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1847.] Charge of Rudeness and Violence. 113 quired a man of rare power to maintain the position. We know of no other man of his age who could have done so.

Luther's rudeness and violence were the natural results of his temperament and circumstances. His passions were strong and impetuous, his keen eye scanned the Papal corruptions to the core, he lived in a rude age, and he found himself menaced, abused, and assailed as a devil in human form. His language, therefore, is not always tuned to a mild key. In many parts it would be highly offensive to “ ears polite." To look for a mild tone and a polished style in Luther's writings would be about as reasonable as to look for peaches on an apple-tree in winter. His violence, we admit, was a drawback on his character. But his violence, after all, was only an extreme manifestation of his constitutional energy ; and what would the Reformer's character be, wanting this? Melancthon was mild, but Melancthon could never have done the work of Luther. He was not insensible to his own violence, however, and in this fact we perceive evidence of the strong, sound sense which marked his character. To Spalatin he writes : _“I cannot deny that I was more violent than I need have been ; but they knew it, and should not have provoked the dog. You can judge by yourself how difficult it is to moderate one's fire and restrain one's pen." And to Brentius he writes :-“I seek not to flatter or deceive, thee, and I do not deceive myself, when I say that I prefer thy writings to my own. It is not Brentius whom I praise, but the Holy Ghost, who is gentler and easier in thee. Thy words flow pure and limpid. My style, rude and unskilful, vomits forth a deluge, a chaos of words, boisterous and impetuous as a wrestler contending with a thousand successive monsters.” And again : -“I am far from believing myself without fault, but I can at least glorify myself with St. Paul, that I cannot be accused of hypocrisy, and that I have always spoken the truth, perhaps, it is true, a little too harshly. But I would rather sin in disseminating the truth with hard words, than shamefully retain it captive."

The superstitions of Luther, also, resulted from his circumstances, and belonged to his times. The belief in apparitions and goblins was familiar to the age. He was subject to certain bodily ailments which could not fail to affect bis mind, and the constant turmoil in which he was involved left its peculiar impress upon his spirit. As the world was imaged in the mind of the Reformer, it had all the portents of


approaching dissolution. The earth and the heavens were alike giving forth signs. “Gulfs opened” before his eyes [“ before my own eyes) at eight o'clock in the evening," and to the heavens were seen in flames above the church in Bres

Such tokens, he thinks, announce the last day. “ The empire is falling, kings are falling, priests are falling, and the whole world totters ; just as small fissures announce the approaching fall of a large house. ..... The world hastens to its end, and I often think the day of judgment may well overtake me before I have finished my translation of the Holy Scriptures.” From the peculiar character of Luther's mind, any belief that possessed it assumed a remarkable degree of vividness, and took the form of a distinct and palpable reality. His notion of a devil was not that of a mere spiritual existence, however real, exercising bis diabolic sway by stealth and stratagem alone over the minds of men. The Devil, to his apprehension, was indeed a veritable personage, visible and tangible too, the frequent tormenter of his individual self, hating all mockery, and having a wholesome horror of drollery and good music. " An aged priest,” says he,“ at his prayers one day, heard the Devil behind him, trying to hinder him, and grunting as loud as a whole drove of pigs. He turned round, without manifesting the least alarm, and said, — Master Devil, you have caught what you deserved ; you were a fine angel, and now you are a filthy hog.' The grunting stopped at once, for the Devil cannot bear to be mocked.” Again he says : 6. The best way to expel the Devil, if he will not depart for texts from Holy Scripture, is to jeer and flout him.” Those tried by temptations may be comforted by generous living ; but this will not do for all, especially not for the young. As for myself, who am now in years, a cheerful cup will drive away my temptations and give me a sound sleep.” " The best cure for temptations is to begin talking about other matters, as of Marcolphus, the Eulenspiegel, and other drolleries of the kind, etc. The Devil is a melancholy spirit, and cheerful music soon puts him to flight.” But the most notable rencounter which the Reformer had with the Devil was during his seclusion in the castle of Wartburg. This we do not find noticed in M. Michelet's chapter on Luther's diabolic temptations. He appeared to him when he was commencing his translation of the Scriptures, and so threatening did he become in his aspect and attitude, that Luther in self-defence


His Treatment of Mystics.


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fung the ink-bottle at his head. And, like the mark of Rizzio's blood on the floor of Holyrood House, so is the mark of Luther's fractured ink-bottle still shown, on the wall of his chamber in the castle of Wartburg, to the curious traveller who visits that interesting place.

Such weaknesses of the Reformer stand in striking contrast with his general boldness of character and soundness of judgment. But the combination of superstitious weakness and great intellectual strength has been by no means singular in times past. Bacon, philosopher as he was, had a firm faith in witchcraft. The Reformer and the Philosopher were the greatest men of their respective ages ; but the popular superstitions which they imbibed with their mother's milk, and to which their wondering childhood had listened with eager ears and trembling delight, took a deeper root in their nature than did the commonly received theological and philosophical doctrines which became the study of their more mature years. Luther's mental vision was vigorous and distinct, and his aim practical. He glanced through sophism, subtlety, and pretence. Hence his victories over Rome and her doctors, which still inspired him with confidence and courage. He had no desire to ascend into the clouds, but always strove to secure solid ground beneath his feet, and was well contented to remain there. He had scarcely patience with the mysticism of some of his contemporaries. His mode of treating one of them throws a ray of light upon his character which we may introduce here. One Marcus, a mystic, sought an interview with him.

“ After talking a long time,” says Luther, "about the talent that must not be hid, and about purification, weariness, expectation, I asked him who understood his language. He answered, that he preached only before believing and able disciples. How do you know that they are able ?' I asked. “I have only to look at them,' he replied, 'to see their talent.' • What talent, now, my friend, do you see in me?' •You are still,' he answered, 'in the first stage of mobility ; but a time will come when you will be inthe first stage of immobility, like myself. On this, I ad. duced to him several texts of Scripture, and we parted. Shortly after he wrote me a very friendly letter, full of exhortations ; to which my sole answer was, — Adieu, dear Marcus.'

It is quite evident that Master Marcus and Doctor Luther were in very different latitudes of thought.

Nowhere, we think, throughout Luther's career, did he show more tact and judgment than in his interference in the matter of the insurgent peasants.

The masses of the people, debased and ground down by long feudal tyranny, when they saw the spell of authority broken in things spiritual, were not slow to carry the spirit of revolt into things temporal. Luther and his associates had humbled priestcraft, and declared themselves independent of the power that tyrannized over them. But noblecraft required to be humbled likewise. So thought the oppressed and ill-treated peasants of Western Germany. The priest ruled the soul, but the noble ruled the body, and that too with a rod of iron. Until his despotism was levelled to the dust, the indignant peasants looked upon the Reformation as incomplete. They moved in thousands, with all the enthusiasm and desperation of men aroused to a sense of their wrongs. Partial revolts had been made prior to the Reformation, but never had matters assumed so serious an aspect as at this time. Luther was charged as the primary author of these calamities. But no man grieved for tbem more. The Thuringian peasants were under the leadership of Munzer, a rash and sanguinary man, who paid the penaliy of his violence by the forfeit of his life. The Suabian peasants were more moderately advised, and their address and twelve articles of grievance remain a remarkable monument of their innate sense of right, and proper temper in asserting it. Luther undertook the office of arbiter between them and the nobles. This was a delicate task, and not without some danger. But he executed it judiciously and well. In his address in reply to the articles of the peasants, he employs neither evasion nor circum locution in letting the nobles know their faults and oppressions. He is alive to the wrongs of the peasants, and sympathizes with them. He exhorts them to “ prosecute their enterprise conscientiously and justly.” He dissuades them from violence, as being contrary to Gospel law. He shows both parties that neither is “maintaining a Christian cause,” the nobles being guilty of oppression and injustice, and the peasants threatening vengeance for their own wrongs. He recommends them to select delegates to arrange the matter in dispute, in order that fighting, with its sins and horrors, may be averted.

We cannot overlook the inconsistency of Luther in his conduct in relation to the polygamy of the Landgrave of

But we are not desirous of enlarging on it at presWe are far from insisting on perfection of character for




His Work as a Reformer.


the great Reformer. His excellences were many, but he was not without his faults. In social and domestic life he was open, cheerful, generous, and kind. It is interesting to compare Luther at the domestic hearth, with his family and friends, with Luther at Leipsic or Worms, in the arena of disputation or before the tribunal of judgment. His faith in God was vivid and powerful, and his trust constant. His trials in life were many and various, but he held on his way faithfully, and in his day and generation did his work manfully and well.

In closing this notice of the career and character of Martin Luther suggested by the book before us, it may not be out of place to offer a remark on the essential basis of the Reformation. What, let us ask, was the fundamental principle of this great Reformation, of which Luther was so powerful an instrument ? It was the authority of Scripture alone, with the involved right of private judgment. We perceive this in the replies he constantly gave to the demands made on him to submit and retract. Whether before the individual legate, or before an august assembly of princes, prelates, and nobles, his answer was, —“Unless I am convinced from Holy Scriptures, I will not retract.” The right of the individual mind to inquire for itself, and the sufficiency of the written word as a rule of faith and practice, — these, we say, were the fundamental points of the Reformation.

This view of the matter leads us to regard the work of the great Reformer in a correct light. His name and memory are to be venerated; not, however, because he was the rectifier of religious doctrine, but because he was the asserter of human rights. Luther retained doctrines as unsound and erroneous as some which he discarded. Consubstantiation, as far as it is intelligible, is as absurd as transubstantiation. He had not a sufficiently cool temper for a sound theologian. He rejected the Epistle of James because he could not make it harmonize with his interpretation of St. Paul, and stigmatized it as worthless. Justification by faith alone was a favorite doctrine with him. When he assailed the indulgences, he was led to assert this doctrine in opposition to the Papal dogma of superfluous merit, upon which the theory of indulgences was based. From this circumstance it acquired, we think, an undue ascendency in his mind. Melancthon, his intimate friend and fellow-laborer, did not agree with him in his views concerning justification by faith alone. It

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