« ZurückWeiter »
was listened to by those who were predis- ter's eye, 'on the answer that I have sent posed to applaud-a very inadequate crite- to the legate's letter, un less you think it rion of merit—but by the profound atten- unworthy of any reply. But I am looking tion which he was able to command, even daily for the anathem as from Rome, and from those who were hostile or alienated. setting all things in order; so that, when This was seen, not only on great occasions, they arrive, I may go forth prepared and as at Worms—not only in the enthusiasm girded like Abraham, ignorant whither I with which he had imbued a whole nation shall go-nay, rather well assured whither -but by the success with which he per- - for God is every where.'* formed the equally difficult task of restrain- One brief passage in this letter, not ing the fanatical excesses of some of his given by Waddington, and sadly mutilated own followers. When, under the leader- by D’Aubigné, seems to us most happily ship of the acute but impetuous Carlstadt, conceived and expressed. Cajetan had some of them had been induced, during his urged the Elector to give up the monk, but residence at the Wartburg, to outrun Lu- contents himself with simply averring his ther's zeal, and to do what he admitted certain knowledge of his guilt. Luther might be right to be done, but in a wrong thus replies :— But this I cannot endure, spirit—with violence and uncharitableness that my accuser should endeavor to make -all eyes were directed to Luther as the my most sagacious and prudent sovereign only man who could appease the tumult. play the part of another Pilate. When the Braving all personal danger, and in defiance Jews brought Christ before that ruler, and of the wishes of the Elector himself, he de- were asked, "What accusation they prescended from his retreat, and all was quiet | ferred, and what evil the man had done ?" again. For many successive days he they said, “If he had not been a malefacpreached against the innovators, though tor, we would not have delivered him to without mentioning Carlstadt's name, and thee." So this most reverend legate, when his progress was one continued triumph. he has presented brother Martin, with It is true, that, in his subsequent visit to many injurious speeches, and the prince Orlamund, he had not the same success: may possibly ask, “What has the little but, in addition to his being in the wrong brother done?” will reply, "Trust me, ilon the Sacramentarian question, Carlstadt lustrious prince, I speak the truth from was at that spot regarded as another Luther. certain knowledge, and not from opinion.”
Of the briefer compositions of Luther, I will answer for the prince—“Let me few are more eloquent than the letter he know this certain knowledge; let it be wrote to Frederic, when the Legate Caje- committed to writing; formed into letters; tan wrote to urge that Prince to abandon and when this is done, I will send brother the hated monk to the tender mercies of Martin to Rome, or rather I will seize and Rome. In this remarkable composition, slay him myself; then will I consult my which was thrown off on the same day in honor, and leave not a stain upon my fair which he received the legate's letter, he fame. But as long as that certain knowassures Frederic that he would prefer exile, ledge' shuns the light, and appears only in to protection at the peril of his Prince's assertions ... I cannot trust myself in the safety. The nobility of mind, the magna- dark." .... Thus would I answer him, nimity it displays, are well worthy of Lu- illustrious prince. But your far-famed sather; but without denying them, we cannot gacity needs neither instructor nor promptbut think that the whole letter, as well as er.'* that to Spalatin on the same occasion, is Of Cajetan, during the negotiations with constructed with consummate skill; and him, he writes to Carlstadi— The legate that, while resolving on that course which will not permit me to make either a public his own bold and losty spirit prompted, he or private defence. His wish, so he says, has introduced all those topics which were is to act the part of a father rather than of likely either to move the sympathy or alarm a judge; and yet he will listen to nothing the pride of the Prince. 'If we praise his from me but the words, “I recant and acmagnanimity,' says Dr. Waddington, we knowledge my error"-and these words must at the same time admire his fore- will I never utter. He styles me,“ sein thought and discretion.' The very pathos lieben Sohn" I know how litue that is irresistible. 'I am waiting your stric- means. Still, I doubt not I should be most tures,' says he to Spalatin, though the letter was, of course, intended for his mas- * De Wette, vol. i. p. 189. # Ib. pp. 183-4.
acceptable and beloved if I would but say, yet his collected works amount to seven the single word Revoco. But I will not folio volumes. His correspondence alone become a heretic by renouncing the faith fills, as we see, five bulky octavos. which has made me a Christian. Sooner When we reflect that these works were would I be banished—burnt-excommuni- not the productions of retired leisure, but cated.'* In the same lofty spirit of faith composed amidst all the oppressive duties
. he eloquently exclaims, in a passage not and incessant interruptions of a life like cited by Waddington or D'Aubigné, 'Let his, we pause aghast at the energy of charwho will be angry, -of an impious silence acter which they display; and wonder that will not 1 be found guilty, who am con- that busy brain and ever-active hand could scious that I am "a debtor to the truth,” sustain their office so long. Of the distracihowsoever unworthy. Never without blood, ing variety and complication of his engagenever without danger, has it been possible ments, he gives us, in more than one of his to assert the cause of Christ; but as he letters, an amusing account. Their very died for us, so, in his turn, he demands contents, indeed, bear witness to them.that, by con session of his name, we should The centre and mainspring of the whole die for him. “The servant is not greater great movement—the principal counsellor than his Lord.” “If they have persecuted in great emergencies--the referee in disme," he himself tells us, “they will also putes and differences amongst his own parpersecute you ; if they have kept my say- ty—solicited for advice alike by Princes, ing, they will keep yours also." !!
and Scholars, and Pastors, on all sorts of Passages such as these are constantly matters, public and private-having the occurring in Luther's letters; and if they care of all the churches,' and beset at the contain not the elements of eloquence, we same time by a whole host of inveterate prosess that we are yet to seek the meaning and formidable adversaries—the wonder is, of the term.
not that he discharged many of his duties And even if Luther's writings were less imperfectly, but that he could find time to fraught with the traces of a vigorous intel- discharge them at all. Not only are there lect than they are, there are two achieve- numberless letters on all the ordinary ments of his, the like of which were never themes of condolence and congratulation, performed except where there was great but of recommendation on behalf of poor genius. First, such was his mastery over scholars and pastors—of advice to distant his native language, that, under his plastic ministers and churches in matters of ecclehand and all-subduing energy, it ceased to siastical order and discipline--but letters be a rugged and barbarous dialect, almost sometimes affording whimsical proofs of unfit for the purposes of literature; for the triviality of the occasions on which his which, indeed, he might be said to have aid was sought, and the patience with created it. Secondly, he achieved, almost which it was given : now he replies to a single-handed, the translation of the whole country parson who wanted to know how Scriptures; and (whatever the faults which to manage the exordium and peroration of necessarily arose from the defective schol- his sermons; now to a worthy prior to tell arship of the age) with such idiomatic him the best mode of keeping his convenstrength and racy energy, that his versiun tual accounts—that he may know precisely has ever been the object of universal ven. how much .beer’ and wine'-'cerevisia eration, and is unapproachable by any et vinum'—was consumed in the hospitium which has since appeared. The enthusi- and 'refectory' respectively;* now to make asm with which such a man as Frederic arrangements for the wedding festival of a Schlegel speaks of it, shows that, in the friend; now to plead the cause of a maiden eye of those who are most capable of judg- of Torgau, whose betrothed (no less than ing, it is thought to have immense merit. the Elector's own barber) had given her
In estimating the genius of Luther, as the slip.t reflected in his writings, it is impossible to The very style of the letters bears evileave wholly out of consideration their dence to the pressure of duty under which quantity, the rapidity with which they were they were written, Most of the shorter composed, and the harassing duties amidst ones are expressed with a brevity, a busiwhich they were produced. He died at ness-like air, which reminds us of nothing the no very advanced age of sixty-two, and so much as the style of a merchant's count
ing-house. * De Wette, vol. I. p. 161. t Ib. p. 334. * De Wette, vol. i. p. 23.
Ib. vol. ii. 317.
Of the variety of his engagements, even its true dimensions, the quantity of what before the conflict of his life commenced, they have written becomes an essential ele(1516,) he says to his friend John Langement. This consideration ought, in all "I could find employment alınost for two fairness, to be applied not only to Luther amanuenses; I do scarcely any thing all but to all his great contemporaries, and to day but write letters, so that I know not all the theologians of any eminence in the whether I may not be writing what I have succeeding age. They wrote with far too already written :-you will see. I am con- great rapidity and frequency to do themventual preacher, chaplain, pastor, and selves full justice. The gold of genius is parish minister, director of studies, vicar of in their works, but spread out thin; its esthe priory, that is, prior eleven times over, sence is there, but undistilled ; in the shape inspector of the fisheries at Litzkau, coun- of a huge pile of leaves, not in a little phial sel to the inns of Herzeberg in Torgau, of liquid of intense odor. lecturer on Paul, and expounder of the None can be more deeply convinced that Psalms. At a later period he found there the hasty and voluminous writings of Lumight be engagements yet heavier than ther afforded but an inadequate index of his these. In excuse of an absurd blunder in powers than was Luther himself. This is translating a Hebrew word, he writes evident from his own estimate of his writings, (1521)— I was distracted and occupied, formed at the close of life, and expressed as often happens, with various thoughts. I in the general preface to his collected ani one of the busiest of men: I preach works. He there laments the haste with twice a-day; I am compiling the psalter, which they had often been composed, and laboring at the postils, replying to my ad- the want of accuracy and method which versaries, assailing the bull both in Latin distinguishes them. He even speaks of and German, and defending myself, to say them in terms of unjust depreciation, and nothing of writing letters,' &c.* 'I would declares, no doubt in sincerity, but in
. have written to both our friends,' he says strange ignorance of himself, his willingto James Strauss, (1524,) 'but it is incred-ness that they should be consigned to obliv. ible with what business I'am overwhelmed, ion, and other and better works which had so that I can scarcely get through my let- subsequently appeared, substituted in their ters alone. The whole world begins to place. The following are sentences from press me down, so that I could even long this memorable preface. Multum diuque to die or be translated.' Opto vel mori restiti illis qui meos libros, seu verius convel tolli.'t
fusiones mcarum lucubrationum voluerunt These last two passages, not cited by editas, tum quod nolui antiquorum labores D'Aubigné or Waddington, perhaps better meis novitatibus obrui, et lectorem a leg. illustrate the pressure of his duties than endis illis impediri, tum quod nunc, Dei the first, which they both have given. gratia, extent methodici libri quam plurimi.
When, in addition to all this, we take His rationibus adductus, cupiebam into account the promptitude of his pen, omnes libros meos perpetuâ oblivione sepuland that his antagonists seldom had to wait tos, ut melioribus esset locus.' long for an answer, we cannot be surprised But whatever the merits of Luther's writhat much which he wrote should have in. tings, we have already admitted that it is adequately represented his mental powers. not in them that we look for the chief evi
Nor is mere bulk to he left out of con- dences of the power and compass of his insideration in estimating the vigor of his intellect. His pretensions to be considered tellect; for, though it is itself no criterion one of the great minds of his species, are of genius_many of the most voluminous inore truly, as well as more wisely, rested writers having been among the worst and on his actions—on the skill and conduct dullest-yet if we find large fragments of which he displayed through the long consuch writings richly veined with gold, Aict with his gigantic adversary, and the however impure the ore in which it is dis- ineffaceable traces which he left of himself covered, we may reasonably in fer that if on the mind of his age, and on that of all their authors had written less and with succeeding time. The more his position more elaboration, they would have left beat various periods is studied, and the deephind them far more splendid monuments of er the insight into the history of his times, their genius; and thus, in the estimate of the more obvious, we are persuaded will
appear his practical sagacity, the sound* De Wette, vol. i. p. 534. # Ib. vol. ii. 505. ness as well as promptitude of his judgment,
the wisdom as well as boldness of his mea-| he who would abridge this right by a single sures. It will be seen, too, that in not a hair's-breadth.'* few instances his very boldness was itself In opposition to that system of spiritual wisdom.
barter which formed the essence of Ro From his first encounter with Tetzel, manism, and by which it had so deeply deand the appearance of the celebrated The graded the gospel, he arrayed, sometimes ses, to the Diet of Worms, and his abduc- too paradoxically it is true, the forgotten tion to the Wartburg, his history is perhaps doctrine of justification by faith. as eventful as that of any man can well be; Perceiving that the dominion of Rome and it is impossible, we think, not to see was founded in ignorance, and that his conthat he conducted his arduous enterprise stant appeal must be to the intelligence of with infinite address, as well as energy. the people, he labored incessantly to proAgain and again did his formidable enemy, mote the interests of learning and the difunfamiliar with defeat-before whom every fusion of knowledge; and did much by his antagonist had for ages been crushed-ex- enlightened advocacy to give the Reformahaust her power, her menaces, her fatter- tion one of its most glorious characteristics ies, her arts in vain. For the first time, -its close alliance with scholarship and her famed diplomacy, her proverbial craft, science.t Deeply disgusted with that schowere at fault'; Nuncios and Legates return-lastic philosophy, which, without being ed bootless to their Papal master. Cajetan, perhaps fully versed in it, he knew to be a and Miltitz, and Eck, and Alexander main pillar of the Romish system, he not were all foiled at their own weapons. But only labored to supplant it by a scriptural he displayed his singular sagacity not more theology, but was scarcely less anxious strongly by his address in these negotia- than Erasmus himself that polite letters tions, and in the fertile expedients by should be substituted in its stead. An equalwhich he frustrated or parried the efforts ly decisive example of his sagacity is to be of his enemies, than in his quick percep- seen in the uniform repudiation of physical tion of the turning-points of the great con- force as fatal to his cause; the more retroversy, and the judicious positions in markable, when we reflect on the impetuwhich he intrenched himself accordingly. osity of his own character, and the notions
Let us be permitted to remind the reader of that age-an age when violence was so of a few instances. Against the usurping familiar, and almost the sole, as it was the and all-presuming spirit of Rome, he op- most welcome, instrument of all revolutions. posed the counter principle of the absolute He consistently asserted the moral power of supremacy of Scripture, and to every clam- truth throughout his whole career, even orous demand for retraction, replied to Le- when the menaces of his enemies seemed gates, Nuncios, Diets, alike, 'Let my er- to justify an opposite course, and when the rors be first proved by that authority.' No- indiscreet zeal of some of his friends, more thing is more frequently iterated by him especially Philip Landgrave of Hesse, I than this maxim, which he often lays down Sickingen, and Von Hutten, were impatient with a brief energy which reminds us of the to try sharper weapons than those of arcelebrated sentence of Chillingworth. gument. In January 1521, (not June, as
Aware that this principle involved ano stated by Dr. Waddington,) he writes to ther equally opposed to the jealous policy Spalatin— You see what Hutten wants. of Rome, he foresaw the immense import. But I am averse to strive for the gospel by ance to his cause of placing the Bible in violence and bloodshed. By the Word of everybody's hands; and providing the means, as well as foreseeing the results, he
* Cont. Reg. Angliæ, L. Op., vol.ii. p.532. toiled day and night till he had unlocked ther's writings given by D'Aubigné, vol. iii. pp.
+ This is fully proved by citations from Lufor the people the treasures of Scripture in 236-243. Luther's truly enlarged views on this his own rich and idiomatic version. If he subject are also frequently disclosed in his cordid not always consistently pursue this prin respondence. ciple to its extreme limits, and practically other erring impulse of this impetuous Prince, he
1f Luther had as strongly resisted every assert the right of private judgment, yet he would have escaped the heaviest imputation on admitted it in theory. Such expressions as his character. But alas! the document in which the following will prove this :- The right for state reasons Luther and Melancthon, and of inquiring and judging concerning mat- Bucer, and others, sanctioned Philip in bigamyters of faith belongs to all Christians, and be a general law of Christian morals—remains,
dispensing in his case with what they admitted to to each; and so absolutely, that cursed be and can be read only with grief and shame.
God was the world subdued, by that Word | When Mark Stubner and his associates aphas the Church been preserved, and by that peared at Wittemberg with their confident Word shall it also be repaired.'* 'I hear,' claims to revelation, during Luther's resihe writes to Melancthon from the Wart. dence at the Wartburg, even Melancthon burg, 'that an attack has been made at Er- wavered. Luther remained firm : he adfurdt on the houses of the priests. I won- hered to his great principle of the supremder that the senate has permitted or con- acy of the Scriptures, disclaimed all new nived at it, and that Prior Lange has been revelations, and declared that any messensilent. For though it is well that these irn- ger from God must prove his commission by pious adversaries should be restrained, yet the only credentials—the power of working the mode of doing it must bring reproach miracles. He, at the same time, adhered and a just defeat upon the gospel.'+ We to another principle, and declared that have a right to speak,' he firmly admonish- these fanatics ought not to be subjected to ed the rash innovators, who had begun to persecution. In the deplorable war of the demolish images and windows, 'but none peasants, we have similar proofs of his penwhatever to compel. Let us preach ; the etration. He pleaded for a timely redress rest belongs to God. If I appeal to force, of many of their wrongs, and foretold the what shall I gain ?. Grimace, forced uni- consequences of neglecting them. But formity, and hypocrisy. But there will be no when the people commenced their horrid hearty sincerity, no faith, no love. Where excesses, he advocated with superfluous, and these are wanting all are wanting ; and I even rabid violence, the adoption of the sewould not give a straw for such a victory.' verest measures of chastisement. Some of
We all know that it was not for want of his expressions, indeed, are perfectly shockcourage Luther adopted this pacific course. ing; and we can only accouni for their veheThe fearlessness with which he faced the menceby supposing, that foreseeing what was plague in 1516, saying, 'the world will not actually the case, that the popular excesses perish because brother Martin falls, fol- would be malignantly attribuied to the Relowed him through life. It is a noble trait formation itself, he was deterınined to antiof his character, that on the above occasion cipate slander, and provide, as he has done he dispersed the students, though he per- by even an ostentatious opposition, for the sisted in not quitting his post himself; and defence of himself and his adherents. on a subsequent occasion, he was anxious The same singular sagacity is seen in that his friend Melancthon should not imi- the temperate manner in which he attempttate his own heroism. · Obsecro,' he ed to realize the results of the Reformation, writes to Spalatin, (1521,) 'ne Philippus and to reconstruct the edifice he had demolmaneat, si pestis irruat.'
ished. He was no violent iconoclast-no Nor was his sagacity less shown in much rash innovator like Carlstadt. But we need of the by-play of the great drama. On his say nothing on this head; the subject has letter to Frederic, and the skill with which
agony as himself. The incidents at the Warthe pleaded his cause, even while he seemed burg cannot be thus accounted for. But none to abandon it, we have already touched. will be surprised at these, who will peruse the Let us take another instance. The centre accounts he himself gives of his health in of a stupendous revolution, surrounded with the letters written from that placc. Deep solienthusiastic spirits, an enthusiast himself, it tense anxiety, had evidently produced the most
lude, unwonted diet, prolonged sleeplessness, inis astonishing how far he kept himself and extensive derangement of all the digestive prohis followers from practical fanaticism. cesses. The distressing' tinnitus capitis' of which
he complains, as well as of other exquisitely pain* De Wette, vol. i. 543. Ib. vol. ii pp. 7, 8. ful symptoms to which we cannot more particular
# We, of course, do not mean to assert that ly advert, show the condition he was in. No physi. Luther was always thus personally superior to cian reading certain sentences, (vol. ii.pp: 2, 6, 17, spiritual illusion. His reputed encounters with 22,) would wonder at any fancies in wbich Luthe Devil at the Wartburg are quite sufficient to ther's hypochondriacal imagination miglit in.
But the example of Cromwell and dulge; or that, in his case, those fancies took the many others, may teach us that religious enthusi direction of his habitual thoughts. The same asm, or even fanaticism, is not inconsistent with hypochondriacal symptoms often appeared subsethe deepest practical sagacity and the wisest con- quently; and they are, as might be expected, genduct of affairs. We are also disposed to think, erally associated with religious depression. that very many of the expressions on which this On the subject of Luther's spiritual encounters, species of illusion has been charged on Luther, (as well as on some other interesting points of are but strong tropical modes of representing those his history) we beg to refer the reader to some internal conflicts of which every Christian is sen- remarks in an article in this Journal, Vol. Ixix, sible, but which few have waged with so itennse an Ip. 273.