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

THE favourite plan of Erasmus, conciliar reform, was not forgotten. On November 13, 1535, the nuncio Vergerio met Luther for the purpose of discussing the constitution of the assembly. The reformer proposed to attend it, and Vergerio assumed that the Elector of Saxony was aware of this. John Frederick did not pronounce a meeting at Mantua impossible, but plainly preferred one on German soil. He refused to give a definite answer on the ground that he was obliged to consult the other members of the Schmalkaldic League. They were conscious of their great political strength and placed their conditions high. If they considered a Council necessary, it must be completely free, and its members should be chosen by the combined decision of the Emperor, kings, princes, authorities, and suitable persons of all ranks. These were to examine into the controversies of religion and settle them according to God’s Word. In this attitude to the proposed Council the League was supported by Henry VIII and Francis I. The English King was now ready to defend the Augsburg Confession, provided some modifications were made in its articles. The French King was sorely afraid that the Council might solve the religious difficulties, thus restoring the position of Charles in the Empire. He instructed his envoy, Guillaume du Bellay, to aim at the summoning of national councils in Italy, France, and England.

Luther was not only fortunate in such friends as Melanchthon; he was also fortunate in his enemies. Leo X, Adrian VI, Paul III, and Charles V threw away magnificent opportunities, and Luther profited at least as much by the mistakes of his enemies as by his own achievements. He seldom failed to make the most of an opportunity, and Henry and Francis provided him with many.

Paul III was most anxious to solve the religious question. Men of learning knew he was as much a Pope of the Renaissance as Leo, possessing the insight denied his predecessor. In politics he was neutral, though such neutrality served the cause of France. The wide experience of his sixty-seven years, the breadth of his intelligence, the deference he showed to men and opinions, the tact with which he had handled the affairs of his own life, his own surpassing firmness, and his power of steering a middle course seemed to promise the man for the emergency. He resolved to summon a General Council to meet in Mantua in 1537. Men like Melanchthon dreaded the results of a permanent breach, and for a time he worked for the acceptance of the offer of a Council. The city of Nürnberg followed this counsel. The obstacle in the way was the princes, who were afraid that the curtailment of their secular and ecclesiastical authority was threatened. The Wittenberg theologians gave John Frederick a memorandum discussing some of the contingencies to which the Council might give occasion. Was the celibacy of the clergy to be enforced? Such a measure they regarded as an injury to the common welfare. Princes and men set in authority are bound to forbid immorality as they would a violation of the marriage tie. “All the more are they in duty bound to prohibit open idolatry.” Exultingly Luther signed this statement. The Saxon Elector asked the reformer to draw up articles on which the Protestants might find a secure foundation for their belief. At the end of 1536 the Wittenberg theologians had composed the Articles of Schmalkald. The Confession of Augsburg was animated by a spirit of reconciliation, but this Confession by the spirit of difference. In the new preamble Luther declared that Protestants required no Council. Furious attacks were made on the Mass, purgatory, and the power of the Pope. The Estates commissioned Melanchthon to draw up in their name, for the Kings of France and England, a justification of their action in rejecting the Synod. Indeed, the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse thought of summoning a national and evangelical assembly of their own, to be convened by Luther together with his assistant bishops and other ecclesiastics. Just as Paul III saw the necessity for uniting his forces, the reformers saw the necessity for uniting theirs. The King of England was plotting a close alliance between the Scandinavian states and himself. The followers of Zwingli felt their isolation, and, in spite of grave theological differences, signified in 1537 their agreement with their brethren in Germany.

By his diplomacy in 1526 and in 1533 Francis left Charles isolated in Europe. It seemed as if the years 1535 and 1540 were to renew these triumphs. During the year 1535 the King was under the influence of that friend of the Reformation, his sister, Margaret of Angoulême. With much of Melanchthon’s theology he was in sympathy, and he asked the German princes to send him that moderate man. Margaret was opposed to the reactionary party led by the powerful Anne de Montmorency, and she was opposed to the reactionary attitude of the Sorbonne, one of the most Tory bodies in Europe. The piety of the Elector of Saxony was only equalled by his narrowness, and he influenced the League of Schmalkald to refuse. Francis I had—perhaps it was only for the moment—visions of larger ideas than mere political schemes. To the immense loss of the growth of toleration, he suffered himself to be discouraged, and Anne de Montmorency once more won the ascendancy.

In 1540 the King renewed his desire to see if his larger ideas could be carried out. Morelet du Museau, the French Ambassador, and Sleidan the historian arrived in Ratisbon in 1540, bearing with them far-reaching plans. The League of Schmalkald was offered a great opportunity, but it committed the sin Dante denounces so vigorously: it made the great refusal. The acceptance of the alliance France offered meant the complete ruin of the House of Hapsburg, the disappearance of the opportunities of which the House of Hohenzollern eagerly availed itself. The destruction of the House of Hapsburg was necessary if the progress of toleration was to be at all rapid. There were, however, immense obstacles in the way. Chief among these was the bigamy that Philip of Hesse committed on March 1, 1540. It had been condoned by Luther himself, by Melanchthon, and by Bucer. A more fatal condonation there could not possibly have been. The fortunes of the House of Hapsburg were largely due to the happy marriages its members made. Some of its fortunes were also due to the mésalliances other Houses made, and among these must be reckoned the bigamy of Philip of Hesse. It was among the cogent reasons which obliged the League of Schmalkald to decline the alliance Francis offered in 1540. Philip was afraid of the consequences of his act, and, in order to safeguard himself, he sought protection at the hands of the Emperor. He felt his dangers, and he negotiated through Granvelle, who saw every action from the point of view of pure statesmanship.

How favourable the circumstances were from other points of view is evident from the fact that the crotchety Elector of Saxony was now anxious to show himself friendly to Francis. There were the negotiators, Morelet du Museau and Sleidan. The one was to dissuade the Catholics, the other the Protestants, from offering any concessions. To the papal nuncio at his Court the French King expressed his fears that Contarini, the papal delegate at Ratisbon, was conceding too much to the Protestants. To the Protestants he simultaneously expressed his fears that Contarini was conceding too little. Had it not been for the bigamy, this astute diplomacy might have been as successful in 1540 as it had been in 1533. Much as the German princes and cities had accomplished for the future of toleration, how much more they might have accomplished had circumstances permitted their acceptance of the alliance France offered! They might have anticipated the work achieved by the Low Countries, by Sweden, by Henry IV, and by Richelieu. But it was not to be. Instead of an immense immediate advance towards toleration, there ensued the defeat of Mühlberg, the necessity for the Protestants to “learn Spanish,” with the Spanish King and Holy Roman Emperor for their tutor.

During the first of these two occasions, that is, in 1535, France outwardly advocated a Council while secretly she opposed it with all the skill of her Ambassador, Guillaume du Bellay. He was as clever an adept as his master in the art of suggesting awkward points to be settled before the Council could meet. How were the Lutherans to come to any agreement till they had first reached one among themselves? That was an ugly dilemma for the theologians. For the princes he had another crux. Could not representatives of the two Churches hold a discussion? Of course points of difference were sure to arise. The application was tolerably obvious. Du Bellay submitted to the Lutherans the favourable verdict of his master on the Counsel. Francis seemingly was prepared to take a long step on the road towards agreement. He accepted the views of Melanchthon—they were also the views of Erasmus—on the origin of the papal primacy. He also accepted the humanist’s views on faith and human liberty, the worship of the saints and of images. He thought it possible to come to an understanding on the question of the relation of faith to works. He saw the necessity of revising the liturgy of the Mass and of reducing, as Erasmus required, the number of private Masses. On the Mass and on the conception of merit and purgatory he agreed with Melanchthon that a fresh study was required. All these ideas could be discussed at a genuine conference undertaken in a spirit of conciliation. In spite of his defence of the celibacy of the clergy, Francis was willing to grant a dispensation to the clergy already married. Perhaps he believed this would appeal to Luther. Clement VII had allowed communion in both kinds. The new pope, Paul III, could reform monasticism and suppress perpetual vows, as Erasmus strongly wished. This plan is not so chimerical as it appears, for Paul III was the greatest Pope of the sixteenth century, and he was perfectly capable of executing it.

The outlook on the death of Clement VII on September 25, 1534, was black enough. If he was unhappy during his pontificate of eleven years it was at least as much due to the formidable tasks the critical time set him as to any other cause. The defection of so large a part of Germany and Switzerland, the whole of England, and the Northern States left his Church in a hazardous plight.

Du Bellay urged the ideas of his master without rest and with haste. He discussed them with the Chancellor of Saxony, Brück. The Lutheran leaders appreciated the friendship of France and the prospects of a national Council. They, however, looked askance at the theological eirenicon Du Bellay proposed for their urgent consideration. They accepted the principle that the French might send delegates to them, and that they might send delegates to Germany. They cautiously added that the theological question was so grave that it could not be suddenly settled. They, at any rate, possessed no mandate in the matter, and they referred it to their respective States. The alliance which the reformers refused, Paul III eagerly desired to consummate from another standpoint. He wished, as the prime consideration, that the holding of the Council might reconcile Charles and Francis. Therefore when the Germans showed the Laodicean spirit he rejoiced. On June 18, 1538, he met the King at Nice, and on July 14 the King and the Emperor met at Aigues-Mortes. For sixteen years the two potentates had been rivals, and there must have been strange thoughts in their mind when they came together. Charles still has his mind set on the holding of the Council. Francis has ceased to approach the point of view of Melanchthon: he is now under the influence of the Conservative party led by Anne de Montmorency. There was a passing return to his old frame of mind in 1540, but it soon disappeared. Charles and Francis arranged the question of the Milanese, and other matters followed this augury. Francis did not forsake his alliances with Henry VIII and the German princes. He did forsake his policy of comparative toleration towards the Huguenots. At Nice he had promised Paul III that he would exert himself against heresy; at Aigues-Mortes the Emperor strengthened this determination. In 1530 the Edicts of Coucy and of Lyons had allowed some protection to the Huguenots. These edicts were torn up in 1538, and the break between Francis and the French reformers lasts for the rest of his reign.

The problem of the relationship of the territorial State to the Church continued to absorb more and more the thoughts of Luther. In his exposition of Psalm 101 he holds up for the admiration of the evangelical princes the example of King David. With his eye plainly fastened on recent history he tells them that in order to exterminate false doctrine David “made a visitation of the whole of the kingdom.” “He always checked any public inroads of heresy. For the devil never idles or sleeps, hence neither must the spiritual authorities be idle or slumber.” “Oh, what a great number of false teachers, idolaters, and heretics was he not obliged to expel, and in other ways to stop their mouths.… The true teachers, on the other hand, he had everywhere sought out, promoted, called, appointed, and commanded to preach the Word of God purely and simply.… He himself diligently instituted, ordered, and appointed true teachers everywhere, himself writing Psalms in which he points out how they are to teach and praise God.” “David in this way was a pattern and masterpiece to all pious kings and lords … showing them how they must not allow wicked men to lead souls astray.” “I say again, let whoever can be another David and follow his example, more particularly the princes and lords.” David led pious princes and kings to assume a proper attitude to the churches. He was also a “model in secular government” which “can have its own rule apart from the kingdom of God.” To such rule obviously all popish princes ought to confine themselves, and they ought not to try to instruct Christ how to govern his Church and spiritual realm.

In 1536 there arose in Erfurt a dispute on the nature of the true Church. The Town Council had roughly handled some of his preachers, and Luther came to their assistance. Since 1525 he had had trouble with the Councillors. Both Churches, by the Convention of Hammelburg of 1530, had been tolerant. A capable Franciscan friar, Dr. Conrad Kling, attacked the Lutherans in his sermons. The leader, Melanchthon, and Jonas, on September 20, 1533, addressed a letter to Lang and his colleagues, adjuring them to stand fast. Kling continued his arguments, and in 1536 Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and Myconius signed a memorandum setting forth the marks of the Church. It exalted the spiritual power at the expense of the secular, and this may have offended the Town Council, for it did not cease to employ the restrictions on the preachers, which they resented. Luther’s proofs that his is the true Church are that she possesses the true Word and the true Sacraments, her preachers are appointed by the Church under the influence of the Spirit, and are very learned men full of all grace: their flock recognize their authority.

Thirteen years before, Luther had insisted on the complete separation of Church and State. This separation is now limited only to the “false priestlings” and their princes. That is, such realms have no jurisdiction in matters of religion, and therefore they cannot possibly persecute Lutherans. In this case the secular and spiritual government is wrongly confused when “spiritual or secular lords and princes seek to change and control the Word of God, and to lay down what is to be taught or preached.” On the other hand, when a Lutheran prince, following David’s example, “by virtue of his office” requested the suppression of false teaching, this “spiritual rule was nothing more than a service offered to God’s own supremacy.” Had David said, “My good people, act differently from what God has taught you,” then he would have been guilty of confusion of the spiritual and temporal, of the Divine and human government. Moreover, such a prince does not intrude on the “spiritual or Divine authority, but remains humbly submissive to it and its servant.” “For,” he proceeds to explain, “when directed towards God and the service of his sovereignty, everything must be made equal and made to intermingle, whether it be termed spiritual or secular.” “Thus they must be united in the same obedience and kneaded together, as it were, in one cake.”

Supported by God’s grace David could truly say of the two authorities he combined, “I suffer neither the ungodly man in the spiritual domain nor yet evildoers in the temporal”

In the past the Pope of Rome had been all in all. Now it is the sovereign of the land who, as God’s own vicar, is all in all. In fact, Luther places all ecclesiastical functions and conditions, so far as they belong to the outward domain, under the territorial prince. It is but another example of the working of the law that “new presbyter is but old priest writ large.” Any semblance of spiritual authority, which the congregation once possessed, is now resigned into the hands of the Christian David. “That a Christian assembly or congregation has the right and power to judge of doctrine and to appoint and dismiss preachers” was his opinion in 1523. The ruler drives his negligent or reluctant subjects to hear the preachers. Had not the patriarch performed this duty? He uses the greater excommunications and removes from their posts those professors of theological or other faculties who oppose the Evangel, just as he makes his authority felt on the preacher who forsakes the right path. In a word, he is the chief guardian of the young and of all who need his protection in order that where his subjects do not take thought for their salvation he may “force them to do so, in the same way as he obliges them to give their services for the repair of bridges, roads, and ways, or to render such other services as their country may require.”

Luther’s conception of the State finally grows into a kind of theocracy. “It was the Reformation,” according to O. Gierke, “that brought about the energetic revival of the theocratic ideal. In spite of all their differences Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, and Calvin agree in emphasizing the Christian call, and, consequently, the Divine right of the secular authority. Indeed, on the one hand by subordinating the Church more or less to the State, and on the other by making the authority of the State dependent on its fulfilling its religious duties, they gave to the Pauline dictum ‘All authority comes from God’ far wider scope than it ever had before.”

The power of the prince receives an enormous accession from the fact that he is the head of a theocratic State. Moreover, he is a ruler to be supported even against the Emperor. After the formation of the League of Schmalkald Luther is never found reverting to his original disapproval of armed resistance to the Imperial commands. “If the Emperor or the authorities purpose to make war on God, then no one must obey them.” In this case every one must resist, for it is no “disobedience, rebellion, or contumacy to refuse to obey and assist in shedding innocent blood.” To fight for the Evangel is no revolt. Both privately and publicly he justifies opposition and violent resistance to the authority of the empire. If the Emperor “be in a war against our religion, our worship, and our Church, then he is a tyrant. Of this there is no question. Is it not lawful to fight in defence of piety? Even nature demands that we should take up arms in defence of our children and our families. Indeed, I shall, if possible, address a writing to the whole world exhorting all to the defence of their people.”

In his Table-talk he poured forth his altered views on the question of resistance. In it he says, “it is true a preacher ought not to fight in his own defence, for which reason I do not take a sword with me when I mount the pulpit, but only on journeys.” “The lawyers,” he remarks on February 7, 1538, “command me to resist the Emperor, simply desiring that a madman should be deprived of his sword.… The natural law requires that if one member injure another he be put under restraint, made a prisoner and kept in custody. But from the point of view of theology there are doubts. I reply, however, that statecraft permits, nay commands self-defence, so that whoever does not defend himself is regarded as his own murderer.” On the other hand, as a “believer in the kingdom of Christ he must suffer all things.” In some instances, however, it is necessary to get rid of “the Christian man and bring forward the political,” just as a man, peaceable though he may be, may at once slay the violator of his wife. “We are fighting, not against Saul, but against Absalom.” Besides, the Emperor might not draw the sword without the consent of the seven Electors. “The sword belongs to us, and only at our request may he use it.” “Without the seven he has no power; indeed, if even one is not for him his power vanishes and he is no longer monarch.… I do not deprive the Emperor of the sword, but the Pope, who has no business to lord it and act as a tyrant.” “The Emperor will not commence a war on his own account, but for the sake of the Pope, whose vassal he has become; he is only desirous of defending the abominations of the Pope, who hates the Gospel and thinks of nothing else but his own godless power.”

When in the Saxon electorate John Frederick expelled the Jews in 1536, Luther, though pressed by the Jew, Josel Rosheim, would not exert himself on their behalf. Rosheim no doubt thought of the noble protest the reformer uttered in 1523 against the persecution of this race. Johann Reuchlin, the restorer of Oriental learning, had advocated the right of Jews to freedom of conscience both as citizens of the Empire and as having undertaken no obligations to Christianity. According to Luther the Jews were hostile to Christianity, and he declared his intention of attacking their obstinacy in print as soon as God granted him time and opportunity. In keeping with this intolerant spirit, Calvin writes that all the Roman Catholics who had risen in rebellion against Edward VI in England, and refused to give up their superstition, “well deserve to be repressed by the sword which is committed to you, for they attack not only the King, but even God.”

The Jews, in Luther’s opinion, blasphemed Christ. Were he a ruler, he would offer them a thousand florins to prove their insulting assertions: if they could not “I would have their tongues torn out by the root.” It is plain that the excessive interest they charged was a strong motive in his mind. They swallowed up everything by usury: when they lend a thousand florins, they received twenty thousand.

The attitude of Erasmus stands in striking contrast. “I should see no inconvenience,” he held, “in binding myself to friendship with a Jew, provided that in my presence he did not blaspheme Jesus Christ.” Luther’s outburst against the Jews is the more remarkable when we recollect that in mediæval times non-Christians were not so exposed to persecutions as heretical Christians.

In his anger against the priests and the papists he goes so far as to place them on a level with the Turk, and to advise, in May 1540, their being slaughtered. In 1539 he holds, “Were I the Landgrave I should set about it and either perish or else slay them because they refuse peace in a good and just cause; but as a preacher it does not become me to counsel this, much less to do it myself.”

In his book On the Office of Princes, 1539, Melanchthon recorded no less than nine reasons to prove that Christian rulers, like the Jewish king, are bound by the Divine law to root out idolatry. He urged the Lutheran authorities, in the interests of public worship, to employ coercive measures against negligent Protestants. “I should be pleased,” he tells the Margrave Joachim of Brandenburg, “were the authorities to make a stringent rule of driving the people to Church particularly on holidays.”

While the ruler had thus a clear conception of his duties the reformers spoke strongly in favour of armed resistance to Imperial orders. Before the formation of the League of Schmalkald they had been doubtful. How far they had travelled is visible in the memorandum addressed to the Elector John Frederick, January 1539, and signed at Weimar by Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, and Jonas. Peace had been concluded between Charles V and Francis I, and the League of Schmalkald occupied a dangerous position. The Elector asked for this memorandum, inquired now far the allies might take advantage of the war with the Turks, and whether they might make their assistance against the Turks contingent upon certain concessions to be granted to the new worship. The reformers had already “given their answer and opinion, and there was no doubt that this was Divine truth, which we are bound to confess even at the hour of death, viz. that not only is defence permitted, but a protest is verily and indeed incumbent on all.” Not only Imperial law, but the law of God, “to whom we owe this duty,” command that “idolatry and forbidden worship” should not be tolerated. There are references to the Biblical examples supporting this contention. In the Old Testament the “kings of Judah are praised for exterminating idolatry.” “Every father is bound to protect his wife and child from murder, and there is no difference between a private murderer and the Emperor, should he attempt unjust violence outside his office.” The instance is parallel with that when the “overlord tries to impose on his subjects blasphemy and idolatry.” War, therefore, must be waged, just as “Constantine fell on Licinius, his ally and brother-in-law.” David, Hezekiah, and other holy kings risked life and limb for the honour of God. There is, however, this important limitation. “This is all to be understood as referring to defence.” But “where the ban has been proclaimed against one or more of the allies,” in practice “discord has already broken out.” For those under the ban have lost “position and dignity,” and may commence to attack at once. Still “it is not for us to assume that hostilities should be commenced at once.” This is a matter for those actually concerned.

In his Commentary on St. John, 1537–8, Luther expresses his annoyance with the encroachments of the State, maintaining that “the two governments should not be intermingled to the end of the world, as was the case with the Jewish nation in Old Testament times, but must remain divided and apart in order that the pure Gospel and the true faith may be preserved, for the kingdom of Christ and the secular government are two very different things.” Still “you will see that the devil will mingle them together again … the sword of the Spirit and the secular sword.… Our squires, the nobles and the princes, who now go about equipped with authority and desire to teach the preachers what they are to preach, and to force the people to the Sacrament according to their pleasure, will cause us much injury; for it is necessary ‘to render obedience to the worldly authorities.’ Hence ‘what we wish, that you must do,’ and thus the secular and spiritual government becomes a single establishment.”

In his book On Councils and the Church, 1539, Luther defines the true Church as the holy community of Christians, and one may recognize it by a number of outward signs. It exists wherever God’s Word is preached, baptism is administered, the Lord’s Supper is eaten, the power of the keys is exercised, there is a regular priesthood, the cross and persecution, and the offering up of prayer, praise, and thanks.

When episcopal authority was abolished the Elector of Saxony assumed jurisdiction as a sort of a bishop. As Melanchthon put it, he was the principal member of the Church. This jurisdiction dealt above all with matrimonial cases, which, according to Luther, belonged entirely to the secular courts, matters of tithe, certain offences against ecclesiastical or secular law, and points of Church discipline affecting public order. This was all in accordance with Luther’s statement that the Church possessed no power to govern, that the only object for which it existed was to make men pious by means of the Word, that the secular authority was the only one able to make laws and formally to claim obedience “whether it does right or wrong,” It follows that the State in assuming such jurisdiction was doing nobody any injustice; it was merely exercising its right. The authority it employed was not ecclesiastical, but only the common law exercised for the purpose of preserving sound doctrine and the true Church.

Next came the appointment of ecclesiastical superintendents by the sovereign, the nomination or removal of pastors and unqualified teachers, the carrying out of visitations, the drawing up of Church regulations, and the convening of synods or consultations. To the assumption of all these powers by the State, Luther raises no objection, partly because the power of the keys, according to him, included no coercive authority, and partly because the idea of the leading member of the Church was great enough to carry such functions with it.

The introduction of the Consistories in 1539 was a result of the idea expressed by Justus Jonas in his memorandum, viz. that if the Church possesses no legal power of coercion for the maintenance of order she is doomed to perish. After some hesitation Luther gave his consent to the new institution. He consoled himself with thinking that though it was appointed by the sovereign it was a spiritual tribunal of the Church. After his death in 1546 the Consistories retained the name of Ecclesiastical Courts, though as a matter of fact they became a department of the civil judicature. This transformation agreed with the inclination of Melanchthon to leave ecclesiastical affairs to the secular arm. In practice he abandoned the conception of an invisible Church even more completely than Luther. The rigid doctrinal system for which he came to stand in the interests of the pure preaching of the faith, the duty which he assigned to the State of seeing that the proclamation of the Gospel conformed to the standard of the Augsburg Confession, and the countenance he gave to persecution, all this proved that the rule of the sovereign was not uncongenial to him. The princes, as principal members of the Church, must in his opinion take care “that errors are removed and. consciences are comforted,” and, above all, they were to assist in “checking encroachments of the popes.”

In 1539 Luther wrote his Von den Conciliis und Kirchen, analysing in it the marks of the Church. The Augsburg Confession of 1530 recognized pure doctrine and true Sacraments as the two decisive ones. Luther, expanding them into seven, practically gives these two. His marks are the possession of the Word of God, the right teaching and belief in the Sacrament of Baptism, the right giving, believing, and receiving of the Sacrament of the Altar, the keys of forgiveness through faith, the ordination of ministers, the Church’s public prayer, praise and thanks to God; and, lastly, the Christian people is outwardly recognized by the sacred emblem of the Cross. “In her (i.e. the Church) each one must be found, in her each one must be enrolled, whoever wishes to be saved and to come to God, and, outside her, no one will be saved.” In 1545 the theologians of Louvain begged the State to defend their faith. Luther thereupon remarks that “it is not the duty of kings and princes to confirm right doctrine; they themselves have to submit to it and obey it as the Word of God and as God Himself.”

More in accordance with his old ideas Luther sought to persuade himself that even without the help of any synods and general laws, it would still be possible to re-establish order by means of supervision to be exercised with the assistance of the State, backed by the penalty of exclusion. As against laws and regulations for the guidance of the life of the Church he returned to the conceptions of his earlier years. After the establishment of the Consistories he wrote to Prince George of Anhalt on June 10, 1545, that “so long as the sense of unity is not well rooted in the heart and mind outward unity is not much use, nor will it last long.… The existing observances (i.e. in matters of worship) must not become law. On the contrary, just as the schoolmaster and father of the family rule without laws, and, in the school and in the house, correct faults, so to speak only by supervision, but not by rules for the future.… Everything depends on the minister of the Word being prudent and faithful. For this reason we prefer to insist on the erection of schools, but above all on that purity and uniformity of doctrine which unites minds in the Lord. But, alas! there are too few who devote themselves to study; many are just bellies and no more, intent on their daily bread.… Time, however, will mend much that is impossible to settle beforehand by means of regulations.”

“If we make laws,” he points out to Prince George, “they become snares for consciences, and pure doctrine is set aside, particularly if those who come after are careless and unlearned.… Already during our lifetime we have seen sects and dissensions enough under our noses, how each one follows his own way. In short, contempt for the Word on our side and blasphemy on the other side proclaim loudly enough the advent of the Last Day. The ministers of the Word must first of all become one heart and one soul. For if we make laws our successors will lay claim to the same authority, and, fallen nature being what it is, the result will be a war of the flesh against the flesh.”

Nevertheless he is fond of bewailing the stubbornness of the heretics; it was a subject of wholesome fear to all. It penetrated “like water into their inward parts, and like oil into their bones.” So far do they go that they see “salvation and blessing” exclusively in their own doctrine: they are the men who “come right again,” “the others remain under their own curse.” “Neither have I ever read,” he remarks, “of any teacher who originated a heresy being converted.” “The true Evangel which teaches the contrary of their doctrine is, and always will be, to them a devil’s thing.” “No heretic,” he protests in 1542–3, “will let himself be talked over.… A man is soon done for, when the devil thus lays hold of him.” Such a man boasts that “he is quite certain of things.” “No Christian,” he holds in the spring of 1543, “ever held so fast to his Christ as a Jew or a fanatic does to his pet doctrine.” He also is convinced that his opponent is a liar “as surely as God is God.”

To Wenceslaus Link Luther says, in 1541, that it will be the fault of the priests if the saying “To death with the priests” is carried into practice. To Melanchthon he also on June 22, 1541, writes, “I verily believe that all our priests are bent on being killed, even against our wish.” Yet he can affirm that “no one can be a papist unless he is at the very least a murderer, robber, or persecutor,” for “he must agree” that the “Pope and his crew are right in burning and banishing people.” The most detestable thing in their faith is the Mass. He would rather have “kept a brothel, or been a robber, than have sacrificed and blasphemed Christ for fifteen years by saying the Mass.” In a passage in the Table-talk he considers, in the winter of 1542, that “Philip (Melanchthon) is not as yet angry enough with the Pope.… He is moderate by nature and always acts with moderation, which may possibly be of some use, as he himself hopes. But my storming knocks the bottom out of the cask; my way is to fall upon them with clubs … for the devil can only be vanquished by contempt. Enough has been written and said to the weak, as for the hardened nothing is of any avail.… I rush in with all my might, but against the devil.”

In the preface to the 1545 edition of the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, looking back on the past, Luther writes: “Like St. Augustine I am among those who make progress as they write and teach.” Progress he made even though his principles remained the same. Doctrines once implicit became explicit.

On March 26, 1545, Luther published his Wider das Bapstum zu Rom von Teuffel Gestifft: the title sufficiently vindicates the spirit in which it was written. The papacy was to him the Scarlet Woman, and he saw red when he thought of this institution. The whole plan of Paul III in holding his Council seemed to Luther intended to infuse life into a moribund body. The Pope had then sent the Emperor two briefs urging him in general to avoid making concessions to the Lutherans, and in particular to refuse his consent to a German National Council, a project as dear to Luther as a patriot as it was to him as a reformer. His movement was every whit as national as the Swiss or the English. His Elector, through Chancellor Brück, begged “that the said Martin may deal with the Pope’s writings … for we entertain no doubt that he is well qualified to perform this service.” Luther’s natural ire was roused at the idea of the popes styling themselves the heads of Christendom. He examines their claim that none had the right to judge or to depose them, and he dissects the story that the popes were the instruments by which the Greeks handed over the Roman Empire to the Germans. His fervent patriotism is insulted by such a tale. His language is not that of an historian, but that of a feverishly excited partisan. If he were the Emperor he would bind together all the blaspheming knaves, popes, cardinals, and all the rest of them, and take them down to Ostia, where there is “a tiny expanse of water called in Latin the Mare Tyrrhenium.… Into it I would drop them and give them a good bath, along with the keys with which they bind and loose everything.… And, lastly, as refreshing food and drink they might have all the decrees, decretals, bulls, indulgences, etc.” The theological and patriotic motives in his mind are clearly perceptible. The Pope is the head of the Church; he is also a “murderer of kings and an inciter to all kinds of bloodshed.” “See and behold how my blood boils. How it longs to see the papacy punished, though I know full well that no temporary penalty can atone, even for one single bull or decree.”

Down to the year 1525 there is no difficulty in quoting many statements of Lather on behalf of toleration. The Babylonian Captivity and The Freedom of a Christian Man are as clear on this matter in 1520 as even the book On the Secular Power is in 1523. His strong prejudices against the papacy were a reactionary element: so, too, were the Anabaptists, who imperilled the safety of his Church. The Saxon Visitation Articles bear witness to his changed attitude, though in 1528, and in part of 1533, he returns to his early attitude. The example of the kings of Judah and Israel began to weigh with him, and the alteration in tone is evident in his commentary in 1530 on Psalm 82. The Memorandum of this year shows the direction in which he is moving, but the remarks appended to his signature prove that he is not altogether convinced, and exactly the same remark applies to the Memoranda of 1536.

It would seem as if Luther was unable to remove the deep impression the Parable of the Good Seed and the Tares left upon him. It was often in his thoughts before and after his famous sermon of 1528. On February 7, 1546, he returned to this parable, preaching a sermon at Eisleben on it. Much of it is directed to the passions Christ must eradicate from their hearts. He has no belief in “a Church in which there is no evil, in which all are prudent and pious, pure and holy.” How were men to suffer the heretics and yet not to tolerate them? If he tears up or roots out the tares in one place then he spoils the wheat, and “if I root out one heretic, yet the same devil-sown seed springs up again in ten other places.” Violence and suppression merely increase the tares. There will be Roman Catholics and Jews to the end of the world. There is no hope of separating the heretic from the believer, the false Christ from the true. “Heretics and seditious men”—this coupling is significant—“like Münzer may grumble, if they please, in a corner: they must not get into the pulpit.” “By human power and might we cannot root them out or change them.” Still they must not bear rule in the Church. What action are we to pursue against kindred tares, the Roman Catholics and sophists of Cologne, Louvain, and other places? It is with them as with boils: “Let them swell until they burst. This holds good in secular and domestic government. When we cannot get rid of the wicked without harm or loss, then we must put up with them until the time is ripe.” According to the parable this time will be the end of the world, and there Luther leaves the matter. On February 18, 1546, he passed away.

A clear parallel exists between the monk of Erfurt and the squire of Schönhausen. Luther and Bismarck were strong in body and determined in mind. The pleasures of the table appealed to each of them. Irrepressible energy and overmastering will-power were their common possessions. Their tongue was as rough as their appearance: though bluntness and coarseness in speech form characteristics of each, the Tischreden of the one are as notable as the Gespräche of the other. Many questions could not be settled by either Church Council or Parliamentary Reichstag. These were solved over the wire of Luther’s social gatherings and over the beer and smoke of Bismarck’s parliamentary breakfasts. The conversations of the former and the speeches of the latter contain not a few sayings which have passed into the speech of the country. The writings of each possess the simplicity, the directness, and the turn of phrase observable in such men of action as Cæsar or Wellington or Lincoln. Humility and meekness are among the Beatitudes, but these gifts were despised by the monk and the Junker alike. Both were liable to spells of melancholia and fits of superstition. Both possessed devoted wives and found in their family circle a solace from their cares. Both loved the sights and the sounds of nature.

In their weaknesses, as in their strength, they resembled each other. They disliked the Jews with an intensity difficult for us to understand. They clung to the old order, for Luther as little liked the new merchant as Bismarck the new shipmaster. The one cared as little for the Fugger merchants as the other for those of Berlin. Their strength lay in the power of the prince, who governed as well as reigned. As the one expelled Rome from Germany, so the other expelled Austria. In their task the head of Bismarck was the cooler, the heart of Luther the warmer. As the one conferred religious liberty on his countrymen, so the other conferred—for a time at least—political unity. For, in spite of the deeds of devastation wrought by Wilhelm II, no student of history can ignore the noble share taken by the House of Hohenzollern in the diffusion of toleration: it is—in the past—the fairest of its titles to the gratitude of mankind. Luther and Bismarck possessed the gift of winning the devotion of friends and followers, and their extraordinary powers of work turned this devotion to account. In the words of Sir Walter Raleigh, they could toil terribly. They believed in government for the people, but not by the people; they were persuaded that their work enjoyed Divine protection, that they had Divine commands for their deeds. But was their conscience not their guide but their accomplice? They believed in the mass of mankind when the mass believed in them—but not for a moment longer. Both were anxious to influence the people, the one by his pamphlets, the other by his newspapers. Just as Luther tried to crush the peasants, Bismarck tried to crush the Socialists. As Luther in 1525, by his pamphlets against the peasants, became the involuntary and unwilling instrument of political revolution, so Bismarck in 1875, by adopting Protectionism, became the involuntary and unwilling instrument of social revolution.

With Luther man exists for God, with Bismarck man exists for the State, but this State is theocratic. If progress is synonymous with democracy, then both were reactionaries. Cavour, be it remembered, was progressive without being democratic. As Luther created a new form of ecclesiastical organization, so Bismarck created a new form of Empire. The early outlook of the two men was narrow, though it widened with the passing of the years. Beneath their German roughness lay the strength of genius. Bismarck as little foresaw what form his unity—federal, monarchical, or republican—would assume as Luther foresaw the creation of his State-Church. Making allowance for the different ages in which the lot of each was cast, both were essentially feudal in their conceptions, believing in the dependence of class on class by a graduated scale. Status, not contract, was their ideal: the authority of the expert was to settle questions in dispute. What concern had hoi polloi with them? Judged, however, by the standard of the centuries in which they lived, there is much to choose between them. Could they have changed the age in which they lived, Luther would have been far more tolerant than Bismarck, and Bismarck would have fallen much below the standard Luther attained. For Luther was the prophet of a Revolution, Bismarck the statesman of a counter-Revolution. They were opportunists of the first rank, akin to Cæsar, Cromwell, or Napoleon. Though Luther was as opportunist as Bismarck, he lacked the prince’s power in seizing opportunities fully when they occurred and, above all, in creating them at the exact time required. The two men conceived vast purposes, they knew how to carry them out, and they allowed events to shape and even control their course to its destined goal. It was a favourite saying of Bismarck that “you cannot regulate a current, much less attempt to go against it, that at most you may succeed in steering carefully with it.” Both manifested the same readiness to vary, with every change of circumstance, the mode of pursuit of his end.

With both the fortiter in re is more evident than the suaviter in modo. Fear they inspired in others, but fear itself they did not know. Charm as well as force, however, is required for the success of a policy. Luther possessed force with charm, Bismarck force without charm. The former left as deep an impression on the Germany of the sixteenth as the latter on the Germany of the nineteenth century. In the end both longed to leave the scene of their labours. In 1544 Luther exclaimed: “I am sick of life, if this life can be called life.… Fierce hatred and fierce strife among the great … no hope of improvement … the age is Satan’s own.” In 1877 by his fireside Bismarck reflected on his past in tones of poignant regret. A friend present assured him that he had at least secured the happiness of a great nation. He shook his head, sadly replying: “Yes, but at the cost of the misery of so many people! But for me three great wars would never have taken place, 80,000 men would not have perished: fathers, mothers, sisters, and wives would not have been plunged into mourning.… I have to settle with my God for that. But I have reaped but little joy from my achievements; nothing but trouble, disquiet, and chagrin.” Often the statesman expressed this deep regret for the outcome of his labour. Hamlet put the whole thought with incomparable force:

How weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable,

Seem to me all the uses of this world.

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,

That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely.

Yet is this philosophy true? The work of Luther lay in the logic of events, and much of it is of permanent value. There is a powerful brain, a courageous spirit in Bismarck. On the other hand, there is a lofty idealism, a human sympathy in Luther which is utterly lacking in the nineteenth-century statesman. We are still too near the results of the policy of Bismarck to judge adequately of its merits and demerits. The disastrous end of the war of 1914–8 for Germany makes us pause when we desire to anticipate the verdict of history. A small altar stands on the right of the porch of Bismarck’s mausoleum. It bears an inscription from Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men.” It was the text chosen by Schleiermacher for the sermon he preached when Bismarck was confirmed, and the heartiness of the service of Luther and Bismarck is beyond the reach of any cavil.

It is true that Luther and Calvin were as essentially undemocratic in their outlook on government as the German statesman. It is true that the German reformer was as much the friend of princely rule as the French was of aristocratic. Is this the whole truth? Is not the faith of a genius greater than he is? Is not his faith of wider scope than he is aware? Has it not ramifications of which he never dreamt?

That Luther favoured toleration before 1525 is just as true as that after 1525 he on the whole favoured intolerance. Can we not charge him with a hostile attitude to the freedom of opinion? There is some truth in this charge, though we must not overlook the fact that after 1525 he repeatedly advocated toleration. This forms a part answer. The real answer is that even if he had always been intolerant his principles, in spite of him, made toleration one day possible. He was forced to deny the authority of the Pope. When one form of authority is attacked, logically other forms are also open to attack. On historical grounds Luther saw that the Donation of Lorenzo Valla undermined the foundations of papal rule. Once he saw the falsity of the Forged Decretals he saw the falsity of much else, and he could not prevent other men seeing falsity or fallacy in his own system. History proved a potent weapon in his warfare with Rome, and it was one day to prove just as potent in the warfare with Wittenberg. Once the Pope proclaimed himself head of the Church by right Divine, the Emperor must proclaim himself head of the Holy Roman Empire by right Divine. Neither foresaw that when two Divine rights collided, not one but both must give way to force. Luther disputed the Divine right of the Pope and supported that of the King. “It is from the Pope,” he held, “I tear the sword, not from the Emperor.” He was wrong. His followers disputed the Divine right of the King and supported that of the people. For vox populi was one day to be regarded as vox Dei.

Did Luther at first foresee the direction his movement was taking? Of course he no more foresaw it than Erasmus foresaw the course his movement was taking. The moment he foresaw it, he, like Erasmus, shrank from its consequences. The attack on the Pope led to the Anabaptist outbreak. When Luther perceived that his teaching endangered the safety of the State, the security of his Church, he on the spot disavowed it. In spite of his disavowal, the consequences remained. What the German Puritan tried to accomplish in 1525 the English Puritans began to accomplish in 1625 when Charles I ascended the throne. What the English began to accomplish in 1625 the Americans imitated in 1776, and the French in 1789. There are many links in the chain of causation, and the first was forged by Luther when he announced his doctrine of free inquiry. Julius II remarked of Michael Angelo, “He is terrible, I cannot live with him,” but he could not live without him. Luther was terrible, and the spirit of toleration found it hard to live with him, but it could not live without him.

The second link was forged when Martin Luther rediscovered the doctrine of the priesthood of the laity. Immediately the believers became popes with the infallible Word of God in their hand. How could the reformer debar them from a voice in the State when he allowed a child of nine a voice in the Church? For if they were fitted to be entrusted with eternal affairs, were they not fitted to be entrusted with temporal? As the doctrine of justification by faith bestowed free pardon on believers, their God was their Father. Since He was not a despot, their king could not be one. How could the great revolutionary allow the sovereignty of conscience and refuse his followers all share in the sovereignty of their country? This plea came with special force to one who had founded his claims as much on national as on religious grounds. No doubt the infant Church of the sixteenth, like that of the first century, remained in a condition of subservience to the ruler. The Church, however, of 325 was no more the Church of 125 than the Church of 1725 was that of 1525. The day which saw the slave and the master signify their membership of the Body of Christ by kneeling side by side, to partake of the rite of Holy Communion, witnessed the beginning of the movement which mitigated the condition of the serf, and in the end emancipated him. The day which saw the peasant and his lord aware of their common priesthood, witnessed the beginning of the movement which one day was to give to the former a share in the government of their common country. After the massacre of Vassy, Theodore Beza, alluding to a current proverb, remarked significantly to Antony, the King of Navarre, “Sire, it is in truth the lot of the Church of God, in whose name I speak, to suffer blows and not to return them. Yet I also take leave to remind you she is the anvil that has employed many hammers.” If the hammer of the absolute pope ceased to be wielded, the same fate awaited the hammer of the absolute prince.

As the congregation was sovereign in form, it might become—and did become—sovereign in substance. As the faithful received religious liberty, they went on to claim political. There is only one liberty, and it is liberty of conscience. All other forms of liberty are its offspring. “Quand on commence à douter en religion,” Chateaubriand acutely points out, “on doute en politique. L’homme qui cherche les fondements de son culte ne tarde pas à s’enquérir des principes de son gouvernement. Quand l’esprit demande à être libre, le corps aussi veut l’être. Cela est une conséquence toute naturelle.” Free religious and free political life are inseparable. There is not a real break in the line of political thought from the Franco-Gallia of Hotman to the Declaration of Independence of 1776. As the one proclaimed the political liberty of the French of the sixteenth century, so the other proclaimed the political liberty of the American of the eighteenth. The line of succession runs from Martin Luther to John Calvin, from John Calvin to Hubert Languet, from Hubert Languet to John Knox, from John Knox to John Milton, from John Milton to John Locke, and from John Locke to Alexander Hamilton.

For the success of the cause of toleration two types of men are required. One must possess the qualities required for the maintenance of order, the other those adapted for steady strong movement. The meditative, questioning type prepares the path for the dogmatic destroyer. There was an age of counsel, the age of Erasmus. There was an age of execution, the age of Luther. “In counsel,” Bacon remarks, “it is good to see dangers, and in execution not to see them, except they be very great.” There was a day for the patience, the learning and the conservatism of Erasmus. There was also a day for the impatience, the ignorance, and the revolutionary spirit of Luther. Erasmus will be remembered for what he was, and Luther for what he did. The scholar understood man, but not men. The reformer understood men, but not man.

The humanist never possessed office: power he always possessed. In his own day we feel tempted to say of him what Joseph II said of himself, “Here lies a man who never succeeded in anything he attempted.” The vehemence of the monk achieved more than the cautious moderation of the scholar. Yet though Erasmus laboured for his own day, he also laboured for the generations to come. And we have entered into his labours. Ours is the far-off fruit of his unwearied diligence, his determination to ascend to the sources, his invincible belief in his method.

Talent de faire bien was the motto chosen by Prince Henry of Portugal, the Father of Navigation and the Patron of Navigators. Erasmus possessed the wish to do well: Luther translated it into action. Both men pondered a text pregnant with meaning: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Their attitude to it marked the difference between the characters of the two men. In the long run, however, progress is more real and more secure when it is built on the Erasmian than when it is built on the Lutheran plan. Witness the results of the former of which its author never dreamed. He little thought that his classical studies would one day lead the way to the knowledge of languages older than Greek, revealing secrets as to the beginning of religion long before the belief of Israel. Perhaps he would be dismayed and distressed could he have had a vision of the achievements of either the higher critics or the workers at comparative religion. It is well that consequences are hidden from us. The freedom of opinion, the right of discussion, the toleration of diverse views would never have been wrought out if either Erasmus or Luther could have foreseen the long result of time.

The figure of Erasmus is as forlorn and pathetic as that of Louis Aleman at the Council of Bâle. With eyes turned to the past Erasmus believed he was preparing for that future which the influx of his own moderate ideas and the secularization of life, which Luther effected, shattered. The scholar fixed his hopes for the welfare of Christendom on the meeting of a Council. The conciliar movement had failed in the past and was destined to fail in the future. The growing force of nationality proved too much for any hope of its success. This Council he meant to be not only a controlling, but a governing, body. How could such an assembly devise legislative, executive, and judicial machinery? A General Council had been held on the very eve of the Reformation; it was a failure as all its predecessors had been. When Julius II convoked it in 1512, men understood that this was a shrewd move in the game of controlling his opponents. It sat for five years, and what had it accomplished? Was Pico della Mirandola wrong in telling the Pope that if there was any real desire for reform, the old laws of the Church would suffice without enacting new ones? Had he not begged the Pope and the assembled Fathers to reform morals? Had there been any result of this remarkable speech? The labours of the fifth Lateran Council had not been altogether fruitless. It had achieved the abolition of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, the charter of liberties of the Gallican Church. It had confirmed the Bull Unam Sanctam, in which Boniface VIII had declared the salvation of men to depend on their submission to the Papal See. It had forbidden, under pain of excommunication and heavy fines, the printing of any books without the approval of the Bishop and the Inquisitor, and in Rome of the Cardinal-Vicar and the Master of the Palace.

In the day of Erasmus the papacy was a strong, centralized, administrative system. Absolutism triumphed first of all in the Church. The conflict between Erasmus and his enemies was the same as that in which the whole of Europe, with the fortunate exception of England, ultimately accepted the absolute monarchies of the seventeenth century. Erasmus fought for the control of the Council, and promoted the cause of the modern State. Luther fought for the freedom of his own Church, and no less promoted the cause of the modern State. The dreams of Erasmus were noble, but they were those of a vanishing world. The dreams of Luther were less noble, but they were those of the modern world.

Luther and Erasmus appealed to the Bible, and this appeal was the soul of the Reformation. The Reformers are, therefore, the harbingers of freedom of thought, though they never meant to be. Theirs is neither the first nor the last movement in which the doctrine of a body and the tendencies of the same body differ by worlds. The Jesuits at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century maintained far more democratic doctrines than the French reformers, but can any one hold that Jesuitism is anything but autocratic? Similarly in the theological controversy between the Jesuits and the Jansenists the former held far more reasonable and more liberal views than the latter, yet who doubts that at bottom Jansenism was a movement making for freedom? At the same time we must bear in mind that the movement of Erasmus and Luther made its impression through the Bible. The Renaissance left the people untouched: the Reformation touched them deeply. In the former movement the Italian people, for example, were scarcely affected by Raphael or Michael Angelo, by Machiavelli or Aretin, by Cæsar Borgia or Vittoria Colonna, by Leonardo by Vinci or Pico della Mirandola.

No one can study the Renaissance and the Reformation without seeing that Erasmus came a generation too soon, whereas Luther arrived at the exact moment: there was the man and he came at the right time. The training of Erasmus, his scholarship, and his genius seemed to acclaim him as the man who would advance freedom of discussion. Luther was incalculable, concentrated, forceful, autocratic, infallible. Nothing is more pathetic than the experience of Erasmus, who arrived too soon. He dreamt in 1520 of a Council which might avert the dangers of a schism. Paul III was about to realize his dream in 1536, the year of his death, when it was too late. In the course of the disputes of a generation the loose beliefs of 1520 had been crystallized into dogmatic hardness in 1536. The new body, like the old, had its apostles and martyrs, and their blood watered it abundantly. The counsel of Erasmus seemed madness in 1520: it was elementary wisdom in 1536. Had Luther arrived a generation later, his work would have possessed no interest for the scholars. They had then concentrated on manuscripts in Italy, leaving moral questions largely to the one side, whereas after the Council of Trent such questions would no longer have fascinated them. Nothing would have been more ironical than the effort of the reformer who arrived too late, for whom there was an audience yesterday, for whose cause there was an opportunity; but now the audience has dispersed, and the field is taken; he has missed his tide and another will not come.

The Renaissance and the Reformation parted company when Luther abased reason and liberty, when he denied the free will of man, when he insisted that he was not a co-operator with God. The humanists, with Zwingli and Melanchthon, wanted a synthesis. Luther provided them with a dualism. Progress, though he nowhere clearly formulates it, is possible with Erasmus: progress, though he formulates it, is not nearly so possible with Luther. In 1520 Luther profited by the floating character of his aims. The humanists, except a few like Erasmus, saw that he spoke their language, breathed their ideas, and fought their enemies. The difference in accent was not yet perceptible. Northern humanists, unlike Italian, led men back to the Bible or the Fathers. Luther led them back to the Bible and to one Father, St. Austin. Humanists threw aside scholasticism: so did Luther. They concentrated their attention on the relations of God and man: was not Luther engaged in the same task when he proclaimed justification by faith? They desired a religion of the soul in which conscience replaced external constraint: did not Luther proclaim the freedom of a Christian man? Were men mystics? So, too, was Luther.

Had Luther never lived, had Erasmus lived a generation or half a generation later, would he have been able to direct a gradual reform of the Church? It is doubtful. Erasmus had no driving force, no power to compel men to accept his fine ideas. He was the champion of liberty and reform, but it was liberty and reform within the Church. He meant to dispossess neither the pope nor the papacy: above all, he loved unity and loathed schism. The scholars of his own day appealed to him just as doubtless he would have appealed to those of a later day, the Ronsards, the Montaignes, the Bacons. He undertook much in the field of learning and attained marvellous success. He undertook much in the field of reform and attained no less marvellous failure. Rome flattered him: Rome never feared him, and wholesome fear would have contributed much to the advantage of the cause he had so much at heart.

Comparing him with Luther, it seems impossible to assert that Erasmus was an even greater revolutionary. Yet so it is. At first sight the reformer appears to have brought about a far more momentous change than his contemporary. Erasmus, however, so entered into the spirit of the mediæval Church that he laid its innermost recesses bare, exposing the very springs of its life. He made the soul of the Church visible, and the body was then ready to disappear. The body perishes and, like the phœnix, requires to be remade. The attack of Luther in the end bestowed more vigour on the Church of Rome, for the reform effected by the Council of Trent is as much the work of Luther as the Church he changed. A system can sustain assault from without: it cannot nearly so easily sustain attack from within, and assault or explanation from within was the rôle of Erasmus. The voice of God is not alone in the storm-wind or the earthquake or the fire of a Luther; it is in the still, quiet utterance of an Erasmus. He understood, he appreciated the mediæval Church as no one except perhaps Dante had understood and appreciated her. His understanding and his appreciation revealed her innermost principle. His insight proved that he, and men like him, had outgrown the forms of this principle, and that it was ready to enter into fresh forms of life and thought. A knowledge of the limits of a principle, to use Hegelian language, takes us, as it were, beyond the principle. Adequate comprehension of a principle also takes us beyond it, liberating it from the accidents of its temporary embodiment. So it was with Erasmus. His mind had outgrown the old mould, and his method of scholarship prepared the new one. No one saw more clearly than he the ideal of mediæval Catholicism, and no one saw more plainly how far the actual fell below the ideal. He judged the Church by the ideal standard he set before her, and tried by that standard she proved signally wanting. Insight is his mark, not foresight. He expressed the conditions by which the real might approach his ideal, and the immediate practical proposal turned out to be the meeting of a General Council. The statement of this condition is sufficient to prove its futility.

The tragedy was that Erasmus possessed no gifts for practical leadership. The action of Luther at the moment attained more than was accomplished by his rival’s balance of acumen and learning. All causes require a champion, a martyr, and a seer. Luther was a champion and he possessed the spirit of martyrdom: the quality of seership was largely denied him. Erasmus was a champion without a trace of the heroic spirit. He, however, possessed in no mean degree the gifts of seership. He had sceptical acumen, he had military loyalty to his method, and this combination was one that left him a puzzle at the moment, but a permanent force of the future. For any great cause there is needed the champion of the past—and the past is the seed-plot of the present and the future: there is also needed the martyr to the exigencies of the present, often in conflict with the past; and there is also needed the prophetic soul. Erasmus possessed two of these great gifts, and it is by virtue of their possession that his is an influence which grows from more to more. He brought from heaven to earth a fresh sense of the relation of man to the unseen.

The circumstances of the Holy Roman Empire were at least as important as was the character of Luther, though on his personal influence too much stress can scarcely be laid. It is easy to show that the change he began wore as many colours as the chameleon. It was princely in Germany, it was conservative in England, and it was democratic in Switzerland. This means in reality no more than the fact that the circumstances of each country modified its outward form. It wore an authoritative form in Germany, because Luther was as much obliged to fall back on the princely classes as the primitive Church was forced to adapt itself to the necessities of the Empire. Whatever charge lies heavy on the memory of the reformer lies at least as heavy on the bishops who consented to give Constantine so much power. It wore a conservative form in England because the Reformation made a special appeal to a class new on a large scale, the middle-class merchants. It wore a democratic form in Switzerland because opposition to the might of Austria concentrated strength in the hands of the people. At every step there was authority in the foreground or the background.

In his appeal to the nobility of Germany the reformer shows himself conscious of the nascent force of nationality. It was a feeling far removed from the cosmopolitanism of Erasmus. One reason for the alienation of Luther from the humanists was what he regarded as their de-Germanization. They were so proud of their Latin and Greek that they were ashamed of anything typically German. Their change in name was symbolic of much else. A Peter Eberbach became a Peterjus, a Fischer a Piscator, a Johann Jäger first a Venator and then a Crotus Rubianus, a Schuster a Sutor or a Sutorius. a Köpflein a Capito, a Burkardt a Spalatinus, a Beat Bild a Beatus Rhenanus. From the beginning Martin Luther is a German, and when troubles crowd round him it is to his German fellow-countrymen he appeals for succour. Why should the Court of Rome try him? Why should not his own Court of Saxony try him? Why should he not be proud of his fatherland? The Emperor towers over all the heroes of antiquity, over Scipio, over Achilles, and over Alexander himself: no one has been so powerful since Charles the Great as Maximilian. What astronomer or what geographer is equal either to Regiomontanus or to Conrad Peutinger? What philologist is worthy of comparison with Reuchlin? There used to be scholars in the south: they are now in the north. Italy refound classical antiquity: Germany refound classical antiquity and God. German humanism is as national as French, and is both moral and religious. Luther does not stand alone religiously or politically. He has princes and people, lords and citizens behind him. Like the Emperor Henry IV, he began as a revolutionist. An innovator he was, but he was a most reluctant innovator. Like Henry IV, he ended as a conservative. Throughout his career he was, like Mazarin and Cromwell, an opportunist, but at least as consummate an opportunist as either of them. He was essentially a man of action, and his action effected more at the moment, and for generations to come, than the learning and the insight of Erasmus achieved. Only John Calvin or Ignatius Loyola can dispute with him the palm of self-assertion, but it is noticeable that in his self-assertion lurked a deep knowledge of men, especially German men.

Nothing helped the reformer in his early days so much as the knowledge that many patriots believed in him. The condition of the papacy strengthened this feeling enormously. The popes, from Sixtus IV to Leo X, aimed at the creation of papal States, and they were right, from their point of view, to pursue such an aim. For on the possession of such States depended the permanence of the papacy. It gave, however, a fatal advantage to Luther, for he could and did argue that contributions taken from Germany were supporting Italian dreams of conquest. The College of Cardinals, the Curia, the popes—they were all essentially Italian in their outlook. Since Julius II, with the single exception of the short rule of Adrian VI, all the popes have been Italians. The possession of States placed the popedom in a contradictory position. They were apostles of peace who were constantly forced to go to war in order to defend their property. They were men of the other world and were daily forced to interfere in the affairs of this. A pope like Leo X, a mere man of the world, and a pope like Paul III, one of the ablest not only of his own century but of any century, cared equally for the interests of his children, and were equally mixed up in the interminable negotiations of the Italian States. They spoke exactly as Francis I or Charles V would speak, as if in their family life they were simply actuated by the spirit of Machiavelli. Erasmus was in Rome in 1509, and Luther two years later. They saw, not the head of the Catholic Church, but the head of an Italian State.

Fortunate in many matters, Luther was not least fortunate in the friendship of Philip Melanchthon. Luther himself was immovable in his main convictions, fearless and fierce: he required to be sympathetic in outlook, sensitive, and accommodating. Melanchthon possessed these qualities, and the combination of the two men forms one of the deepest reasons for the success of the movement. No scholar could despise a cause Philip Melanchthon championed. No saint could thrust to the one side a cause which Martin Luther led.

It would have availed Luther little had he lived in France, yet he one time thought of going there. Even Calvin was obliged to leave it. In a centralized country his mission would have encountered hopeless defeat. The decentralization of Germany afforded him the needed opportunity. The discoveries of Columbus and Copernicus acted as the powder-spark in the magazine, strewing rocks on the road from Wittenberg to Rome, and opening the roads to the North Sea, where westward the course of empire was to wend its way. Columbus transformed the earth, Copernicus transformed the heavens, and Luther transformed the rights of conscience. France, Spain, and England are at last national States. In Italy Milan appears as a military duchy, Florence as a business tyranny, and Venice as a commercial oligarchy. Territorial unity gives fresh power to Louis XI, Henry VII, and Ferdinand the Catholic. The new monarchy with the absolute prince appears in all three countries. The King is to be over all Estates of men in his realm, the clergy as well as the people, the Church as much as the State. The King, in Michelet’s striking phrase, is the new Messiah. Gallicanism is not a French doctrine: it is a European one. Between Rome and the people stand a new power, the government of the sovereign. The papacy is henceforth in touch with the princes, not with the masses of mankind.

Between Rome and the people there stands not only the might of the sovereign, but also the Bible. The place of an infallible Church was taken by an infallible Book. The change was gain, but not all pure gain. The Bible belongs to a past age and records many types of civilization. It records principles: it refuses to record maxims for the indolent or for those who like authoritative rules to guide every action of their life. Therefore the reader must interpret it anew in the light of the present. Its truths are unchanged: its aspects are continually changing. That is, its interpretation must vary from age to age. Luther might claim to be its infallible interpreter, but the fact that he felt obliged to rely on it destroyed his claims to infallibility. He asserted the priesthood of the faithful, and this assertion carried with it the right to examine for oneself, regardless of any Ita scriptum est. The interpretation of the Bible was left to the ever-varying necessities of the individual. Luther convinced men that the salvation of each soul was dear in the sight of God, and he convinced them that nothing, and no one, must stand between the soul and its Creator. Thereby he effectually got rid of the priesthood in the old sense, and thereby he broke the monopoly of the Church of Rome. The authority of that Church had to be destroyed before toleration could come. It was a conviction of Dr. Johnson that the Devil was the first Whig. The point of the gibe was that the first revolution was attempted by the Devil, who set men the example of resistance to authority. Much as Luther loathed the first Whig, his mode of thought attests his descent from him.

The power of the Church had been laid on a seemingly unshakeable base. The Church is in essence the priesthood, the society of the religious. A pope can tell men that as the moon is to the sun, as matter is to mind, so is the State to the Church. Innocent IV plainly intimates to emperors and kings alike that popes are the representatives of Him who is both priest and king. All men, the Forged Decretals hold, even the princes of the earth, ought to bow the head before the priests. This base has been fundamentally shaken by the view that all the faithful are priests. A papal brief described Marsilius of Padua as a “bestia ex abysso Sathanæ et Inferni sulphureo puteo,” because he raised the State above the Church. What he failed to accomplish in the fourteenth century Luther accomplished in the sixteenth. The State is to be governed by natural reason.

The Reformation was an appeal to individual reason against the authority of tradition: it leaves the Church open to revolutions and sects. But, in spite of Bossuet, are not the variations of Protestantism at least as beneficial to mankind as the rigorous orthodoxy and the orthodox rigour of Roman Catholicism? In the very errors of the Protestant there is an element of liberty, while in the conception of the Infallibility of the Pope there is a principle of slavery. The Reformation allowed conditions that, one day, were to make progress possible.

The scales wherein Erasmus and Luther were weighed in the sixteenth century are broken. The generations to come bring weights and measures of their own. Tried by them, we may confess that if Erasmus rendered a more thoughtful defence of the principle of toleration, Luther in practice ultimately accomplished far more for it. The teaching of the priesthood of the laity was worth all the letters Erasmus ever wrote on the necessity of conciliar reform. Luther was no pathfinder by nature, he was by circumstance. Providence made him a great innovator, but he was at heart a born conservative. He was not the first revolutionary leader, and assuredly he will not be the last, whose success has been crowned by an alliance with another form of the conservative force he had overcome. “Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.” The Church is dethroned, the State is enthroned. The enthronement is in keeping with earlier thought, for no writing of either the Renaissance or the Reformation has so fully and so uncompromisingly set forth the supremacy of the State over the Church as the Defensor Pacis of Marsilius of Padua.

Bossuet was not wrong in indicating the new domination. What the people gained, said he, in rejecting the pope was to give themselves a lay pope, and to place in the hands of the magistrates the authority of the apostles. That the Reformation aided the cause of despotism is an undoubted fact. Can it be held responsible for the success of that cause? This is as much found in Roman Catholic countries as in Protestant. Was Philip II of Spain a less absolute ruler than Henry VIII? In Spain the Church was scarcely less subservient to the State than in Saxony. Indeed, did not Spain owe her success in crushing the movement against absolutism to the close union between the spiritual and the secular arms? The French Church was every whit as obsequious as the German. It is significant that only two bishoprics, Cambrai and Utrecht, vanish from the map before the Treaty of Westphalia, and both vanish through the action of Charles V.

In discussing the theory of value the political economist lays particular stress on the different effects observable when the period is long and when it is short. Such an application of this theory is sorely required in history. There the effects differ widely according as the period is surveyed from the point of view of one generation or from that of many. After all, l’histoire, c’est la science de devenir. The iconoclasts for a short period are the forerunners of Puritanism, for a long they are the precursors of rationalism. The English nobility in the Middle Ages selfishly fought for their own class: such is the judgment of the historian as he surveys a short period. Over the course of the generations we can see that what they gained for themselves ultimately became the inheritance of all. In England, as F. W. Maitland put it, the law for the great men became the law for all men: the King’s Court became the Common Law Court. The political husbandman, as Castelar remarked, does not always foresee what manner of crop will be gathered from off the lands that he has digged and sown. It was Kossuth, the revolutionary, who advocated Hungarian autonomy, but it was Deak, the conservative, who realized it. It was republicans who preached the unity of Germany: it was carried through by Bismarck the autocrat. It was they who preached the emancipation of the serf, which a despotic Tsar enacted. It was Mazzini, the conspirator as well as the prophet, who insisted on the unity of Italy: it was Cavour, the calculating statesman, who realized it. It was the extremist Gambetta who played for a republic, which it was the task of the moderate Thiers to make effective.

The Thirty Years’ War was as much the outcome of Luther’s work as the French Revolution was the outcome of the Edict of Nantes. Toleration is not the child of the reformers, of Luther and Calvin, nevertheless it is the child of the Reformation. The Reformation gave rise to different Churches which exhibited ecclesiastical animosity against one another, and out of this animosity a way had to be found, and that way was toleration. It is the considered judgment of S. R. Gardiner that “as a religious belief for individual men, Calvinism was eminently favourable to the progress of liberty.”

The necessity of considering the element of time is vital in any survey of the work of Erasmus and Luther. Take a case in Prussian history. It is possible, indeed probable, that the rise of the House of Hohenzollern as a military power dates back to the advent of Frederick the Great in 1740. There was no reason save his own genius why his country should be one of the first-class Powers. The deduction is obvious. The beginnings of the House of Hohenzollern as a military force date from one man, and therefore he is responsible for the present war. This may very well be. But we cannot judge the first act in a play till the curtain has fallen on the last. In real life it is otherwise. We must judge the value of the play line by line, not act by act. That is, we must weigh the purpose in the mind of the man at the time, how far and how wisely he foresaw the future, but we cannot fairly judge him by events happening a hundred and fifty years after his day. Whatever may be the final outcome of the labours of Frederick the Great it is clear that he shook very roughly and very thoroughly such a feudal government as Austria, and such a Jesuit-controlled government as that of France. Kaunitz sought revenge in the Diplomatic Revolution upon England and Prussia for the share they had taken in beating Austria. He failed to arrest the development of Prussia, and he gave England the colonial headship of the world. That is, the question of the middle of the eighteenth century was, Was the policy of the Jesuits to dominate Europe? or, Was the policy of the opponents of the Jesuit powers to dominate Europe? It is true that there have been other results in our day, results among the most calamitous in the history of the human race. Still, as Thomas Fuller remarked on the career of Luther, the horse that wins must gallop beyond the goal.

In Germany and in England new circumstances altered the regime the reformers founded. The work of Luther made possible the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, and no less made possible the Thirty Years’ War. The work of Cranmer made possible the Anglican communion, and made no less possible her alliance with the Stuarts, though with the Revolution of 1688 came at last the practical end of intolerance. John Knox is as convinced a believer in the principle of authority as John Calvin: three Marys—Mary Tudor, Mary of Lorraine, and Mary Stuart—forced him to realize in life what he failed to realize in his study. Would the Reformation have succeeded without intolerance? The life of Erasmus suggests an emphatic negative. In order to create, Luther was obliged to affirm his doctrine of justification by faith, and he was also obliged to impose his affirmations on others.

Luther emancipated men from the yoke of Rome in order that he might place on their shoulders his own. His emancipation, little as he knew it and little as he would have liked it, contained the germ of all emancipation. His claim for the liberty of conscience embraced, in the last resort, all liberty, for all liberty has for its final principle the right of a man to think fearlessly and to express his thought no less fearlessly. He advocated the priesthood of the faithful, thereby making them popes with the Word of God as their guide. He proclaimed the liberty of conscience in his noble plea, The Freedom of a Christian Man, in 1520, and in his last sermon on the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares in 1546.

Before he felt the fatal effects of the Peasants’ Revolt it is true to say that he was a warm advocate of the principle of toleration. After that date circumstances affected him deeply, and instead of a belief it became a question of opportunism with him. It is tempting to think of him as we do of Carlyle, as if there had been two Luthers. There is the Carlyle we like, and he writes before 1850. There is the Carlyle we dislike, and he writes after that year. Before the dates of 1525 and 1850 respectively there were two writers who belong to the same class as William the Silent, Washington, Cavour, and Lincoln. After these dates there are two writers, but they belong to the class of Strafford, of Frederick the Great, of Napoleon, and of Bismarck.

Luther enclosed the two principles of the priesthood of the laity and of the duty of toleration within a narrow compass, and inevitably they burst through it. Erasmus on the one hand and Luther on the other were the men who supplied the motive and the force in the bursting of the barriers. They were, each in his own way, the supporters of authority, yet they laid down principles which shook it to its very base. They builded better than they knew, runs the old saying. They builded other, far other, than they knew. Theirs was a strange, unforeseen destiny. Nor was it altogether singular. It is clearer perhaps in literature than it is in life. Take an example. Though Dante was a devoted Virgilian, men make of him a romantic. Dante was a convinced supporter of the monarchy of the world, and wrote his De Monarchia in order to commemorate the coming of its ruler in Henry VII, yet the supporters of Italian unity passionately invoked his name as the prophet of the national State. Nevertheless, the instinct was sound, for Dante, just as much as Mazzini or Cavour, eagerly desired to confine the papacy to spiritual matters.

Luther was narrower than Erasmus, and this was a pregnant misfortune for after-generations. The mind, however, which embraces everything overturns nothing. The sovereignty of God was as fundamental to Luther as it was to Calvin. The belief in his Providence stamped upon the Swiss that characteristic which enabled them to maintain their free constitution against the Hapsburgs. It reunited the Seven Provinces of the Low Countries into a body which, at once political and religious, defended itself against the intolerance of Spain. The English, who fled to the Continent on the accession of Mary, returned on the accession of Elizabeth, bringing with them an accentuated belief in the truth of the doctrines for which they had sacrificed so much. In the conflict of the different schools of thought lay the future of toleration. What the French Huguenots failed to obtain the English Independents won. Luther was the father of Roger Williams, of all the men who lived and died in the belief that liberty of opinion was the one matter that gave dignity and worth to life.

Erasmus and Luther had a special task to accomplish in preparing the way for toleration. The one contributed the mind that understands the many-sidedness of truth. The other contributed the energy which shook an intolerant institution to the foundations, founding another just as intolerant. Still, there were two Churches, demanding a conflict of ideals, which was one day to make toleration possible. To Luther was assigned the duty of overthrowing the walls of the old Babylon. To Erasmus was assigned the no less important duty of holding up the framework of the mind to the admiration of the men who were to build the new Jerusalem.

Luther’s work led to the development of Anglicanism, which in its turn led to its Puritanism. Puritanism led to emigration to the American colonics in order to escape from the intolerance of Laud, which led to the foundation of the United States. The first formal step in this long evolution was the protest Luther nailed on the Wittenberg Church against the sale of indulgences required by a prince of the House of Hohenzollern, Albert, who at twenty-six was Archbishop of Magdeburg, Archbishop of Mayence, and Primate of Germany. Like Canning, Luther ultimately called a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old. For, by a striking nemesis, the citizens of the United States are now coming to the continent of their forefathers in order to chastise another scion of the House of Hohenzollern, Wilhelm II.

“I now perceive,” Voltaire wrote the year before his death, “that we must still wait three or four hundred years. One day it cannot but be that good men win their cause; but before that glorious day arrives how many vexations have we to undergo, how many dark persecutions, without reckoning the La Barres, of whom from time to time they will make autos de fé.” There is a divine event towards which the whole world is moving, but it is still far off, still slow coming. For Erasmus the drums never sounded, the banners never fluttered, the cheers of victory never rent the air. A larger measure of success was vouchsafed to Luther. Still, their work was incomplete. In literature the crown of success falls to many. Gibbon is not the only historian to conclude his life’s work in such calm detachment that he may meditate upon the last sentence among the acacias in a starlit garden at Lausanne. In life it is otherwise. The thoughts of Luther and of Erasmus must have been bitter when they saw their labours were not destined to completion. What were the last thoughts of Raphael that Good Friday, nearly four hundred years ago, as he gazed at his Transfiguration? It is the fate of the worker for the cause of toleration in the sixteenth century that he sees it unfinished. A Luther shatters an old building standing in the way. An Erasmus adds foundation-stones. The centuries have succeeded in raising a stately edifice. Nelson, like Erasmus, never knew that he had shattered the sea-power of France so effectually that it has not been retrieved to this day. Wolfe, on the other hand, like Luther, knew what he had achieved and was glad with his last sigh.

The language of Luther against his opponents is harsh, and his intolerant attitude towards them is at times most pronounced. His words of intolerance are fierce: his deeds of intolerance are few. It is true that he refused the hand of fellowship to Zwingli, and that he believed his defeat at the Battle of Kappel afforded clear proof that God condemned the Swiss reformer’s theology. It is true that he implored the Elector John to refuse to tolerate the presence of Hans Mohr, who was teaching Zwinglianism in the Coburg. There is, however, no execution like that of Servetus to be laid to his charge. He allowed the butchery of the peasants, but that was as much because they were a political as a religious danger. There lay before the dissentient from Lutheranism the confiscation of his church property, the prohibition of his worship, and even exclusion from his native land. No screw twisted his thumb, no iron boot clasped his foot, no faggot burned his flesh, and no axe severed his head. Such a mitigation of punishment is not everything: still in the sixteenth century it is something, and for that something Luther is entitled to credit.

This credit is perhaps all the greater when we reckon that the reformer was face to face with the problems of a decadent society and disintegrating thought. Was toleration compatible with the safety or the security of the Lutheran body? On this point the history of Poland is illuminating. There the reformed Church allowed the proclamation of views by the Calvinists and by the anti-Calvinists, by the Trinitarians and by the anti-Trinitarians. What was the result? It is written in the interminable disputes which wrecked the prospects of the infant Church. The country lost cohesion, and the countrymen the sense of citizenship. The Polish evidence proves that the reformers were tossed about like the sands of the Sahara by the sirocco. Roman Catholicism remained in possession. Minds which turn to everything overturn nothing. Countries which turn to everything overturn nothing.

S. R. Gardiner used to say that the consciousness of strength is a necessary condition of toleration. When a minority is weak it necessarily cannot afford to be tolerant. No doubt Erasmus, like Shaftesbury, in such a case would expose the “enthusiast,” the fanatic, to the test not of persecution, but of the graceful raillery of wit and humour. He could echo the words of Goethe’s man of learning in the second part of Faust:

Die Gegenwart verführt ins Uebertreiben,

Ich halte mich vor Allem ans Geschreiben.

The world of thought is not synonymous with the world of action. Is the influence of a man to be limited to his deeds? If so, Burke stands in parlous plight, for he never saw his ideals translated into the clauses of an Act of Parliament. Nevertheless, the dinner-bell of the House of Commons has been a growing sound in the ears of posterity.

Length of days was bestowed upon Erasmus and Luther, and this length lent strong support to the realization of their dreams. It aided Erasmus, though it aided him less than Luther, for the cleavage between scholarship and reform grievously impaired his commanding position. The fame of Shelley and Keats would not have been so slow in securing recognition had they not been cut off in early life. On the other hand, Luther, like Voltaire and Bentham, like Wordsworth and Ruskin, secured through his comparatively long life the ever-widening diffusion of his doctrine. From 1520 to 1546 was a generation into which the work of several generations was crowded, and during this generation the revolutionary employed those extremely formidable weapons, iteration and reiteration, in order to enforce the truth of justification by faith. The fact that he was a philistine of genius lays bare a secret of his success; For if, according to Walter Bagehot, a statesman is a man of first-rate abilities, with a third-rate manner of expressing them, Luther was a statesman of unsurpassed genius. He was able to think the thoughts of a leader, and he was also able to clothe those thoughts in language which the ordinary man grasped immediately. His success, just as much as Ruskin’s, was in part due to his limitations of thought, for large tracts of the world of Erasmus were outside his purview. It was also in part due to his signal gifts as a leader. His followers coveted his personal praise as the one earthly good: he became to them not only a pope, but a deity. Moral power over others such as is seldom sent to the sons of men was sent to him in abundant measure. He was able to drive home his truth with irresistible power. Clear—too clear—vision, great—too great—force, and kindling—too kindling—speech were among the gifts which prospered his cause. Mystical influences, doctrinal influences, and revolutionary influences were all at work in the mind and heart of Martin Luther. The mystical influences remained with him as he meditated upon the writings of the quietist leaders of the past, and he read their works as bedside volumes. Doctrinal influences remained with him largely through the tomes of St. Austin, who dominated him just as much as he himself dominated others. Revolutionary influences remained with him as he dwelt upon the sums of money Rome extracted from the pockets of the Germans, and the spiritual privileges of which Rome deprived them by its defence of the privilege of the priest. What prepossesses Goethe in his favour was his struggle against priestcraft and the hierarchy and his translation of the Bible. “By him we have been emancipated from the fetters of intellectual narrowness.” Frederick the Great respected him as libertatis cogitandi assertor.

According to Wieland: “To Oriental literature, he (i.e. Reuchlin) uttered the word of power, Come forth! And the dead came forth wound round with Rabbinical grave-clothes, and with the napkins of the Cabbala about his head. The second word, the word reserved for the successors of Reuchlin to speak, was far easier, Loose him, and let him go.” Erasmus stands in the same position, though with deeper influence even than Reuchlin’s. Luther stands in the position of Reuchlin’s followers. Some men have been primi inter pares in the world of affairs, and some have been primi inter pares in the world of scholarship. The striking feature in Erasmus is that to the statesman he was almost primus inter pares, and to the learned he was altogether primus inter pares. The ascent of the human race is a long process: as with mankind, so is it with man. The realization of the ideal is a tedious process. In a survey of the life of Erasmus there is a feeling of disappointment: he set out to have accomplished so much, and he seems actually to have accomplished so little. In his labour the hours of gloom exceed the hours of insight, yet his hours of insight have been a source of inspiration for men from the sixteenth century to our own day. For their force has not all been spent. “Longum illud tempus,” wrote Cicero, “quum non ero magis me movet quam hoc exiguum.” In the spirit of these words—and the writer of them was his favourite classical author—Erasmus appealed from the rancour and wrangling of his day to the verdict of time, the daughter of truth.

Neither Pitt nor Peel made an original contribution to political economy. It was reserved for Adam Smith to make such a contribution, and it was reserved for Pitt and Peel to apply it. As Pascal points out, “Qu’on ne dit pas que je n’ai rien dit de nouveau: la disposition des matières est nouvelle.” For originality lies as much in perception of opportunity or fresh disposition of material as in invention. Luther saw, although but dimly, the new world that was looming vaguely along the horizon. The essential point is not that either he or Erasmus saw dimly, but that they saw at all. It is the direction of a man’s outlook that alone matters. Is it true, as Bishop Creighton contends, that if we look to private life a man’s character is more revealed by what he tries to do than by what he succeeds in doing? Is it paradoxical to maintain that the abiding influence of a great man is expressed by his aspirations rather than by his achievement? We firmly believe that this is no paradox, but a plain truth. The most fruitful heritage of the genius of Erasmus or Luther is their attitude to life, their spirit—not always their method—of tolerance. Their work lies not so much in what they did as in what they made possible. So judged, the contribution of Erasmus and Luther to the ultimate solution of the problem of toleration is of high value and deep import.








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