Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

discharging the duties of his order. A providential opportunity was offered of propagating Divine Truth, and it behoved him not to neglect it. While, therefore, he remained at this place, he wrote some propositions, in which he opposed the prevailing notions* concerning justification, faith, and works. His capital object in them was to demonstrate the doctrine of justification, before God, by faith, and not by our works and deservings. The theses or positions, which he intended to de. fend, were publicly exposed to view in writing according to custom; and he called upon Leonard Bejer, a monk of the Augustinian order to be his respondent. The professors of the university disapproved of the controversy; and therefore it was held in the Augustinian monastery. A large concourse of people attended, and a number of the learned bore a part in the disputation. Among the hearers were Martin Bucer, and John Brentius, mén, afterwards eminent in the work of reformation. These and other persons, who in process of time became celebrated theologians, adınired the acuteness, promptitude, and meekness of Luther, were struck with the truths of the gospel which were new to their ears, and desired further instruction of him in private. This was the feed-time of the gospel in the Palatinate; and these were the beginnings of the reformation in that electorate. Luther's disciples cultivated and taught the fame doctrines in private, and after a time ventured to teach them publicly in the university.

While the cause of evangelical truth was thus making gradual advances in Germany, two celebrated Romanists, Eckius of Ingolstadt, and Prierias a Dominican, master of the facred palace at

Rome, Seckend.

29.

from a MS. Hift. of the Palatine Churches by Altingius.

Rome, took up their pens against the Theses of Luther, who, by these means was led into a fresh literary contest. Luther published elaborate answers on all the disputed points; and managed this part of the controversy with so much moderaa

tion and gentleness, that his inimical historian : Maimbourgh, has no way left of reviling the man

he dislikes, but by saying, -On this occasion, he acted “ contrary to his natural disposition.” Let the reader infer the real disposition of Luther from authenticated facts, and not from the infinuations of prejudiced papists. At this time, he wrote also to his own diocesan, and to his vicar-general. To his diocesan, the bishop of Brandenburgh, he declared, that he did not DETERMINE, but DISPÜTE, using the liberty allowed to scholastic men in all ages. “I fear not,” says he, “ Bulls and mena: ces; it is the audaciousness and the ignorance of men, that induce me to stand forth, thouglr with much reluctance: Were there not a weighty cause for it, no one, out of my own little sphere, should ever hear of me. If the cause I defend, be not the work of God, I would have nothing to do with it; let it perish, Let him alone have glory, to whom alone glory belongs.” He endeavoured to rouse the spirit of his vicar-general, thus: “ When I first heard you say, that true repentance begins with the love of righteousness and of God, the words made a deep and durable impression on my heart, as if they had come by a voice directly from heaven.” Hence, he said, he was filled with grief to. see the trųe doctrine of repentance, superseded by indulgences. He expressed his great unwillingness to.be drawn into the contest; but, being defamed as an enemy of the pope, he felt himself constrained to defend his own character. He, therefore, begged Staupitius to transmit his trifling writings, as he calis

them, them, to pope Leo X., that they might speak for him at Rome. “ Not,” says be, “that I would involve you in my dangers. I desire alone to stand the shock of the contest. Let Christ fee to it, whether the cause be mine or his.” To the kind admoni. tions of my friends who would warn me of danger, my answer is, “ the poor man has no fears; I protest, that property, reputation, and honors, ihall all be of no estimation with me, compared with the defence of truth. I have only a frail body to lose, and that weighed down with constant fatigue. If, in obedience to God, I lose it through violence or fraud, what is the loss of a few hours of life? Sufficient for me is the lovely Redeemer and Advocate, my Lord Jesus Christ, to whose praise Į will fing as long as I live."

In a private letter of this kind, written to a friend much older than himself, and whom he honoured as his father, every candid person must fee that Luther would open the genuine feelings of his soul. This single fact, therefore, is decisive against the constant, but groundless, affertion of his adversaries, “ that he was secretly encouraged and supported in this perilous contest by Staupitius." There is no doubt, that both his diocesan and his vicar-general valued him extremely for his talents and piety ;-nor were either of them deftitute of fome evangelical light : The latter especially,-as we have seen,- had been serviceable to the young Augustine monk in his early conflicts of temptation. But neither the former, nor the latter, had the knowledge, the courage, the faithfulness of Luther.

His controversial writings, published in the year 1518, in explanation and support of the various A, D. doctrines he had advanced, are full of important 1518. matter, and very much lay open the real state of

his mind at that time. And these writings also, such was his regard for ecclesiastical discipline,-he thought proper to transmit both to his Ordinary and to his vicar-general. Among niany other positions maintained in them, are the following ; “ That every true Christian may become partaker of the grace of Christ without pontifical indulgences. A Christian,” says he, “may glory that in Christ he has all things; that all the righteousness and merits of Christ are his own by virtue of that spiritual union with him, which he has by faith : On the other hand, that all his fins are no longer his, but that Christ, through the same union, bears the burden of them. And this

And this is the confidence of Christians, this is the refreshment of their consciences, that by faith our fins cease to be ours judicially, because they are laid on him the Lamb of God that taketh away the fin of the world.”

“I was compelled,” continues Luther, “ in my conscience to expose the fcandalous sale of indulgences. I saw some seduced by them into milchievous errors, others tempted into an audacious profaneness. In a word, the proclaiming and selling of pardons proceeded to such an unbounded licentiousness, that the holy church and its authorities became subjects of open derision in the public taverns. There was no occasion to excite the hatred of mankind against priests to a greater de°gree. The avarice and profligacy of the clergy had, for many years past, kindled the indignation of the laity. Alas! they have not a particle of respect or honor for the priesthood, except what solely arises from fear of punishment; and I speak plainly, unless their dislike and their objections be attended ro and moderated, not by mere power, but by substantial reasons and reformations, all these evils will grow worse."

From

[ocr errors]

From these extracts* the reader will be enabled to form his own judgment of Luther, as a divine, as a statesman, and as an honest man.--He wrote a letter to the pope himself, respecting the same transactions, in which he expresses himself in so dutiful and ceremonious a inanner, and even in strains of such submissive and proftrate subjection, as sufficiently show, that at that time he was far from meditating a separation from the church of Rome. Maimbourg himself appears to have very much felt the force of Luther's ingenuous declarations and general conduct in these proceedings. He thinks, he probably might have been sincere in his professions of obedience to the Roman See, “ because,” says he“ it was so contrary to his nature to play the hypocrite for any considerable time together.” The same author adds, “ Whether he was really sincere, or not, his modest and plausible manner of expressing his doubts, procured him the approbation of many. He was looked on as an honest inquirer after truth who had detected the frauds of his adversaries, and, in that way, had unjuftly brought upon himself the name of hereticut."

The preceding detail of facts and observations unavoidably lead the mind to this conclusion. Luther was far advanced in evangelical knowledge, and appears to have been an experienced Christian some time before he became known to the world. Yet was he still strongly wedded to the habits of superstition; and he slowly admitted the conviction of the Anți-christian character of the hierarchy.

He

* The extracts here given are almost literal translations. But every one, who has been used to the making of extracts, knows, that in many cases where a great deal is omitted for the sake of brevity, it is necessary to add a few words to prevent obscurities. This, however, should always be done with the greatest care, so as not to affect the sense.

+ Maimb. p. 28. in Seck.

« AnteriorContinuar »