Lutherans

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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

or the Lutheran Church the disciples and followers of Martin Luther, an Augustine friar, who was born at Isleben, in Upper Saxony, in the year 1483. He possessed an invincible magnanimity, and uncommon vigour and acuteness of genius. He first took offence at the indulgences which were granted in 1517, by Pope Leo X, to those who contributed toward finishing St. Peter's church at Rome, Luther being then professor of divinity at Wittemberg. Those indulgences promised remission of all sins, past, present, and to come, however enormous their nature, to all who were rich enough to purchase them. At this Luther raised his warning voice; and in ninety-five propositions, which he maintained publicly at Wittemberg, September 30, 1517, exposed the doctrine of indulgences, which led him to attack also the authority of the pope. This was the commencement of that memorable revolution in the church which was styled the Reformation; though Mosheim fixes the era of the Reformation from 1520, when Luther was excommunicated by the pope.

In 1523 Luther drew up a liturgy, that, in many things, differed but little from the Mass Book; but he left his followers to make farther reforms, as they saw them necessary; and, in consequence, the forms of worship in the Lutheran churches vary in points of minor importance: but they agree in reading the Scriptures publicly, in offering prayers and praises to God through the Mediator in their own language, in popular addresses to the congregation, and the reverend administration of the sacraments.

The Augsburgh Confession (see Confessions ) forms the established creed of the Lutheran church. The following are a few of the principal points of doctrine maintained by this great reformer, and a few of the Scriptures by which he supported them.

1. That the Holy Scriptures are the only source whence we are to draw our religious sentiments, whether they relate to faith or practice,   John 5:39;  1 Corinthians 4:16;  2 Timothy 3:15-17 . Reason also confirms the sufficiency of the Scriptures; for, if the written word be allowed to be a rule in one case, how can it be denied to be a rule in another?

2. That justification is the effect of faith exclusive of good works; and that faith ought to produce good works purely in obedience to God, and not in order to our justification; for St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Galatians, strenuously opposed those who ascribed our justification, though but in part, to works: "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain,"   Galatians 2:21 . Therefore it is evident we are not justified by the law, or by our works; but to him that believeth, sin is pardoned, and Christ's righteousness imputed. This article of justification by faith alone, Luther used frequently to call "articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiae;" that by which the church must stand or fall.

3. That no man is able to make satisfaction for his sins; for our Lord teaches us to say, when we have done all things that are commanded us, "We are unprofitable servants,"   Luke 17:10 . Christ's sacrifice is alone sufficient to satisfy for sin, and nothing need be added to the infinite value of his atonement.

Luther also rejected tradition, purgatory, penance, auricular confession, masses, invocation of saints, monastic vows, and other doctrines of the church of Rome. Luther differed widely from Calvin on matters of church discipline; and on the presence of Christ's body in the sacrament. His followers also deviated from him in some things; but the following may be considered as a fair statement of their principles, and the difference between them and the Calvinists:

1. The Lutherans in Germany reject both Episcopacy and Presbyterianism, but appoint superintendents for the government of the church, who preside in their consistories, when that office is not supplied by a delegate from the civil government; and they hold meetings in the different towns and villages, to inquire into the state of the congregations and the schools. The appointment of superintendents, and the presentation to livings, is generally in the prince, or ecclesiastical courts. The Swedes and Danes have an ecclesiastical hierarchy, similar to that of England.

2. They differ in their views of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. All the Lutherans reject trans -substantiation, but affirm that the body and blood of Christ are materially present in the sacrament, though in an incomprehensible manner: this they called con -substantiation. The Calvinists hold, on the contrary, that Jesus Christ is only spiritually present in the ordinance, by the external signs of bread and wine.

3. They differ as to the doctrine of the eternal decrees of God respecting man's salvation. The modern Lutherans maintain that the divine decrees, respecting the salvation and misery of men, are founded upon the divine prescience. The Calvinists, on the contrary, consider these decrees as absolute and unconditional.

The Lutherans are generally divided into the moderate and the rigid. The moderate Lutherans are those who submitted to the Interim published by the Emperor Charles V. Melancthon was the head of this party, and they were called Adiaphorists. The rigid Lutherans are those who would not endure any change in their master's sentiments, of whom M. Flaccius was the head. The Lutherans are partial to the use of instrumental music in their churches, and admit statues and paintings, as the church of England does, without allowing them any religious veneration; but the rigid Calvinists reject these, and allow only the simplest forms of psalmody. The modern Lutherans, about the close of the seventeenth century, enlarged their liberality toward other sects, and gave up the supposed right of persecution; confessing that Christians are accountable to God only for their religious faith. They admit, also, into their sacred canon the Epistle of St. James, which Luther rashly rejected, because he could not reconcile it with St. Paul's doctrine of justification; and the Revelation of St. John, which Luther also rejected, because he could not explain it.

On some of the doctrines of the early German reformers the following remarks by Archbishop Laurence are entitled to high consideration:— Against the church of Rome, which always, when attacked, fled for protection to the shield of scholastical sophistry, Luther had waged a dauntless, unwearied, and effectual warfare. He entered the field of contest without distrust or apprehension, under a rooted persuasion that the victory over superstition would prove easy at an era when learning had already begun to extend itself in every direction, and was become closely allied to theological attainments. When the light of day appeared, the genuine doctrines of Scripture, and the primitive opinions of antiquity began to be more distinctly perceived, and more accurately investigated. With an attachment to classical pursuits arose a zeal for Biblical inquiries. Taste and truth went hand in hand. Luther, than whom no one was more capable of infusing energy into the cause in which he had embarked, was of all men the worst adapted to conduct it with moderation: he was calculated to commence, but not to complete, reformation. Prompt, resolute, and impetuous, he laboured with distinguished success in the demolition of long established error; he also hastily threw together the rough and cumbrous materials of a better system. But the office of selecting, modelling, and arranging them was consigned to a correcter hand. Melancthon was of a character directly opposite to that of Luther, possessing every requisite to render truth alluring and reformation respectable; and hence upon him, in preference, the princes of Germany conferred the honour of compiling the public profession of their faith. But it ought not to be concealed, that, previously to the time when Lutheranism first became settled upon a permanent basis, and added public esteem to public notice, tenets were advanced, which retarded the progress of truth more than all the subtleties of scholastic argument, or the terrors of papal anathema. At the beginning of the Reformation, as Melancthon frankly observed to Cranmer, there existed among its advocates stoical disputations respecting fate, offensive in their nature, and noxious in their tendency. The duration, however, of these stoical disputations was but short; and the substitution of a more rational as well as practical system, for the space of more than twenty years before the appearance of our Articles, prevented the founders of our church from mistaking, for the doctrines of the Lutherans, those which they themselves wished to forget, and were anxious to obliterate. As we descend to particulars, it will be necessary to keep our eye upon one prominent doctrine, which was eminently conspicuous in all the controversies of the Lutherans,—the doctrine of Complete Redemption By Christ which in their idea their adversaries (the Papists) disregarded, who denied in effect the depravity of our nature, believed the favour of Heaven in this life recoverable by what was denominated merit of congruity, and, in the life to come, by that which was termed merit of condignity, and founded predestination upon merits of such a description; thus in every instance, while retaining the name of Christians, rendering Christianity itself superfluous. In opposition to opinions so repugnant in many respects to reason, and in almost all so subversive of Scripture, the Lutherans constantly pressed the unsophisticated tenet of the atonement, not contractedly in a Calvinistical, but comprehensively in a Christian, point of view,—in one in which both Calvinists and Arminians alike embrace it.

Upon original sin the doctrine of the schoolmen was no less fanciful and remote from every Scriptural idea, than flattering to human pride. They contended that the infection of our nature is not a mental but a mere corporeal taint; that the body alone receives and transmits the contagion, while the soul in all instances proceeds immaculate from the hands of her Creator. This disposition to disease, such as they allowed it to be, was considered by some of them as the effect of a peculiar quality in the forbidden fruit; by others, as having been contracted from the poisonous breath of the infernal spirit which inhabited the serpent's body. On one point they were all united; by preserving to the soul the bright traces of her divine origin unimpaired, they founded on a deceitful basis an arrogant creed, which, in declaring peace and pardon to the sinner, rested more upon personal merit than the satisfaction of a Saviour. In commenting upon the celebrated Book of Sentences, a work once not much less revered than the Scriptures themselves, the disciples of Lombard never failed to improve every hint which tended to degrade the grace of God and exalt the pride of man. Original sin the Roman schoolmen directly opposed to original righteousness; and this they considered not as something connatural with man, but as a superinduced habit of adventitious ornament, the removal of which could not prove detrimental to the native powers of his mind. When, therefore, they contemplated the effects of the fall, by confining the evil to a corporeal taint, and not extending it to the nobler faculties of the soul, they regarded man as an object of divine displeasure, not because he possessed that which was offensive, but because he was defective in that which was pleasing to the Almighty. Adam, they said, received for himself and his posterity the gift of righteousness, which he subsequently forfeited; in his loins we were included, and by him were virtually represented: his will was ours, and hence the consequence of his lapse is justly imputable to us his descendants. By our natural birth, therefore, under this idea, we are alienated from God, innocent in our individual persons, but guilty in that of him from whom we derived our existence; a guilt which, although contracted through, the fault of another, yet so closely adheres to us that it effectually precludes our entrance at the gate of everlasting life, until the reception of a new birth in baptism. Thus they contended, that the sin of Adam conveys to us solely imputed guilt; the corporeal infection which they admitted not being sin itself, but only the subject matter of it,—not peccatum, but, according to their phraseology, fomes peccati, a kind of fuel which the human will kindles or not at pleasure. Such was the outline of the doctrine maintained in the church of Rome. The tenet of the Lutherans, on the other hand, is remarkable for its simplicity and perspicuity. Avoiding all intricate questions upon the subject, they taught that original sin is a corruption of our nature in a general sense, a depravation of the mental faculties and the corporeal appetites; that the resplendent image of the Deity, which man received at the creation of the world, although not annihilated, is nevertheless greatly impaired; and that, in consequence, the bright characters of unspotted sanctity, once deeply engraven on his mind by the hand of the living God are become obliterated, the injury extending to his intellect, and affecting as well his reason and his will as his affections and passions. To conceive that inclination to evil incurs not in itself the disapprobation of Heaven, appeared to them little better than an apology for crime, or at least a dangerous palliation of that which the Christian's duty compels him not only to repress but abhor.

The case of Cornelius, whose prayers and alms are said to have ascended up for a memorial before God, was often quoted, by the advocates of the church of Rome, to prove the merit of works before the reception of grace; to prove the human will capable, by its own inherent rectitude, of deserving the favour and approbation of Heaven. The Lutherans, on the other hand, contended, that the argument supported not the conclusion drawn from it, and was therefore irrelevant; that the works of Cornelius were not the causes but the effects of grace; and that this is sufficiently apparent from the context, in which he is described as "a devout man, who feared God and prayed continually." The disciples of Lombard, in whatever mode disposed to pervert reason and annihilate Scripture, universally held, that neither before nor after the fall was man in himself capable of meriting heaven; that by the gratuitous endowments of his creation, even in paradise, he was only enabled to preserve his innocence, and not to sin; and that he was utterly incompetent to proceed one step farther, efficaciously to will a remunerable good, and by his natural exertions to obtain a reward above his nature; original righteousness being reputed not a connate quality, but a supernatural habit. Thus, he could resist evil, but not advance good to perfection; could in some sense live well, by living free from sin, but could not without divine aid so live as to deserve everlasting life. For such a purpose they asserted that grace was necessary, to operate upon his will in its primary determinations, and to cooperate with it in its ultimate acts. It was, therefore, in the loss of this celestial aid, this superadded gift, and not in any depravity of his mind, that they supposed the principal evil derivable from his lapse to consist; a loss, however, which, by a due exertion of his innate abilities, they deemed to be retrievable; and hence sprung that offensive doctrine of human sufficiency which, in the Lutheran's eye, completely obscured the glory of the Gospel, and which, when applied to the sinner's conscience, taught the haughty to presume, and the humble to despair. According, then, to the system under consideration, the favour of God in this life, and his beatific vision in the life to come, are both attainable by personal merit; the former by congruous, as it was termed, the latter by condign; the one without, the other with, the assistance of grace. By our natural strength, it was said, we can fulfil the commands of God as far as their obligation extends; yet was it added, that we cannot fulfil them according to the intention of the divine Legislator; an intention of rewarding only those who obey them in virtue formed by charity, under the influence of a quality rather regulating the tendency, than augmenting the purity, of the action. They stated, that we may so prepare ourselves for grace as to become entitled to it congruously, not as to a debt which in strict justice God is bound to pay, but as to a grant which it is congruous in him to give, and which it would be inconsistent with his attributes to withhold. This favourite doctrine was supported by every denomination of scholastics, and by every individual of the church of Rome. Congruous merit was universally esteemed a pearl above all price, the intrinsic value of which attracted the regard, and conciliated the benevolence, of the Almighty. According to their conception, we are endowed with an innate propensity to good, which vice itself can never obliterate, and are able not only to reverence and adore the supreme Being, but to love him above other objects. They supposed man competent no less to the efficient practice, than to the barren admiration, of holiness; enabled as well to obey the laws, as to love the goodness, of the Almighty; and, if not to deserve the rewards, at least to discharge the obligations, of religion. Impressed, therefore, with such exalted notions of human ability, and forgetful of the Christian propitiation for sin, the sophists of the schools maintained, that the soul of man possesses in the freedom, or rather in the capacity, of her WILL a faculty almost divine. Stimulated by the most upright propensities, and undepraved in her noblest powers, she directs her progress in the path of truth and the road to bliss, by the pure and inextinguishable light of an unperverted reason. Although mutable in her decisions, nevertheless complete controller of her conduct, she becomes at pleasure either the servant of righteousness or the slave of sin; and, disdaining to be anticipated by God himself, prevents him in his supernatural gifts by a previous display of her own meritorious deeds, challenging, as a congruous right, that which only could have been otherwise conferred as a favour undeserved. "By the bare observance of my holy order," exclaimed the secluded devotee, "I am able not solely to obtain grace for myself, but, by the works which I then may do, can accumulate merit sufficient both to supply my own wants and those of others; so that I may sell the superabundance of my acquired treasure." Can we be surprised that a reformer of Luther's manly disposition, who wrote without reserve and reasoned without control, when adverting to opinions of so noxious a tendency, should sometimes, from excess of zeal, lose sight of moderation in his censures? The Lutherans commenced the attack upon these unscriptural dogmas, under a persuasion that the position of their opponents militated against the leading principles of Christianity.

"If man," they said, "be capable of pleasing God by his own works abstractedly considered, without divine assistance, where is the necessity, and what is the utility, of that assistance?" They argued, that, were it possible for the moral virtues of the mind by their own efficiency to render our persons acceptable to God and obtain his lost favour, no need would exist of any other satisfaction for sin, and thus the whole scheme of Gospel redemption would have been fruitless, and Christ have died in vain. While, therefore, the doctrine of the atonement presented nothing but a cloud and darkness to their adversaries, it gave light by night to these; on them it shone, amidst surrounding gloom, with lustre unobscured. Luther advanced a proposition which proved highly offensive to the Papists, and which they never ceased to condemn and calumniate. His assertion was, that he who exerts himself to the utmost of his ability still continues to sin. On the other side, unassisted man was thought incapable of performing an action remunerably good, or, as it was usually termed, condignly meritorious, even before his lapse; and that consequently, in his fallen state, all to which he was conceived competent by his innate strength was not to sin. When Luther therefore drew up his thesis for public disputation against the tenet of congruous works, if little delicacy, yet some caution, and much discrimination, appealed requisite. Had he stated them to be thus good in a scholastic sense, he would have completely lost sight of his object, and allowed more than even his opponents themselves. Had he described them as not demeritorious, or, in other words, not sinful, he would have precisely maintained the adverse position, and might consequently have spared his labour, at the same time that he would have tacitly acknowledged them to possess, what he could not consistently with truth attribute to them, every natural perfection, of virtue and holiness. Under what denomination, then, could he class them, except under that of sinful? a denomination which he the more readily adopted because, even among his adversaries themselves, the words SIN and Grace as he remarked, were in general immediately opposed to each other. Anxious to rescue Christian theology from the grasp of those who embraced only to betray, the Lutherans laboured to restore that importance to the doctrine of redemption with which the Scriptures invest it, but of which, by a subtle perversity, it had been deprived. The principal object, therefore, in their view evidently was, to Christianize the speculations of the schools; and the principal drift of their argument is to prove, that human virtue, how extravagantly soever extolled by a vain philosophy, is wholly insufficient (because imperfect), to merit the favour of Heaven. Allowing no medium between righteousness and unrighteousness, the approbation and disapprobation of the Almighty, characterizing that as sinful which is confessedly not holy, and thus annihilating every ground of self- presumption, they inculcated the necessity of contemplating with the eye of faith those means of reconciliation which Christianity alone affords. But it has been insinuated, that the Lutheran doctrine went to prove man's total inability to extricate himself from crime, until the arrival of some uncertain moment, which brings with it a regeneration from on high, the sudden transfusion of a new light and new virtues. But those who thus conceive of it are not probably aware, that Melancthon, the venerable author of the Augsburgh Confession, warmly reprobates this precise idea, which he denominates a Manichean conceit and a horrible falsehood. Upon the abstract question of free will it is indeed true, that Melancthon, no less than Luther, at first held opinions which he was happy to retract. But when this is acknowledged it should be added, that he made ample amends for his indiscretion by not only expunging the offensive passages from the single work which contained them, but by introducing others of a nature diametrically opposite. And although the more inflexible coadjutor of Melancthon was too lofty to correct what he had once made public, and too magnanimous to regard the charge of inconsistency which his adversaries urged against him; yet what his better judgment approved clearly appears from a preface written not long before his death; in which, while he expressed an anxiety to have his own chaotic labours, as he styled them, buried in eternal oblivion, he recommended in strong terms, as a work admirably adapted to form the Christian divine, that very performance of his friend which was remarkable for something more than a mere recantation of the opinions alluded to. It was not against any conceived deficiency in the quality of our virtue that they argued, but against its supposed competency, whether wrought in or out of grace, with greater or less degrees of purity, to effect that which the oblation of Christ alone accomplishes. Upon both points Luther treated the doctrine of his adversaries as altogether frivolous, and incapable of corroboration by a single fact. Futile, however, as the scholastical tenet appeared to be, although deficient in proof and unsupported by example, upon this, he remarked with indignation and grief, was founded the whole system of papal delusion.

Justification was on both sides supposed to consist entirely in the remission of sins. The popish scholastics, on this head, were remarkably distinct in their ideas, and express in their language. They represented it as an effect produced by the infusion of divine grace into the mind; not as a consequent to a well spent life, but as preceding all remunerable obedience, as the intervening point between might and day, the gloom of a guilty and the light of a self-approving conscience; or, in other words, and to adopt their own phraseology, as the exact boundary where merit of congruity ends and where merit of condignity begins, the infallible result of a previous disposition on our part, which never fails of alluring from on high that supernatural quality which, being itself love, renders the soul beloved.

While the Lutherans, however, adhered to the general import of the term as understood in the schools, they waged an incessant warfare upon another point; while they allowed that justification consists in the remission of sin, they denied that this remission is to be acquired by the merit of the individual. Their scholastic opponents maintained that man is justified in the sight of God in consequence of his own preparation, and on account of his personal qualities. They, on the other hand, argued with an inflexibility which admitted of no compromise, that, possessing not merits of his own to plead, man freely received forgiveness through the mercy of God solely on account of the merits of Christ. The effective principle, therefore, or meritorious cause of justification, was the great point contested. The doctrine of the popish divines, explained more at large, was this: When the sinner, conscious of his past transgressions, inquired where he was to seek the expiation of his crime, and deliverance from the dreadful consequences of it, the general answer was, In the merit of penitence; a merit capable of annihilating guilt, and appeasing the anger of incensed Omnipotence. He, they argued, who, having disobeyed the laws of Heaven, is desirous of returning into that state of acceptance from which he has fallen, must not expect free forgiveness; but previously by unfeigned sorrow of heart deserve the restoration of grace, and, with it, the obliteration of his offences. To effect this desirable purpose he is bound strictly to survey and detest his former conduct, accurately to enumerate his transgressions and deeply feel them; and, impresses with a due sense of their magnitude, impurity, and consequences, to condemn his folly and deplore his fault, which have made him an outcast of Heaven, and exposed him to eternal misery. So far he can proceed by that operation of the mind which they denominated Attrition and which, being within the sphere of his natural powers, they regarded as congruous piety meritorious of justification as a preparation of the soul more or less necessary to receive and merit justifying grace. When, therefore, he is arrived at this point, ATTRITION ceases and Contrition commences; the habit of sin is expelled, while that of holiness is superinduced in its stead, and with the infusion of charity, the plastic principle of a new obedience, justification becomes complete. But even here it was not conceived that a total deliverance takes, place; a liberation from guilt and eternal punishment is effected, but not from temporal, which is never remitted unless either by the infliction of some personal suffering or satisfactory compensation required of him who is already justified and approved by Heaven. However, to accomplish this remaining object, nothing more is wanting than a continuation, to a sufficient intensity, of that compunction of heart which is now denominated CONTRITION, grace supplying the defects of nature, and enabling penitential merit not only to justify, but to obtain exemption from punishment of every species. But so great appeared to the popish scholastics the frailty of man and the severity of God, that no inconsiderable difficulty occurred in the due application of this favourite doctrine to individuals; for the means of expiation, they imagined, ought always to be proportionate to the magnitude of the offences. "How," they reasoned, "are we to be assured that our contrition has been either sufficient or sincere, and whether it has been so in the obliteration not only of one crime, but of all; whether it has atoned for past transgressions of every kind, the number of which may perplex, as well as their guilt confound, us?" Instead, therefore, of penitence in its strictest acceptation as a perfect virtue, God, they said, in condescension to human infirmity, has substituted for general practice the sacrament of penitence, which, for the attainment of full remission, requires only a moderate compunction of soul, with confession to the priest, and the discharge of such satisfaction as he may enjoin. And, still lower to reduce the terms of acceptance, they even argued that it is not absolutely necessary for the penitent to experience an entire conversion of heart, but only not to oppose the impediment of moral crime, to feel some displeasure at his past conduct, and to express a resolution of amending it in future. But, after all, and in spite of the boasted authority of the keys, complete confidence in divine forgiveness was never inculcated; for it was neither the interest nor the inclination of the church of Rome to teach the simple doctrine of Christian faith, but rather to involve it in metaphysical obscurity. Under the pretext, therefore, of relieving the throbbing breast from its apprehensions, they had recourse to numerous inventions for propping the insecure fabric of penitential hope; asserting, among other extravagancies, that the sacraments are in themselves efficacious by virtue of their own operation, exclusively of all merit in the recipient; and that the sacrament of the altar, in particular, acts so powerful in this respect as to communicate grace not only to those who partake of it, but to others from whom it is received by substitution, provided its operation be not hindered by confessedly flagrant immorality. So deeply rooted in the minds of the papists had become the persuasion of its thus effecting the best of purposes, and that even without the necessity of an actual participation of it by him upon whom the benefit is conferred, that the celebration of the mass was universally regarded as the means of appeasing the anger of Heaven, and obtaining pardon and peace, of procuring divine assistance for the living, and, for the dead, deliverance from the bitter pains of purgatory. Nor by the sacraments alone, but by every good external work, as well as internal disposition, was justifying grace supposed to be merited congruously, and satisfaction for sin to be made condignly. In monastical institutions, likewise, were found no mean materials for similar purposes; "for in those feigned religions," as the homily On Good Works describes them, "the devotees boasted of having lamps which ran always over, able to satisfy not only for their own sins, but also for all other their benefactors, brothers and sisters of religion, as most ungodly and craftily they had persuaded the multitude of ignorant people; keeping in divers places marts or markets of merits, being full of their holy relics, images, shrines, and works of overflowing abundance, ready to be sold." Yet, whether the dubious penitent was instructed to derive consolation from the efficacy of the sacraments, from his own personal qualities, or from any of what Cranmer aptly termed "the fantastical works of man's invention," it should be observed that he was not directly taught to consider these as wholly superseding the virtue of repentance, but as supplying his deficiencies in the performance of it; an incongruous system of atonement, fabricated by the avarice of Rome, and the obsequiousness of scholastical philosophy, to augment the treasures and extend the influence of the church, to extinguish the light of Gospel truth, and, while keeping the world at large in ignorance, to hold the conscience of the individual in slavery. Upon the whole, then, the scholastics maintained that justification is unattainable without repentance, at least, without some degree of attrition on our part; but in the common apprehension of the doctrine even this seems to have been forgotten, and merit of congruity considered in a general point of view as alone efficacious. Thus good works of every species preceding grace were said to deserve it, and, by deserving grace, to deserve the justifying principle. And always were they careful to impute the cause of forgiveness, not to the mercy of God in Christ, but to the sole change in the individual, to his transmutation from a state of unrighteousness to one of righteousness, to his possession of a quality which renders him a worthy object of divine approbation. For in every instance personal merit was conceived to be the solid basis upon which rests the complete remission of sin. Upon no one point, perhaps, has the opinion of Luther been more misrepresented than upon this. Some have ascribed to it a solifidian tendency, if not of the most enthusiastical, at least, of the most unqualified, description. But it seems indeed impossible accurately to comprehend the position which he maintained, if we examine it in an insulated point of view, unless we connect it with that of which in the church of Rome it properly formed a part, and from which he never intended to separate it,—the doctrine of penitence. In opposing the absurdity of papal indulgences, (the first impiety against which his manly mind revolted,) a ray of light, before unnoticed, darted upon him, and opened a completely new scene, which, while it stimulated his efforts as a reformer, animated his hopes as a Christian. Hence, averting with disdain from the speculations of sophists, and turning to the sacred page of revelation, he there beheld an affiance very different from what the schools inculcated; and thus, while their vain language was, "Repent, and trust to the efficacy of your contrition, either with or without extraneous works, according to the degree of its intensity, for the expiation of your offences;" his, more Scriptural and more consoling, became simply this: "Repent, and trust not for expiation to your own merits of any kind, but solely to those of your Redeemer." Rejecting the dreams of their adversaries with respect to the nature and effects of this important duty, they represented it as consisting of two essential parts, CONTRITION and Faith the latter as always associated with the former. Hence, in the Apology of their Confession, they repeatedly declared a disavowal of all faith, except such as exists in the contrite heart. Far was it from their intention to encourage the presumptuous or fanatical sinner in a false security: their object was very different and laudable,—they laboured to fix the eye of him who both laments and detests his offences, upon the only deserving object of human confidence and divine complacency. Properly, then, as they frequently remarked, their doctrine of justification was appropriated to troubled consciences, at every period of true repentance, and particularly at the awful hour of death, when the time for habitual proofs of amendment has elapsed, and when the past appears replete with guilt and the future with terror. At such moments, they taught not, with the schools, an affiance in human merit, but in the gratuitous mercy of God through Christ: to contrition, as a preparatory qualification or previous requisite, they added faith; and from faith they deemed every principle of real piety and virtue inseparable. Good works, or the outward fruits of an inward renovation of mind, were said to follow remission of sins; internal necessarily preceding external reformation. For the individual, they argued, must himself be good before the action can be so denominated, be justified before it can be deemed just, and accepted before it can prove acceptable, distinguishing between the primary admission into God's favour, and the subsequent preservation of that favour.

The unfathomable depths of divine predestination and predetermination human reason in vain attempts to sound, finite faculties to scan infinite, or the limited intellect of man to comprehend the immensity of the Godhead. Erasmus, a peculiar favourite with the reformers of our own country, when contemplating this inexplicable subject, observed, that "in the Holy Scriptures there are certain secret recesses, which God is unwilling for us too minutely to explore; and which, if we endeavour to explore, in proportion as we penetrate farther, our minds become more and more oppressed with darkness and stupefaction; that thus we might acknowledge the inscrutable majesty of the divine wisdom, and the imbecility of the human mind." Congenial, also, with the feelings and sentiments of Erasmus upon this point were those of Luther. "To acquire any knowledge," he remarked, "of a deity not revealed in Scripture, to know what his existence is, his actions and dispositions, belongs not to me. My duty is only this; to know what are his precepts, his promises, and his threatenings. Pernicious and pestilent is the thought of investigating causes, and brings with it inevitable ruin, especially when we ascend too high, and wish to philosophize upon predestination." How differently Calvin felt upon the same subject, and with what little reserve, or rather with what bold temerity, he laboured to scrutinize the unrevealed Divinity, is too well known to require any thing beyond a bare allusion to the circumstance. His sentiments, however, were much less regarded than some are disposed to allow; and upon this particular question, so far were they from having attained their full celebrity at the period when the articles of the church of England were framed, that they were not taught without opposition even in his own unimportant territory of Geneva. For at that precise era he was publicly accused (by Sebastian Castellio) of making God the author of sin; and although, not contented with silencing, he first imprisoned and afterward banished his accuser, yet he could not expel the opinions of his adversary. While the church of Rome maintained a predestination to life of one man in preference to another individually on account of personal merit, the Lutherans taught a gratuitous predestination of Christians collectively, of those whom God has chosen in Christ out of mankind; and by this single point of difference were the contending opinions principally contradistinguished. With us the system of Calvin still retains so many zealous advocates, that to a modern ear the very term Predestination seems to convey a meaning only conformable with his particular system. It should, however, be observed that this word was in familiar use for centuries before the Reformation, in a sense, very different from what Calvin imputed to it, not as preceding the divine prescience, but as resulting from it, much in the same sense as that in which it has since been supported by the Arminians. Yet, obvious as this appears, writers of respectability strangely persuade themselves, that, immediately prior to the Reformation, the doctrines of the church of Rome were completely Calvinistical; a conclusion to which, certainly, none can subscribe who are sufficiently conversant with the favourite productions of that time. So far, indeed, was this from being the fact, that Calvin peculiarly prided himself on departing from the common definition of the term, which had long been adopted by the adherents of the schools, and retained with a scrupulous precision. For while they held that the expression predestinati is exclusively applicable to the elect, whom God, foreknowing as meritorious objects of his mercy, predestinates to life; and while they appropriated that of praesciti to the non-elect, whose perseverance in transgression, is simply foreknown; Calvin, on the other side, treating the distinction as a frivolous subterfuge, contended that God, decreeing the final doom of the elect and non-elect irrespectively, predestinates both, not subsequently but previously to all foreknowledge of their individual dispositions, especially devotes the latter to destruction through the medium of crime, and creates them by a fatal destiny to perish. Whatever, therefore, modern conjecture may have attributed to the popish scholastics, it is certain that, abhorring every speculation which tends in the remotest degree to make God the author of sin, they believed that only salutary good is predestinated; grace to those who deserve it congruously, and glory to those who deserve it condignly. They maintained that almighty God, before the foundations of the world were laid, surveying in his comprehensive idea, or, as they phrased it, in his prescience of simple intelligence, the possibilities of all things before he determined their actual existence, foresaw that, if mankind were created, (although he willed the salvation of all, and was inclined to assist all indifferently, yet) some would deserve eternal happiness, and others eternal misery; and that therefore, he approved and elected the former, but disapproved or reprobated the latter. Thus, grounding election upon foreknowledge, they contemplated it, not as an arbitrary principle, separating one individual from another under the influence of a blind chance or an irrational caprice; but, on the contrary, as a wise and just principle, which presupposes a diversity between those who are accepted and those who are rejected. Hence it was, that in order to systematize upon this principle of election, and to show how consistent it is as well with the justice as the benevolence of the Deity, the will of God was considered in a double point of view, as absolute and conditional, or, in the technical language of the schools, as antecedent and consequent. In the first instance, by his absolute or antecedent will, he was said to desire the salvation of every man; in the latter, by his conditional or consequent will, that only of those whom he foresaw abstaining from sin and obeying his commandments: the one expressed his general inclination, the other his particular resolution upon the view of individual circumstances and conditions. To the inquiry, why some are unendowed with grace, their answer was, "Because some are not willing to receive it, and not because God is unwilling to give it." "He," they said, "offers his light to all. He is absent from none; but man absents himself from the present Deity, like one who shuts his eyes against the noon-day blaze." To the foregoing statement it should be added, that they held an election, or rather an ordination, to grace (which they expressly asserted to be defectible) distinct from an election to glory; that according to them, a name may be written in the book of life at one period, which at another may be erased from it; and that predestination to eternal happiness solely depends upon final perseverance in well doing. On the whole it is evident, that they considered the dignity or worthiness of the individual as the meritorious basis of predestination; merit of congruity as the basis of a preordination to grace, and merit of condignity as that of a preordination to glory. Thus, not more fastidious in the choice of their terms than accurate in the use of them, while they denied that the prescience of human virtue, correctly speaking, could be the primary cause of the divine will, because nothing in time can properly give birth to that which has existed from eternity, they strenuously maintained it to be a secondary cause, the ratio or rule in the mind of the Deity which regulated his will in the formation of its ultimate decisions. Although in the established confession of their faith the Lutherans avoided all allusion to the subject of predestination, it was nevertheless introduced into another work of importance, and of considerable public authority, the Loci Theologici of Melancthon, a production which was every where received as the standard of Lutheran divinity. Both Luther and Melancthon, after the Diet of Augsburgh, kept one object constantly in view,—to inculcate only what was plain and practical, and never to attempt philosophizing. But to what, it may be asked, did the Lutherans object in the theory of their opponents when they themselves abandoned the tenet of necessity? Certainly, not to the sobriety and moderation of that part of it which vindicated the justice, and displayed the benevolence, of the Almighty; but, generally, to the principles upon which it proceeded; to the presumption, in overleaping the boundary which Heaven has prescribed to our limited faculties, and which we cannot pass without plunging into darkness and error; and to its impiety in disregarding, if not despising, the most important truths of Christianity. A system of such a nature they hesitated not to reject, anxious to conduct themselves by the light of Scripture alone, nor presuming to be wise above what God has been pleased to discover. Maintaining not a particular election of personal favourites, either by an absolute will, or even a conditional one, dependent upon the ratio of merit, but a general election of all who, by baptism in their infancy, or by faith and obedience in mature years, become the adopted heirs of Heaven; they conceived this to be the only election to which the Gospel alludes, and, consequently, the only one upon which we can speak with confidence, or reason without presumption. If it be observed, that the selection of an integral body necessarily infers that of its component parts, the answer is obvious: The latter, although indeed it be necessarily inferred by the former, is nevertheless not a prior requisite, but a posterior result of the divine ordination. What they deemed absolute on the part of God was his everlasting purpose to save his elect in Christ, or real Christians considered as a whole, and contrasted with the remainder of the human race; the completion of this purpose being regulated by peculiar circumstances, operating as inferior causes of a particular segregation. For, persuaded of his good will toward all men without distinction, of his being indiscriminately disposed to promote the salvation of all, and of his seriously (not fictitiously, as Calvin taught) including all in the universal promise of Christianity, they imputed to him nothing like a partial choice, no limitation of favours, no irrespective exclusion of persons; but assuming the Christian character as the sole ground of individual preference, they believed that every baptized infant, by being made a member of Christ, not by being comprised in a previous arbitrary, decree, is truly the elect of God, and dying in infancy, certain of eternal happiness; that he who, in maturer years, becomes polluted by wilful crime, loses that state of salvation which before he possessed; that nevertheless by true repentance, and conversion to the Father of mercy and God of all consolation, he is again reinstated in it; and that, by finally persevering in it, he at length receives the kingdom prepared for every sincere Christian before the foundation of the world. Can any man, whom prejudice has not blinded, rank these sentiments with those of Calvin? It may seem almost unnecessary to subjoin, that the Lutherans held the defectibility of grace; its indefectibility being a position supported but by those who think that the Redeemer died for a selected few alone. Upon the whole then it appears, that the Lutherans, affecting not in any way to philosophize, but committing themselves solely to the guidance of Scripture, differed from the church of Rome in several important particulars. For, although on some points they coincided with her, although they inculcated, with equal zeal and upon a better principle, both the universality and the defectibility of grace, as well as a conditional admission into the number of the elect, they nevertheless were entirely at variance with her upon the very foundation of the system. Thus while their opponents taught, that predestination consists in the prospective discrimination of individuals by divine favour, according to the foreseen ratio of every man's own merit,—works of congruity deserving grace here, and works of condignity eternal life hereafter, and that in this way it principally rests upon human worth; the Lutherans, disclaiming every idea of such a discrimination, placed it upon the same basis as they assumed in the case of justification,—that of an effectual redemption by Christ. Instead, therefore, of holding the election of individuals as men on account of personal dignity or worthiness, they maintained the election of a general mass as Christians on account of Christ alone; adding that we are admitted into that number, or discarded from it, in the eye of Heaven, proportionably as we embrace or reject the salvation offered to all, embracing it with a faith inseparable from genuine virtue, or rejecting it by incredulity and crime. For neither in this, nor in the instance of justification, did they exclude repentance and a true conversion of the heart and life, as necessary requisites, but only as meritorious causes, from the contemplation of God's omniscient intellect. "Let those," said Luther, " who wish to be elected avoid an evil conscience, and not transgress the divine commandments." Instructed then by the unerring page of truth, they asserted no other predestination than what is there expressly revealed; that of the good and gracious Father of mankind, who from eternity has been disposed to promote the happiness and welfare of all men, has destined Christ to be the Saviour of the whole world, and withholden from none the exalted hope of the Christian calling. Convinced that this is the only predestination which Christianity discloses, and consequently the only one which we can either with safety or certainty embrace, they discouraged every attempt at investigating the will, out of the word, of God; every attempt at effecting impossibilities, at unveiling the secret counsels of Him who shrouds his divine perfections in darkness impervious to mortal eyes. With such investigations, indeed, the world had already been sufficiently bewildered by the scholastics, who, endowed with a ready talent at perplexing what before was plain, and at rendering abstruseness still more abstruse, had made the subject totally inexplicable, vainly labouring to develope with precision that mysterious will upon which the wise must ever think it folly, and the good impiety, to speculate. Disquisitions of this presumptuous nature, from a personal experience of their mischievous tendency, Luther abjured himself, and deprecated in others. "Are we, miserable men," he exclaimed," who as yet are incapable of comprehending the rays of God's promises, the glimmerings of his precepts and his works, although confirmed by words and miracles, are we, infirm and impure, eager to comprehend all that is great and glorious in the solar light itself, in the incomprehensible light of a miraculous Godhead?

Do we not know, that God dwells in splendour inaccessible? And yet do we approach, or rather do we presume to approach it? Are we not aware, that his judgments are inscrutable? And yet do we endeavour, to scrutinize them? And these things we do, before we are habituated even to the faint lustre of his promises and precepts, with a vision still imperfect, blindly rushing into the majesty of that light which, secret and unseen, has never been by words or miracles exhibited. What wonder, then, if, while we explore its majesty, we are overwhelmed with its glory?" For a farther account of the Lutheran views on predestination, see the last pages of the article See Calvinism .

After this very ample exposition of the sentiments of the German reformers on the chief points of Christian doctrine, it is only necessary to give a few additional particulars in corroboration of some portions of the preceding statement. The high estimation in which Luther held the productions of the judicious Melancthon is apparent from a passage in the preface to the first volume of Luther's works, dated 1545. In that year also appeared the last amended edition of Melancthon's "Common Places," to which he alludes. "Long and earnestly," he says, "have I resisted the importunity of those who have wished me to publish my works, or, to speak more correctly, my confused and disorderly lucubrations; not only because I was unwilling that the labours of the ancients should be turned aside by my novelties, and that the reader should be hindered from perusing them, but likewise because now, by the grace of God, a great number of methodical books are extant; among which the Common Places of our Philip claim the preference, for by them a divine and a bishop may be abundantly and satisfactorily confirmed, so as to become powerful in the word of the doctrine of piety, especially when the Holy Bible itself can now be procured in almost every language. But the want of order in the matters to be discussed in my books induced, nay compelled, me to render them a sort of rude and indigested chaos, which it would now require even on my part no small exertion to digest into a methodical form. Under the influence of such motives as these, I was desirous that all my productions should be buried in perpetual oblivion, that they might give place to others of a better description." In this preface Luther also gives the following testimony to the general usefulness of Melancthon's labours: "In the same year Philip Melancthon had been called to this university by Prince Frederick to fill the chair of Greek professor, but no doubt with the intention that I should have him as my colleague in the labours of the divinity professorship. For his works are sufficiently in proof of what the Lord hath effected by this his choice instrument, not only in polite literature, but in theology, although Satan be enraged and all his party." Though the early opinions of Luther upon the doctrine of a philosophical necessity appear to have been occasionally expressed in a harsh and repulsive manner, yet his followers pertinaciously contend that even the harshest of them cannot, with propriety, be construed into a sense favourable to the Calvinistical system. Those of Melancthon in the first edition of his Loci Theologici, although occurring but in one or two instances, were nevertheless still more offensive, and less capable of a mitigated interpretation. So far indeed did he carry the doctrine of divine predetermination as to degrade man to a level with the brutes, as will be obvious from the following passage in the edition of 1525. "Lastly, divine predestination, takes away human, liberty. For all things come to pass according to divine predestination, not only external works, but also internal thoughts in all creatures." After the Diet of Augsburgh in 1530, we hear no more of this obnoxious tenet. Indeed so early as 1527, these reformers seem to have abandoned it. At least, when in that year a form of doctrine was drawn up for the churches of Saxony, free will in acts of morality was thus inculcated: "The human will is so far free as to be able in some sort to perform the righteousness of the flesh, or civil justice, when it is obliged by the law and by force not to steal, not to kill, not to commit adultery, &c. Therefore let ministers teach, that it is in a measure in our own hands to restrain carnal affections, and to perform civil justice; and let them diligently exhort men to a strict and proper course of life, because God also requires this kind of righteousness, and will grievously punish those men who live so negligent of their duty. For as we are bound to make a good use of the other gifts of God, so is it likewise our duty to employ to good purpose those powers which God has bestowed on nature." "For God takes no delight in that ferocious mode of life which is adopted by some men, who, after having heard that we are not justified by our own powers and works, foolishly dream that they will wait until they be drawn by God, and in the mean time their course of life is most impure. Such persons God will most severely punish; and they must therefore be earnestly reprehended and admonished by those whose province it is to teach in the churches." This work, which is generally termed, Libellus Visitationis Saxonic, was first composed in German by Melancthon in 1527, and afterward republished by Luther with a preface, in which he thus expresses himself: "We do not publish these as rigorous precepts, nor do we again employ ourselves in drawing up pontifical decrees, but we relate matters of history and public deeds, and present the confession and symbol of our belief." The previous controversy between Luther and Erasmus, on the topic of free will, had probably tended to produce an amelioration of the doctrinal system of the Lutheran church. In this view it was not without reason that Erasmus made the following reflections in a letter dated 1528, soon after he had seen this production: "The Lutheran fever, every succeeding day, assumes a milder form; so that Luther himself now writes recantations on almost every thing, and on this account he is considered by the rest as a heretic and a madman." Similar caustic remarks occur in other letters of Erasmus; and as, in those days of high religious excitement, taunts of this kind were considered too good to be confined as secrets within the breast of the correspondents to whom they were addressed, it is not improbable that Luther might be prevented through them, among other reasons, from making farther doctrinal concessions; it being no uncommon circumstance in the history of the human mind for persons of otherwise strong understandings to be under the influence of this pitiable weakness. That Melancthon not only abandoned but reprehended the doctrine in 1529, we cannot doubt, because his own express testimony in proof of it remains on record. In a letter to Christopher Stathmio, dated March 20th, 1559, which was not long before his death, he notices the subject in these words: "Thirty years ago, not through the desire of contention, but on account of the glory of God, and for the sake of discipline, I sharply reprehended the Stoical paradoxes concerning necessity, because they are reproachful toward God and injurious to morals. At this time the legions of the Stoics are waging war against me; but in the answer which I have written in opposition to the Bavarian inquisition, I have once more pointed out in a modest manner that opinion (on fate or predestination) in which anxious minds may acquiesce and be at rest." On consulting the tract to which his letter alludes, we find him employing this strong and unequivocal language: "I also openly reject and abhor those Stoical and Manichean furies who affirm that all things necessarily happen, evil as well as good actions. But concerning these I refrain at present from any lengthened discussion; only I entreat young people to avoid these monstrous opinions, which are contumelious against God, and pernicious to morals." From the Loci Theologici, in which Melancthon had first introduced this obnoxious tenet, he expunged necessity in the edition of 1533, and inserted in its place the opposite one of contingency. The following are extracts from this amended work: "The discussion on the cause of sin and that on contingency have sometimes greatly agitated the church, and excited mighty tragedies. Men of acute minds collect multitudes of inextricable and absurd things about both these subjects. Because there is some danger in them, young people must be warned to abstain from these interminable disputes, and in preference to search out a simple and pious opinion, beneficial to religion and morals, in which they may abide, nor suffer themselves to be withdrawn from it by those fallacious tricks of disputations. But this is a pious and true sentiment to be embraced with both hands, and to be retained rather by the whole heart,—that God is not the cause of sin, and that he does not will sin. But the causes of sin are the will of the devil, and the will of man." "But this sentiment being once laid down, that God is not the cause of sin, it evidently follows that contingency must be granted. The freedom of the will is the cause of the contingency of our actions." "Neither must the delirious doatings about Stoical fate, or about necessity, be conveyed into the church, because they are inextricable and sometimes injurious to piety and morals." "From these opinions it becomes the pious to be abhorrent in their ears and in their hearts." These extracts serve to prove, that Melancthon reprobated the idea of introducing into the church the doctrine of Stoical fate, before Calvin had distinguished himself either as an author or a reformer. Into his subsequent productions of almost every description Melancthon introduced the doctrine of contingency, and strenuously defended it, particularly in the amended edition of his Loci Theologici in 1545. Luther never formally revoked any of his own writings; but on this last corrected production of his friend, as we have shown, he bestowed the highest commendations. Yet he did not scruple publicly to assert, that at the beginning of the Reformation he had not completely settled his creed. In the seventh volume of his works this sentence is found: "I have also published the confession of my faith; in which I have openly testified what and how I believe, and in what articles I think myself at length to be at rest." He seems, indeed, to have generally avoided the subject, from the period of his controversy with Erasmus, to the publication of his Commentary on Genesis,—his last work of any importance. But in this, after a long argument to prove that, as we have no knowledge of the unrevealed Deity, we have nothing to do with those things which are above our comprehension; and that we are not to reason upon predestination out of Christianity; he thus apologizes for his former opinions: "It has been my wish diligently and accurately to deliver these charges and admonitions; because, after my death, many persons will publish my books to the world, and by that course will confirm errors of every kind and their own delirious ravings. But among other matters I have written, that all things are absolute and necessary; but at the same time I added, that we must behold God as he is revealed to us, as we sing in the Psalm, ‘Jesus Christ is the Lord of sabaoth, nor is there any other God.' In several other passages I have used similar expressions. But these people will pass by all such passages, and will only seize upon those concerning a hidden Deity. You, therefore, who now hear me, recollect that I have taught this,—We must not inquire concerning the predestination of a hidden God, but we must abide and acquiesce in those things

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [2]

Those Christians who follow the opinions of Martin Luther, the celebrated reformer of the church, in the sixteenth century. In order that we may trace the rise and progress of Lutheranism, we must here refer to the life of Luther himself. Luther was a native of Eisleben, in Saxony, and born in 1483. Though his parents were poor, he received a learned education, during the progress of which he gave many indications of uncommon vigour and acuteness of genius. As his mind was naturally susceptible of serious impressions, and tinctured with somewhat of that religious melancholy which delights in the solitude and devotion of a monastic life, he retired into a convent of Augustian friars; where he acquired great reputation not only for piety, but for love of knowledge, and unwearied application to study. The cause of this retirement is said to have been, that he was once struck by lightning, and his companion killed by his side by the same flash. He had been taught the scholastic philosophy which was in vogue in those days, and made considerable progress it; but happening to find a copy of the Bible which lay neglected in the library of his monastery, he applied himself to the study of it with such eagerness and assiduity, as quite astonished the monks; and increased his reputation for sanctity so much, that he was chosen professor first of philosophy, and afterwards of theology, in Wittemburg, on the Elbe, where Frederic, elector of Saxony, had founded an university.

While Luther continued to enjoy the highest reputation for sanctity and learning, Tetzel, a Dominican friar came to Wittemburg in order to publish indulgences. Luther beheld his success with great concern; and having first inveighed against indulgences from the pulpit, he afterwards published ninety-five theses, containing his sentiments on that subject. These he proposed not as points fully established, but as subjects of inquiry and disputation. He appointed a day on which the learned were invited to impugn them, either in person or by writing; and to the whole he subjoined solemn protestations of his high respect for the apostolic see, and of his implicit submission to its authority. No opponent appeared at the time prefixed: the theses spread over Germany with astonishing rapidity, and were read with the greatest eagerness. Though Luther met with no opposition for some little time after he began to publish his new doctrines, it was not long before many zealous champions arose to defend those opinions with which the wealth and power of the clergy were so strictly connected. There cause, however, was by no means promoted by these endeavors: the people began to call in question even the authority on the canon law, and of the pope himself.

The court of Rome at first despised these new doctrines and disputes; but at last the attention of the pope being raised by the great success of the reformer, and the complaints of his adversaries, Luther was summoned, in the month of July, 1518, to appear at Rome, within sixty days, before the auditor of the chamber. One of Luther's adversaries, named Prierius, who had written against him, was appointed to examine his doctrines, and to decide concerning them. the pope wrote at the same time to the elector of Saxony, beseeching him not to protect a man whose heretical and profane tenets were so shocking to pious ears; and enjoined the provincial of the Augustinians to check, by his authority, the rashness of an arrogant monk, which brought disgrace upon their order, and gave offence and disturbance to the whole church. From these letters, and the appointment of his open enemy Prierius to be his judge, Luther easily saw what sentence he might expect at Rome; and therefore discovered the utmost solicitude to have his cause tried in Germany, and before a less suspected tribunal. He wrote a submissive letter to the pope, in which he promised an unreserved obedience to his will, for as yet he entertained no doubt of the divine original of the pope's authority; and, by the intercession of the other professors.

Cajetan, the pope's legate in Germany, was appointed to hear and determine the cause. Luther appeared before him without hesitation; but Cajetan thought it below his dignity to dispute the point with a person so much his inferior in rank; and therefore required him, by virtue of the apostolic powers with which he was clothed, to retract the errors which he had uttered with regard to indulgences and the nature of faith, and to abstain for the future from the publication of new and dangerous opinions; and, at the last, forbade him to appear in his presence, unless he promised to comply with what had been required of him. This haughty and violent manner of proceeding, together with some other circumstances, gave Luther's friends such strong reasons to suspect that even the imperial safe-conduct would not be able to protect him from the legate's power and resentment, that they prevailed on him secretly to withdraw from Augsburg, where he had attended the legate, and to return to his own country. But before his departure, according to a form of which there had been some examples, he prepared a solemn appeal from the legate, ill-informed at that time concerning his cause, to the pope, when he should receive more full intimation with respect to it.

Cajetan enraged at Luther's abrupt retreat, and at the publication of his appeal, wrote to the elector of Saxony, complaining of both; and requiring him, as he regarded the peace of the church, or the authority of its head, either to send that seditious monk a prisoner to Rome, or to banish him out of his territories. Frederic had hitherto, from political motives, protected Luther, as thinking he might be of use in checking the enormous power of the see of Rome; and though all Germany resounded with his fame, the elector had never yet admitted him into his presence. But upon this demand made by the cardinal, it became necessary to throw off some of his former reserve. He had been at great expense, and bestowed much attention on founding a new university, an object of considerable importance to every German prince; and foreseeing how fatal a blow the removal of Luther would be to its reputation, he not only declined complying with either of the pope's requests, but openly discovered great concern for Luther's safety. The situation of our reformer, in the mean time, became daily more and more alarming. He knew very well what were the motives which induced the elector to afford him protection, and that he could by no means depend on a continuance of his friendship. If he should be obliged to quit Saxony, he had no other asylum, and must stand exposed to whatever punishment the rage or bigotry of his enemies could inflict; and so ready were his adversaries to condemn him, that he had been declared a heretic at Rome before the expiration of the sixty days allowed him in the citation for making his appearance.

Notwithstanding all this, however, he discovered no symptoms of timidity or remissness; but continued to vindicate his own conduct and opinions, and to inveigh against those of his adversaries with more vehemence than ever. Being convinced therefore, that the pope would soon proceed to the most violent measures against him, he appealed to a general council, which he affirmed to be the representative of the Catholic church, and superior in power to the pope, who, being a fallible man, might err, as St. Peter, the most perfect of his predecessors had done. The court of Rome was equally assiduous, in the mean time, to crush the author of these new doctrines, which gave them so much uneasiness. A bull was issued by the pope, of a date prior to Luther's appeal, in which he magnified the virtues of indulgences, and subjected to the heaviest ecclesiastical censures all who presumed to teach a contrary doctrine. Such a clear decision of the sovereign pontiff against him might have been very fatal to Luther's cause, had not the death of the emperor Maximillan, which happened on January 17, 1519, contributed to give matters a different turn. Both the principles and interest of Maximillian had prompted him to support the authority of the see of Rome; but, in consequence of his death, the vicariate of that party of Germany which is governed by the Saxon laws devolved to the elector of Saxony; and, under the shelter of his friendly administration, Luther himself enjoyed tranquillity; and his opinions took such root in different places, that they could never afterwards be eradicated.

At the same time, as the election of an emperor was a point more interesting to the pope (Leo X.) than a theological controversy which he did not understand, and of which he could not foresee the consequences, he was so extremely solicitous not to irritate a prince of such considerable influence in the electoral college as Frederic, that he discovered a great unwillingness to pronounce the sentence of excommunication against Luther, which his adversaries continually demanded with the most clamorous importunity. From the reason just now given, and Leo's natural aversion to severe measures, a suspension of proceeding against Luther took place for eighteen months, though perpetual negotiations were carried on during this interval, in order to bring the matter to an amicable issue. The manner in which these were conducted having given our reformer many opportunities of observing the corruption of the court of Rome, its obstinacy in adhering to established errors, and its indifference about truth, however clearly proposed or strongly proved, he began, in 1520, to utter some doubts with regard to the divine original of the papal authority, which he publicly disputed with Eccius, one of his most learned and formidable antagonists. The dispute was indecisive, both parties claimed the victory; but is must have been very mortifying to the partizans of the Romish church to hear such an essential point of their doctrine publicly attacked. The papal authority being once suspected, Luther proceeded to push on his inquiries and attacks from one doctrine to another, till at last he began to shake the firmest foundations on which the wealth and power of the church were established. Leo then began to perceive that there were no hopes of reclaiming such an incorrigible heretic, and therefore prepared to pronounce the sentence of excommunication against him.

The college of cardinals was often assembled, in order to prepare the sentence with due deliberation; and the ablest canonists were consulted how it might be expressed with unexceptionable formality. At last it was issued on the 15th of June, 1520. Forty-one propositions, extracted out of Luther's works, were therein condemned as heretical, scandalous, and offensive to pious ears; all persons were forbidden to read his writings, upon pain of excommunication; such as had any of them in their custody were commanded to commit them to the flames; he himself, if he did not within sixty days publicly recant his errors, and burn his books, was pronounced an obstinate heretic, excommunicated, and delivered to Satan for the destruction of the flesh; and all secular princes were required, under pain of incurring the same censure, to seize his person, that he might be punished as his crimes deserved. Luther was not in the least disconcerted by this sentence, which he had for some time expected. He renewed his appeal to this general council; declared the pope to be that antichrist or man of sin whose appearance is foretold in the New Testament; declaimed against his tyranny with greater vehemence than ever; and at last, by way of retaliation, having assembled all the professors and students in the university of Wittemburg, with great pomp, and in the presence of a vast multitude of spectators, he cast the volumes of the canon law, together with the bull of excommunication, into the flames.

The manner in which this action was justified, gave still more offence than the action itself. Having collected from the canon law some of the most extravagant propositions with regard to the plentitude and omnipotence of the pope's power, as well as the subordination of all secular jurisdiction to his authority, he published these with a commentary, pointing out the impiety of such tenets, and their evident tendency to subvert all civil government. On the accession of Charles V. to the empire, Luther found himself in a very dangerous situation. Charles, in order to secure the pope's friendship, had determined to treat him with great severity. His eagerness to gain this point rendered him not averse to gratify the papal legates in Germany, who insisted, that, without any delay, or formal deliberation, the diet then sitting at Worms ought to condemn a man whom the pope had already excommunicated as an incorrigible heretic. Such an abrupt manner of proceeding, however, being deemed unprecendented and unjust by the members of the diet, they made a point of Luther's appearing in person, and declaring whether he adhered or not to those opinions which had drawn upon him the censures of the church. Not only the emperor, but all the princes through whose territories he had to pass, granted him a safe-conduct; and Charles wrote to him at the same time, requiring his immediate attendance on the diet, and renewing his promises of protection from any injury or violence. Luther did not hesitate one moment about yielding obedience; and set out for Worms, attended by the herald who had brought the emperor's letter and safe-conduct. While on his journey, many of his friends, whom the fate of Huss under similiar circumstances, and notwithstanding the same security of an imperial safe-conduct, filled with solicitude, advised and entreated him not to rush wantonly into the midst of danger.

But Luther, superior to such terrors, silenced them with this reply: "I am lawfully called, " said he, "to appear in that city: and thither I will go, in the name of the Lord, though as many devils as there are tiles on the houses were there combined against me." The reception which he met with at Worms was such as might have been reckoned a full reward of all his labours, if vanity and the love of applause had been the principles by which he was influenced. Greater crowds assembled to behold him than had appeared at the emperor's public entry; his apartments were daily filled with princes and personages of the highest rank; and he was treated with an homage more sincere, as well as more flattering, than any which pre-eminence in birth or condition can command. At his appearance before the diet he behaved with great decency and with equal firmness. He readily acknowledged an excess of acrimony and vehemence in his controversial writings; but refused to retract his opinions, unless he were convinced of their falsehood, or to consent to their being tried by any other rule than the word of God. When neither threats nor entreaties could prevail on him to depart from this resolution, some of the ecclesiastics proposed to imitate the example of the council of Constance; and, by punishing the author of this pestilent heresy, who was now in their power, to deliver the church at once from such an evil.

But the members of the diet refusing to expose the German integrity to fresh reproach by a second violation of public faith, and Charles being no less unwilling to bring a stain upon the beginning of his administration by such an ignominious action, Luther was permitted to depart in safety. A few days after he left the city, a severe edict was published in the emperor's name, and by authority of the diet, depriving him, as an obstinate and excomunicated criminal, of all the privileges which he enjoyed as a subject of the empire; forbidding any prince to harbour or protect him; and requiring all to seize his person as soon as the term specified in his protection should be expired. But this rigorous decree had no considerable effect; the execution of it being prevented partly by the multiplicity of occupations which the commotions in Spain, together with the wars in Italy and the Low Countries, created to the emperor; and partly by a prudent precaution employed by the elector of Saxony, Luther's faithful patron. As Luther, on his return from Worms, was passing near Altenstrain, in Thuringia, a number of horsemen, in masks, rushed suddenly out of a wood, where the elector had appointed them to lie in wait for him and, surrounding his company, carried him, after dismissing all his attendants, to Wortburg, a strong castle, not far distant. There the elector ordered him to be supplied with every thing necessary or agreeable; but the place of his retreat was carefully concealed, until the fury of the present storm against him began to abate, upon a change in the political system of Europe. In this solitude, where he remained nine months, and which he frequently called his Patmos, after the name of that island to which the apostle John was banished, he exerted his usual vigour and industry in defense of his doctrines, or in confutation of his adversaries; publishing several treatises, which revived the spirit of his followers, astonished to a great degree, and disheartened at the sudden disappearance of their leader.

Luther, weary at length of his retirement, appeared publicly again at Wittemburg, upon the 6th of March, 1522. He appeared, indeed, without the elector's leave; but immediately wrote him a letter to prevent him taking it ill. The edict of Charles V. severe as it was had little or no check to Luther's doctrine; for the emperor was no sooner gone into Flanders, than his edict was neglected and despised, and the doctrine seemed to spread even faster than before. Carolostadius, in Luther's absence, had pushed things on faster than his leader, and had attempted to abolish the use of mass, to remove images out of the churches, to set aside auricular confession, invocation of saints, the abstaining from meats; had allowed the monks to leave the monasteries, to neglect their vows, and to marry; in short, had quite changed the doctrine and discipline of the church at Wittemburg, all which, though not against Luther's sentiments, was yet blamed by him, as being rashly and unseasonably done. Lutheranism was still confined to Germany; it was not to go to France; and Henry VIII. of England made the most rigorous acts to hinder it from invading his realm. Nay, he did something more: to show his zeal for religion and the holy see, and perhaps his skill in theological learning, he wrote a treatise Of the Seven Sacraments, against Luther's book Of the Captivity of Babylon, which he presented to Leo X. in October, 1521. The pope received it very favourably, and was so well pleased with the king of England, that he complimented him with the title of Defender of the Faith. Luther, however, paid no regard to his kingship, but answered him with great sharpness, treating both his person and performance in the most contemptuous manner.

Henry complained of Luther's rude usage of him to the princes of Saxony: and Fisher, bishop of Rochester, replied to his answer, in behalf of Henry's treatise; but neither the king's complaint, nor the bishop's reply, were attended with any visible effects. Luther, though he had put a stop to the violent proceedings of Carolostadius, now made open war on the pope and bishops; and, that he might make the people despise their authority as much as possible, he wrote one book against the pope's bull, and another against the order falsely called the Order of Bishops. The same year, 1522, he wrote a letter, dated July the 29th, to the assembly of the states of Bohemia; in which he assured them that he was labouring to establish their doctrine in Germany, and exhorted them not to return to the communion of the church of Rome; and he published also this year a translation of the New Testament in the German tongue, which was afterwards corrected b

y himself and Melancthon. This translation having been printed several times, and being in every body's hands, Ferdinand, archduke of Austria, the emperor's brother, made a very severe edict, to hinder the farther publication of it; and forbade all the subjects of his Imperial Majesty to have any copies of it, or of Luther's other books. Some other princes followed his example; and Luther was so angry at it, that he wrote a treatise Of the Secular Power, in which he accuses them of tyranny and impiety. The diet of the empire was held at Nuremberg, at the end of the year to which Hadrian VI. sent his brief, dated November the 25th; for Leo X. died upon the 2d of December, 1521, and Hadrian had been elected pope upon the 9th of January following.

In his brief, among other things, he observes to the diet how he had heard, with grief, that Martin Luther after the sentence of Leo X. which was ordered to be executed by the edict of Worms, continued to teach the same errors, and daily to publish books full of heresies, that it appeared strange to him that so large and so religious a nation could be seduced by a wretched apostate friar; that nothing, however, could be more pernicious to Christendom; and that, therefore, he exhorts them to use their utmost endeavours to make Luther, and the authors of those tumults, return to their duty; or, if they refuse, and continue obstinate, to proceed against them according to the laws of the empire, and the severity of the last edict. The resolution of this diet was published in the form of an edict, upon the 6th of March, 1523; but it had no effect in checking the Lutherans, who still went on in the same triumphant manner. This year Luther wrote a great many pieces; among the rest, one upon the dignity and office of the supreme magistrate; which Frederick, elector of Saxony, is said to have been highly pleased with. He sent, about the same time, a writing in the German language to the Waldenses, or Pickards, in Bohemia and Moravia, who had applied to him "about worshipping the body of Christ in the eucharist, " He wrote, also, another book, which he dedicated to the senate and people of Prague, "about the institution of ministers of the church."

He drew up a form of saying mass. He wrote a piece, entitled, An Example of popish Doctrine and Divinity; which Dupin calls a satire against nuns, and those who profess a monastic life. He wrote also against the vows of virginity, in his preface to his commentary on  1 Corinthians 8:1-13 : and his exhortations here were it seems, followed with effect; for, soon after, nine nuns, among whom was Catherine de Bore, eloped from the nunnery at Nimptschen, and were brought, by the assistance of Leonard Coppen, a burgess of Torgau, to Wittemburg. Whatever offence this proceeding might give to the Papists, it was highly extolled by Luther; who, in a book written in the German language, compares the deliverance of these nuns from the slavery of monastic life to that of the souls which Jesus Christ has delivered by his death. this year Luther had occasion to canonize two of his followers, who, as Melchior Adam relates, were burnt at Brussels, in the beginning of July, and were the first who suffered martyrdom for his doctrine. He wrote also a consolatory letter to three noble ladies at Misnia, who were banished from the duke of Saxony's court at Friburg, for reading his books. In the beginning of the year 1524, Clement VII. sent a legate into Germany to the diet which was to be held at Nuremberg. Hadrian VI. died in October 1523, and was succeeded by Clement upon the 19th of November. A little before his death, he canonized Benno, who was bishop of Meissen, in the time of Gregory VII. and one of the most zealous defenders of the holy see. Luther, imagining that this was done directly to oppose him, drew up a piece with this title, Against the new idol and old devil set up at Meissen, in which, he treats the memory of Gregory with great freedom, and does not spare even Hadrian. Clement VII's legate represented to the diet of Nuremberg the necessity of enforcing the execution of the edict of Worms, which had been strangely neglected by the princes of the empire; but, notwithstanding the legate's solicitations, which were very pressing, the decrees of that diet were thought so ineffectual, that they were condemned at Rome, and rejected by the emperor.

In October, 1524, Luther flung off the monastic habit; which, though not premeditated and designed, was yet a very proper preparative to a step he took the year after: we mean his marriage with Catherine de Bore. His marriage, however, did not retard his activity and diligence in the work of reformation. He revised the Augsburg confession of faith, and apology for the Protestants, when the Protestant religion was first established on a firm basis.

See PROTESTANTS and REFORMATION. After this, Luther had little else to do than to sit down and contemplate the mighty work he had finished; for that a single monk should be able to give the church so rude a shock, that there needed but such another entirely to overturn it, may very well seem a mighty work. He did indeed, little else; for the remainder of his life was spent in exhorting princes, states, and universities, to confirm the reformation which had been brought about through him; and publishing from time to time such writings as might encourage, direct and aid them in doing it. The emperor threatened temporal punishment with armies, and the pope eternal with bulls and anathemas; but Luther cared for none of their threats. In the year 1533, Luther wrote a consolatory epistle to the citizens of Oschatz, who had suffered some hardships for adhering to the Augsburg confession of faith; in which, among other things, he says, "The devil is the host, and the world is his inn; so that wherever you come, you will be sure to find this ugly host." He had also about this time a terrible controversy with George duke of Saxony, who had such an aversion to Luther's doctrine, that he obliged his subjects to take an oath that they would never embrace it.

However, sixty or seventy citizens of Leipsic were found to have deviated a little from the Catholic way in some point or other, and they were known previously to have consulted Luther about it; upon which George complained to the elector John, that Luther had not only abused his person, but also preached up rebellion among his subjects. The elector ordered Luther to be acquainted with this; and to be told, at the same time, that if he did not acquit himself of this charge, he could not possibly escape punishment. But Luther easily refuted the accusation, by proving, that he had been so far from stirring up his subjects against him on the score of religion, that, on the contrary, he had exhorted them rather to undergo the greatest hardships, and even suffer themselves to be banished. In the year 1534, the Bible, translated by him into German, was first printed, as the old privilege, dated Bibliopolis, under the elector's hand, shows; and it was published the same year. He also published this year a book against masses, and the consecration of priest, in which he relates a conference he had with the devil upon those points; for it is remarkable in Luther's whole history, that he never had any conflicts of any kind within, but the devil was always his antagonist. In February, 1537, an assembly was held at Smalkald about matters of religion, to which Luther and Melanethon were called. At this meeting Luther was seized with so grievous an illness, that there were no hopes of his recovery.

He was afflicted with the stone, and had a stoppage of urine for eleven days. In this terrible condition he would needs undertake to travel, notwithstanding all that his friends could say or do to prevent him: his resolution, however, was attended with a good effect; for the night after his departure he began to be better. As he was carried along he made his will, in which he bequeathed his detestation of popery to his friends and brethren; agreeably to what he used to say: Pestis eram vivus, moriens ero mors tua, papa; that is, "I was the plague of popery in my life, and shall continue to be so in my death." This year the pope and the court of Rome, finding it impossible to deal with the Protestants by force, began to have recourse to stratagem. They affected, therefore, to think, that though Luther had, indeed, carried things on with a high hand, and to a violent extreme, yet what he had pleaded in defense of these measures was not entirely without foundation. They talked with a seeming show of moderation; and Pius III. who succeeded Clement VII. proposed a reformation first among themselves, and even went so far as to fix a place for a council to meet at for that purpose. But Luther treated this farce as it deserved to be treated; unmasked and detected it immediately; and, to ridicule it the more strongly, caused a picture to be drawn, in which was represented the pope seated on high upon a throne, some cardinals about him with foxes' tails on, and seeming to evacuate upwards and downwards, (sursum deorsum repurgare, as Melchior Sdam expresses it.)

This was fixed over against the titlepage, to let the reader see at once the scope and design of the book; which was to expose that cunning and artifice with which these subtle politicians affected to cleanse and purify themselves from their errors and superstitions. Luther published, about the same time, a confutation of the pretended grant of Constantine to Sylvester, bishop of Rome; and also some letters of John Huss, written from his prison at Constance to the Bohemians. In this manner was Luther employed till his death, which happened in the year 1546. A thousand lies were invented by the Papists about Luther's death. Some said that he died suddenly; others, that he killed himself; others, that the devil strangled him: others, that his corpse stunk so abominably, that they were forced to leave it in the way, as it was carried to be interred. Nay, lies were invented about his death, even while he was yet alive. Luther, however, to give the most effectual refutation of this account of his death, put forth an advertisement of his being alive; and, to be even with the Papists for the malice they had shown in this lie, wrote a book at the same time to prove, that "the papacy was founded by the devil." Lutheranism has undergone some alterations since the time of its founder. Luther rejected the epistle of St. James as inconsistent with the doctrine of St. Paul in relation to justification; he also set aside the Apocalypse: both of which are now received as canonical in the Lutheran church.

Luther reduced the number of sacraments to two, viz. baptism and the eucharist; but he believed the impanation, or consubstantiation; that is, that the matter of the bread and wine remain with the body and blood of Christ; and it is in this article that the main difference between the Lutheran and the English churches consists. Luther maintained the mass to be no sacrifice: exploded the adoration of the host, auricular confession, meritorious works, indulgences, purgatory, and worship of images, &c. which had been introduced in the corrupt times of the Romish church. He also opposed the doctrine of free will, maintained predestination, and asserted our justification to be solely by the imputation of the merits and satisfaction of Christ. He also opposed the fastings of the Romish church, monastical vows, the celibate of the clergy, &c. The Lutherans, however, of all Protestants, are said to differ least from the Romish church; as they affirm that the body and blood of Christ are materially present in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, though in an incomprehensible manner; and likewise to represent some religious rites and institutions, as the use of images in churches, the distinguishing vestments of the clergy, the private confession of sins, the use of wafers in the administration of the Lord's supper, the form of exorcism in the celebration of baptism, and other ceremonies of the like nature, as tolerable, and some of them as useful.

The Lutherans maintain with regard to the divine decrees, that they respect the salvation or misery of men, in consequence of a previous knowledge of their sentiments and characters, and not as free and uncontinual, and as founded on the mere will of God. Towards the close of the seventeenth century, the Lutherans began to entertain a greater liberality of sentiment than they had before adopted; though in many places they persevered longer in severe and despotic principles than other Protestant churches. Their public teachers now enjoy an unbounded liberty of dissenting from the decisions of those symbols or creeds which were once deemed almost infallible rules of faith and practice, and of declaring their dissent in the manner they judge the most expedient. Mosheim attributes this change in their sentiments to the maxims which they generally adopted, that Christians were accountable to God alone for their religious opinions; and that no individual could be justly punished by the magistrate for his erroneous opinions, while he conducted himself like a virtuous and obedient subject, and made no attempts to disturb the peace and order of civil society. In Sweden the Lutheran church is episcopal: in Norway the same. In Denmark, under the name of superintendent, all episcopal authority is retained; whilst through Germany the superior power is vested in a consistory, over which there is a president, with a distinction of rank and privileges, and a subordination of inferior clergy to their superiors, different from the parity of Presbyterianism. Mosheim's Eccles. History; Life of Luther: Hawies's Ch. Hist. vol. 2: p. 454; Enc. Brit. Robertson's Hist. of Charles V. vol. 2: p. 42; Luther on the Galatians.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [3]

The name given to that school of the Protestant Church which accepted Luther's doctrine, especially that of the Eucharist, in opposition to that of the members of the Reformed Church, who assented to the views in that matter of Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer; the former maintaining the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and that the grace of Christ is communicated in the celebration of it, and the latter maintaining that it is a merely commemorative ordinance, and the means of grace to the believing recipient only.

References