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Christendom was once glorious by her power and her majesty, until a new-worldly inspiration ruled its destruction, and stamped its character with increasing weakness and mockery. An incurable laziness was deeply rooted in the clergy, who thought themselves too secure. They lived in the opinion of their own consequence and usefulness, whilst the laity excelled them in knowledge and learning, and made mighty strides towards civilization. As the clergy forgot their proper duty-of becoming the first amongst men in knowledge, genius, and judgment --base desires were engendered in their mind, whilst the coarseness and meanness of their ideas became more disgusting by their dress and employment. Thus, they gradually lost all that esteem and confidence, which are the pillars of a spiritual as well as of a temporal State: and hereby the Church was despised, and Rome, at length, lost her proper dignity and majesty, long before any violent insurrection had broken out. Only deep and temporary measures held together the body of the state, and preserved it from speedy dissolution. To this, the abolition of marriage, among the clergy for example, particularly belonged; a rule, which being relatively useful, conld impart a great solidity and consistency to a state, and prolong its life to a longer period.* What was more natural, than that at last a firey-headed individualt should preach open resistance against the despotic character of the former state, and this with much greater success, when he himself was a member of this society.
Justly did the insurgents call themselves Protestants, I because they solemnly protested against the usurpations of an apparently improper
* It must be remembered that Novalis, although so Catholic in many of his views, had yet many prejudices to overcome, and many truths to learn respecting the Catholic Church, before the Reformation. No doubt, many abuses existed before this period, and many individuals were a disgrace to their religion ; but that the clergy were universally corrupted, and that ignorance and barbarism prevailed amongst them, has never been proved. Dr. M‘Crie, in his “ History of the Reformation in Italy," labours hard to prove this point-but he has evidently laboured in vain. To be convinced what Europe was before the Reformation, we should consult F. Schlegel's Philosophy of History,” “Hurter's History of Innocent III," Dr. Hock's “ History of Sylvester II," and Voight's most interesting and impartial “Life of Gregory the Seventh."
+ I have lately seen a large picture of Luther, who is represented as a saint, looking up towards heaven, with a Bible in his band. At the bottom is written in German, “Here I stand, God help me.
e.--Amen." Now many amongst them would fain call themselves Catholics ; -we are the Romanists, or Roman Catholics.
and boundless power over conscience. They, indeed, laid the foundations of many good things; they introduced many laudable changes, and threw aside a variety of pernicious laws and maxims ;* but they forgot the necessary result of their proceedings; they divided that which could not be divided—they separated the indivisible Church, and forcibly tore themselves away from that Christian unity, through which, and in which alone, a true and lasting regeneration could be possible. + To this state of religious anarchy, there was only wanting its end; for the necessary principle of devoting a body of men to this high calling alone, and of making them independent of every earthly power, in this respect, still remains in enduring power and efficacy. The erection of Consistories,f which possessed a kind of spiritual jurisdiction, did not remedy this evil : they were not a sufficient reparation. Unfortunately, princes mixed themselves up with these dissensions, and many favoured them, in order to consolidate and extend their own personal power and respect. They were glad to be exalted to such great influence, and accordingly, they took these Consistories under their protectionwithin their respective territories. They most zealously endeavoured to prevent the complete union of the Protestant Churches; and thus was religion wickedly confined within their states, whereby was laid the foundation of gradually undermining the cosmopolite interests of religion. Thus religion lost its great political and peace-making influence, and Christianity her own proper, individual character. The peace of religion was injured, by most erroneous and dangerous principles, so that by means of the so-called Reformation, everywhere a con
* Changes, they certainly introduced; but Novalis would find it difficult to prove, that they were laudable. Luther, Erasmus, Musculus, and Sleidan, acknowledge how much religion suffered by their laudable changes. See Dr. Milner's “ Letters to a Prebendary,” Letter V.
+ Trennten das untrentbare ; theilten die untheilbare Kirche, und rissen sich freveld aus dem allgemeinen Christlichen Verein, durch welchen und in welchem allein, die ächte dauernde Wiedergeburt möglich war. (“Die Christenheit," p. 165. Ed. Paris, 1840.)
See Menzel “ Neuere Geschicte der Deutschen von der Reformation bis zu Brin. desarte.” Breslau, 1836.
§ For proofs of this, see Menzel's "History of the Thirty Years' war in Germany;" Buckhal's “ History of Ferdinand I;” and M. Leo, “Lehrbuch der Universalgeschichte." Halle, 1838. Leo is a learned Protestant, and Professor of History in the University of Halle.
tradictory kind of Protestantism was introduced, and a revolutionary Government was permanently established. *
In the mean time, this character was far from forming the only ground on which Protestantism was built, for Luther in general treated Christianity in a most arbitrary manner.f He mistook its spirit, and introduced another character, and another religion--the holy all-avail. ableness of the Bible, and thereby, alas! another foreign and earthly science was mixed up with religion-philology, whose destructive influence from that time has been but too manifest.
* Luther himself approved of the Protestants rising up in rebellion against Charles V., and declared that it was not an act of rebellion, but of self-defence. (See in the works of Luther, edit. Walch, tom. xvi, p. 1950, a letter entitled " A warning to my dear Germans.")
# To know the real character of this saintly Reformer, see Luther's“ Table Talk.” (Ed. Wittemburg, 1573.) See also, Michelet, “ Mémoires de Luther, écrits par luimême." Bruxelles, 1837. Mr. Hallam, a very prejudiced writer against Catholics, thus pourtrays Luther's character :-“From his Latin works, few readers, I believe, will rise without disappointment. Their intemperance, their coarseness, their inelegance, their scurrility, their wild paradoxes that menace the foundations of religious morality, are not compensated by inuch strength or acuteness, and still less by any impressive eloquence..... An unbounded dogmatism, resting on an absolute confidence in the infallibility, practically speaking, of his own judgment, pervades his writings: no indulgence is shown, no pause allowed, to the hesitating; whatever stands in the way of his decisions, the fathers of the Church, the schoolmen and philosophers, the canons and councils, are swept away in a current of impetuous declamation : and as everything contained in Scripture, according to Luther, is easy to be understood, and can only be understood in his sense, every deviation from his doctrine incurs the anathema of perdition. (“Introduction to the Literature of Europe,” vol. i., p. 513.)
D’Aubigné's “ History of the Reformation,” just published and translated into English, would fain persuade us, that Luther was a second St. Paul-an angel in human form-an A postle--a trumpet of the Holy Ghost. It is certainly the most partial history that has been written on the subject. As a counteraction to this work, see Audin's “ Life of Calvin”
# “ Die heilige Allgemeingultigkeit der Bibel,” &c. Even now, many hold almost the same language. Thus the Rev. Baden Powell, in his late sermon before the Mayor and Corporation of Oxford : " Let not Protestants perplex themselves, and waste their strength in vain disputes, on lesser matters; but hold resolutely to the broad principle of, the Bible, and every man's right to search it, and think for himself, on which alone the Reformation proceeded, or was, in fact, justifiable. Let them consider well, and remember that, in one word, Protestantism is Scripture.” (P. 14.)
When writing these words, did Mr. Powell remember, that the private interpretation of the Bible has produced all the different sects that now threaten the Established Church with destruction.
From a vague feeling of this error, Luther himself was at once raised to the rank of an Evangelist by many of the Protestant body, and his Translation of the Scriptures was almost canonized.* This system was particularly injurious to the religious mind, for nothing so much lessens its excitability, as the mere words. In former days, the flexibility and the rich materials of Catholic faith, together with the authority of holy councils, and that of the spiritual Head of the Church, prevented to a great extent the esoteric character of the Bible from becoming so injurious.f But these means were abolished at the Reformation, and the absolute popularity (authority) of the Bible asserted, I so that the mere contents, and a raw abstract sketch of religion, appeared the more marked in this book; a circumstance which made
every free impression and manifestation an almost endless task for a religious mind to acquire.
Hence, in the history of Protestantism, we find no great and heavenly manifestations of supernaturul feeling: only in its commencement a transient fire gleams from heaven, but soon after there appears a dryness in the religious minds of men ; earthly things gain the ascendancy, and a taste for the encouragement of the arts suffers sympathetically. Now and then, indeed, in many places, a pure etherial vital spark comes forth, and a few members join themselves together. This is broken up, and the society separates and descends down with the stream.
Such was the case with Zinzendorf, Jacob Böhme, and others. The Moderatists have gained the upper hand, and the time approaches when we shall
* Luther's translation is certainly remarkable for its elegance and perspicuity. He was not sufficiently learned to make a translation from the originals, and merely refined the language of former translations. He is guilty of many wilful mistranslations; thus in the 1st Epist. to the Corinthians, (chap. ix, 5,) he translates the Greek word youn, which means a woman, by “ Zum Weibe”-for a wife, or as a wife. But the most remarkable case of all is with regard to the Epistles to the Romans (chap. iii., 28). The passage is thus translated :—“So halten wir es nun, das der Mensch gerech werde, ohne des Gesetzes werke, allein durch das glauben.': Luther's trauslation was fiuished in 1532; but before this period, Catholic translations had appeared at Strasburg, in 1466 and 1485; at Augsburgh, in 1467, 1170, 1473, 1477, 1480, 1483, 1487, 1494, 1507, 1510, 1518, &c.; and at Nüremberg, in 1477, 1480, 1483, and 1581. (See Vol. I. of this Magazine, pp. 9, 10.)
+ See a learned and interesting article in the “ British Magazine," entitled “The Bible during the dark ages." Vol. ix., p. 125.)
# Jetzt aber wurden diese Gegenmittel vernichtet, die absolute Popularität der Bibel behauptet," &c. P. 165.
Wood and many others bear testimony to the great injury which learning suffered by the Reformation.
see a complete prostration of the higher powers—a period of practical unbelief. With the Reformation Christianity was undone.* Catholics and Protestants stood in sectarian opposition to each other, with more animosity than Mahomedans or Pagans do. The remaining Catholic states continued to vegetate, not without feeling, in no slight degree, the pernicious influence of the neighbouring Protestant states. At this time, a new kind of politics arose, and several states endeavoured to seize and to convert into a throne, the vacant and universal chair of justice,
To many princes, it seemed to be a lowering of their character to be bound to a weak spiritual power. For the first time, they felt the importance of their earthly influence, and they treated with indifference the spiritual powers, by means of their representatives, wbilst they sought, without any regard to their being considered subject to the Pope, to throw off his yoke, which appeared too burthensome, and to make themselves independent upon the earth. Wise ministers, who could lose nothing by this, calmed their disturbed consciences by say, ing, that their spiritual children had adopted this resolution against the power and wealth of the Church.
Happily for the ancient state, a new order now arose, upon which the dying spirit of the hierarchy seemed to have poured out all its gifts and blessings-an order that endowed the Church with new energy, and which with wonderful judgment, perseverance, and unexampled wisdom, undertook the support of the papal state, and its more mighty regeneration. I Such a society had never before appeared in the
* “Mit der Reformation wars um die Christenheit gethan. Von nun an war Keine meir vorhanden.” P. 167.
+ Since this period, a great moral re-action has taken place, and the Catholic states are daily acquiring more and more influence and respeot. (See“ Dublin Review"_" Moral and Intellectual Condition of Catholic Germany." No. xxi., p. 54).
It is not too much to say, that in this and the after period of his life, Loyola was not a fanatic, and far less an impostor. His mind was too powerful to condescend to the former; and who that reads his “Spiritual Exercises,” will venture to say he was the latter? It was his passionate desire, that Christ might be preached to the utmost ends of the earth, and that all the nations of the earth might know the Lord, and call him blessed. He was ambitious, it was true, but not as the world accuses him: his was not the ambition of earthly honour and glory,—it aimed at a loftier flight. His disciples strove to labour in lands where barbarism alone reigned, and where, without a murmur, they loved to endure contumely and ill-usage, to court the stake or the faggot, and to look with unblanched cheek on agony more fearful than words can describe. These were not the friends and followers of an impostor. ..... At a time when the dissolute morals of Churchmen gave a handle to reproach, and