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example should be set to all around of the compatibility of the reforming doctrines with obedience to established government. The case was quite different in regard to the papal authority which Luther set at nought, for it had none of the characteristics of that civil rule which God has established, and in many respects was opposed to the plain principles and doctrines of Holy Writ. We should have followed Luther to Worms with more reverence had he laid a restraint on his own inclinations by the way, and not exalted himself to the position of an inspired prophet; and probably if he had exhibited more of the obedience of a citizen with his zeal as a minister of Christ, the disturbances which accompanied the Reformation in Germany would not have occurred. At all events his licence gave encouragement to such men as the Zwickau prophets and Thomas Munzer to act on mere subjective data, for no good reason could be given why Luther alone should have a dispensation to speak and act as he pleased in opposition to legal authority. It is curious to observe, how, when it suited his purpose, Luther could allege the authority of the Emperor in opposition to the wishes of his friends. When Bucer joined with Sickingen to divert Luther from his intention to go to Worms, and his companions urged him to accept the invitation to visit Sickingen's fortress, he never wavered for a moment, but said, “I obey the Emperor's com
The other instance occurred on his return from Worms, and just before his abduction to the Wartburg :
“On Tuesday he proceeded to Hirschfeld, the Prince Abbot of which, Crato Milius, a monk of the Benedictine order, sent his chancellor and treasurer to meet him at a distance of a mile from the city, while he himself, with a considerable retinue of horsemen, waited somewhat nearer the town, and conducted him to his palace, the senate welcoming him at the gate. That evening Luther was sumptuously lodged by the Abbot; it was insisted that he should occupy for the night the Abbot's own bed ; and the next morning, at five o'clock, in compliance with entreaties which would not admit of refusal, although he candidly stated the imperial prohibition and the danger involved in disregarding it, he preached to the Abbot and his court in the Church. The evening of the same day, Wednesday, he prosecuted his journey as far as Eisenach, whence he wrote a hurried account to Count Albert of Mansfeld of what had passed at Worms; and here too he again ascended the pulpit, and preached those truths for proclaiming which he had already been excommunicated, and was shortly to be outlawed. The curate with a notary and two witnesses at his side, stood trembling at the door of the Church, and interposed his protest ; but merely with the object of screening himself from the consequences of acquiescing in an illegal act.”—vol. i., pp. 264-5.
All this seems to us to be bad, calculated to throw fresh obstacles in the way of reform, and to damage a good cause. No doubt the curate ought to have begged Luther to refrain from preaching, and Luther ought to have submitted. There was another infirmity which beset this great man, and arose in great measure from his indomitable obstinacy, viz., his inability to give credit for good and conscientious motives to those who could not follow him in his enthusiastic progress. We are not sure that the cause Luther espoused did not ultimately suffer by his being so much of an autocrat in conducting it-by his appearing always at the sole fons et origo of every movement; we incline to believe that if his zeal had been tempered, not repressed, by the wisdom and discretion of others, a nobler monument of his labours would have remained to this day. We could have wished Mr. Worsley had taken this view in some degree, so as to have given more credit to others in exalting Luther. What we mean may be gathered from the following passage :
Not, however, that amidst continual proofs of the popular enthusiasm, Luther's feelings were not painfully lacerated by instances of individual timidity. Staupitz, who was receding further and further from Luther, as the Reformer's doctrines were more clearly developing and becoming more and more decidedly Anti-Romanist, had been accused to his friend the Archbishop of Salzburg, by the Pope, as an ally of the Wittenberg monk, and in reply had declared his submission to the Holy See. So much was the Reformer grieved at this pusillanimity, that he addressed a letter on the subject to Staupitz, in which affection seems to vie with remonstrance. 'You have too much humility, and I have too much pride. Let me be found guilty of every sin there is or can be rather than of impious silence at a time like the present, when Christ is in his agony, and says, “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me." I fear that you will continue to vacillate midway between Christ and the Pope, who are diametrically opposed. Indeed I am not a little vexed at your recent submission, whereby you have shewn yourself another man from the Staupitz who once preached grace and the cross. Philip salutes you,
you an increase of courage. Your son, Martin Luther.' Reuchlin also shewed himself very cautious, and requested Melancthon not to write to him, that he might not incur suspicion."-vol. i., pp. 216-7.
Considering that Luther himself had often great heaviness of spirit, fearing lest he should be going too far, and that to the last he retained considerable deference to what was old and established, we think more charity should have been exercised towards men like Staupitz. It must be remembered that the men of that day had not the light of long experience to guide them as we have, and that reformation then appeared to many to be all that was needed to place the Church in a healthy position without organic changes. Then, further, parties were for going to extremes, and prudence might most laudably go hand in hand with piety, so as to prevent or avoid the consequences of wild and extravagant zeal. In the very next paragraph to that we have quoted, Mr. Worsley relates that “there were others who were for wildly rushing into the counter-extreme, and settling religious differences by the sword.” Hutten is mentioned," the little valiant knight,” whose counsels were for war. Everywhere there were indications that if Luther was doing good, tares were springing up among the wheat, in the shape of religious licentiousness and civil commotion. In such circumstances we can conceive of men pausing and even retreating somewhat from the position Luther had taken up, and yet being as devout and courageous as he, but more cautious. It is the fashion, we know, in conducting and recording revolutions to stigmatize all prudent persons as cowards, but we think Christianity teaches us a different doctrine.
We must trespass on the patience of our readers while we bring forward under this head Luther's treatment of Erasmus. We are not going to enter on any defence of that learned man, for we are fully conscious of his faults of character, but all we mean to point out is, that the way the Reformer spoke of him was not consistent with Christian charity, and certainly not calculated to win over to his cause the timorous and wavering, or even those who possessed true Christian discretion. In the following passage we can hardly refrain from smiling at the way in which Luther charges the outbreaks of fanaticism on Erasmus, when it is so plain that he himself paved the way for it by the frequent extravagance of his words and conduct :
“It was, moreover, to Erasmus that Luther imputed the rapid increase of sceptical opinions in Germany. At Munster, Anabaptism had raised its stronghold, and the tenets of Munzer and the Zwickau fanatics were carried out to their full political and moral consequences, under the government of a tailor from Leyden, John Bockelson, more commonly called John of Leyden, who had been proclaimed king. Community of woinen and goods of all kinds had been established, and a filthiness degrading human nature below the brute was defended by the pretence of immediate inspiration. Happily in June of the following year, the efforts of the Bishop of Munster were seconded by the Landgrave and the Elector of Saxony. The city was surrendered ; and the ringleaders of fanaticisin were made a terrible example for the warning and instruction of others. In other parts of Germany, the doctrines of the incarnation of the Son of God, of the Trinity, and all the distinctive articles of the Christian faith, were called into question, or exposed to ridicule. In all this, Luther perceived so many proofs of the depraved influence which the scholar of Basle was exercising on public taste and religious ideas. • Erasmus,' he said, 'was the palmer-worm, who had crept into the paradise of the Church, and had filled every leaf with his maggots.” Accordingly, in the spring of 1534, he assailed this prop and pillar of scepticism in a tract published under the form of a letter to Amsdorf. "It was the levity,' he said, with which Erasmus treated the most sacred subjects which had induced him before to give him a sharp prick, in the hope of rousing him from his snoring, and awakening him to sober reflection. But all had been in vain, and he had only provoked the viper to produce the viper-asp. He had now learnt that Erasmus's defect was not simply levity, but far worse, -malice and an entire ignorance of Christianity. To Erasmus, the Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the depravity of man, the redemption of man, the resurrection of the body, and all the peculiar doctrines of the Christian faith, were matter for jest. His catechism for children contained the question, — Why in the Apostle's Creed is the Father called God; the Son, not God, but Lord; the Spirit, neither God nor Lord, but only Holy? This was to children! Why here was Satan himself! as of old, disputing God's Word, and insinuating the doubt—“Thou shall not surely die !!!! He then reviewed the writings of Erasmus, pointing out their sceptical tendency; and concluded by saying that Erasmus himself was unworthy of an answer: he had enough to do in teaching others, above all in translating the Scripturesa work which itself required his full energies, to forsake important duties to catch at clouds and emptiness. But he would leave his testimony concerning Erasmus. Erasmus replied to this letter with his usual acerbity. And Melancthon lamented the petulance of old age' in both his great contemporaries. The following memorandum appears among Luther's correspondence,- Erasmus, the foe of all religion, and the pre-eminent adversary of Christ, is the exact pattern and copy of Lucian and Epicurus. I, Martin Luther, with my own hand enjoin thee, my dearest son John, and through thee all my children, and all the children of Christ's Church, to lay this deep in your heart. It is no light thing.'
For what purpose have we thus exhibited some of the failings of the great modern apostle of Germany? Not certainly because we do not love and reverence him as a whole, but because we think that God's cause and God's truth demand that in this case the worship of the creature should give place to the worship of God. Luther was, we repeat, raised up to do a specific work, and he did it well; but while we acknowledge this we cannot admit that he was perfect-totus teres et rotundus—we rather look upon him as peculiarly frail when that special duty was accomplished, or when he turned to other matters in the discharge of it. We feel disposed often to compare him with Samson, whom the Spirit of God moved to perplex and destroy the Philistines, but who, when there were no gates of Gaza to carry away, and no destined enemies to smite hip and thigh,” exhibited the weaknesses of other men. But we cannot compare him with the holy apostles of our Lord, as some do, for then we find how immeasurably inferior are all ordinary agents employed by Divine Providence to those who were supernaturally endowed for their work, and inspired to perform it. Yet how much more does Luther occupy of the field of vision in relation to the Reformation, than did St. Peter and St. John in relation to the successes of the early Church! With the believers of the first ages Christ and Christianity were everything, and the apostles held a lowly place; with the Christians of these last centuries, Luther is first, and Christ and his cause are often less thought of and spoken of than he is!
Looked at in relation to the prime work of his life-the depression of the arrogance of the papacy, Luther will ever take his place among the noble army of martyrs, although he was not called to shed his blood, as he was willing to do, and often expected he should. But when he becomes the head of a sect, and men call themselves after his name, he is placed in a different position, in which his weaknesses become manifest, and the shortcomings of his labours appear conspicuous. The characters of great men are often depreciated, and even actually injured, by their attempting too much, and thus shifting them. selves from the position which they have occupied with glory and renown; and where this leaving of their proper field of action is not voluntary, it is often forced upon them by others, as in the case of Luther. Perhaps it is too much to expect that either Luther or his disciples should have known where to stop, amidst the great excitements of their day, and the disorganization of society which had taken place; but as we recede from those times, and take a calm and unprejudiced view of the Reformer's life and character, we may see that he went beyond the work committed him to do, and that to have stopped short of the goal he ultimately reached would have been true wisdom.
Mr. Worsley has added another to the already numerous biographies of Luther, and we have read it with fresh interest and admiration ; but we will candidly confess that the impressions made upon us have not been favourable to that great man as a whole, or viewed apart from his active opposition to the abuses of Rome. Raised up by a course of Providential training, and endowed, as we have seen, with a daring courage and persistent determination of purpose, he exactly filled up a position which waited both for the hour and the man, and for which he only, of all his known contemporaries, was thoroughly qualified. Others had seen, as clearly as he had, the vitiated state both of ecclesiastical law and discipline and of religious life ;others had mourned in secret, as he did, over the abuses and sufferings of Christianity, and had prayed as earnestly to heaven
VOL. V.-NO. IX.