Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

arise merely from its abuses. These, no doubt, had kindled his indignation, but the more he looked at the system itself the more he disliked it, the more opposed he felt it to be to the conception of the Church that he found in the New Testament; and even before he had yet formally seceded from the Roman communion he had recovered the true scriptural idea of the Church, and boldly announced it in his famous address to the Christian nobility of Germany. He dismissed as false the central part of the whole mediæval system—the sacrifice of the mass--and with this sacrifice, any peculiar order of priesthood. The essence of the Church, he said, was in the intercommunion of the faithful with one another and their Heavenly Head, and no externals were absolutely necessary to it, beyond the preaching of God's Word, and the administration of the sacraments as ordained by Christ--no Romish popedoms nor any other hierarchical arrangements. The key to this higher conception lay in the great New Testament principle of the priestly character of all Christians. All Christians are alike in spiritual rank. The only thing peculiar to the ecclesiastic or priest is office, or public appointment to administer the Word of God and the Sacraments. Ordination implies this and nothing more—that out of the collective body of Christians, essentially of the same spiritual order (priests to God'), one is selected and authorised to exercise spiritual offices for the rest. It may be well to quote his own words on this subject

All Christians (he says), are truly of the spiritual estate, and there is among them no difference, save of office alone; as Paul says (1 Cor. xii. 12) that we are all one body, yet has each member its own office, that it may serve the others. "This is the all-important thing, that we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all alike Christians. For baptism, Gospel, faith, these alone make men spiritual and Christian folk.4

Again :

A bishop's consecration is no more than this, that in place of the entire congregation one is taken out of the whole body of those who possess equal power, to whom is committed the exercise of this same power for the rest. Or, that I may put it still more clearly, if a little body of pious Christian laymen were taken and placed on a desert, who had not among them an episcopally ordained priest, and, being there agreed, were to choose one among their own number, married or not, and were to commit to him the office of baptism, saying mass, absolving, preaching; he would be as truly a priest as if all the bishops and Popes bad ordained him.5

Already, therefore, on the eve of his rupture with Rome, the sacerdotal idea had entirely left Luther. A priest is nobody but a Christian layman, called and appointed to a special work. He empha

4 An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation. Die Reformatorischen Schriften Dr. Martin Luthers, von Dr. Karl Zimmermann, 1846, Erster Band, 480.

5 Ibid. 480-1. An interesting translation of this and other · Primary Works of Luther, edited by Dr. Wace and Dr. Buchheim, of King's College, has just appeared (Murray, London). VOL. XV.—No. 86.

X X

sises the idea of order as well as of equality. No one may take to himself the office of the ministry without the will and command of the congregation. But the priestly status is nothing but the status of a public officer, who so long as he holds his office has precedence, but when he is deposed and lays it aside, is a peasant or a citizen, like another. "Some have invented,' he says, characteres indelebiles, and prate that a deposed priest is nevertheless something other than a bad layman, all of which are laws and talk invented of men.'

It is this essential idea of the Reformation, quite as much if not more than the doctrine of justification by faith, which constitutes its real offence in the eyes of the extreme Anglo-Catholic school. This it is which barbs the insults they have levelled at Luther and Protestantism. Nothing touches men so keenly as the invasion of official pride. The love of power is the dearest instinct of the human heart-the love of being distiuct and more than others-having something to give which others have not. And all natural human feelings reinforce the false ideas which have come to us from the middle ages -nay, from the fourth century--and which give the sacerdotal principle what would seem an ever-recurring power over the human mind. This only makes it the more necessary to reiterate the true character of this principle as moral and spiritual, and never merely official. The idea of priesthood lies deep in human nature. It is in itself a true idea. But genuine priesthood is nothing but the Divine help that lies in the assurance of Divine sympathy communicated by one Christian heart to another. And he is the true priest everywhere, whether the hand of presbyter or bishop may have been laid upon him or not, who is the true helper and minister of good from God to man; who out of the treasures of his own faith, and hope, and love, can feed the hungry and give rest to the weary. If the doctrine of justification by faith be, as Luther said, the article of a standing or falling Church, this equally important truth of the universal priesthood of believers and the essential equality of clergy and laity is the special note of a really Reformed or Protestant Church.

4. But Luther's labours are not yet summed up. There remains his vast work of translating the Scriptures, and, immediately connected with this, his general services to Christian literature, his hymns and sermons and catechisms. Luther is so great as a reformer that we are apt to forget bow great he is a man of genius. Yet in literary genius alone he stands conspicuous in his age. His translation of the Scriptures into German is unrivalled. As a task-work it exceeds anything of the kind ever done. He translated the whole of the New Testament at the Wartburg in a few months. Contrast with this the years which our revisers took, assisted by all the lights of modern scholarship. The New Testament translation was already published in 1522, that is to say, a year after he stood before the Emperor at Worms; and ten years later, or in 1532, the whole of the Bible was

finished, to which he afterwards added the Apocryphal books in 1542. Matthesius tells us also that when the whole Bible had been published in German, Dr. Luther took it up again from the beginning with much earnestness, diligence, and prayer, and convoked, as it were, a Sanhedrim of the best men that could be found, who came together every week to his house, viz., Dr. Bugenhagen, Dr. Jonas, Dr. Kreuziger, Master Melanchthon, and others. And when the Doctor had looked through the Bible already published, and inquired among Jews and foreign linguists, and picked up good words by asking old Germans, he came into the assembly with the old Latin and new German Bible, and always brought a Hebrew text also.' And so they worked till edition after edition was published. Considering the age and the state of Biblical scholarship, the result is marvellous, not merely as a feat, but as a work of art. Luther's Bible came forth from his brain instinct with genius--a formative power in the development of the German language, and an imperishable landmark in German literature. Like our own Jacobean version--and more than it-it is not merely an excellent transcript of the Divine original, but a creative work with the stamp of originality, destined to exercise an enduring influence on the national tongue, and to be a model of its best popular speech for many generations.

But Luther not only translated the Scriptures; he did much by his judgments on the Sacred Books-rash as some of these may be pronounced to be—to initiate the historical criticism of Scripture as a great, literature rather than a code or collection of infallible dicta. He asked, for example, what it mattered even if Moses was not the author of Genesis?! He saw the essential superiority of the Books of Kings over those of Chronicles as historical records, and did not hesitate to pronounce the former the more credible. He discerned the dramatic character of the Book of Job, the late origin of the Book of Ecclesiastes, the fact that the prophecies of Jeremiah have not been preserved in chronological order, and were probably due, therefore, to a compiler rather than to the Prophet himself. “The story of Jonah,' he said, 'is more lying and more absurd than any fable of the poets. If it did not stand in the Bible I should laugh at it as a lie.'4 He pronounced against the Pauline origin of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He had grave doubts about the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, and said of the former, in comparison with the Pauline Epistles, that it was an epistle of straw, because it has nothing evangelical about it.' 5

We do not quote these opinions on account of their value. That is not the point. In reference to the Epistle of St. James, Luther was certainly wrong, from lack of that very historical judgment which so far guided him in other cases. His own feelings perhaps influenced him in all his judgments as much as any genuine critical or bistorical 4 Tischreden, iv. 418.

5 Preface to New Testament, xiv. 105.

judgment. For criticism was certainly not his forte.

In these respects Erasmus was greatly his superior. But his insight into the diversity of the Scriptures in meaning and authority, whether in all cases directed by sound principle or not, was a great advance of Biblical thought for the time--an advance which, unhappily, Protestantism did not maintain, and which the Churches are only now beginning to realise as a condition of intelligent Biblical interpretation. Here, as in other things, Luther's genius did for him what no mere learning could do, and what Protestant learning failed for long to understand.

If we add to all this Luther's work as a Christian poet and musician, we sum up a catalogue of services to the Christian Church which few or none can rival. It may be true, ás said by his detractors here also, that many of Luther's Geistliche Lieder are not original. Abundant traces of them may be found in the medieval hymnology. But he never said they were original in the sense these critics mean, and he would have been not merely a man of genius but a miracleworker if he had absolutely coined from his own brain all the hymns attributed to him. Like all true poets he worked on old materials; and just as Burns fashioned by his exquisite touch old and coarse materials into pearls of song, so Luther refitted old words and music to the trumpet tones of the Reformation. In nothing is a poet often greater than in this re-creation of the old and bad, till it lives with a new life of beauty and goodness and power.

This brief review may serve to explain and justify the Luther Commemoration. Some extravagances of talk may even be excused in reference to such a man, who in nothing sought to serve himself, but only God and the Church. There is a wholesomeness in his largeheartedness, his constant frankness, his real self-sacrifice, even in the midst of seeming self-indulgence. It is well to point out his faults; but even his faults lean to virtue's side.' They come in a great degree of the large simplicity of his nature, and he wears them on his sleeve. He invites us to contemplate them. In his moments of depression, and he had many, they overwhelm himself. Like most men of big thoughts, he bore, under all his outward show of brave and sometimes audacious words, a saddened and shadowed heart, that felt unutterably the mystery of life and death.' - What a brilliant night!' he said one night, as he and Catherine were walking in their garden: "but it burns not for us. • And why are we to be shut out from the kingdom of Heaven?' asked Catherine. · Perhaps,' said he, with a sigh, because we left our convents. There was a strange depth of humility, of self-distrust in the thought. Least of all, surely, was such a man what he appears to some-an incarnation of self-will and the mere rights of Nature.

JOHN TULLOCH.

NUMBERS; OR, THE MAJORITY AND

THE REMNANT.

THERE is a characteristic saying of Dr. Johnson, Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' The saying is cynical, many will call it brutal; yet it has in it something of plain, robust sense and truth. We do often see men passing themselves off as patriots, who are in truth scoundrels; we meet with talk and proceedings laying claim to patriotism, which are these gentlemen's last refuge. We may all of us agree in praying to be delivered from patriots and patriotism of this sort. Short of such, there is undoubtedly, sheltering itself under the fine name of patriotism, a good deal of self-flattery and self-delusion which is mischievous. Things are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be; why, then, should we desire to be deceived ?' In that uncompromising sentence of Bishop Butler's is surely the right and salutary maxim for both individuals and nations.

Yet there is an honourable patriotism which we should satisfy if we can, and should seek to have on our side. At home I have said so much of the characters of our society and the prospects of our civilisation, that I can hardly escape the like topic elsewhere. Speaking in America, I cannot well avoid saying something about the prospects of society in the United States. It is a topic where one is apt to touch people's patriotic feelings. No one will accuse me of having flattered the patriotism of that great country of English people on the other side of the Atlantic, amongst whom I was born. Here, so many miles from home, I begin to reflect with tender contrition, that perhaps I have not-I will not say flattered the patriotism of my own countrymen enough, but regarded it enough. Perhaps that is one reason why I have produced so very little effect upon them. It was a fault of youth and inexperience. But it would be unpardonable to come in advanced life and repeat the same error here. You will not expect impossibilities of me. You will not expect me to say that things are not what, in my judgment, they are, and that the consequences of them will not be what they will be. I should

1 Address delivered in New York

« PredošláPokračovať »