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at this crisis, for remedying the church's confusion, and to show himself the protector of persecuted truth.
As soon as these Resolutions were printed, Luther not only sent them, through Spalatin, to the Saxon court, but also immediately to Leo X. himself, to whom, after all, he commended his cause in a letter* which humility itself could not have written more submissively. He seemed to leave all they contained, to the decision of the pope, with the assurance that, be the decision whatever it might respecting him, he would regard his voice as the voice of Christ, and would even suffer death itself, if condemned to it by him. This assurance he would now hardly have given, had he not, on the one hand, still actually had a deep reverence for the head of the church, and, on the other hand, quite too favorable an opinion of Leo's regard for truth and righteousness. This last he manifested throughout the whole account of the origin of the contests, which he prefixed, while, with an attractive ingenuousness, he frankly stated his part in them, together with the reasons by which he was first impelled to it and afterwards confirmed in it, and granted that the extravagant principles, which the indulgence-preachers set up respecting the power of the keys and of the pope, had excited his zeal to the highest pitch, f and he also here let out bis indignation against them with that natural confidence which he hoped would either find or excite the like feelings in the heart of every impartial judge. But, by the humble assurance at the end of his letter, he irrevocably pledged himself to any thing sooner than to that which would most probably be required of him -sooner to the joyful acceptance of death than to recantation; for he had before testified, that he neither could nor would accede to it, so that the alternative could never be of use against him, if actually called to meet it.
In almost the same expressions, Luther wrote, at the same time, to bishop Scultetus of Brandenburg, his ordinary, when
Epp. T. I. ep. 51. T. I. Alt. Germ. f. 55.
" Then I was burning with zeal for the honor of Christ, as it seemed to me, or, if any one will so explain it, the fresh young blood was hot in me.” – What a concession from Luther! and what a proof, that Luther was no fanatic! For what fanatic would regard the case as even possible, that flesh and blood could have any part in his undertakings.
“I cannot and will not recant."
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F I have good al contre
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he sent him his Resolutions.* The bishop was a learned and truth-loving man, who was himself already displeased with the doctrine of the indulgence-preachers, but who had also already advised Luther not to prosecute the contest with them, the result of which always appeared dangerous for the peace of the church and for himself.f Touched by this gentle treatment of the bishop, Luther had already determined to withhold his Resolutions; but when at length the whole state of his circumstances rendered their publication necessary, he was compelled to use some art in order to defend this step with the bishop, which he had taken entirely against the command which was concealed under his paternal advice. For this purpose, he placed the matter before him, without mentioning his advice, as though he regarded himself bound by his office to bring the contested propositions under discussion, and to state to the world his reasons against them; but he also expressly assured him, that he would regard this whole affair of indulgences as only a thing called in question, and not at all decided. But he poured out his full heart, with less reserve on this subject, to Staupitz, to whose care he had given his Resolutions and his letter to the pope. He reminded him of their former colloquies, from which he had derived his first ideas of penitence, depicted most emphatically the indelible impression they had left on his soul, and described to him the influence they had had on the whole system of his opinions, and even on his entanglement in the present business. But, with the most provident care and with genuine delicacy, he spared the gentle character of the venerable man, with whom he spoke in the touching tone of the most open confidence, without even the most distant demand upon him for any thing that could so much as embarrass his friendship towards him. He entreated him, indeed, to forward his letter to the pope; “but not,” he adds, “ that I thought to bring your reverence into the like danger. What I do in this matter,
I shall do entirely on my own responsibility. Christ my Lord may see to it, whether this business, which I am carrying on, belongs to him or to Luther." Still more touching must have
* Epp. T. I, ep. 49. T. I. Jen. Germ. f. 52.
† The bishop had sent the abbot of Lenin expressly to him, to negotiate, in his name, for the suppression of the Resolutions. I. ep. 32.
# Epp. L. I. ep. 50. T. J. Jen. 54.
been the conclusion of his letter to Staupitz, in which he beheld the whole soul of the man such as he had once described it beforehand in the youth. “ Concerning so many of my angry friends, who threaten me hard and lay snares for me, I know of nothing to answer, except the saying of Reuchlin, The
poor man has nothing to fear, for he has nothing to lose. I have neither goods nor gold, and I want none. I have had good reputation and honor, which I am now continually spoiling, as I have begun. Only the frail body, weakened by great and continual danger and misfortune, is still left. Let them destroy this by artifice or power, for the glory of God, and truly they do me a mighty injury; they shorten the time of my life
perhaps an hour or two, and help me so much the sooner to heaven."
In the mean time, Sylvester Prierias published a reply * to Luther's answer, in which answer Luther had defended himself against his first attack. This reply of Prierias was more beneficial to Luther than the most thorough defence. For the Dominican turned the whole dispute upon the question of the power of the church and of the pope, and here, with incredible rashness and boundless impudence, set up principles which even excited the indignation of the most learned defenders of papal prerogatives, and so much the more as they were stated in the most revolting language. That the pope has directly from God himself, the supreme power in the church and the prerogative of deciding infallibly in all matters of faith — that all bishops received their authority from him alone, as the rest of the apostles had also probably first received it from Peter — that the whole world cannot take away
of the pope, nor even restrict or limit it that even councils derived their power, not from God, but from the pope - that he would be bound by none of their decisions, even though founded on divine authority — that he, on the contrary, can annul all their decisions which are not of this kind, but cannot himself be judged or deposed by any council, nor even by the whole world, although guilty of so much scandal as to carry crowds of men, together with himself
, to the devil;t these were the new truths which Sylvester imparted to the world, and by the help of which he hoped to pros
* T. I. Jen. p. 62.
f "Etamsi ita sit scandalosus, ut populos catervatim secum ducat ad diabolum."
trate more than one Luther in the dust. Nothing, says Eras-
But still more propitious for the cause of truth and its general diffusion, were some other writings which Luther published about this time. According to his often repeated assurances, he had begun the whole contest solely with the noble design of opening the eyes of the blinded multitude, who were led astray by their guides ; and to this purpose he remained true. While he was answering the replies of his opponents in their own language, I he at the same time presented his opinions in public sermons, in the language of the common people, and thus brought the learned controversy to be especially an affair of the people; and the way itself in which he did it, justified bis purpose. The Dominicans, who denounced him as the most abominable heretic, from all their pulpits, intended also in this way to make the contest an affair of the people, availing themselves of all monkish arts to embroil the people in the strife. But Luther (who often enough showed, in the sequel, that he, better than all the Dominicans, understood the art of winning the affections of the people to his side), despised the base attempt, since his object
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* “Respondit Sylvester Prierias tam feliciter, ut ipse pontifex in. dixerit illi silentium. Nulla res magis conciliavit omnium favorem Luthero." Epp. L. 19. ep. 71.
+ T. Jen. Germ. p. 58.- “Had not Luther injured himself by his own weapons," says Erasmus, “by daily writing more attrocious things, he would have owed much to the folly of his enemies.” Epp. L. 14. ep. 25. The in, then
enerally used by authors in Europe in their publications.-TR.
was, to instruct his hearers. In these first publications written particularly for the common people, he did not so much as name his adversaries. He complained not of undeserved persecution, or unrighteous oppression. He sought to excite neither sympathy nor hatred ; but simply presented what he had discovered as truth, and truth which was useful to the people, and in language artless and simple, but so much the more intelligible and impressive, and disclaimed even the artifice of simply making it more attractive by passionate allusions to the contests that had arisen about it. In this tone were written his first sermons on indulgences, his exposition of the seven-penitential psalms, and bis explanation of the Lord's prayer; and in a short time also, these productions spread, throughout all Germany, a clearer light among the common people, although he had intended them only for his own hearers, whose instruction he regarded as his first duty. Among these smaller works, however, his sermon on penance is especially remarkable, as it shows the development of his convictions and the progress of his conceptions most visibly in the very order in which they followed one another in his own soul. *
He here begins with the grand principle, that the forgiveness of the guilt of sin, is entirely distinct from the forgiveness of the penalty or the remission of the satisfaction to be made for it. This remission, he maintains, only reconciles the man externally with the christian church, but the forgiveness of the guilt first reconciles the man with God, and deserves peculiarly the name of forgiveness, as it is this alone that can give peace of conscience. Hence he derives the weighty inference, that man may be saved without remission (indulgence), as remission can contribute nothing towards the pardon of guilt — that faith in the promise of God, is the only means of obtaining this pardont-and that neither pilgrimages, nor indulgences, nor even the best works are sufficient to merit it. He already understood and taught that most important principle, that sin must first be forgiven before a man can perform good works, as he cannot perform good works without a peaceful conscience, and he can acquire neither a joyful heart nor a peaceful conscience, without
* T. I. Jen. Germ. p. 63.
† " It depends altogether upon faith, which alone renders the sacraments effectual to what they import.” This is one of the positions which Luther was subsequently called upon to recant.