Monday, August 29, 2016

Luther: Evangelicals are now seven times worse than they were before..having learnt the Gospel, we steal, tell lies, deceive, eat and drink to excess


Here are two Luther quotes from the book, Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results: Taken Exclusively from the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works (1884), p. 55.

"We deserve that our Evangelicals (the followers of the new Gospel) should now be seven times worse than they were before. Because after having learnt the Gospel, we steal, tell lies, deceive, eat and drink (to excess), and practice all manner of vices." [Walch. III. 2727]


"After one Devil (Popery) has been driven out of us, seven worse ones have come down upon us, as is the case with Princes, Lords, Nobles, Citizens and Peasants." [Walch. III. 2727]."

These quotes pops up every once in a while. They are typically used by Rome's defenders as proof of the failure of the Reformation (or something like Luther's regrets or concession to the failure of the Reformation, etc.(example #1, example #2).  O'Connor uses these quotes to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically, the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality."

Another English version of the first quote can be found in Heinrich Denifle, Luther and Lutherdom:
But did not the father of the new movement himself acknowledge that "our (people) are now seven times worse than they ever were before. We steal, lie, cheat, cram, and swill and commit all manner of vices" (Erl. 36, 411). [p. 21-22].
Another English version of the first quote based on Denifle can be found here:
Our (people) are now seven times worse than they ever were before. We steal, lie, cheat, . . . and commit all manner of vices. (in Heinrich Denifle, Luther and Lutherdom, vol.1, part 1, tr. from 2nd rev. ed. of German by Raymund Volz, Somerset, England: Torch Press, 1917, 22. Luther quote from Werke, Erlangen edition, 36, 411)
Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results is an old small anthology of Luther quotes peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor. In an early edition of this work, the author was so sure of his effort he originally titled the book, "The Only Reliable Evidence Concerning Martin Luther." The author claims to have compiled the quotes from the original sources: “Nearly two-thirds of the matter contained in this pamphlet is taken from the original editions of Luther’s own Works, as published in Wittenberg, under the very eye of the Reformer of Germany himself”(p. 3) He says “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context”(p.5).

Documentation
The footnotes "Walch. III" refers to the third volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Predigten über das erste Buch Mose und Auslegung über die folgenden biblischen Bücher bis zu den Psalmen). Page 2727 can be found here. The text O'Connor appears to be citing for both quotes appears to be from the following paragraph:


The text being cited is from Luther's comments on Deuteronomy 9:25. To my knowledge, the complete context this paragraph comes from has yet to be translated into an official English version of Luther's Works. LW does include an entire volume containing Luther's Lectures on Deuteronomy (Deut. 9 begins at LW 9:99). LW includes only a translation of pages Walch / St. Louis pp. 1370-1639 (see LW 9, introductory comments). Their translation is based on WA 14:489-744 (Lecture on Deut. 9 can be found here). LW 9 explains Luther began lecturing on Deuteronomy in February 1523 "to a small gathering of close associates in his own house at Wittenberg" (LW 9, preface).There are several transcriptions of these lectures done by Luther's associates, none though going past Deut. 7. Luther's own transcription of his Deuteronomy notes began in 1524. The official work was completed and published in 1525. Walch (St. Louis) III includes this work in III 1370-1639.


Context
Back in 2009 I came across an English translation of paragraph 49 from Walch III, 2727. 
Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings.
Conclusion
 The above translation of this obscure quote is from an old book, Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette (Published by Bernard Quaritch, 1884). Collette's book is quite fascinating. He similarly examines obscure out-of-context Luther quotes and offers corrections and contexts. It wasn't Roman Catholics he defended Luther against, rather, the culprit was the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, who, according to Collette was "a professed Minister of the (Reformed) Established Church of England." Interestingly, Baring-Gould appears to have gathered some of his Luther material from Roman Catholic sources, and was part of a group sympathetic to Rome. Of this group, Collette states, "These gentlemen sigh for pre-Reformation days when the priest ruled and the sacramental system flourished, to the glorification of the priest, and ignorance, superstition, thraldom, and degradation of the people" (p.6). If this link is about the Sabine Baring-Gould in question (which I think it is), he's the writer of the famous hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." Of this quote in question, Collette quotes Baring-Gould stating:
"...let us take Luther's own account of the results of his doctrine :—' There is not,' says he,—' one of our Evangelicals who is not seven times worse than he was before he belonged, to us,—stealing, lying, deceiving, eating, and getting drunk, and giving himself up to all kinds of vices. If we have driven out one devil, seven others worse than the first have come in his place."
Collette begins analyzing the quote stating,
"The reference is 'Ed. Walch, iii. 2727.' Here it is self-evident that the rev. gentleman, by 'our Evangelicals,' intends to point to the new converts to Luther's teaching."
"By the reference we are guided to Luther's Commentaries on the 'fifth Book of Moses, ix. 25.' On turning to the column indicated, we find the passage purported to be quoted, but in it there is not the most distant intimation that Luther was pointing to his own people, or to the new converts; but to the state of utter depravity to which priests and people, nobles and commoners,—nominal Christians of all ranks,—had fallen."
After documenting this moral climate, Collette states,
But what I have to expose is the barefaced mistranslation put before us in the above extract by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, thereby making Luther allude to "our Evangelicals" as "belonging to Luther's disciples," who had become seven times worse by the change from Popery. I will let the reader judge for himself by placing before him a literal translation of the original; the text I add as a footnote :—
Collette then cites the context of Luther's statements:
"Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings."
The key to the quote is the phrase, "Our Gospellers." Collette explains,
" 'Our Gospellers' I have thus translated 'unsereEvangelischen.' Luther did not mean the true believers in and followers of the Evangelists, which some readers might suppose to be a name applicable to all members of the Reformed Churches, from their known attachment to the Gospel, but he applied the expression to outward professors of the Gospel.

Addendum
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

3 comments:

Bethany said...

Hi - I just came across this posting while looking for the Google Books version of Luther Vindicated for a paper I'm working on. Yes, this is indeed the S. Baring-Gould who is also the famous author of Onward Christian Soldiers. Puts it in new perspective, no?

Best,
Bethany Kilcrease

Jamie Donald said...

James, I hope I'm not too late in commenting on this article. But I do not see anything but pure assertion on Collette's part in analyzing this quote.

In working through the German, I have no objection to him translating "unsere Evangelischen" as "our Gospellers" (rather than our evangelicals). This translation provides a good, balanced reflection to and symmetry of "das (libre) Evangelium" as "the (beloved) Gospel." And even though the pronoun unser is a possessive meaning "our" as in "belonging to us," if the quote were to end here, I could accept it as still potentially indicating the group of "Gospellers" is external to, extrinsic from, Luther's communion. After all, when you object to the actions of Catholics, you could well choose to use the phrase "our Catholics" to describe us, but not be in the position of claiming any unity at all with us.

But the quote doesn't end there. It is in the next sentence that the pronoun "wir" (we) is used. If the point were that the "Gospellers" (whomever they may have been) were external to Luther's group, then the pronoun "sie" (they) should have been used. The use of "wir" seems to go against Collette's assertion.

So my question is this; does Collette offer more evidence than his own personal translation to back up his assertion? If you published it and I missed it, I'll apologize now. But if you have not published it, I am interested.

Thank you.

James Swan said...

Hi Jamie- Thanks for the comment. Collette's interpretation is consistent with similar things Luther said. for instance, see the extended section of text from Luther's sermons on The Feast of Saint John the Baptizer, specifically The Benedictus, or Prophecy of Zechariah, posted here:

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2016/08/luther-see-how-foolishly-people.html.

As I've read Luther, he typically thinks the greater number of people will reject or abuse the Gospel. Where Rome's defenders see a despondent Luther in quotes like that cited in this entry, Luther held to preaching the perfect righteousness of Christ. That righteousness will both confound the world and will be a comfort to those plagued by their sins. For Luther, the later category is smaller than the former.

JS