Monday, May 02, 2005
LUTHER AND HIS LATEST CRITIC
Source: The American journal of theology By University of Chicago. Divinity School Published by University of Chicago Press, 1905 Item notes: v. 9
It is paradoxical to say that Luther has been a blessing and a curse to the Catholic church, yet it is true. Though he broke forever her dominance over a large part of Germany, though he wrought her irreparable injury, though no one fought her more bitterly, more manfully, more powerfully than he—for which reason he is more intensely hated than any other man by Catholics, so intensely hated that it is a question whether many of them hate Luther or the devil more—yet it is true that he did her great service. I do not mean in the general results of the Reformation, which reacted in all lands to the purification of the Catholic church; but I mean that Luther by his limitations, his extravagances, his coarseness, his errors in conduct, in speech, or in writing, has furnished such a handle to criticism that he has been a valuable asset to the Catholic church. She has won many a victory exploiting his failures; her best weapons she has forged out of his writings, and when she wants to win converts or keep her own faithful, she gives them a dose of Luther. In fact, she has made the failures of the Reformers, and especially of Luther, a kind of Catholic apologetic which she has wielded with tremendous, popular effect. This is her syllogism: If God, were to reform his church he would choose good, pious men to do it. The Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century, and especially Luther, were not such men. Therefore God did not choose them to reform his church. They were not sent by him.
When I was a theological student, and later, I read a good deal of Catholic literature, and that was the burden of their song. Of course, I would deny both the major and minor members of that syllogism in the sense in which the Catholics use them. God uses the best men available for his work, whether or not they come up to his ideal of piety or to ours. Henry VIII, for instance, wrought a work of incalculable value to the church and state of England in reference to Rome, and yet he was one of the most cruel, most tyrannical and unscrupulous, of all English sovereigns. In fact, it is sometimes those very qualities, the excess of which makes one a bad man, which enable God to use a man for his purpose. I would, also deny the minor member of the Catholic syllogism. The Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century, on the whole, were good men and pious, who feared God and loved the truth. They had their failings; they made their mistakes both in doctrine and practice; but, on the whole, they were men who were worthy of their call. One need not agree with Renan when he calls Calvin "the most Christian man of his age,"1 to recognize in what light the Reformers may appear under impartial judgment.
1 Studies in Religious History, p. 83.
I said the Catholics have not been slow to exploit Luther. Let me give two or three instances. As giving a due to the method followed with so much success by later writers—that is, taking extracts from Luther's own writings—may be mentioned the convert John Pistorius, Anatomiae Lutheri pars prima; that is, out oj the seven bad spirits of many lost souls, the first three spirits: the fleshly spirit, the blaspheming spirit, and the lazy spirit. Also four other spirits which Luther paints in his own words, by which one can infallibly conceive and trace whether he is a prophet of God, etc. (Cologne, 1595; in German). The latest successor of Pistorius calls him the "celebrated Pistorius," the "feared, unconquerable opponent of Protestant pastors and theologians."2 The polemic of the sixteenth century reached its culmination in the Jesuit Conrad Vetter (died 1622), who wrote one hundred controversial tracts and books, mostly against Luther and the Protestants.3 In order to awaken more credibility among the latter, he wrote under the name of "Conrad Andrea, natural brother to Jacob Andrea of blessed memory," this lie on the title-page being a good introduction to the abusive and unscrupulous methods of his pen in the body of his books.4 A perfect thesaurus for later attacks is the slander-book of J. R. Weislinger, Friss Vogel oder stirb (1722; many later editions). Eusebius Englehard came as a good second in his book, with its engaging title: Lucifer Witten- bergensis, or the Morning Star of Wittenberg; that is the complete life of Catherine von Bora, the presumed wife of Dr. Martin Luther, composed mostly out of the books of Luther, out of his dirty tabletalk, spirited epistles, and other rare documents, in which all her apparent virtues, invented achievements, false appearances, and miserable wonderworks, by the side of the whole canonization process, are related by her husband during her lifetime (2 vols.; Landtsberg, 1747; 2d ed., 1749; German).
The nineteenth century brought a more worthy tone, which was particularly shown in Mohler's Symbolik (1832; 9th ed., 1884; translated into French, Italian, and English). Johann Adam Mohler was a brilliant professor of church history, first at Tubingen and then at Munich, who died at the early age of forty-two. He was almost the first Catholic to treat Protestantism with anything approaching a scientific spirit, and his work was received with acclaim by both parties. Of course, in real objectivity and adequacy of representation there are serious lapses in Mohler's book, but it was such an advance on anything that had gone before that it marks
1 Denifle, as below, pp. 302, 697.
3 Sommervogel, Bibliolheque de la Compagnie de Jesu, 2d ed., Vol. VIII, p. 617.
4 For him and others see Kolde, P. Denifle: Seine Beschimpfung Lvlhers und der evangelischen Kirche (Leipzig, 1904), pp. 10 ff.
a new era, and German Roman Catholic historians, like Alzog, Funk, and Kraus, have been true to his spirit, and have never descended to the depths of their predecessors. Something of the old method, however, came back in 1846, when Dollinger, the successor and friend of Mohler at Munich, wrote his two-volume History oj the Reformation, and followed it in 1851 by his Lutherskizze. Dollinger brought back the old Pistorian method— of course, scientifically brushed up—of using the writings of Luther and the other reformers and their contemporaries as witnesses to discredit them and their movement. His two books have done fine service for Roman Catholic controversialists, but are without scientific value, because they do not estimate the scope, the meaning, the connection, of the passages quoted, nor the historical or theological considerations behind them, but are simply collected and placed so as to put Luther and the Reformation in the worst possible light. The Erlangen professor, Johann Christian Hofmann, saw this weakness in Dollinger's work, and showed what the same method would do with Paul.5
A true successor of Dollinger in his method of treating Luther and the Reformation was Johannes Janssen, a Roman Catholic layman, who wrote a Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit dem Ausgange des Mittelallers (6 vols., 1876-88; i4th ed., 1887), a masterful work, written with great skill and power, but with such a use of his sources as to give a distorted and at times false picture of Luther and the Reformation. The Reformation was an apostasy, an immoral revolution which brought the downfall of the nation. This was followed by books in the fourth centenary of Luther's birth, 1883, the chief on the Catholic side being Evers—formerly a Lutheran pastor (6 vols., 1883 f.). These Ultramontane distortions reached a fitting climax in P. Majunke's Luthers Lebensende (1890), in which he tried to prove that Luther committed suicide. To the credit of the Catholics, however, be it said that in 1896 and 1898, in two pamphlets, Dr. Nic. Paulus gave a final quietus to the suicide myth. Since that time no important work on Luther has come out on the Catholic side until 1904, when Father Heinrich Denifle, O.P., published his massive Luther und Lutherthum in der ersten Entwicklung (Mainz, Vol. I, 860 pages).
This Dominican friar has been well and widely known for his works in church history, especially for his books in mediaeval history, as that is the period he has most cultivated. With Ehrle he edited the Archiv jtir Litera- tur und Kirchengeschichie des Mittelalters (1885-93) > wrote three or four
s Paulus: Eine DSttingersche Skizze, id ed. by Kolde, 1890. In his Luther in rationalistischer und christlicher Belcuchtung (Mainz, 1904), p. 65, DeniSe calls Hofmann's pamphlet "miserable rubbish" (elenden Quark).
books on the mystics of that time; a great book, Die UniversiUUen des Mitlelalters bis 1400 (2 vols., 1885 ff.), which, however, shows a caustic controversial temper; edited the chartularies of the University of Paris (4 vols., 1889-97); wrote a book in French on the desolations of the church and monasteries in France about the middle of the fifteenth century (1897); and was selected by Pope Leo XIII as one of the editors of the definitive edition of the works of his favorite St. Thomas of Aquinas (1883 ff.). So that when his book on Luther appeared, Protestant scholars greeted it with high expectation, thinking that here at last was a scientific work on Luther from a Catholic pen—a pen guided by love of truth and by a hand trained in historical investigation, whose previous products in mediaeval historical research had been thankfully received, utilized, and praised by Protestant students.
What was their surprise, however, to find that we have to do with a book written in the bitterest spirit of the controversialist, a huge propagandist pamphlet, inspired, as he says in the preface, by the Los-von-Rom movement in Austria, full of the harshest judgments of Luther's person and writings, attributing to him all kinds of wickedness, making him a monster the like of which has hardly been known in the history of the world, distorting and misrepresenting all that he said and did, putting the worst construction on everything, and thus presenting a huge impeachment in the style of a prosecuting attorney. It is impossible, of course, that Denifle's learning in mediaeval literature, especially in Aquinas, should not make that part of his book where he criticises Luther's use of the mediaeval writers and Luther's representation of mediaeval teaching of independent value, and here and there, besides, he gives welcome information; but, so far as contributing to the understanding of Luther, or to an exact estimate of his character, work, and influence, is concerned, the black and bitter hate which pervades it, its fierceness of objurgation, its wealth of contumely, deprive it of any value. After reading, one is forced to the conclusion, not that Denifle has purposely misrepresented Luther, but that his hate makes him blind and drives him to the result we have before us. It seems morally impossible for a Catholic, much less a Catholic priest, still less a Catholic monk, to understand Luther and the Reformation. From the start their whole intellectual and spiritual vision is so prejudiced that they cannot see things as they are; everything is yellow with the jaundice of their hate. That seems to be the charitable view of their Luther work.
On the contrary, Protestants have given us admirable and most appreciative studies in Catholic history. Neander's Church History is so impartial that it might be used as a textbook in a Catholic seminary. One of the most enthusiastic books we have on a Catholic saint is our own Dr. Storr's Bernhard of Clairvaux (1893)—a book that errs, if anywhere, on the better side. When Paul Sabatier's book on St. Francis of Assisi came out in 1894, the pope was so pleased with it that he was on the point of sending, or actually did send, a letter of thanks to the author, the book showing such an inner and tender appreciation of the Christlikeness of its subject. In fact, we have a series of books on St. Francis, or editions of his writings, by Protestants that almost any learned Catholic might have written. No Catholic could be more appreciative of the moral heroism of Savonarola, or could write more impartially about him, than does Villari, who has given us his best life, translated into most of the languages of Europe. Will there ever be a Catholic Villari of Wesley ? John Henry Newman was about the only Catholic who had a good word to say of the great evangelical leaders of England, and the centenary of Wesley's death has called out hardly a single appreciation by a Catholic hand of his immense significance in the moral progress of the race. The fact that he did not favor Catholic emancipation in Ireland, and did not denounce the Gordon riots of 1780, is so set against him that his whole life of beneficent activity goes for nothing.
Let us now take some of the points alleged by Denifle against Luther and see what can be said concerning them.
Denifle rejects in tola the whole religious development of Luther as understood by Protestants for three hundred years. This development centered around a struggle for religious peace and certainty, carried on especially in his cloister days. This certainty he could not find in obedience to the instructions of his church, but he finally found it partly through the teachings of Staupitz, partly through his study of Paul, especially the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, in faith in Jesus Christ. Resting on him alone he found peace of conscience and certainty of salvation. He could not see the full implication of this at first, nor work himself clear from many Catholic views—he never worked himself clear from all of them; but through various external and internal impulses—notably, of course, the indulgence crusade of Tetzel—he was led to make his protest, and finally was excommunicated by the papal bull of 1520. Now, this has been the common understanding of Luther's development, based upon various hints here and there in his writings. Denifle says all this is fiction; that he never had any struggles in his days as a monk; that he never had any difficulty with Catholic teaching of which he became cured by his so-called faith; that this faith was a pure makeshift, a manufactured confidence, something invented to ease his conscience and cover his scruples so that he could sin the more readily. Denifle says the only trouble with Luther was his lust, his sin, and that to be free to sin, to be free to indulge his passions, he broke from the church, he repudiated his vows as a monk, he made up this doctrine of salvation by faith, which was not salvation from sin, but rest in sin; that it represented no inner cleansing, but an artificial covering of a life to be given over to indulgence—indulgence not only in the so-called small sins, but in gross transgressions. This is Denifle's philosophy of Luther's life. This is his portentous reconstruction of Reformation history.
I merely throw out, in passing, the question whether this tallies with the history of the world as we know it ? Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit? Can the moral revolution which sprang from Luther; which sent tides of new intellectual and religious life eventually to all shores; which was the origin of the Reformation in England so far as it was Protestant—for Professor Jacobs has shown that all the positive evangelical elements in the Anglican confessions came from the Lutheran creeds;6 which helped to create Puritanism and nurtured Methodism, the two most powerful forces for moral regeneration and perfection in modern history—for in those doctrines of sin, and justification by faith alone, which Denifle imputes to Luther, the Reformed churches stood on the same platform with him, and Methodism sprang full-grown from his preface to the Epistle to the Romans; I say, can this moral revolution have sprung from a degenerate and a scoundrel, from a worthless, lustful drunkard and poltroon ?
I want now to test this account of Luther's development from his own words, and then ask: Was his docrtine of justification a cloak for sin?
As early as April 8, 1516, in his letter to a brother Augustinian, Spenlein, he shows himself working toward another conception of justification. He asks him whether he has not grown weary of his own righteousness, and does not wish to learn to confide in and aspire after the righteousness of Christ, that righteousness of God which is freely and fully given to us in Christ. "I once stuck in this error myself, but I have fought against it, though I have not yet perfectly overcome it."' Here we read of a struggle going on in Luther after what he considered an evangelical basis of confidence. This was in 1516. Denifle says these struggles are an invention of Luther in his later life.
In his explanation of Psalm 51, written in Latin in 1532, he speaks
6 See his Lutheran Movement in England (Philadelphia, 1890; rev. ed. 1894). i Enders, Briefwechsel Lathers, Vol. I, pp. 28 ff. See Kaweran, in Theologiscke Studien und Kritiken, 1904, No. 4, p. 615, to whom I am indebted for the quotations. thus of the words, "My tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness":
The word "justice" has cost me much sweat. For they readily explain it; justice is the truth whereby God for cause condemns or judges badly those who merit it, and they oppose the mercy of justice by which believers are saved. This exposition is very dangerous, besides that it is vain, because it stirs up secret hatred against God and his justice. For who can love him—those who are against his justice are willing to carry on their sins? Wherefore remember that the justice of God is that by which we are justified or receive the remission of sins.8
In a "Table Talk" given in Lauterbach's Tagebuch from Kummer's Tischredenhandschrijt we read:
These words Justus and justilia Dei were to me a thunderbolt in the conscience, anon I am filled with fear. Just, therefore he punishes. But once in that tower in the Augustinian cloister in Wittenberg, I am thinking of these words: "The just shall live by faith by the justice of God;" then I think: if we just live by faith, and if the justice of God is for the salvation of all believing— anon my soul is lifted up. Therefore the justice of God is that by which we are justified and saved. These words are most pleasant to me."9
In a "Table Talk" of September 12, 1538, we read:
That word justilia was in my heart like a thunderclap. For while in the papacy I used to read, "In justice thou shalt free me" (Psalm 31:2 Vulg.), that is, in thy truth, soon I am thinking of that justice vindicating its fury, that is, of the divine wrath. I was in my heart an enemy to Paul where I read: "The justice of God is revealed by the gospel." But afterward when I came to see that the Scripture says that the just shall live by his faith, and, moreover, could consult Augustine, then I was joyful; where I perceived the justice of God as mercy regarding the just, there the remedy touched my affliction.10
More distinctly still he says in a "Table Talk" of the winter of 1542-43, where he remarks on Rom. 1:16, 17:
This was always sticking in my mind. I could not understand this word justitia Dei, in any other way than that he was just and would judge justly. I was urging this with myself; I was standing and beating about if peradventure there might be someone who might explain it, and there was no one. I knew nothing of what it meant until, going on, I read: "The just shall live by his faith." That sentence is the exposition of this justice of God. When I found this, I was so pleased, in such great joy, that nothing could be more so. And thus it appeared clear where I read in the Psalms, "In thy justice make me free," that is, "In thy mercy free me." Before that I was in terror, and I hated the Psalms and the Scriptures where the justice of God was mentioned; that is, that by which he became just and judged according to our sins, not that by which he accepted us and made us just. All Scripture stood thus as a wall until reading I learned, "The just shall live by his faith." From this I have learned that the justice of God is faith in the mercy of God by which he justifies us freely by his grace."11
8 Opera exegetica, Vol. XIX, p. 130.
9 Lauterbach, Tagebuch, p. 81, note.
10 Ibid., p. 130; Forstemann-Bindseil, Tischreden, Vol. II, pp. 143, 170; Bindseil,
Colinquiil. Vol. II, p. 274.
Here we have five distinct and independent witnesses out of Luther's life from 1516 to 1543, first, that he at the start regarded the righteousness of God as that which condemned sinners; second, that he came to look upon it as the forgiving righteousness of God which comes to sinners through faith; and, third, that that change of view was attained only after struggle and anxiety, like bright sunshine after thunderpeals.
We must think, therefore, that Denifle does Luther great injustice in denying these narratives, making them pure inventions. Besides, they coincide with the whole course of Luther's life and explain it.
In one respect, however, Denifle is more accurate than the Reformer. Luther says that all the doctors except Augustine interpret Rom. 1:17 as referring to the retributive justice of God, and not as referring to the mercy by which he considers the sinner righteous by faith. On this assertion of Luther, Denifle says:
Of sixty teachers until Luther whose printed and MS writings I have searched through after that interpretation and conception of Rom. 1:17 and related passages (Rom. 3:21, 22; 10:3) falsely ascribed to them by him. not a single one of them (of whom Luther knew several) has confessed that; all, on the contrary, by the righteousness of God have not understood the anger of God or his retributive righteousness, but that by which we become justified, his unmerited justifying grace, of which one takes part through faith, a true and real justification of man from the side of God (of course, not in the sense of sola fides, faith alone, rejected by the whole church); and here, as especially in Rom. 10:3, have placed this justification after the manner of St. Paul over against their own.
Luther was not a scholar or a fair controversialist. He either did not read his mediaeval texts correctly, or he did not quote them correctly, as Denifle has shown. In other places Luther quotes his authorities with a rough correctness, but not with exactness. But Kawerau, the prcjfessor of church history at Breslau, has shown on his side that Denifle speaks too hastily here.12 For Lyra explains Rom. 1:17 ("from faith to faith") as from informal faith to formal faith, and it is only this last whose "acltts meritorius is of vitae beatae, which vivifies and justifies perfectly." Peter Lombard, the great mediaeval teacher, says: "When Christ speaks of " Kroker, Luther's Tischreden, pp. 309 f. « Kawerau, lac. cit., pp. 618, 619. justitia, the distributor or judge of merits is shown." '* But I suppose that it was not so much definite passages out of the great church teachers which Luther had in mind when he thought of Christ as the angry judge and when he imputed that thought to the church, but rather the general sentiment in the church, both among its teachers and the people. "We have feared before him" (Christ), says Luther, "more than before Moses; we knew not otherwise than that Christ was an angry judge, whose anger we with our good works and holy life would pacify, and whose grace we must obtain through the merits and intercession of the loving saints."1* That sentiment was a fact. Kawerau quotes the Dominican Job. Herold: "Whom the Son would destroy by his justice, the Mother draws in through mercy and indulgence." A song to Mary of 1477 says: "Mary, turn his wrath from me." A Franciscan vision in the Liber conformitalum sees two ladders leading to heaven. On trie top of one is Christ; on the other, Mary. St. Francis exhorts his brethren to ascend by the first. They try, but fall. Then they try the Mary ladder. "Forthwith, without any labor, they are received by the Virgin Mary into the kingdom of the heavens."15 It was this common feeling, this general sentiment concerning Christ as a judge and Mary as a helper, which Luther had in mind perhaps more than definite teachings of great theologians. In that sense he was right, even if in the last he was incorrect.
Denifle claims that this invented doctrine of justification by faith alone, was simply a cloak for sin, that it brought about no renewal, and had no necessary connection with good works. On this I would say:
It was characteristic of all the Reformers and all the Reformation creeds to lay tremendous stress on sin, on the fact of depravity. Sin clung to a man through his whole life. He could never get entirely rid of it, however sanctified he became. That idea, sprung from the misinterpretation of Rom., chap. 7, and from Augustine, passed into all the Reformation and post-Reformation creeds, and has ruled the Protestant churches from that day to this. Wesley was the only church teacher who saw the matter in its right relation, and who was bold enough to take at its face value the great words about the blood of Christ cleansing us from all sin, and yet insisted on total depravity in the sense that no man can be saved without the grace of God inciting; and after he is saved and entirely sanctified— as far as it is possible to be sanctified—he still has sins of weakness, inattention, and forgetfulness, for which to ask pardon.
'3 Sent. IV. Dist. 46, J3 [Migne 192: 953].
"4 Werke, Erlangen edition, Vol. I, pp. 20, 26; Vol. IV, pp. 33, 38.
«s Kawerau, with the references which he gives, p. 619.
But this overemphasis on depravity and the ever-remaining sin in Luther no more than in Calvin and the other Reformers meant that there was no saving element in justification and regeneration, and that the sin must not be striven against and conquered, and step by step driven out of the life. That is a calumny still repeated by Catholic and high-church writers. Luther says distinctly that we
must strive and fight against lust and the evil desires in us which excite us to sin. .... As often as thou feelest thyself tempted to sin, thou shouldest think immediately that thou withstand these darts, and pray to the Lord Jesus that these sins do not overtake and conquer thee, but that thou shalt overcome through his grace.16
Whereas Denifle says that his doctrine was only a pretext for a secure resting in sin, Luther really taught the exact opposite:
Even therefore teach we faith, that therewith the law may be fulfilled
Certain mad spirits preach, "Even if thou do not keep the commandments and simply believest, thou shalt be saved." No, dear man, that is not so. Thou shalt never possess the Kingdom of Heaven. It must come to this, that thou keepest the commandments and art in love with God and thy neighbor. So through Christ thy sins become altogether forgiven. But not thereto that we should not fulfil the law, but that it is only now possible to keep the law which is the eternal, irrevocable, unchangeable will of God. Therefore it is necessary to preach grace that one may find counsel and help how one should come to this (fulfilment of the law).1*
What we teach of faith is that it may serve thereto that we are able now to keep the Ten Commandments, that we may know how we may do that, whither and whereby such power can be received.'8
When will this eternal falsehood down, that Luther's doctrine of faith is only a cover for sin!
I do not say there was nothing lacking in Luther's conception of faith, regeneration, and sanctification. Here he was too external and Catholic. Faith as a personal, ethical appropriation of the saving Christ, as a living grip on the Savior, he did not emphasize as much as he should. His idea of faith remained too mediaeval. Kohler, of the University of Giessen, in his able pamphlet, Ein Wort zu Denifles Luther, has some admirable remarks here. He says:
What danger lurks in the unqualified form of Luther's statement, "Always and eternally certain of life in Christ!" We too easily rob it of its strength if we find
i« Loc. tit., Vol. XV, pp. 53 £f. -7 Ibid., Vol. XIV, pp. 179 ff. 18 Ibid., Vol. XXI, p. 94. An excellent discussion of this subject is found in Professor Walther (of Rostock), Deniftes Luther (Leipzig, 1904), pp. 30-40.
in it only the consciousness of being constantly supported by God. It means much more to Luther. It signifies for him, as for Paul, a standing in a superhuman sphere, a transcendent existence, a "spiritual consciousness of the Lord." There man is "certain," so certain that he can demand of God the gift to him of powers of grace. If God does not respond, man can then present his account as Shylock did his bond, and if God will not acknowledge the receipt written by the blood of Christ, then man can wash his hands of the entire matter. Luther constantly guarded against the misinterpretation of this "certainty" in the sense of moral laxity (Paul's freedom as a cloak for wickedness, Gal. 5:15; i Peter i: 16). He was never an out-and-out quietist. His ethical nature broke out again and again. The process of salvation was so strong that in the antino- mian strife he, against Agricola, attacked the freedom from moral condemnation through law preceding faith, and rejected the view that one can have a saving faith while remaining in the grossest sin against the law of God—but with all that Luther never found a satisfying relation between morality and religion. These two thoughts, inwardly sinful, outwardly justified, were both emphasized too strongly by Luther for him to solve satisfactorily the problem of religion and morality, from the side of religion in the process of salvation as well as from morality in everyday life. There was too little morality in both cases. No sufficiently firm theological dam was erected at that time against misconception; else we should not be able to explain the immorality that was carried on among the Lutherans under cover of Christian liberty. Nor can we explain the whole Anabaptist superstitious movement: it was a protest against the threatened mechanism of the Lutheran justification doctrine, and its neglect of moralism.1*
Let me take a few other points in Denifle's indictment. He says that Luther misrepresents the teachings of the Catholic church in claiming that it holds to two classes of persons—the perfect class, those who have taken the monastic vows, and the imperfect, the general run of Christians. But here Luther is right and Denifle wrong. St. Bernard of Clairveaux was a good Catholic when he said that the monastic life, on account of its perfect renunciation of the world, the wonderful height of its spiritual life, overtops all the other kinds of human life, and makes its confessors similar to angels, and'other men dissimilar.20 St. Thomas Aquinas says that all men ought to strive for perfection, and places the so-called evangelical counsels only as a means of acquiring it. But these counsels are sure means, and the highest means; therefore he can call the monastic state the status perjectionis: ex tribus votis status religionis integraiur ("the state of religion is perfected by the three vows")." He says again that if "one pledges his whole life to God, so that he can attend upon him in perfect works, he assumes simply the condition or state of perfection.""
'» Ein Wort zu Deniflcs Luther (Tubingen and Leipzig, 1904), pp. 44, 45.
*° Migne, Vol. CLXXXII, p. 889.
" Summa, 2. 2. q. 186 a. 7. " De perfection* vitae spirituals, chap. 17.
The Catholic conception of fulfilling such a pledge was the priesthood or
Luther says that there is a dependence on works rather than on Christ in the absolution formula; and Denifle says that Luther lies, that there is no mention of works, and never has been, in the absolution formula (p. 339). In his commentary on Galatians Luther gives a formula which the monks used among themselves, as follows:
Form of monastic absolution: The Lord have mercy upon thee, brother! In the remission of thy sins, in the increase of merits and of grace, and in the reward of eternal life, may there be granted to thee the merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the blessed Mary, always Virgin, and all the saints, by the merit of our order, weight of religion, humility of confession, contrition of heart, good works which thou hast done and shall do for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now, inasmuch as Luther was himself a monk, and must frequently have heard this absolution, it is incredible that he invented it. Besides, his brethren could say: "We never heard of it." Nor is there anything contrary to Catholic doctrine in it. An actual form of absolution is that given in the RUuale Romanum (Regensburg, 1888), p. 58:
May the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, whatever of good you may do, or evil you may sustain, be to thee in remission of sins, augmentation of grace, and reward of eternal life.
Luther says that the Catholic authorities represented entrance into a monastery as virtually equivalent to a second baptism, as a purifying from sin.2-5 Denifle denies it (p. 231). Did they or did they not ? Luther's contemporary, the Franciscan of Leipzig, Marcus von Weida, says that those who enter a cloister, therefore giving up their free will to honor God, "receive grace from God, so that they are clean from all sin, and they are looked upon by him as an innocent child that has just been lifted out of baptism."24 This was not an extravagant opinion of the Leipzig Franciscan, but went back straight to the Doctor Angelicus, Thomas of Aquino, who teaches that all men who out of right thought take the monastic spiritual life, if they are obedient, deserve the perfect forgiveness of all their sins, are freed from pain and guilt, and are considered equally by God and the church as though they had just now come from the sacrament of holy baptism.*5 So much for the so-called monk's baptism.
'3 Loc. tit., Vol. XXXI, p. 478.
"4 See N. Paulus, "Markus von Weida," Zeitsckrift far hatholische Tkeologie, Vol. XXVI (19011), pp. 253 f.
"5 IV Sent. dist. 4, q 3 a; 5. Th. 2. 2. 9. 189 a. 3 ad. 3. See Kolde, of. tit., pp. 33-42; Kohler, op. tit., pp. 15-17.
Luther says (which angers Denifle) that the Catholic church by its monastic vows, despises and dishonors marriage and woman. This brings up Luther's whole teaching concerning marriage, which has been one of the chief causes of the hatred of him by the church. Luther based marriage on the physical constitution of the race, on the command of God to be fruitful and multiply; and he looked upon any rejection of that constitution, such as vows of celibacy, as a blasphemous infringement of the divine order of the world. For this reason he spoke with scorn and fierce invective against the Roman church which, while ostensibly making marriage a sacrament, had really lowered and actually rejected it in the case of thousands who sadly needed it, as results showed. He did not say that none had a call outside the life of marriage; he provided for such cases. He believed that God's wonder-working grace was sufficient for them. But marriage is a physical necessity for the race, and the church in denying it to so many of her members was a mother of immorality. In one respect Luther was still Catholic in his thought of marriage. Augustine and all the mediaeval teachers looked upon marriage as a kind of lesser and necessary evil, permitted on account of the concupiscence of mankind, which might, of course, be turned into a blessing by God's grace, but which was to be avoided by those who sought the higher reaches of holiness. Luther always abode in that sensuous, physical side. The modern conception of marriage as an intellectual and spiritual union, as a sacrament of love where two souls are united—emblem of the self-sacrificing love of Christ for the church, which therefore excludes polygamy as destroying the very essence of marriage—that spiritual side of marriage was out of Luther's thought, as it was out of the thought of his time. But that man could serve God better single, that there was sin in the marriage state, or that that state was lower than celibacy, Luther rejected with his whole soul. For that reason Catholics have turned the vials of their wrath on the Reformer.
Let me close with a thought or two growing out of this study. Luther undeniably offended in many ways. His coarseness of language was sometimes unendurable even to that coarse age. His denunciations of the church were sometimes too fierce for truth. He exaggerated, he quoted from memory, and so misquoted at times. His controversial methods, as judged by our exact and polite age, were abominable. So the birds have come home to roost. Time has brought about its revenges. With what judgment he judged he has been judged. All the coarseness and fierceness and exaggeration which he dealt out to his adversaries, they have from that day till now dealt out to him. They have paid him back in far worse than in his own coin. Not only so, but literary men among Protestants have joined in the war against Luther. Sir William Hamilton, the great Scotch philosopher, wrote a most damaging assault upon him. He has been followed by many, especially in the Episcopal church. Unless we love truth more than all things else, unless we are chaste in lip, honorable in controversy, charitable and broad-minded in our dealings with others, the measure we have dealt to others will be dealt to us. Our exaggerations, our misrepresentations, our lapses and slips, will come back upon us. But, for all this, Luther abides, for what he was and for the work he did, as the most significant man of his century. As a path-breaker for the human spirit he even overtops Calvin, in some respects a better and greater man. No man since Paul surpasses Luther in historical significance. Says Professor Seeberg, of Berlin:
He was no "saint," and the traits of those demonic qualities of the leaders of world-history give not only light but shadow. That is true also of Luther. But that signifies nothing over against the knowledge that he proclaimed the gospel to his people with a power and an innerliness as no German has before or since; that with a courage and a God-confidence such as scarcely anyone had before him since Paul he set forward the truth against a world of enemies; that he served, not himself, but the cause in the depth of battle no less than on the heights of success. That is always true of a great man and of a great Christian. Over against this, what will it do to say that he had his faults, that his historical learning had gaps, that his system was immature, that his polemic was sharp, and in some cases wrong?*6
What, then, is Luther's significance for us ? (i) He broke the back of Roman Catholic theology by restoring Christ's and Paul's doctrine of justification by faith alone. With that went a herd of false things—necessity of a pristhood between God and man, power of the priesthood, sacrifice of the mass, pilgrimages, shrines, Mariolatry, and all the thousand implements of mediaeval piety. Man stands again face to face with his God. That was the central point of his theology—not his sacramental doctrine, not his predestination, but that alone; and that has been the most fruitful acquisition which any man has given to the church since Paul's brave spirit went up to God outside of the walls of Rome. (2) He restored home te the clergy, made the ministry again a thing of naturalness, power, and Christian influence, resting on a pure morality centered on the divinest institution on earth—the home. Now men could begin to live among their fellows as men, loving God and their brothers, and finding the highest joy and the highest service and the highest reward in doing God's will
16 Luther und Luihertum in der neuesten katholischen Bcleuchtung, (Leipzig 1904), p. 30.
where He had placed them. (3) Luther will always remain^as an example and inspiration, as the greatest of modern men, who counted all things but loss, and dared death itself for the cross and the truth. " Here I stand! I can do no otherwise! God help me!" And he, being dead, yet speaketh.
John Alfred Faulkner. Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, N. J.