Imatges de pàgina

tary, that they only showed the general character and employgreatness of the abounding ments; it is therefore absolutely iniquities more clearly ;. but necessary, that in the life of this neither dispelled the gloom, nor illustrious Reformer, we'enter inprevented its increase. In the to a concise detail of the connect12th century, indeed, the Wal- ed events. denses appeared, and driven by MARTIN LUTHER, son of John the persecution of Romish See, Luther, a worker of metals at they took shelter in the vallies Mansfeld in Germany, and of of Piedmont, and from that Margaret Lindeman, a native of sequestered retreat sent forth Neustadt in Franconia, was born many champions for the truth; at Eisleben, a town in the circle but though individuals in differ- of Upper Saxony, on the 10th of ent regions embraced the doc- November, 1483, and was named trine of the scripture, no general Martin, because he was baptized reformation ensued. In the two the day following the feast of St. succeeding centuries, Wickliffe Martin. The poverty of his parin England, and Huss and Jer. ents prevented them from sendome of Prague in Bohemia, ing him to a public school till contended earnestly for the faith he was fourteen years of age; delivered to the saints, and sow- but they instructed him in pried the seeds of Christian know- vate, and early seasoned his mind ledge in their respective coun- with those religious tenets, tries. These revivals, though which they themselves had imonly partial, were, like the first bibed. He commenced his litefaint rays of the morning, which rary studies at Magdeburg, and tremble on the tops of the moun. continued them at Eisenach, tains, the presages of a new and where he remained four years ; auspicious day; a day when the during which he exhibited the kingdom of antichrist was sha- beginnings of that acuteness and ken to its centre ; when the doc- ardour, and that copiousness of trine of the cross, and not a language, and power of elogolden standard, became the sig- quence, which afterwards were nal of destruction to the enemies the means of enlightening and of Christ; and when the nations, reforming the world. In 1591, who had for full ten ages slum- he entered the university of Er. bered in their chains, were re- furt, in Thuringia, and applying stored to liberty, by the energy of to the dry unprofitable subtieties the Word and Spirit of God. of scholastic philosophy, soon The man who was honoured by made himself acquainted with its Providence, to be the instrument principles, as explained by of beginning, directing, and Occam, Scotus, Thomas Aquisuperintending this astonishing nas, and other learned triflers of dispensation of grace, was Lu- the dark ages. He was admitted ther; whose life is in fact a master of arts in 1503, and soon history of the Reformation. after was chosen professor of Were it possible to select parc natural and moral philosophy; ticular facts, they could not be but he attended chiefly to the placed in a just or an interesting studies connected with civil law, light, without attending to his as his parents proposed that bis

rising talents should be devoted of exposure to divine vengeance, to the service of the state. which the recollection of the

But, contrary to the wishes of events that led to his vow, his parents, Luther suddenly left brought home to his conscience, the university, and embraced a and by those deep convictions, monastic life. The circumstances which the consciousness of his which immediately produced this character, as a sinner in the change of views, have been varie sight of God, produced on his ously related by different writers. mind. He sought comfort in The following seems to be the the friendship and conversation most probable account: That of John Staupitz, vicar of the under deep impressions made on order, to whom he unbosomed his mind by the unexpected himself ; and who endeavoured death of an intimate companion, to relieve his mind of its fears, and by an unusually violent by leading him to view them as storm of thunder, he solemnly part of the trials which God vowed to devote himself wholly had appointed to prepare him to the service of God, by with for eminent usefulness in the.. drawing from the intercourse of church. In the mean time, he the world, and spending his life prosecuted his theological studin religious duties ; that after- ies with diligence ; gave him wards he considered this vow to self to reading and disputation ; be binding on his conscience ; frequently fasted for several days and that in order to fulfil it, in together; and accompanied all compliance with the erroneous' these exercises with habitụal spirit of the times, he entered the and earnest prayer.

He was monastery of the Augustine fri: known, once to have passed nearars at Erfurt.* Though he plead ly five weeks without sleep; the reality of what he regarded and, in general, he took only a as the certain call of Providence, very few hours repose. He his father opposed his resolution, sometimes, however, relaxed the and earnestly besought him to severity of his studies, with innotake care, that he did not deceive cent amusements, particularly himself, or was not deluded by with music, of which he was the suggestions of an evil spirit, extremely fond, and from which rather than called by the voice of he experienced the happiest God. Luther was unmoved by effects ; for, when seized with these remonstrances, and, in depression of spirits, he fre.' pursuance of his vow, entered quently succeeded in removing, the monastery, and submitted. or at least in lessening it, by with cheerfulness to all its sever singing psalms and hymns.* ities.

It was therefore not poverty, He was at first subject to fre, but the love of a pious life, as quent fits of melancholy, occa- Melancthon observes, that indusioned, most probably, by medio ced Luther to become a monk.' tating on the awful consequences

Beausobres' Hist. of the Refor.

mation, translated by Macauley, Vol. See for a particular account of I. p. 46. Lond. 1801. this event, Milner's Ch. Hist. Vol. He is said to be the Author of the IV. Appendix, p. 50 & 60.

tune called Old Hundred,

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But the common sources of reli- attended him when sick, he re-
gious instruction, to which his ceived much advantage in his
brethren of the order resorted, search after truth. By him he
did not satisfy him. He soon was led to attend to the nature of
became tired of scholastic learn- faith, and the meaning of the ex-
ing, the field in which, at that pression in the creed, " I believe
time, all who wished for emi- in the remission of sins." This
nence in theological attainments, the priest interpreted as imply.
were doomed to labour : it pro- ing more than a general belief-
duced no fruits of piety, and was which even devils possess and
barren of every thing that could as intimating that it is the ex-
gratify the desires of a mind like press command of God, that ev-
his, which thirsted after religious ery man should apply it to his
truth, and spiritual consolation. own particular case; an inter-
He was anxious to know the will pretation, which Luther found
of God; but he sought for it in confirmed by a passage of Su.
vain, amid the rubbish of per- Bernard's, which commended it-
plexed and superstitious vol- self at once to his understanding
umes, formed not on the doc- and his conscience, and which
trines of scripture, but on the furnished him with a key to the
obscure traditions of a corrupt true sense of other doctrines of
church, rendered, if possible, revelation. He embraced the
still more obscure, by attempting fundamental doctrine of justif-
to explain their meaning, and en- cation by faith, as explicitly stal.
force their authority, on the prin- ed in the inspired writings; and
ciples of the Aristotelian philos- by comparing the sentiments of
ophy. At length he was con- the Prophets with those of the
ducted by the Spirit of truth to Apostles, was delighted with their
the fountain of sacred and heav- connexion and harmony. He
enly learning. In the library of afterwards read the works of the
the monastery, he discovered a fathers ; and Augustine in par-
copy of the Bible, which had ticular, whose opinions, both on
long lain unnoticed, and perused doctrinal and practical points,
it with an avidity, not merely ex- coincided with his own, and
cited by his natural desire of strengthened his persuasiod of
knowledge, but proportioned to their truth, became his favourite
the excellence, which he perceiv- author.
ed in its doctrines, and their suit- Frederic the Wise, elector of
ableness to his own condition. Saxony, having heard Luther
He was not contented with one preach, was charmed with his
perusal ; the oftener he read it, manly convincing eloquence, and
the higher was the delight, which on the establishment of a univer-
he felt ; till at last he abandoned sity at Wittemberg, under the
all other pursuits, and to the as- superintendance of his friend
tonishment of the monks, who Staupitz, in 1508, appointed him
had not been accustomed to such to the chair of Philosophy. This
reading, devoted himself to a se- was a theatre on which his supe.
rious examination of its precious rior talents, both as a philosophic

teacher and a pulpit orator, were From a good old monk, who displayed ; and he commanded

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at once the respect and the affec- was the mean of opening his eyes tions of the students and the peo- to the corruptions of the Popish ple. He seemed to possess eve

church. He was filled with asry avenue to the hearts of his tonishment at the political formalauditory; for the doctrine which ity, and undevotional spirit, which he taught, and which gradually the Italian priests discovered in became

consistent and the most solemn duties of their scriptural, he recommended by office; and they, in their turn, the power of his reasonings, and ridiculed his gravity of manners, enforced by successfully address- and reverence of mind, when celing their feelings as well as their ebrating the ordinances of relijudgment. The acuteness of gion. “ I performed mass at his arguments, the vivacity of his Rome,” said he, “and I saw it wit, the perspicuity of bis illus- performed by others; but in trations, and the boldness with such a manner that I never think which be delivered his opinions, of it without horror." were acknowledged and admired and lasting, indeed, was this imeven by his enemies. This pression, and such a stimulus gave occasion to the decla

to the decla- did it give him to increasing ration of Martin Polichius, a fidelity in the duties of his stadoctor of law and medicine, him- tion, that in the after part of his self so distinguished as to be life, when he spoke of this jourcalled the light of the world, ney, he used to say, that he " That this young monk, he would have parted with a thous plainly foresaw, would effect a sand florins, rather than not have revolution in the doctrine and made it, Nothing, however, the mode of instruction, which could, at this time, be farther were prevalent in the schools.” from his intention, than the step, Had Luther been ambitious, the which he afterwards took, and road to honour was open before the line of conduct, which he him, and his prospects of success steadily pursued. He was led were almost certain ; but the by a way that he knew not, and path in which he delighted was in paths which he did not choose ; the law of the Lord, and his ob- darkness was made light be. ject the spiritual good of man- fore him, and crooked things kind.

straight.* In his retirement he In 1510 or 1512, a dispute hav- continued his study of the sacred ing arisen between seven con- volume, and learned the Hebrew vents of the Augustines and their and Greek languages, to enable vicar-general, the cause was car- him to understand it in the oriried by appeal to Rome, and Lu- ginal. His esteem for the phither was nominated to defend the losophy of Aristotle, and its nuinterests of his order. This he merous expositors, which hud discharged with such reputation for some years been diminishing to himself, and advantage to the in exact proportion to his prosociety, that on returning from gress in personal godliness, was Rome, at their urgent solicita- now entirely destroyed ; and he tion, he was prevailed on to as- regarded its doctrines as inimisume the degree of Doctor of Divinity. His journey to Rome

• Isa. xlii. 16.

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cal rather than friendly to reli- gerness; the dew of heaven de. gious knowledge ; and as tend- scended on the field of his la. ing to obscure and pervert, rath- bours, watered the seed which he er than to illustrate and support sowed, and made it rise at length the truths of revelation, because a rich and abundant harvest. they inculcated a system, “which Multitudes embraced the faith of knew nothing of original sin, the gospel ; and through his in, and native depravity ; which al- strumentality became witnesses lowed nothing to be criminal, but for the truth, which was yet con, certain external flagitious ac- cealed from the princes and wise tions, and which was unacquaint- men of the world.

The more ed with the idea of any right- habitually that a pastor expericousness of grace imputed to a ences the power, and lives under sinner.”+ With the boldness the influence of the truth, the characteristic of all his conduct, greater is his personal comfort, he openly made known these the more fervid his affection for opinions, a circumstance, which the people to whom he minis: exposed him to the charge of ters, and the more pointed hiş heresy, several years before the addresses to their hearts. This dispute concerning indulgences. Luther knew, and often express

The first theological lectures, ed. In 1516, he thus wrote to a which he delivered after receive brother of his own order : " ] ing the degree of doctor, were should be glad to know what you on the Psalms, and the Epistle think, and whether your soul, at to the Romans ; in which he ex; length wearied of its own rightplained the difference between eousness, has learned to find res the Law and the Gospel ; refut: freshment and rest in the righted the delusive though preva, eousness of Christ. Many seek lent error both of the schools and of themselves to work out that the pulpit, that men by their own which is good, that they may works may merit the remission have confidence and stand before of sins, and be justified before God, adorned with virtues and God; and taught that He alone, merit, which' is an impossible at: whom the Baptist pointed out as tempt. You, my friend, used to the Lamb of God, can take away be of the same opinion, or rather the sins of the world ; that for his in the same error with me ; but sake we obtain pardon, and now I am fighting against it, but through his righteousness justifi; have not yet prevailed."* In cation ; and that these blessings the same year he was appointed are received only by the exercise by Staupitz, subaltern vicar ; and of faith. It is pleasing to re- in this character was .commis; mark the avidity with which the sioned to visit the monasteries of doctrine of salvation, when plain- Meissen and Thuringia, and to ly and faithfully declared, is lispreach before George, duke of tened to by the people, as indeed Saxony, at Dresden. This prince the word of life, and the minis- was ofiended with his opinions try of reconciliation. Luther's and address, and conceived a ha: discourses were heard with ea

* Seckendorf, in Maimbourg's † Milner, vol. iv, p. 283.


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Hist. p.

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