wonderful April day. Luther vindicated the liberty of a Christian man and he vindicated the freedom of his conscience.

His answer was enough for Charles V. How could authority be preserved if the people believed that the Pope and the Councils made mistakes? The Emperor said that the effects of such doctrine were treasonable. Luther left Worms April 26, 1521, and in May Aleander persuaded the Emperor to sign the document which placed the excommunicated man under the ban of the Empire, that is, made him an outlaw, with the command that all his writings be destroyed. The edict declared that he disseminated evil fruits: that he violated the number, rite, and use of the sacraments; and that he uttered shameful calumnies against the Pope, despised the priesthood, and incited the laity to wash their hands in the blood of the priests. He taught that man had no free will, and encouraged a life without law, as he had proved by destroying all its hallowed safeguards, and burned the books of canon law. He threw contempt on all Councils, especially that of Constance, which had restored peace and unity to the German nation.

Not only was Luther threatened with destruction, but so were all his sympathizers. In effect, the Emperor proclaimed a new Albigensian war. His proclamation was little better than waste paper. His victory was Pyrrhic. The breakdown of the ecclesiastical machinery of coercion in Luther’s cause, resulting from his protest by the Elector of Saxony, facilitated the free expression of thought. Instinctively the reformer felt this when he burnt not only the Bull but the books containing the canon law. Men spoke of the Holy Roman Empire, though even in 1520 Voltaire’s gibe was justified, for it was neither an empire, nor Roman, nor holy. At best it was German. The power of the Emperor was in practice no more than that of one who was the first of the electoral princes, though in theory he was the supreme ruler of Europe. The real authority rested with the princes. Luther was neither a statesman nor a theologian of such commanding gifts as to succeed where Hus had failed, had it not been for the impotence of the Holy Roman Empire. The times were ripe and the hands of the central authorities were tied. There were standing armies, but they belonged to the princes. There were taxes, but they were levied by the princes. The Empire had as little power as that assigned by Luther to the Church in 1523.

The princes were potent, and the misfortune of the Reformation is that they were oligarchs. Divide et impera was the motto of Germany. At the beginning of the sixteenth century there were no less than 300 principalities and communities within the borders of the Empire. The task of Luther was not the task of Wyclif, facing a king with a strong executive. No doubt the reformer was a man of genius. Some men are happy in the opportunities of their death: he was, however, decidedly fortunate in the opportunity of his birth, of his appearance on the scene of reform. Had Germany been a Bundesstaat, a Federal State, not a Staatenbund, a Confederation of States, no such chance would have been vouchsafed to him. He would have accomplished much, but he would not have cut his name so deeply on the history of Germany. He was a great man and he had a great opportunity; and the combination of a personality with a relentlessly growing tendency was irresistible. Had the Emperor remained at peace with the other kings and the Pope, Luther would have been in great danger. Fortunately for him, the Emperor was at war with France, with the Turks, or with the Pope. Francis I, Suleiman I, and Leo X himself, thus proved the warmest friends of the Reformation movement.

In spite of his complaints and those of Duke George of Saxony, the Emperor gave his commands, but the Reichsregiment did not carry them out. In Nürnberg, for example, Lutheran doctrines were preached and Lutheran books printed and sold. The Imperial Vicegerent, the Count Palatine Frederick, explained to the Duke how impossible it was to take action. The Chancellor under the Vicegerent and assessor at the Reichstag, Johann von Fuchstein, assured Franz von Sickingen, a Lutheran knightly sympathizer, who was then plotting against the imperial constitution, that the Council of Regency was not unfriendly to him. The Elector Frederick of Saxony extended to Luther his practical though not his theoretical adherence. Frederick’s minister, Hans von Planitz, informed the Council that his master proposed to countenance Luther’s residence at Wittenberg.

The Elector of Saxony summoned two of his councillors and Spalatin, and they conveyed Luther to the castle on the Wartburg, where he remained hidden. The party of the prophet had been ecclesiastical: the ban made it national. Leo X, just as much as Charles V, had henceforth to reckon with the German nation. To the people he was another Moses, another Paul. He was a greater father of the Church than St. Austin, so one of his followers declared in the market-place before an assembled multitude. At once there were on sale pictures of the hero with the nimbus of the saint round his head, or the Holy Ghost hovering over him in the shape of a dove. In some Hutten was put near him, and both were represented as champions of Christian freedom. On June 15, 1520, Luther had been excommunicated. On May 26, 1521—though the deed was officially dated May 8—he was put under the ban of the Empire. The defection of Leo X, May 21, had irritated the French court. The election of Adrian VI had alarmed national sentiment. As a man he was admired. He was honest in intention, pure in manners, and zealous in reformation. As a Pope he was German.

Raphael died on April 6, 1520, and Leo X on December 1, 1521. The Pope had at once been the patron of the artist and the persecutor of the prophet. The sun of Raphael set gloriously in death: the sun of Luther seemed to set just as ingloriously in disgrace. Yet the fame of the painter has decreased while that of the prophet has increased. Both painted the papacy though with widely different colours. With outward difference there was inward agreement. The one stood as much for the individual in art as the other stood for the individual in religion. The one painted the beauty of body and mind and the freedom of every true artist. The other painted the beauty of holiness of each human soul. Among the fathers and teachers of the Church Raphael does not forget to represent Dante and Savonarola. On the spectator, however, the effect of Raphael’s frescoes in the Stanze, of his pictures in the Vatican, of Michael Angelo’s ceiling in the Sistine chapel and of Bramante’s St. Peter, is to visualize the greatness of the Church in general and of the papacy in particular.

From May 4, 1521, to March 1, 1522, Luther remained at the Wartburg. There is little of his love of nature in the letters he wrote in solitude. He confides in Melanchthon, asking the question, “Who knows, in the counsels of silence, what work God is planning on these heights?” He who is to receive a message from God, must be alone with the Alone. It was so with St. Paul, who after the experience on the road to Damascus spent over a year in the solitudes near Mount Sinai, a spot hallowed by the retirement to it of Moses and Elijah. It is noteworthy that the profoundest book St. Paul wrote, the Epistle to the Ephesians, and the greatest book of uninspired religious genius, the Pilgrim’s Progress, were written in jails. Mohammed meditated his message on the mount above Mecca, Dante pondered his poem in the sylvan solitudes of Fonte Avellena, and Cervantes wrote the saddest book in the world in the seclusion of a prison. All men who have a message to their fellows come to realize the justice of the remark Dr. Copleston addressed to Newman, once meeting him taking his lonely walk, “Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.” As Luther was about to leave the Wartburg in 1522 he assured his Elector that he “had received the Gospel not from man, but from heaven alone, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That very year in his Wyder den falsch genantten geystlichen Standt he declared his word, office, and work to be from God. He was quite certain that Christ, who was the master of his doctrine, called him to be an evangelist and regarded him as such. Under pain of eternal wrath he was forced to preach the message which God had given him in a vision. In 1523 he was certain that he had his doctrines from heaven.

In the Wartburg his pen was not idle. He composed the booklet Von der Beicht ob der Bapst Macht habe zu gepieten, 1521, in which he thrusts aside the compulsory duty of confession. Man “is at liberty to make use of confession if, as, and where he chooses. If he does not wish you may not compel him, for no one has a right to or ought to force any man against his will. Nevertheless, absolution is a great gift from God. In the same way no man can or ought to be forced to believe, but every one should be instructed in the gospel and admonished to believe, though he is left free to obey or not to obey. All the sacraments should be left optional to every one. Whoever does not wish to be baptized, let him be. Whoever does not wish to receive the sacrament has a right not to receive. Therefore, whoever does not wish to confess is free before God not to do so.” It is evident that he objects to constraint in the case of any of the sacraments. This dread of force is also clear in his letter to Haupold: “I will have no forcing and compelling. Faith and baptism I commend. No one, however, may be forced to accept it, but only admonished and then left free to choose.”

Outside the walls of Wartburg Castle the tone was quite different. Wittenberg professors, like Carlstadt, Amsdorf and Jonas, had supported the Augustinians in changes they made in public worship. Melanchthon admonished the Elector on his duty as a Christian prince, telling him to “make haste to abrogate the abuse of the Mass” in his country and principality, “in order that your Electoral Highness may not, like Capernaum, be reproached by Christ at the last day on account of the great grace and mercy which, without any work of ours, has been shown in your Electoral Highness’s lands, the holy evangel being revealed, manifested, and brought to light, and yet all to no purpose.” In this admonition Melanchthon assumed the frightful principle that the “salvation of his soul required a Christian prince” to prohibit Catholic worship.

When Luther left the castle he wrote to Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, not feeling sure how far his protection would extend. “In the sight of men it behoves your Electoral Highness to act as follows: As Elector to render obedience to the power established and allow his Imperial Majesty to dispose of life and property in the towns and lands subject to your Electoral Highness, as is right and in accordance with the laws of the Empire; nor to oppose or resist, or seek to place any obstacle or hindrance in the way of the aforesaid power should it wish to lay hands on me to kill me.… If your Electoral Highness were a believer, you would see in this the glory of God, but since you are not a believer you have seen nothing so far.” Two days later he informs Frederick, his Elector, that the princes who were hostile to the movement did not realize that they were “forcing the people to rebel, and behaving as though they wished themselves or their children to be exterminated. This without a doubt God will send as a punishment.” He declared he had no wish to interfere, yet through the useful Spalatin he requested Frederick to have the Mass prohibited as idolatrous.

On Sunday, March 7, 1522, in Wittenberg, Martin Luther began a course of eight sermons which he finished the following Sunday. Eight sermons he preached in eight days, and the people crowded to hear the message of the reformer. These sermons all breathed the spirit of that delightful book, The Freedom of a Christian Man. What he wrote so eloquently in 1520 he spoke no less eloquently in 1522. Truth was to be the master-motive of men, but truth was to be spoken in love. With Christian freedom must be combined Christian caritas. There was to be charity towards the weak, for faith was worthless without charity. No man, he plainly laid down, has the right to compel his brother in matters that are left free, and among these are marriage, the monastic life, private confession, fasting, images in churches, and the like. The Word of God and moral suasion must be allowed to carry out their appointed work. Was it not clear that St. Paul preached against the idols of Athens without knocking down one of them, nevertheless they fell in consequence of his powerful preaching? “Summa summarum,” Luther boldly proclaimed, “I will preach, but I will force no one; for faith must be voluntary. Take me as an example. I stood up against the Pope, indulgences, and all papists, but without violence or uproar. I only urged, preached, and declared God’s Word, nothing else. And yet while I was slumbering or drinking Wittenberg beer with my Philip Melanchthon and Amsdorf, the Word inflicted more serious damage on popery than prince or emperor. I did nothing, the Word did everything. Had I appealed to force, all Germany might have been deluged with blood; yea, I might have kindled a conflict at Worms, so that the Emperor would not have been secure. But what would have been the outcome? Ruin and desolation of body and soul. I therefore kept quiet, and gave the Word free course throughout the world. Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men employ violence to propagate the gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin, ‘Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.’ But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battlefield, then he shudders and shakes for fear. The Word is almighty, and takes captive all hearts.’ ” It was in keeping with the letter Luther had written to Spalatin, January 16, 1521: “You perceive what Hutten aims at. I would not have the Gospel defended by violence and murder. In this sense I wrote to him. By the Word the world was conquered; by the Word the Church was preserved; by the Word she will be restored. Antichrist, as he began without violence, will be crushed without violence by the Word.” The following year disaster overtook Sickingen, an ally of Hutten’s, confirming Luther in his belief in the uselessness of force.

Erasmus always distinguished between Luther and the extremists of his party, and on September 3, 1522, he pointed out to Duke George of Saxony the importance of this distinction. This very year Luther could apply the conception of the liberty of a Christian man to the interpretation of the Bible. Formerly, he concedes, they were supposed to have no power to decide, but by the gospel which he preached, “all the Councils have been overthrown and set aside.” No one on earth has any right to decide what is to be believed. “If I have the right to decide what is false doctrine, then I must have the right to judge.” Pope and Council may decree what they please, “but I have my own right to judge, and I may accept it or not as I please.” At the hour of death, he continues, each one must see for himself how he stands: “You must be sharp enough to decide for yourself that this is right and that wrong, otherwise it is impossible for you to hold your own.” “Your head is in danger, your life is at stake; God must speak within your breast and say, ‘This is God’s Word,’ otherwise all is uncertain. Thus must you be convinced within yourself, independent of all men.”

Luther employed “every artifice to prove that it was the right of each individual Christian to judge of the preaching of the Gospel and of the avoiding of false prophets.” According to him the authority of the Church is intended merely to foster piety, and a spiritual governing power would result in compulsion and simply make the people impious. In this stage of his career he was so full of the idea of the congregation that in order to support it he appeals to natural law. In order to save souls every congregation, government or individual, has by nature the right to make every effort to drive away the wolves, that is, the clergy of the Antichrist. No apathy can be permitted where it is a question of eternal salvation. The alleged rights and the inherited possession of the foe on which they base their corruptive influence must not be spared. He protests that “their authority is at an end, abrogated by God Himself, if it be in conflict with the Gospel.” The holy brotherhood of the Spirit, proclaims this mystic, was to arise, knowing no constraint but charity only, with a ministry but with no official power. “The freedom of the Spirit, which must reign, makes all things which are merely corporal and earthly indifferent and not necessary.” “All things are indifferent and free.” “Paul demands the preservation of unity, but this is unity of the spirit, not of place, of persons, of things or bodies.” Yet “not only the spirit but also the secular power must yield to the evangel, whether cheerfully or otherwise, as all the accounts contained in the Bible abundantly show.” As place did not matter, the way is open for the conception of the Invisible Church. In his Large Catechism he assumes that the communion of saints means the Holy Christian Church.

The law of nature occupies an important though subordinate place in the theology of Luther. At one time he gives it the Roman meaning of “natural equity,” and the kindred one that it is the ordinance “which also heathen, Turks and Jews must keep.” The imperial jurisconsults found in it the origin of international law, and Luther found in it the source of all written law. He develops its importance when he sees it as a law of reason which “issuing from free reason overleaps all books,” and is in truth the Christian law of love which also the Lord declares in Luke 6:31 and Matthew 7:12, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” It is easy to make the deduction that there is in existence apart from the sacred record a natural law which binds the conscience of all, and it is no less easy to see that one day such a law depends solely for its efficacy on the inward monitor. Kant can wonder at the moral law within, but utterances like the preceding paved the way for its existence. The teaching of Romans 2:15 influenced Luther to some extent. Melanchthon knew how Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle valued this idea.

The conception of natural law influenced the fertile mind of Lorenzo Valla. In his three Ciceronian dialogues on Lust, written in 1431, he compares the claims of Epicurean, Stoic, and Christian morality on mankind. Though Christian morality wins, it is obvious that Valla entertains a lively admiration for the Epicurean school. The claims of nature are urged, for are they not good and laudable? Wine is the father of all pleasures, a sentiment which Valla cannot reconcile with Christianity. Celibacy is a crime, for nature is against it, and Platonic influence is evident in the author’s defence of the community of wives.

Natural law was to impress the eighteenth century marvellously: we are apt to forget how much it changed the sixteenth. John Knox, George Buchanan, Richard Hooker, Hubert Languet, Francois Hotman, Juan Mariana, Lambert Daneau and Johannes Althusius were all believers in natural law. The Old Testament justified resistance to tyranny, and when this justification was combined with the natural law doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, democracy was beginning to find a basis for its position. Hooker, like Aquinas, can discern the origin of the State in a social contract made under the regime of the law of nature. A king, he asserts, who does not base his decrees upon the general consent is a tyrant.1

The destinies of theories are strange. In the sixteenth century the conception of natural right is a friend of freedom, and in the seventeenth century a friend to absolutism. In his De Jure belli et pacis Grotius analyses with penetrating power the new conception; Hobbes employs it to defend the Stuart policy; Milton and Roger Williams to set forth the advantages of toleration. The law of nature succeeded in preserving that toleration which was at last the fruits of the Revolution of 1688, and this forms one of its most notable services. It has an after-history, apart from Rousseau, in the eighteenth century, for the Deists in England and the supporters of the Aufklärung in Germany developed the conception.

The inhabitants of Eilenburg, Altenburg, Schwarzburg, and Wittenberg soon ascertained how far the law of nature applied to them. At Eilenburg those in favour of the innovations were of opinion that if the Elector Frederick invited them to apply for a preacher they would do so. Luther accordingly wrote to the Court Chaplain, Spalatin, asking him to employ his influence with the Elector in the usual way. He was to obtain from the latter a letter addressed to the town councillors begging them to “yield to the poor people in this so vital and sacred a matter,” and to summon one of two preachers whom he at once proposed. His reason is “the duty of the sovereign, as ruler and brother Christian, to drive away the wolves and to be anxious for the welfare of his people.” In 1522 the canons of Altenburg resisted the appointment of a Lutheran preacher in that town, but neither their chartered rights nor the influence of the civil power availed anything against the masterful reformer. “Against this (i.e. the introduction of his message) no seals, briefs, customs or right are valid,” he maintains. It was the plain duty of Frederick “as a Christian ruler to encounter the wolves.” In his extreme desire to gain his own way he informed his Elector that “God Himself has abrogated all authority and power where it is opposed to the evangel. We must obey God rather than man.” In Schwarzburg, Count John Henry sympathized with the reformers. The monks in his domain held their livings on the condition that they should “above all things preach the gospel.” He applied to Luther for a solution of his difficulty, and was advised to summon them before him in the presence of witnesses and to prove from their replies that they had not preached the true Gospel. Then he would possess “the right and power, indeed it would be his duty, to take the livings away from them … for it is not unjust but an urgent duty to drive away the wolf from the sheepfold.… No preacher receives property and possessions for doing harm, but in order that he may make men pious. If, therefore, he does not make them pious, the goods are no longer his.” The application of this far-reaching principle threw Saxony into the hands of the reforming party.

In 1523 the canons of the collegiate church of Wittenberg continued to celebrate Mass, and Luther protested. They appealed to the authority of the Elector, and the reformer argued in one of his sermons, preached on August 2, 1523, that the Elector commanded only in worldly matters. Simultaneously he sustained the position that the authorities must punish such public blasphemy as the Mass. The Elector and his Councillors quickly detected the flaw in his argument. They remarked in their letter of November 24, 1524, that “he himself taught that the Word should be left to maintain itself, and that this it would do in its own good time, as God willed,” dryly adding that he ought to be the first “to practise what he taught and preached.” Nevertheless, Luther persisted in his policy of intolerance in Wittenberg and succeeded in ejecting the canons.

The formation of a body is in the thought of Luther and Melanchthon from 1522 to 1530, though naturally the Peasants’ War considerably stimulated it. As Erasmus sought a basis for authorship in the agreement of the Fathers, they sought it in the Bible as they literally interpreted it. The dangers of individualism were daily becoming more apparent. The process of belief must become hardened into dogma: there must be a scheme of organization. Pastors were required: so too were princes.

All revolutionary bodies in time come to see that compromise is inevitable. Carlstadt, the Archdeacon of Wittenberg, saw this stage arrive. He had a mind keenly sharpened by the use of dialectic, and from the remarks of his friend, Luther, he drew conclusions which the reformer did not want to accept. If all are priests, why should there be a regular ministry? If the theory of transubstantiation is false, how can there be any real presence in Holy Communion? What was Carlstadt to think of a man who declared that the sacraments only operated by faith, and at the same time recognized in them a work of sanctification and grace? A synthesis was a matter this logical revolutionary could not entertain. To Carlstadt if there was soul on one side, there was body on the other; if there was the spirit on one side, there was the letter on the other; if there was the Law, there were also the Prophets; if there was external authority, there was also internal. His mind conceived truth as a series of contradictories. The true filiation of thought was a seven-sealed book to him. He possessed all the certainty derivable from his-mysticism. Subjective as he is, individualistic as he is, he represents lay Christian Puritanism. Carlstadt rejected the worship of the saints, purgatory, and prayers for the dead. He was probably the first man in the sixteenth century to reach the conclusion that there ought to be neither dogma nor institution.

In his history of the Oxford Movement, Dean Church has much to say about the influence of W. G. Ward upon the development of Cardinal Newman’s thought. Ward was as logical as Carlstadt: Newman was as illogical as his own countrymen. Ward constantly asked Newman, “If you think so and so, surely you must also say something more.” Newman was thus obliged to make each conclusion Ward drew the basis of a fresh set of premises. The result was that the leader of the Oxford Movement advanced at a pace much more rapid than his natural one. When a thinker is in a state of doubt a questioner such as Ward not only forces him to resolve, but also by the persistence of his interrogatories raises additional difficulties. “There is no doubt,” remarks Dean Church, “that Mr. Newman felt the annoyance and unfairness of this perpetual question for the benefit of Mr. Ward’s theories, and there can be little doubt that, in effect, it drove him onwards and cut short his time of waiting. Engineers tell us that, in the case of a ship rolling in a sea-way, when the periodic times of the ship’s roll coincide with those of the undulations of the waves, a condition of things arises highly dangerous to the ship’s stability. So the agitations of Mr. Newman’s mind were reinforced by the impulses of Mr. Ward’s.”

What, in effect, Ward was to Newman, Carlstadt aimed at becoming to Luther. The moderate Melanchthon saw this: the native good sense of Luther saw it. They resolved that their party should not be at the mercy of its own extremists. The leaders of the main body were determined no longer to be reinforced by the advances of the extreme section, and Carlstadt became the enemy of Luther. The result of his action, unlike Ward’s, was to throw the guidance of the body into a conservative direction. The ideas of Carlstadt did not disappear, and indeed from 1523 to 1525 they spread with great rapidity along the Rhine and in Switzerland: they lacked henceforth official approval. Luther opposed the complete break with the past on which Carlstadt insisted, and which the radical archdeacon pressed on Zwingli with such fatal success. As Erasmus witnessed the failure of Carlstadt’s logical thought, he wrote in 1525, “Luther is almost orthodox.”

The difficulties between the believers of Strassburg and Zürich is much in the mind of Erasmus. Exiled Frenchmen like Farel, the precursor of Calvin, absorbed at Bâle the extreme views of Carlstadt: in turn, he sent them back to his native land, Imposing on France a far more extreme form of doctrine than that of Luther and Melanchthon. It would scarcely be an exaggeration, from this standpoint, to say that Carlstadt is as much responsible for the failure of the French Reformation as any other man.








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