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Title: Luther, vol 1 of 6
Author: Grisar, Hartmann
Language: English
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                         TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

—Obvious print and punctuation errors were corrected.

—Whereas adequate character is unavalaible, superscripts are rendered
 as word^[sup].



  _Sti. Ludovici, die 26 Jan., 1913._
                           F. G. HOLWECK,


  _Sti. Ludovici, die 30 Jan., 1913._
                     JOHANNES J. GLENNON,
               _Archiepiscopus Sti. Ludovici_.



                        HARTMANN GRISAR, S. J.



                             E. M. LAMOND

                               EDITED BY

                           LUIGI CAPPADELTA

                               VOLUME I

                KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRÜBNER & CO., LTD.
                BROADWAY HOUSE, 68-74 CARTER LANE, E.C.

   │                                                         │
   │ _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_                                    │
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   │ In Three Volumes. Royal 8vo, each 15s. net.             │
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   │                                                         │
   │ Authorised English Translation, edited by LUIGI         │
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   │ “The present work might be described as a history of    │
   │ the mediæval Popes, with the history of the City of     │
   │ Rome and of its civilization as a background, the       │
   │ author’s design being so to combine the two stories     │
   │ as to produce a true picture of what Rome was in the    │
   │ Middle Ages.”—_Author’s Preface._                       │
   │                                                         │
   │ The three volumes now issued represent Volume I in the  │
   │ bulky German original. This portion of Father Grisar’s  │
   │ great enterprise is self-contained, and the history is  │
   │ brought down to the epoch of St. Gregory I.             │
   │                                                         │
   │ “A valuable and interesting book, well translated ...   │
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   │ illustration.”—_The Guardian._                          │
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_The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved_


P. 9, line 12 ff. On the habit, cp. Paulus, “Joh. Hoffmeister,” 1891,
p. 4.

P. 13, note, read “Oergel.”

P. 14, line 4 from below. For “Augustinian,” read “colleague at the
University of Wittenberg.”

P. 27, line 2 from below to p. 28, line 1. Elsewhere he does so quite
clearly, cp. “Tischreden” (Veit Dietrich), Weim. ed., 1, p. 61.

P. 29, line 7 from below. It was not actually a papal Bull, but a
document in the Pope’s name drawn up by Carvajal, the legate.

P. 30, line 12. Read: “Cochlæus, who knew something of the matter”;
line 2 from below, after “told us” add: “In point of fact it is clear
that Luther’s journey failed in its purpose, and that the dispute was
finally settled only in May, 1512, at the Cologne Chapter”; note 1,
last line, omit “his” and add after date “p. 97.”

P. 33, line 11. The account of the incident at the Scala Santa must be
corrected in the light of new information. See vol. vi., xlii., 2.

P. 38, line 2 from below. Read: “October 18.”

P. 39, line 21. For “He himself admits, etc.,” read: “Yet he seems to
have looked on his removal to Wittenberg as a ‘come down.’” See below,
p. 127.

P. 59, line 9 f. For “amazed replies” read “silly letters” (“_litteras

P. 72, line 18. Read: “_captiosi et contentiosi_.”

P. 148, note 1, line 3. For “Luther” read “Lang.”

P. 169, note 2, line 8. Read “_longissime_.”

P. 178, note 3, line 3. For “1826” read “1864.”

P. 184, line 14. For “Vogel” read “Vopel.”

P. 199, last paragraph. Correct according to vol. vi., xlii., 4.

P. 219, note 5. Add: “That, in the Commentary on Romans Justification
is produced by humility, is admitted by Wilh. Braun (‘Evang.
Kirchenzeitung,’ 1911, No. 32, col. 506).”

P. 297, note 1, line 6. After “conventualiter” add “per omnia.”

P. 312, line 20. For “97” read “99.”

P. 315, line 1. For “April 25” read “April 26.”

P. 332, note 1, line 1. For “February 13” read “May 22.”

P. 337, note 1. For “May” read “September.”

P. 396. See the various texts in greater detail in vol. vi., xlii., 6.


  BIBLIOGRAPHY                                            _pages_ xv-xxv

  INTRODUCTION                                       _pages_ xxvii-xxxix

  IN THE MONASTERY                                          _pages_ 3-60


  The new postulant at the gate of the Erfurt
  priory. Luther’s youth; his parents; early
  education; stay at Eisenach. Enters the
  University of Erfurt. Humanist friends. His
  novitiate. Troubles of conscience quieted by
  Staupitz, the Vicar of the Saxon Congregation
  of Augustinian Hermits. Luther’s professors               _pages_ 3-12


  Luther’s theological course. Lectures and
  lecturers; Bible-study; first Mass. His father
  on his vocation; his father’s character.
  Luther’s inward troubles; falls into a fit
  in choir; Melanchthon on Luther’s attacks of
  fear. St. Bernard on certainty of salvation.
  Luther’s “own way” with his difficulties. He is
  sent to Wittenberg and back to Erfurt. Learned
  occupations. Luther’s assurance manifest in
  his earliest notes, the glosses on Peter
  Lombard; his glosses on Augustine; his fame;
  his virulent temper; his acquaintance with Hus.
  Oldecop, Dungersheim and Emser on his moral
  character in early days. Humanistic influences.
  Luther is chosen by the Observantines to
  represent them in Rome                                   _pages_ 12-29


  Dissensions within the Congregation. Staupitz
  opposed by seven Observantine priories, on
  whose behalf Luther proceeds to Rome. The
  visit’s evil effect on the monk. His opinion
  of the Curia and the moral state of Rome. An
  episode at the Scala Santa. Luther’s belief
  in the Primacy not shaken by what he saw. On
  the Holy Mass; his petition to be secularised;
  perils of an Italian journey. Luther returns
  to Wittenberg and forsakes the cause of the
  Observantines                                            _pages_ 29-38


  Luther takes the doctorate; his first
  lectures; his surroundings at the University of
  Wittenberg; the professors; Humanism; schemes
  for reform; Mutian, Spalatin, Reuchlin, the
  “Letters of Obscure Men,” Erasmus. Luther’s
  road not that of his Humanist friends. Currents
  of thought in the age of discovery and awakened
  learning; decay of Church life; attempts at
  reform; abasement of clergy; abuses rampant
  everywhere; sad state of the Curia. Signs of
  the coming storm. Luther’s way prepared by the
  course of events. A curious academic dispute             _pages_ 38-60

 CHAPTER II. HARBINGERS OF CHANGE                         _pages_ 61-103


  Peculiar difficulties of the problem. Process
  of Luther’s inward estrangement from the
  Church. The sources, particularly those
  recently brought to light. The marginal
  notes in Luther’s books now at Zwickau. His
  letters; earliest scriptural notes, i.e. the
  glosses and scholia; lectures on Scripture;
  sermons, 1515-1516; earliest printed works; his
  Disputations. Two stages of his development,
  the first till 1517, the second till the end of
  1518                                                     _pages_ 61-67


  His passionate opposition to the Observantines
  in his Order, and to “righteousness by works,”
  a presage of the coming change. He vents his
  ire on the “Little Saints” of the Order in his
  discourse at Gotha. On righteousness by grace
  and righteousness by works; on the force of
  concupiscence and original sin. No essential
  divergence from the Church’s belief and
  tradition to be found in the Commentary on the
  Psalms; reminiscences of Augustine; mystical
  trend; defects of Luther’s early work                    _pages_ 67-78


  The sermons and their testimony to Luther’s
  scorn for the Observantines. Echoes of the
  controversy proceeding within the Order. The
  Leitzkau discourse and its mysticism                     _pages_ 78-84


  His early prejudice against Scholasticism,
  its psychological reason; his poor opinion of
  Aristotle and the Schoolmen. Martin Pollich’s
  misgivings. Luther’s leaning to mysticism, its
  cause. Esteem for Tauler and the “Theologia
  Deutsch.” His letter to G. Leiffer                       _pages_ 84-88


  Signs of a change in Luther’s letter to G.
  Spenlein; self-despair and trust in Christ.
  To Johann Lang on a work wrongly ascribed to
  St. Augustine and on his difficulties with
  his colleagues at Wittenberg. To Spalatin on
  Erasmus; his dislike of everything savouring of
  Pelagianism                                              _pages_ 88-93


  The first shaping of Luther’s heretical
  views, in the Commentary on Romans. Imputation
  of Christ’s righteousness; uncertainty of
  justification; original sin remains after
  baptism, being identical with concupiscence;
  impossibility of fulfilling the law without
  justification; absence of all human freedom for
  good; sinful character of natural virtue; all
  “venial” sins really mortal; no such thing as
  merit; predestination                                   _pages_ 93-103

 CHAPTER III. THE STARTING-POINT                         _pages_ 104-129


  The starting-point not simply the desire to
  reform the Church; nor mere antipathy to the
  Dominicans. Hus’s influence merely secondary.
  Luther’s own account of his search for a
  “merciful God” not to be trusted any more than
  his later descriptions of his life as a monk           _pages_ 104-110


  Luther’s belief in its irresistibility not to
  be alleged as a proof of his moral perversity.
  Traces of the belief early noticeable in him;
  he demands that people should nevertheless
  strive against concupiscence with the weapons
  of the spirit; concupiscence ineradicable,
  identical with original sin, and actually
  sinful. Luther not a determinist from the
  beginning. His pseudo-mysticism scarcely
  reconcilable with his supposed moral perversity        _pages_ 110-117


  Luther’s new opinions grounded on his
  antipathy to good works; hence his belief
  in the incapacity of man for good. Other
  factors; his character, his self-confidence and
  combativeness; his anger with the formalism
  prevalent in his day; his fear of eternal
  reprobation; his inadequate knowledge of the
  real doctrine of the Church; his hasty promotion       _pages_ 117-129

 CHAPTER IV.  “I AM OF OCCAM’S PARTY”                    _pages_ 130-165


  Not trained in the best school of
  Scholasticism. His Occamist education. Positive
  and negative influence of Occamism on Luther            _pages_ 130-133


  Luther’s criticism of Occam; he abandons
  certain views of the Occamists and flies
  to the opposite extreme; offended by their
  neglect of Scripture and by the subtlety of
  their philosophy; hence he comes to oppose
  Aristotelianism and the Scholastics generally.
  Occamistic exaggeration of man’s powers leads
  him _ex opposito_ to underrate the same.
  Negative influence of Occamism on Luther’s
  teaching regarding original sin. Gabriel
  Biel on original sin; the keeping of the
  commandments; the love of God; whether man can
  merit grace; Gregory of Rimini; the principle:
  “_Facienti quod est in se Deus non denegat
  gratiam_”; the deficiencies of the Occamists
  laid at the door of Scholasticism. Three
  answers to the question how Luther failed to
  perceive that he was forsaking the Church’s
  doctrine. His denial of natural righteousness,
  and his ignorance of the true scholastic
  teaching on the point; misunderstands his own
  masters. His interpretation of the words,
  “Without me ye can do nothing.” His rejection
  of actual grace                                        _pages_ 133-154


   Occamist “acceptation” and Lutheran
  “imputation.” Luther assails the habit of
  supernatural grace and replaces the doctrine
  of an essential order of things by the
  arbitrary _pactum Dei_. Divorce of faith and
  reason. Feeling and religious experience.
  Predestination; transubstantiation. Luther’s
  anti-Thomism, his combativeness and loquacity.
  Other alleged influences, viz. Gallicanism,
  ultra-realism, Wiclifism, and Neo-Platonism            _pages_ 155-165

 CHAPTER V. THE ROCKS OF FALSE MYSTICISM                 _pages_ 166-183


  Tauler’s orthodox doctrine distorted by Luther
  to serve his purpose. Passivity in the hands
  of God explained as the absence of all effort.
  Luther’s application of Tauler’s teaching to
  his own states of anxiety. His knowledge of
  Tauler; annotations to Tauler’s sermons; the
  German mystics; a “return to nothingness” the
  supreme aim of the Christian                           _pages_ 166-174


  Advantages of its study outweighed by
  disadvantage. Why Luther failed to become
  a true mystic. Specimens of his mystic
  utterances. His edition of the “Theologia
  Deutsch”; attitude to pseudo-Dionysius the
  Areopagite, St. Bernard and Gerson; an excerpt
  from his “_Operationes in psalmos_”                    _pages_ 175-183

    THE COMMENTARY ON ROMANS (1515-16)                   _pages_ 184-261


  Denifle the first to utilise the Commentary
  on Romans. Ficker’s recent edition of the
  original. General remarks on the Commentary.
  Aim of St. Paul according to Luther                    _pages_ 184-187


  Luther’s “more profound theology” and
  unconditional predestination to hell; God’s
  will that the wicked be damned. God to be
  approached in fear and despair, not with
  works and in the hope of reward. The mystic
  on resignation to hell. Man’s will and his
  salvation entirely in God’s hands. Objections:
  Is it not God’s will that all be saved? Why
  impose commandments which the will is not free
  to perform? Unperceived inconsistencies                _pages_ 187-197


  Luther’s aversion to works and observances.
  His rude description of the “Observants” and
  “Justiciaries.” The very word “righteousness” a
  cause of vexation                                      _pages_ 197-202


  Human nature entirely spoiled by original
  sin. Being unable to fulfil the command “_Non
  concupisces_,” we are ever sinning mortally.
  Uncertainty of salvation; the will not free for
  good. Interpretation of Rom. viii. 2 f. Against
  Scholasticism. In penance and confession no
  removal (_ablatio_) of sin                             _pages_ 202-209


  The habit of sanctifying grace; “cursed
  be the word ‘_formatum charitate_’”; sin
  coexistent with grace in the good man;
  Augustine on concupiscence. “Nothing is of
  its own nature good or bad”; the Occamist
  acceptation-theory against the “Aristotelian”
  definition of virtue and the scholastic
  doctrine that virtues and vices are qualities
  of the soul                                            _pages_ 209-213


  Christ’s grace does all, and yet man disposes
  himself for justification. Man’s self-culture.
  Inconsistencies explained by reminiscences of
  his early Catholic training                            _pages_ 213-214


  Imputation applied to justification. Another’s
  righteousness is imputed to us and becomes
  ours; sin remains, but is no longer accounted;
  our inability to know whether Christ’s
  righteousness has been imputed to us. Advantage
  of fear. “He who renounces his own self and
  willingly faces death and damnation” is truly
  humble, and in such humility is safety. Faith
  not yet substituted for humility. Passivity
  again emphasized                                       _pages_ 214-222


  The back place already taken in Luther’s
  mind by the Church and her teaching-office;
  his preference for a theology of his own
  invention. Our duty of not judging Luther by
  the later Tridentine decrees. His Catholic
  sentiments on the hierarchy; denounces abuses
  whilst respecting the rights of the Roman
  Church; desiderates a reduction of festivals;
  reproves Bishops for insisting on their rights
  instead of rejoicing to see them infringed. On
  listening to the inner voice                           _pages_ 223-230


  Luther’s misapprehension of Tauler and other
  mystics clearly proved in the Commentary.
  Quietism. The “Spark in the Soul.” The
  “Theology of the Cross.” The “Night of the
  Soul.” Readiness for hell the joy of the
  truly wise; Christ and Paul the Apostle, two
  instances of such readiness                            _pages_ 230-240


  Its witness to the unsettled state of the
  writer’s mind. Texts and commentaries utilised;
  neglect of Aquinas’s Commentary; the author’s
  style; obscenity and paradox; a tilt at the
  philosophers; the character of the work rather
  spoilt by unnecessary polemics. Appeal to
  Augustine. Misuse of theological terms. “The
  word of God is every word which proceeds from
  the mouth of a good man.” Contradiction a
  criterion of truth. All the prophets against
  observances. Unconscious self-contradiction on
  the subject of freedom. Whether any progress
  is apparent in the course of the Commentary.
  Comparison of Luther’s public utterances with
  those in the Commentary. Some excerpts from the
  Commentary on Hebrews                                  _pages_ 241-261

    LUTHER AT THE TIME OF THE CRISIS                     _pages_ 262-302


  His election as Rural Vicar, 1516; his
  discourse on the Little Saints delivered at
  the Chapter; influence of his administration;
  extracts from his correspondence; his quick
  despatch of business                                   _pages_ 262-268


  His ideal of humility. On vows. Prejudice
  against observances. Blames formalism prevalent
  in the Church generally and in the monasteries.
  Paltz and Tauler on this subject. Overwork
  leads Luther to neglect his spiritual duties;
  Mass and Divine Office; his final abandonment
  of the Breviary. His outward appearance; his
  quarrelsomeness                                        _pages_ 268-280


  His pessimism; the whole world sunk in
  corruption. Opinion of theologians. Justifiable
  criticism. On the clergy; proposes placing
  the administration of all temporalities in
  the hands of the Princes. On Indulgences. His
  familiarity with the Elector of Saxony. On
  the dreadful state of Rome. The prevalence
  of Pelagianism; three deadly vices; on his
  own temptations; how people fall and rise
  again; on diabolical terrors; on making the
  best of things and reconciling ourselves to
  remaining in sin; his inability to understand
  the nature of contrition; denial that perfect
  contrition exists; his mysticism averse to
  the motive of fear or of heavenly recompense;
  misrepresentation of the Church’s doctrine
  concerning attrition. Ascribes his view of
  penance to Staupitz; the part of Staupitz in
  the downfall of the Congregation. Möhler and
  Neander on Luther’s resemblance to Marcion the
  Gnostic. Paradoxical character of the monk             _pages_ 280-302

    TRIUMPHS                                             _pages_ 303-326


  Melanchthon and Mathesius on the birth of the
  “Evangel.” Luther’s first disciples, Carlstadt,
  Amsdorf, etc. His appeals to St. Augustine.
  The Commentary on Galatians begins in 1516.
  Luther’s progress in the light of this and the
  longer Commentary published later                      _pages_ 303-310

    SCHOLASTICISM (1516-17).

  Bernhardi’s Disputation in 1516 presided
  over by Luther; “Man sins in spite of every
  effort.” Luther to Lang on the scandal of
  the “Gabrielists.” Günther’s Disputation in
  1517; specimens of the theses defended; Luther
  circulates them widely                                 _pages_ 310-314


  The Heidelberg Chapter. Leonard Beyer defends
  Luther’s theses in the presence of Bucer and
  other future adherents of the cause. The
  theses and their demonstration; Grace not to
  be obtained by works; the motive of fear; free
  will a mere name. A Wittenberg Disputation
  in 1518, “For the Quieting of Anxious
  Consciences.” The three great Disputations
  described by Luther as “_Initium negocii
  evangelici_.” Luther to Trutfetter on his aims         _pages_ 315-321


  Luther continues to acknowledge the doctrinal
  office of the Church. The principle of private
  interpretation of Scripture not yet enunciated.
  Explanation of Luther’s inconsistency in
  conduct; on obedience to the Church; traces all
  heresies back to pride; his correct description
  of Indulgences in 1516, his regret at their
  abuse                                                  _pages_ 321-326

    AND THEIR AFTER-EFFECTS                              _pages_ 327-373


  The St. Peter’s Indulgence and its preaching;
  Luther’s information regarding it; his sermon
  before the Elector. The 95 theses nailed to the
  door of the Castle Church; their contents; the
  excitement caused; Augustinians refrain from
  any measure against the author; the Heidelberg
  Chapter; the “Resolutions”; Dominicans take
  up the challenge. Fables regarding Luther and
  Tetzel; Tetzel’s private life; charges brought
  against him by Luther and Miltitz; the real
  Tetzel; Luther’s statement that he did not know
  “what an Indulgence was.” Luther’s letter to
  Tetzel on his death-bed                                _pages_ 327-347


  The Indulgence granted on behalf of the
  building fund; new sources of information;
  Albert of Brandenburg obtains the See of
  Mayence; his payments to Rome; the Indulgence
  granted him for his indemnification;
  arrangements made for its preaching; the
  pecuniary result a failure                             _pages_ 347-355


  The summons. Luther before Cardinal Cajetan
  at Augsburg; Letters written from Augsburg;
  refuses to recant; his flight; his appeal
  to a General Council. Popular works on the
  Penitential Psalms, the Our Father, and the Ten
  Commandments                                           _pages_ 355-362


  Circumstances of the Disputation. Luther’s
  dissatisfaction with the result. Unfortunate
  attempts of Miltitz to smooth things down.
  Luther’s justification of his polemics. Stories
  of his doings and sayings at Dresden; his
  sermon before the Court; Emser’s reports of
  certain utterances                                     _pages_ 362-373



  In the first stage assurance of salvation
  through faith alone was yet unknown to him. The
  Catholic doctrine on this subject. How Luther
  reached his doctrine by the path of despair;
  the several steps of his progress from 1516
  onwards; the Resolutions; the “pangs of Hell”;
  the interview with Cajetan; first clear trace
  of the doctrine in his works written in 1519           _pages_ 374-388


  The information contained in Luther’s later
  _Præfatio_ to be trusted in the main; other
  testimonies; his state at the time one of great
  anxiety; his terror of God’s justice. The
  Gate of Paradise suddenly opened by the text:
  “The just man liveth by faith”; where this
  revelation was vouchsafed: In the “cloaca” on
  the tower; the revelation referred by Luther to
  the Holy Ghost; its importance and connection
  with Luther’s mysticism                                _pages_ 388-400


   Luther’s faulty recollection in later life
  responsible for the rise of legends regarding
  his discovery. His statement that he was the
  first to interpret Romans i. 17 as speaking
  of the justice by which God makes us just.
  His “discovery” confirms him in his attitude
  towards Rome; the Pope a more dangerous foe of
  the German nation than the Turk. The legend
  that the German knights and Humanists were
  responsible for Luther’s opposition to Rome            _pages_ 400-404


NOTE.—The following is an alphabetical list of the books, etc.,
referred to in an abbreviated form in the course of our work, the title
under which they are quoted in each case figuring first.

For the Bibliography of Luther generally, we may refer to the
following: E. G. Vogel, “Bibliographia Lutheri,” Halle, 1851; I. A.
Fabricius, “Centifolium Lutheranum,” 2 parts, Hamburg, 1728-1730; Wm.
Maurenbrecher, “Studien und Skizzen,” Leipzig, 1874, p. 205 ff. (a good
list of the studies on Luther and his work). The articles on Luther in
the “Deutsche Biographie,” in the Catholic “Kirchenlexikon” (2nd ed.),
and the Protestant “Realenzyklopädie für Theologie,” etc., also provide
more or less detailed bibliographies. So also do W. Möller, “Lehrbuch
der Kirchengeschichte,” vol. 3, ed. by Kawerau (3rd ed., particularly
p. 4 ff.); Hergenröther, “Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte,” vol. 3,
3rd ed., by J. P. Kirsch (particularly p. 4 ff.); Janssen-Pastor,
“Geschichte des deutschen Volkes,” etc. (in the lists at the
commencement of each vol., particularly vols. ii. and iii.). The
bibliographical data added by various writers in the prefaces to the
various works of Luther in the new Weimar complete edition are not
only copious but also often quite reliable, for instance, those on the
German Bible.

 “Analecta Lutherana, Briefe und Aktenstücke zur Geschichte Luthers,
 Zugleich ein Supplement zu den bisherigen Sammlungen seines
 Briefwechsels,” ed. by Th. Kolde, Gotha, 1883.

 “Analecta Lutherana et Melanchthoniana,” see Mathesius,

 “Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte. Texte und Untersuchungen. In
 Verbindung mit dem Verein für Reformationsgeschichte,” ed. W.
 Friedensburg. Berlin, later Leipzig, 1903-1904 ff.

 Balan, P., “Monumenta reformationis Lutheranæ ex tabulariis S. Sedis
 secretis, 1521-1525,” Ratisbonæ, 1883, 1884.

 Barge, H., “Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt,” 2 vols., Leipzig, 1905.

 Beatus Rhenanus, see Correspondence.

 Berger, A., “Martin Luther in kulturgeschichtlicher Darstellung.” 2
 vols., Berlin, 1895-1898.

 Bezold, F. von, “Geschichte der deutschen Reformation,” Berlin, 1890.

 “Bibliothek des Kgl. Preussischen Historischen Instituts in Rom,”
 Rome, 1905 ff.

 Blaurer, see Correspondence.

 Böhmer, H., “Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung” (from “Natur und
 Geisteswelt,” No. 113), Leipzig, 1906, 2nd ed., 1910.

 Brandenburg, E., “Luthers Anschauung von Staat und Gesellschaft”
 (Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte), Hft. 70, Halle,

 Braun, W., “Die Bedeutung der Concupiscenz in Luthers Leben und
 Lehre,” Berlin, 1908.

 “Briefe,” see Letters.

 “Briefwechsel,” see Correspondence.

 Brieger, Th., “Aleander und Luther. Die vervollständigten
 Aleander-Depeschen nebst Untersuchungen über den Wormser Reichstag,”
 I, Gotha, 1884.

 Burkhardt, C. A., “Geschichte der sächsischen Kirchen—und
 Schulvisitationen von 1524-1545,” Leipzig, 1879.

 Calvini, I., “Opera quæ supersunt omnia, ediderunt G. Braun, E.
 Cunitz, E. Reuss,” 59 vol. (29-87 in the “Corpus Reformatorum”),
 Brunsvigæ, 1863-1900.

 Cardauns, L., “Zur Geschichte der kirchlichen Unions—und
 Reformbestrebungen von 1538-1542” (“Bibliothek des Kgl. Preuss.
 Historischen Instituts in Rom,” vol. 5), Rome, 1910.

 —see “Nuntiaturberichte.”

 Cochlæus, I., “Commentaria de actis et scriptis M. Lutheri ... ab a.
 1517 usque ad a. 1537 conscripta,” Moguntiæ, 1549.

 (“Colloquia,” ed. Bindseil), Bindseil, H. E., “D. Martini Lutheri
 Colloquia, Meditationes, Consolationes, Iudicia, Sententiæ,
 Narrationes, Responsa, Facetiæ e codice ms. Bibliothecæ Orphanotrophei
 Halensis cum perpetua collatione editionis Rebenstockianæ edita et
 prolegomenis indicibusque instructa,” 3 voll., Lemgoviæ et Detmoldæ,

 (“Commentarius in Epist. ad Galat.”), “M. Lutheri Commentarius in
 Epistolam ad Galatas,” ed. I. A. Irmischer, 3 voll., Erlangæ, 1843

 (Cordatus, “Tagebuch”), Wrampelmeyer, H., “Tagebuch über Dr. Martin
 Luther, geführt von Dr. Conrad Cordatus, 1537,” 1st ed., Halle, 1885.

 “Corpus Reformatorum,” ed. Bretschneider, Halis Saxoniæ, 1834, _sqq._
 voll. 1-28, “Melanchthonis opera”; voll. 29-87, “Calvini opera”; voll.
 88-89, “Zwinglii opera.”

 Correspondence: “Dr. Martin Luthers Briefwechsel,” edited with
 annotations by L. Enders, 11 vols., Frankfurt a/M., also Calw and
 Stuttgart, 1884-1907, 12 vols., ed. G. Kawerau, Leipzig, 1910; see
 also Letters.

 —“Briefwechsel Luthers, mit vielen unbekannten Briefen und unter
 Berücksichtigung der De Wetteschen Ausgabe,” ed. C. A. Burkhardt,
 Leipzig, 1866.

 —“Briefwechsel des Beatus Rhenanus,” etc., ed. A. Horawitz and K.
 Hartfelder, Leipzig, 1886.

 —“Briefwechsel der Brüder Ambrosius und Thomas Blaurer, 1509-1548,”
 ed. Tr. Schiess, 1 vol., Freiburg i/Breisgau, 1908.

 —“Briefwechsel des Justus Jonas,” etc., ed. G. Kawerau, 2 vols.,
 Halle, 1884.

 —“Briefwechsel Landgraf Philipps des Grossmütigen von Hessen
 mit Bucer,” ed. by M. Lenz (“Publikationen aus dem Kgl. Preuss.
 Staatsarchiv,”), 3 vols., Leipzig, 1880-1891.

 Denifle, H., O.P., “Luther und Luthertum in der ersten Entwickelung
 quellenmässig dargestellt,” 1 vol., Mayence, 1904; 2nd ed., 1st part,
 1904; 2nd part, ed. A. M. Weiss, O.P., 1906. Quellenbelege zu 1², 1-2,
 “Die Abendländische Schriftauslegung bis Luther über Iustitia Dei
 (Rom. i. 17) und Iustificatio. Beitrag zur Geschichte der Exegese, der
 Literatur und des Dogmas im Mittelalter,” 1905, 2nd vol. of the main
 work, ed. A. M. Weiss, O.P., 1909.

 —“Luther in rationalistischer und christlicher Beleuchtung,
 Prinzipielle Auseinandersetzung mit A. Harnack und R. Seeberg,”
 Mayence, 1904.

 “Deutsch-evangelische Blätter. Zeitschrift für den gesamten Bereich
 des deutschen Protestantismus,” Halle, 1891, _sq._

 (“Disputationen,” ed. Drews), Drews, P., “Disputationen Dr. Martin
 Luthers, in den Jahren, 1535-1545 an der Universität Wittenberg
 gehalten,” 1st ed., Göttingen, 1895.

 (“Disputationen,” ed. Stange), Stange, C., “Die ältesten ethischen
 Disputationen Dr. Martin Luthers” (“Quellenschriften zur Geschichte
 des Protestantismus,” 1), Leipzig, 1904.

 Döllinger, J. I. von, “Luther, eine Skizze,” Freiburg i/B., 1890 (also
 in Wetzer and Welte’s Kirchenlexikon, 1st and 2nd ed., Art. “Luther”).

 —“Die Reformation, ihre innere Entwickelung und ihre Wirkungen im
 Umfange des lutherischen Bekenntnisses,” 3 vols., Ratisbon, 1846-1848
 (l², 1851).

 Ehses St., “Geschichte der Packschen Händel. Ein Beitrag zur
 Geschichte der deutschen Reformation,” Freiburg i/B., 1881.

 Ellinger, G., “Philipp Melanchthon. Ein Lebensbild,” Berlin, 1902.

 “Erasmi D. Roterodami Opera omnia emendatiora et auctiora,” ed.
 Clericus, 10 tom., Lugd. Batavorum, 1702-1706.

 “Erläuterungen und Ergänzungen zu Janssens Geschichte des deutschen
 Volkes,” ed. L. von Pastor, Freiburg i/B., 1898, _sq._

 Evers, G., “Martin Luther. Lebens-und Charakterbild, von ihm selbst
 gezeichnet in seinen eigenen Schriften und Korrespondenzen,” Hft.
 1-14, Mayence, 1883-1894.

 Falk, F., “Die Bibel am Ausgang des Mittelalters,” Mayence, 1905,

 —“Die Ehe am Ausgang des Mittelalters” (“Erläuterungen und
 Ergänzungen zu Janssens Geschichte des deutschen Volkes,” Vol. 6, Hft.
 4), Freiburg i/B., 1908.

 “Flugschriften aus den ersten Jahren der Reformation,” ed. O. Clemen,
 Leipzig and New York, 1907 ff.

 Förstemann, C. E., “Neues Urkundenbuch zur Gesch. der evangelischen
 Kirchenreform” (one only vol. published), Hamburg, 1842.

 Harnack, A., “Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte,” 3 vols.: “Die
 Entwickelung des kirchlichen Dogmas”; ii, iii, 4th ed., Tübingen, 1910.

 Hausrath, A., “Luthers Leben,” 2 vols., Berlin, 1904 (2nd reimpression
 with amended preface).

 Hergenröther, Card. J., “Handbuch der allgemeinen Kirchengeschichte,”
 4th ed., ed. J. P. Kirsch, 3 vols., Freiburg i/B, 1909.

 “Historisches Jahrbuch,” ed. the Görres-Gesellschaft, Münster, later
 Munich, 1880 ff.

 “Historisch-politische Blätter für das katholische Deutschland,”
 Munich, 1838 ff.

 “Hutteni Ulr. Opera,” 5 vol., ed. Böcking, Lipsiæ, 1859-1862.

 (Janssen-Pastor) Janssen, J., “Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit
 dem Ausgang des Mittelalters,” 17-18 ed. by L. von Pastor, vol. 1-2,
 Freiburg i/B., 1897; vol. 3, 1899. English Trans., “History of the
 German People at the Close of the Middle Ages,” 1-2², 1905; 3-4¹,
 1900; 5-6¹, 1903 (see also “Erläuterungen und Ergänzungen”).

 —“An meine Kritiker. Nebst Ergänzungen und Erläuterungen zu den drei
 ersten Bänden meiner Geschichte des deutschen Volkes,” Freiburg i/B.,

 —“Ein zweites Wort an meine Kritiker. Nebst Ergänzungen und
 Erläuterungen zu den drei ersten Bänden meiner Geschichte des
 deutschen Volkes,” Freiburg i/B., 1883.

 Kahnis, C. F. A., “Die deutsche Reformation,” vol. 1, Leipzig, 1872
 (no others published).

 Kalkoff, P., “Forschungen zu Luthers römischem Prozess” (“Bibliothek
 des Kgl. Preuss. Histor. Instituts in Rom,” vol. 2), Rome, 1905.

 “Kirchenordnungen, Die evangelischen des 16 Jahrhunderts,” ed.
 E. Sehling: 1, “Die Ordnungen Luthers für die ernestinischen und
 albertinischen Gebiete,” Leipzig, 1902; 2, “Die vier geistlichen
 Gebiete,” etc., 1904; 3, “Die Mark Brandenburg,” 1909.

 Köhler, W., “Katholizismus und Reformation. Kritisches Referat üher
 die wissenschaftlichen Leistungen der neueren katholischen Theologie
 auf dem Gebiete der Reformationsgeschichte,” Giessen, 1905.

 —“Luther und die Kirchengeschichte,” 1, vol. 1, Erlangen, 1900.

 Köstlin, J., “Luthers Theologie in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung
 und in ihrem Zusammenhang dargestellt,” 2nd ed., 2 vols., Stuttgart,

 (Köstlin-Kawerau), Köstlin, J., “Martin Luther. Sein Leben und seine
 Schriften,” 5th ed., continued after the death of the author by G.
 Kawerau, 2 vols., Berlin, 1903.

 Kolde, Th., see “Analecta Lutherana.”

 —“Die deutsche Augustinerkongregation und Johann von Staupitz.
 Ein Beitrag zur Ordens-und Reformationsgeschichte nach meistens
 ungedruckten Quellen,” Gotha, 1879.

 —“Martin Luther, Eine Biographie,” 2 vols., Gotha, 1884-1893.

 Læmmer, H., “Monumenta Vaticana historiam ecclesiasticam sæculi XVI,
 illustrantia,” Friburgi Brisgoviæ, 1861.

 (Lauterbach, “Tagebuch”), Seidemann, J. K., “A. Lauterbachs Tagebuch
 auf das Jahr 1538. Die Hauptquelle der Tischreden Luthers,” Dresden,

 Letters, “M. Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken,” ed. M. De
 Wette, 5 parts, Berlin, 1825-1828; 6th part, ed. J. K. Seidemann,
 Berlin, 1856.

 Loesche, G., see Mathesius, “Aufzeichnungen”; Mathesius, “Historien.”

 Löscher, V. E., “Vollständige Reformationsacta und Dokumenta,” 3
 vols., Leipzig, 1720-1729.

 Loofs, F., “Leitfaden zum Studium der Dogmengeschichte,” 4th ed.,
 Halle a/S., 1906.

 Luthardt, C. E., “Die Ethik Luthers in ihren Grundzügen,” 2nd ed.,
 Leipzig, 1875.

 Luther’s Works: 1, Complete editions of his works, see “Werke,”
 “Opera Lat. var.,” “Opera Lat. exeg.,” “Commentarius in Epist. ad
 Galatas,” Römerbriefkommentar; 2, Correspondence, see Letters,
 Correspondence, and “Analecta”; 3, Table-Talk, see “Tischreden,” ed.
 Aurifaber, ed. Förstemann, also “Werke,” Erl. ed. vol. 57-62, “Werke,”
 Halle, ed., vol. 22, “Colloquia,” Cordatus, Lauterbach, Mathesius,
 “Aufzeichnungen,” Mathesius, “Tischreden,” Schlaginhaufen; 4, on other
 matters see “Analecta,” “Disputationen,” “Symbolische Bücher.”

 (Mathesius, “Aufzeichnungen”), Loesche, G., “Analecta Lutherana et
 Melanchthoniana, Tischreden Luthers und Aussprüche Melanchthons
 hauptsächlich nach den Aufzeichnungen des Johannes Mathesius, aus
 der Nürnberger Handschrift im Germanischen Museum mit Benützung von
 Seidemanns Vorarbeiten,” Gotha, 1892.

 Mathesius, J., “Historien von des ehrwürdigen in Gott seligen thewren
 Manns Gottes Doctoris Martini Luther Anfang Lehr, Leben und Sterben,”
 Nürnberg, 1566, ed. G. Loesche, Prague, 1898 and 1906 (“Bibliothek
 deutscher Schriftsteller aus Böhmen,” vol. 9). Our quotations are from
 the Nuremberg ed.

 (Mathesius, “Tischreden”), Kroker, E., “Luthers Tischreden in
 der Mathesischen Sammlung. Aus einer Handschrift der Leipziger
 Stadtbibliothek,” ed. Leipzig, 1903.

 Maurenbrecher, W., “Studien und Skizzen zur Geschichte der
 Reformationszeit,” Leipzig, 1874.

 —“Geschichte der katholischen Reformation,” 1 vol., Nördlingen, 1880.

 Melanchthon, see “Analecta,” by Loesche.

 Melanchthon, see “Vita Lutheri.”

 “Melanchthonis opera omnia,” ed. Bretschneider (in “Corpus
 Reformatorum,” vol. 1-28), Halis Saxoniæ, 1834-1863.

 Möhler, J. A., “Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte,” ed. Pius Gams, 3
 vols., Ratisbon, 1868.

 —“Symbolik oder Darstellung der dogmatischen Gegensätze
 der Katholiken und Protestanten nach ihren öffentlichen
 Bekenntnisschriften,” 1st ed., Ratisbon, 1832; 10th ed., with
 additions, by J. M. Raich, Mayence, 1889.

 Möller, W., “Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte,” 3 vols., “Reformation
 und Gegenreformation,” ed. G. Kawerau, 3rd ed., Tübingen, 1907.

 Müller, K., “Luther und Karlstadt. Stücke aus ihrem gegenseitigen
 Verhältnis untersucht,” Tübingen, 1909.

 —“Kirche Gemeinde und Obrigkeit nach Luther,” Tübingen, 1910.

 Münzer, Th., “Hochverursachte Schutzrede und Antwort wider das
 geistlose sanftlebende Fleisch zu Wittenberg,” ed. Enders (“Neudrucke
 deutscher Literaturwerke,” No. 118), Halle, 1893.

 “Neudrucke deutscher Literaturwerke des 16 und 17 Jahrhunderts,”
 Halle, 1876 ff.

 “Nuntiaturberichte aus Deutschland nebst ergänzenden Aktenstücken:
 1, 1533-1559, ed. Kgl. Preuss. Institut in Rom, & Kgl. Preuss.
 Archivverwaltung; vols. 5-6, “Nuntiaturen Morones und Poggios,”
 “Legationen Farneses und Cervinis, 1539-1540,” ed. L. Cardauns;
 “Gesandtschaft Campeggios,” “Nuntiaturen Morones und Poggios,
 1540-1541,” ed. L. Cardauns, Berlin, 1909.

 (“Opp. Lat. exeg.”), “M. Lutheri Exegetica opera latina,” cur. C.
 Elsperger, 28 voll., Erlangæ, 1829 _sqq._ (also published apart), “D.
 M. Lutheri Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas,” ed. I. A. Irmischer,
 3 voll., Erlangæ, 1843, _sq._

 (“Opp. Lat. var.”), “M. Lutheri Opera latina varii argumenti ad
 reformationis historiam imprimis pertinentia,” cur. H. Schmidt, voll.
 1-7, Francofurti, 1865 _sqq._ (part of the Erlangen ed. of Luther’s

 Oergel, G., “Vom jungen Luther. Beiträge zur Lutherforschung,” Erfurt,

 Pastor, L. von, “Geschichte der Päpste seit dem Ausgang des
 Mittelalters. Mit Benützung des päpstlichen Geheimarchivs und vieler
 anderer Archive bearbeitet,” vols. 1-3 in 3rd-4th ed., Freiburg i/B.,
 1901, 1904, 1899; vol. 4 first half 1906, second half 1907; vol. 5
 1909. English Trans., “History of the Popes from the close of the
 Middle Ages,” 1-2³, 1906; 3-4², 1900; 5-6², 1901; 7-8¹, 1908.

 Paulsen, F., “Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts auf den deutschen
 Schulen und Universitäten vom Ausgang des Mittelalters bis zur
 Gegenwart. Mit besonderer Rücksicht auf den klassischen Unterricht,”
 Leipzig, 1885, 2nd ed., 2 vols. 1896-1897.

 Paulus, N., “Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampfe gegen Luther,
 1518-1563” (“Erläuterungen und Ergänzungen zu Janssens Geschichte des
 deutschen Volkes,” vol. 4, 1-2). Freiburg i/B., 1903.

 —“Hexenwahn und Hexenprozess vornehmlich im 16 Jahrhundert,” Freiburg
 i/B., 1910.

 —“Luther und die Gewissensfreiheit” (“Glaube und Wissen,” Hft. 4),
 Munich, 1905.

 —“Luthers Lebensende. Eine kritische Untersuchung” (“Erläuterungen
 und Ergänzungen zu Janssens Geschichte des deutschen Volkes,” vol. 1,
 P. 1), Freiburg i/B., 1898.

 —“Kaspar Schatzgeyer, ein Vorkämpfer der katholischen Kirche gegen
 Luther in Süddeutschland” (“Strassburger theologische Studien,” vol.
 3, 1), Freiburg i/B., 1898.

 —“Johann Tetzel, der Ablassprediger,” Mayence, 1899.

 —“Bartholomäus Arnoldi von Usingen” (“Strassburger theologische
 Studien,” vol. 1, 3), Freiburg i/B., 1893.

 “Quellen und Forschungen aus dem Gebiete der Geschichte in Verbindung
 mit ihrem historischen Institut zu Rom,” ed. the Görres-Gesellschaft,
 Paderborn, 1892 ff.

 “—aus den italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken,” ed. Kgl. Preuss.
 Histor. Institut in Rom, Rome, 1897 ff.

 “Quellenschriften zur Geschichte des Protestantismus zum Gebrauch in
 akademischen Übungen,” in Verbindung mit anderen Fachgenossen ed. J.
 Kunze and C. Stange, Leipzig, 1904, ff.

 (Oldecop), “Joh. Oldecops Chronik,” ed. K. Euling (“Bibl. des
 literarischen Vereins von Stuttgart,” vol. 190), Tübingen, 1891.

 (Ratzeberger), “Ratzeberger M., Handschriftliche Geschichte über
 Luther und seine Zeit,” ed. Ch. G. Neudecker, Jena, 1850.

 “Raynaldi Annales ecclesiastici. Accedunt notæ chronologicæ,” etc.,
 auct. J. D. Mansi, Tom. 12-14, Lucæ, 1755.

 “Reformationsgeschichtliche Studien und Texte,” ed. J. Greving,
 Münster i/W., 1906 ff.

 “Reichstagsakten, Deutsche,” N.S., 2 vols.: “Deutsche Reichstagsakten
 unter Karl V,” ed. Adolf Wrede. At the command of H.M. the King of
 Bavaria, ed. by the Historical Commission of the Kgl. Akademie der
 Wissenschaften, Gotha, 1896.

 Riffel, K., “Christliche Kirchengeschichte der neuesten Zeit, von dem
 Anfänge der grossen Glaubens-und Kirchenspaltung des 16 Jahrhunderts,”
 3 vols. (vol. 1, 2nd ed.), Mayence, 1842-1846.

 Ritschi, A., “Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung,” 3 vols., 2nd ed., Bonn,
 1882 f.

 —O., “Dogmengeschichte des Protestantismus,” vol. 1, Leipzig, 1908.

 Romans, Commentary on, Ficker, J., “Luthers Vorlesung über
 den Römerbrief 1515-1516,” Glossen, 2, Scholien (“Anfänge,
 reformatorischer Bibelauslegung,” ed. J. Ficker, vol. 1), Leipzig,

 “Sammlung gemeinverständlicher Vorträge und Schriften aus dem Gebiete
 der Theologie und Religionsgeschichte.” Tübingen and Leipzig, 1896 ff.

 Scheel, O., “Luthers Stellung zur Heiligen Schrift” (“Sammlung
 gemeinverständlicher Vorträge und Schriften aus dem Gebiete der
 Theologie,” No. 29), Tübingen, 1902.

 (Schlaginhaufen, “Aufzeichnungen”), “Tischreden Luthers aus den Jahren
 1531 und 1532 nach den Aufzeichnungen von Johann Schlaginhaufen aus
 einer Münchener Handschrift,” ed. W. Preger, Leipzig, 1888.

 “Scholia Rom,” see Romans, Commentary on.

 “Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte,” Halle, 1883 ff.

 Seckendorf, V. L. a, “Commentarius historicus et apologeticus de
 Lutheranismo sive de reformatione religionis ductu D. Martini Lutheri
 ... recepta et stabilita,” Lipsiæ, 1694.

 Spahn, M., “Johann Cochläus. Ein Lebensbild aus der Zeit der
 Kirchenspaltung,” Berlin, 1898.

 “Studien und Darstellungen aus dem Gebiete der Geschichte. Im Auftrage
 der Görres-Gesellschaft und in Verbindung mit der Redaktion des
 Historischen Jahrbuches,” ed. H. Grauert, Freiburg i/B., 1900 ff.

 “Studien und Kritiken, Theologische. Zeitschrift für das gesamte
 Gebiet der Theologie,” Hamburg, later, Gotha, 1835 ff.

 (“Symbolische Bücher”), Müller H. T., “Die symbolischen Bücher der
 evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche deutsch und lateinisch. Mit einer
 neuen historischen Einleitung von Th. Kolde,” 10th ed., Gütersloh,

 “Table-Talk,” see “Tischreden.”

 “Tischreden oder Colloquia M. Luthers,” ed. Aurifaber, 2 vols.,
 Eisleben, 1564-1565.

 (Tischreden ed. Förstemann), Förstemann, K. E., “Dr. Martin
 Luthers Tischreden oder Colloquia. Nach Aurifabers erster Ausgabe
 mit sorgfältiger Vergleichung sowohl der Stangwaldischen als der
 Selneccerschen Redaktion,” 4 vols. (4th vol. ed. with assistance of H.
 E. Bindseil), Leipzig, 1844-1848.

 Ulenberg, C., “Historia de Vita ... Lutheri, Melanchthonis, Matth.
 Flacii Illyrici, G. Maioris et Andr. Osiandri,” 2 voll., Coloniæ, 1622.

 (“Vita Lutheri”), “Melanchthonis Philippi Vita Lutheri,” in “Vitæ,
 quatuor reformatorum,” Berolini, 1841. Also in “Corp. Ref.” 6, p. 155
 _sq._ and previously as Preface to the 2nd vol. of the Wittenberg
 Latin edition of Luther’s works.

 Walther, W., “Für Luther, Wider Rom. Handbuch der Apologetik Luthers
 und der Reformation den römischen Anklagen gegenüber,” Halle a/S.,

 Weiss, A. M., O.P., “Lutherpsychologie als Schlüssel zur
 Lutherlegende. Denifles Untersuchungen kritisch nachgeprüft,” Mayence,
 1906; 2nd ed., 1906.

 —“Luther und Luthertum,” 2, see Denifle.

 (“Werke,” Erl. ed.), “M. Luthers sämtliche Werke,” 67 vols., ed. J.
 G. Plochmann and J. A. Irmischer, Erlangen, 1826-1868, vols. 1-20
 and 24-26, 2nd ed., ed. L. Enders, Frankfurt a/M., 1862 ff. To the
 Erl. ed. belong also the Latin “Opp. Lat. exeg.,” the “Commentar.
 in Epist. ad. Galat.,” the “Opp. Lat. var.,” and the Correspondence
 (Briefwechsel) ed. by Enders (see under these four titles).

 —Weim. ed., “Dr. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe,”
 Weimar, 1883 ff., ed. J. Knaake, G. Kawerau, P. Pietsch, N. Müller, K.
 Drescher and W. Walther. So far (Jan., 1911) there have appeared vols.
 1-9; 10, 1, 2, 3; 11-16; 17, 1; 18-20; 23-29; 30, 2; 3; 32; 33; 34, 1,
 2; 36; 37. “Deutsche Bibel (1522-1541),” 2 vols. with introductions.

 —Altenburg ed., 1661-1664, 10 vols. (German); reprinted Leipzig,
 1729-1740, 22 vols.

 —Eisleben ed. (“Supplement zur Wittenberger und Jenaer Ausg.”), ed.
 J. Aurifaber, 2 vols., 1564-1565.

 “Werke,” Halle ed., ed. J. G. Walch, 24 vols., 1740-1753 (German),
 “Neue Ausgabe im Auftrage des Ministeriums der deutschen
 evangelisch-lutherischen Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern
 Staaten,” St. Louis, Mo., Zwickau, Schriftenverein, 22 vols.,
 1880-1904, 23 (index), 1910.

 —Jena ed., 8 vols. of German and 4 vols. of Latin writings,
 1555-1558; re-edited later.

 —Wittenberg ed., 12 vols. of German (1539-1559) and 7 vols. of Latin
 writings (1545-1558).

 —“Auswahl,” ed. Buchwald, Kawerau, Köstlin, etc., 8 vols., 3rd ed.,
 Brunswick and Berlin, 1905 ff.; also 2 supplementary vols.

 Wiedemann, Th., “Johann Eck, Professor der Theologie an der
 Universität Ingolstadt,” Ratisbon, 1865.

 Works (Luther’s), see “Werke.”

 “Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie,” Innsbruck, 1877 ff.

 “—für Kirchengeschichte,” ed. Th. Brieger, Gotha, 1877 ff.

 “—für Theologie und Kirche,” Tübingen, 1890 ff.

 “Zwinglii H. Opera. Completa editio prima cur. M. Schulero et H.
 Schulthessio,” 8 voll. (voll. 7 et 8 “epistolæ”), Turici, 1828-1842.
 In “Corpus Reformatorum” (2 vols.), voll. 88-89, Berlin and Leipzig,



THE author’s purpose in the present work[1] has been to give an exact
historical and psychological picture of Luther’s personality, which
still remains an enigma from so many points of view. He would fain
present an accurate delineation of Luther’s character as seen both from
within and from outside throughout the history of his life and work
from his earliest years till his death. He has, however, placed his
hero’s interior life, his spiritual development and his psychic history
well in the foreground of his sketch.

The external history of the originator of the great German schism has
indeed been dealt with fully enough before this. Special historical
studies on the various points of his career and times exist in great
number and are being daily added to. Whenever necessary, the author
has made use of such existing material, although these works are only
rarely quoted, in order not to overload the book.

Everyone knows with what animation Luther’s life has recently been
discussed, how his doctrines have been probed, and how they have been
compared and contrasted with the theology of the Middle Ages. The
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, a work of Luther’s youth,
which was first made use of by Denifle and which now exists in a
printed form, has supplied very important new material for the study
of the rise of his opinions. With the assistance of this work it has
become possible to give an entirely new explanation of how the breach
with Rome came about. With regard to the actual questions of dogma,
it has been my endeavour to bestow upon them the attention necessary
for a right comprehension of history; at the same time the theological
element can only be considered as secondary, our intention being to
supply an exact portrait of Luther as a whole, which should emphasise
various aspects of his mind and character, and not to write a
history of dogma, much less a controversial or theological tract. The
investigation of his mind, of his intellectual and moral springs of
action, and of the spiritual reaction which he himself experienced from
his life’s work, is indispensably necessary if we wish to do justice
to the man who so powerfully influenced the development of Europe, and
to form a correct idea of the human sides, good as well as bad, of his

We have preferred, when sketching the psychological picture, to do so
in Luther’s own words. This method was, however, the most suitable
one, in spite of its apparent clumsiness; indeed it is the only one
which does not merely put the truth before the eyes of the reader, but
likewise the proofs that it is the truth, while at the same time giving
an absolutely life-like picture. It has frequently been necessary to
allow Luther to speak in his own words in order that in matters which
have been diversely interpreted, or on which he was somewhat uncertain,
he may be free to bring forward the pros and cons himself; we have thus
given him the fullest opportunity to defend or accuse himself. If, for
this reason, he is quoted more often than some readers may like, yet
the originality of his mode of expression, which is always vivid, often
drastic, and not infrequently eloquent, should suffice to prevent any
impression of tiresomeness.

Luther’s personality with all its well-known outspokenness has, as a
matter of course, been introduced, unvarnished and unexpurgated, just
as it betrays itself in the printed pamphlets, which as a rule give so
vivid a picture of the writer, in the confidential letters, and in the
chatty talk with his friends and table-companions. In a book which,
needless to say, is not destined for the edification of the young, but
to describe, as an historical work should, the conditions of things as
they really were, the author has not thought it permissible to suppress
certain offensive passages, or to tone down expressions which, from the
standpoint of modern taste, are often too outspoken. With regard to
the Table-Talk it may at once be stated that, by preference, we have
gone to the actual sources from whence it was taken, so far as these
sources are known, i.e. to the first Notes made by Luther’s own pupils
and recently edited from the actual MSS. by Protestant scholars such as
Preger, Wrampelmeyer, Loesche, Kroker, and others.

In order to preserve the character of the old-time language, the
original words and phrases employed by Luther, and also by his friends,
have been, as far as possible, adhered to, though not the actual
mode of spelling. A certain unequalness was, however, unavoidable
owing to the fact that some of Luther’s Latin expressions which have
been translated into modern German appear side by side with texts in
old German, and that in the first written notes of the Table-Talk
frequently only half the sentence is in German, the other half, owing
to the use of Latin stenography, or because the speakers intermingled
Latin and German haphazard, being given in Latin. Some difficulties
presented by the German of that day have been made plain to the reader
by words introduced in brackets.

In selecting and sifting the material, a watchful eye has been kept
not only on Luther’s mental history, but also on the Luther-Legends,
whether emanating from advocates of the Wittenberg Doctor or from his
Catholic opponents. It is a remarkable phenomenon only to be explained
by the ardent interest taken in the struggle which Luther called forth,
how quickly and to what an extent legendary matter accumulated, and
with what tenacity it was adhered to. The inventions which we already
find flourishing luxuriantly in the earliest panegyrics on the Reformer
and in the oldest controversial works written to confute him (we
express no opinion on the good faith of either side), are many of them
not yet exploded, but continue a sort of tradition, even to the present
day. Much that was false in the tales dating from the outset, whether
in Luther’s favour or to his disadvantage, is still quoted to-day, in
favour of or against him. In the light of a dispassionate examination
the cloud-banks of panegyrics and embellishments tend, however, to
vanish into thin air, though, on the other hand, a number of dark spots
which still clung to the memory of the man—owing to hasty acceptance
of the statements of older anti-Lutheran writers, have also disappeared.

The Protestant historian, Wilhelm Maurenbrecher, declared in 1874
in his “Studien und Skizzen zur Geschichte der Reformationszeit”
(p. 239), that a good life of Luther could not soon be written
owing to the old misrepresentations having given birth to a _fable
convenue_; “the rubbish and filth with which the current theological
view of the Reformation period has been choked up, intentionally or
unintentionally, is too great, and the utter nonsense which it has been
the custom to present and to accept with readiness as Luther’s history,
is still too strong.” Maurenbrecher, speaking of the Protestant
tradition, felt himself justified in alluding to “a touching affection
for stories which have become dear.” During the forty years or so which
have elapsed since then, things have, however, improved considerably.
Protestant scholars have taken on themselves the honourable task of
clearing away the rubbish. Nevertheless, looking at the accounts in
vogue of Luther’s development, one of the most recent historians of
dogma, writing from Luther’s own camp, at the very commencement of
a work dealing with the Reformer’s development, declares: “We still
possess no reliable biography of Luther.” So says Wilhelm Braun in
his work, “Die Bedeutung der Concupiscenz in Luthers Leben und Lehre”
(Berlin, 1908).

The excrescences on the Catholic side have also been blamed by
conscientious Catholic historians. I am not here speaking of the
insulting treatment of Luther customary with some of the older
polemical writers, with regard to which Erasmus said: “_Si scribit
adversus Lutherum, qui subinde vocat illum asinum, stipitem, bestiam,
cacodæmonem, antichristum, nihil erat facilius quam in illum scribere_”
(“Opp.,” ed. Lugd., 3, col. 658); I am speaking rather of the great
number of fables and false interpretations which have been accepted,
mostly without verification. Concerning these Joseph Schmidlin says
in his article, “Der Weg zum historischen Verständnis des Luthertums”
(III., “Vereinsschrift der Görresgesellschaft für 1909,” p. 32 f.):
“The Luther-problem has not yet found a solution.... To what an extent
the apologetico-dogmatic method, as employed by Catholics, can deviate
from historical truth is proved down to the present day by the numerous
controversial pamphlets merely intended to serve the purposes of the
moment.... The historical point of view, on the contrary, is splendidly
adapted to bring into evidence the common ground on which Catholic and
Protestant scholars can, to a certain extent, join hands.”

While confronting the fables which have grown up on either side with
the simple facts as they are known, I was, naturally, unwilling to
be constantly denouncing the authors who were responsible for their
invention or who have since made them their own, and accordingly, on
principle, I have avoided mentioning the names of those whose accounts
I have rectified, and confined myself to the facts alone; in this wise
I hope to have avoided giving offence or any reason for superfluous
personal discussions. I trust that it is clear from the very form of
the book, which deals with Luther and with him alone, that the history
of the Wittenberg Doctor is my only concern and that I have no wish to
quarrel with any writer of olden or more recent times. I have been able
to profit by the liberty thus attained, to attack the various fables
without the slightest scruple.

With regard to the other details of the work; my intention being to
write a psychology of Luther based on his history, it necessarily
followed that some parts which were of special importance for this
purpose had to be treated at greater length, whereas others, more
particularly historical events which had already been repeatedly
described, could be passed over very lightly.

Owing to the psychological point of view adopted in this work the
author has also been obliged to follow certain rules in the division
and grouping. Some sections had to be devoted to the consideration of
special points in Luther’s character and in the direction of his mind,
manifestations of which frequently belong to entirely different periods
of his life. Certain pervading tendencies of his life could be treated
of only in the third volume, and then only by going back to elements
already portrayed, but absolutely essential for a right comprehension
of the subject. Without some such arrangement it seemed impossible to
explain satisfactorily his development, and to produce a convincing
picture of the man as a whole.

Although a complete and lengthy description has been devoted to
Luther’s idea of his higher mission (vol. iii., ch. xvi.)—a subject
rightly considered of the greatest interest—yet the growth of this
idea, its justification, and its various phases, is really being dealt
with throughout the work. The thoughtful reader will probably be able
to arrive at a decision as to whether the idea was well founded or not,
from the historical materials furnished by Luther himself. He will see
that the result which shines out from the pages of this book is one
gained purely by means of history, and that the mere scientific process
is sufficient to smooth the way for a solution of the question; to
discuss it from a sectarian standpoint never entered into my mind.

The writer’s unalterable principle on this point has been, that in
historical studies the religious convictions of the author must never
induce him to set aside the stubborn facts of the past, to refuse
their full importance to the sources, or pusillanimously to deny the
rightful deductions from history. This, however, does not mean that he
has imposed on himself any denial of his religious convictions. Just
as the convinced Protestant, when judging of historical facts, cannot
avoid showing his personal standpoint, and just as the freethinking
historian applies his own standard everywhere in criticising events
both profane and religious, so the Catholic too must be free to express
his opinion from the point of view of his own principles as soon as the
facts have been established. The unreasonableness and impossibility of
writing a history from which personal convictions are entirely absent
has been recognised by all competent authorities, and, in a subject
like that here treated, this is as plain as day. Such an artificial
and unreal history of Luther would surely be dreary and dull enough to
frighten anyone, apart from the fact that Luther himself, whose fiery
nature certainly admitted nothing of indifference, would be the first
to protest against it, if he could.

Is it really impossible for a Catholic historian to depict Luther
as he really was without offending Protestant feelings in any way?
Without any exaggerated optimism, I believe it to be quite possible,
because honesty and historical justice must always be able to find a
place somewhere under the sun and wherever light can be thrown, even
in the most delicate historical questions. In the extracts from my
studies on Luther (cp. for instance the article “Der ‘gute Trunk’ in
den Lutheranklagen, eine Revision” in the “Historisches Jahrbuch,”
1905, pp. 479-507), Protestants themselves admitted that the matter
was treated “with entire objectivity” and acknowledged the “moderate
tone” which prevailed throughout. Such admissions were to me a source
of real pleasure. Other critics, highly prejudiced in favour of
Luther, actually went so far as to declare, that this impartiality
and moderation was “all on the surface” and a mere “ingenious
make-believe,” employed only in order the better to deceive the reader.
They took it upon themselves to declare it impossible that certain
charges made against Luther should have been minimised by me in real
earnest, and various good aspects of his character admitted frankly and
with conviction. Such discoveries, as far-fetched as they are wanting
in courtesy, may be left to take care of themselves, though I shall not
be surprised to be again made the object of similar personal insults on
the appearance of this book.

I may, however, assure Protestant readers in general, whose esteem
for Luther is great and who may be disagreeably affected by certain
passages in this book which are new to them, that the idea of offending
them by a single word was very far from my intention. I am well
aware, and the many years I have passed at home in a country of which
the population is partly Catholic and partly Protestant have made
it still clearer to me, how Protestants carry out in all good faith
and according to their lights the practice of their religion. Merely
in view of these, and quite apart from the gravity of the subject
itself, everything that could be looked on as a challenge or an insult
should surely be avoided as a stupid blunder. I would therefore ask
that the book be judged impartially, and without allowing feelings,
in themselves quite natural, to interfere unduly; let the reader ask
himself simply whether each assertion is, or is not, proved by the
facts and witnesses. As regards the author, however, he would ask his
readers to remember that we Catholics (to quote the words of a Swiss
writer) “are not prevented by the view we hold of the Church, from
rejoicing over all that our separated brethren throughout the world
have preserved of the inheritance of Christ, and display in their
lives, that, on the contrary, our best and sincerest esteem is for the
_bona fides_ of those who think otherwise than we” (“Schweizerische
Kirchenzeitung,” 1910, No. 52, December 29).

With regard to “inconvenient facts,” Friedrich Paulsen wrote in
his “Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts” (I², 1896, p. 196): “If
Protestant historians had not yielded so much to the inclination to
slur over inconvenient facts, Janssen’s ‘History of the German People’
[English trans., 1901-1909] would not have made the impression it
did—surely an ‘inconvenient fact’ for many Protestants.” The same
respected Protestant scholar also has a word to say to those who were
scandalised at some disagreeable historical home-truths which he had
published, “as though it were my fault that facts occurred in the
history of the Reformation which a friendly biographer of Luther must

Even in the Protestant world of the present day there is a very
general demand for a plain, unvarnished picture of Luther. “_Amicus
Lutherus magis amica veritas_,” as Chr. Rogge said when voicing this
demand; the same writer also admitted that there was “much to be
learnt from the Catholics, even though they emphasised Luther’s less
favourable qualities”; that, “we could not indeed expect them to look
at Luther with our eyes, but nevertheless we have not lost all hope
of again finding among them men who will fight the Monk of Wittenberg
with weapons worthy of him.” And further, “the scholar given up to
historical research can and ought to strive to bring the really
essential element of these struggles to the knowledge and appreciation
of his opponents, for, if anywhere, then surely in the two principal
camps of Christendom, large-minded polemics should be possible” (“Zum
Kampfe um Luther” in the “Türmer,” January, 1906, p. 490).

I have not only avoided theological polemics with Protestants, but
have carefully refrained from considering Protestantism at all,
whether that of to-day or of the two previous centuries. To show the
effects of Luther’s work upon the history of the world was not my
business. The object of my studies has not been Lutheranism, but Luther
himself considered apart from later Protestantism, so far as this
was possible; of course, we cannot separate Luther from the effects
he produced, he foresaw the results of his work, and the acceptance
of this responsibility was quite characteristic of him. I will only
say, that the task I set myself in this work closes with the first
struggles over his grave. I may remark further, that the Luther of
theology, even in Protestant circles, is being considered more and more
as an isolated fact. Are there not even many Protestant theologians
who at the present day allow him no place whatever in the theological
and philosophical doctrines which they hold? Indeed, is it not an
understood thing with many of our Protestant contemporaries, to reject
entirely or in part the doctrines most peculiar and most dear to
Luther. Two years ago the cry was raised for “a further development of
religion,” for “a return from Trinitarian to Unitarian Christianity,
from the dogmatic to the historic Christ,” and at the same time the
Allgemeine Evangelisch-Lutherische Konferenz at Hanover received a
broad hint that, instead of wasting time in working for the Lutheran
tenets, they would be better employed in devising a Christianity which
should suit the needs of the day and unite all Protestants in one body.
In these and similar symptoms we cannot fail to see a real renunciation
of Luther as the founder of Protestant belief, for there are many who
refuse to hold fast even to that rudimentary Christianity which he,
in agreement with all preceding ages, continued to advocate. Only on
account of his revolt against external authority in religious questions
and his bitter opposition to the Papacy, is he still looked up to as
a leader. There is therefore all the less reason for the historian,
who subjects Luther to his scrutiny, to fear any reproach of having
unwarrantably assailed the Protestantism of to-day.

As in these pages my only object has been to examine Luther’s person,
his interior experiences and his opinions from the point of view of
pure history, I think I have the right to refuse beforehand to be
drawn into any religious controversy. On the other hand, historical
criticism of facts will always be welcomed by me, whether it comes from
the Catholic or from the Protestant camp, and will be particularly
appreciated wherever it assists in elucidating those questions which
still remain unsolved and to which I shall refer when occasion arises.

Finally, an historical reminiscence, which carries us back to the
religious contradictions as they existed in Germany a hundred years
ago, may not be out of place. At that time Gottlieb Jakob Planck of
Württemberg, Professor of Theology at Göttingen, after the lengthy and
unprofitable polemics of earlier ages, made a first attempt to pave
the way for a more just treatment by the Protestant party of Luther’s
history and theology. In his principal work, i.e. in the six volumes of
his “Geschichte der Entstehung, der Veränderung und der Bildung unseres
protestantischen Lehrbegriffs” (finished in 1800), he ventured, with
all the honesty of a scholar and the frankness natural to a Swabian, to
break through the time-honoured custom according to which, as he says,
all “those who dared even to touch on the mistakes of our reformers
were stigmatised as blasphemers.” “While engaged on this work,” he
declares, “I never made any attempt to forget I was a Protestant, but
I hope that my personal convictions have never led me to misrepresent
other people’s doctrines, or to commit any injustice or even to pass
an unkind judgment. Calm impartiality is all that can be demanded.”
I should like, _mutatis mutandis_, to make his words my own, and to
declare that, while I, too, have never forgotten that I am a Catholic,
I stand in no fear of my impartiality being impugned.

I would likewise wish to appropriate the following words taken from
Planck, substituting the word “Protestants” for “Catholics”: “The
justice which I have thought it necessary to do to Catholics may
perhaps excite some surprise, because some people can never understand
one’s treating opponents with fairness.” But “I am convinced that,
if my readers are scandalised, this will merely be on account of the
novelty of the method. I really could not bring myself to sacrifice
truth and justice to any fear of giving offence.” Planck admits,
elsewhere, speaking of Lutheran history, that compliance with the
demands of impartiality in respect of certain persons and events which
he had to describe, was sometimes “incredibly hard,” and he proceeds:
“There are circumstances where every investigator is apt to get annoyed
unless indeed disinterestedness is to him a natural virtue.... It is
exasperating [the present writer can vouch for this] to have to waste
time and patience on certain things.” So speaks a theologian renowned
among Protestants for his earnestness and kindliness.

With the best of intentions Planck spent part of his time and
strength in the chimerical task of bringing about a “reunion of the
principal Christian bodies.” He wrote a work, “Ueber die Trennung und
Wiedervereinigung,” etc. (on Schism and Reunion, 1803), and another
entitled “Worte des Friedens an die katholische Kirche” (Words of
Peace to the Catholic Church, 1809). It was his desire “to seek out
the good which surely exists everywhere.” The ideas he put forward
were, it is true, unsuited for the realisation of his great plan.
He was too unfamiliar with the organisation of the Catholic Church,
and the limitations of his earlier education disqualified him for
the undertaking he had in view. What really shattered the hopes of
reunion held by many during that period of triumphant Rationalism
was, not merely the shallowness of the views prevailing, but above
all the spirit of animosity let loose among all fervent Lutherans by
the celebration, in 1817, of the third centenary of the Reformation.
Catholics soon perceived that reunion was unfortunately still very far
distant, and that, in the interests of the public peace, all that could
be expected was the retention of mutual esteem and Christian charity
between the two great denominations.

It is also my most ardent desire that esteem and charity should
increase, and this growth of appreciation between Catholics and
Protestants will certainly not be hindered by the free and untrammelled
discussion of matters of history.

On the contrary, as a Protestant critic of Walter Köhler’s
“Katholizismus und Reformation” says, “it is to be hoped that
historical investigation may lessen the contradictions, and if in this
way it is possible to come closer together, not indeed perhaps to
understand each other completely, yet at least to make some attempt to
do so, then something deeper and more lasting will have been gained
than at the time when Rationalism prevailed. The attempt then made
to bring the parties together was the result of a levelling down of
religious beliefs, now the same object is sought by penetrating more
profoundly into the essentials of the different creeds” (“Theologische
Literaturzeitung,” 1907, p. 250).

 The quotations from Luther’s writings have been taken from the most
 recent Weimar edition so far as it at present reaches. What is not
 contained in the Weimar edition has been taken from the previous
 Erlangen edition (method of quotation: Weim. ed., Erl. ed.); the
 latter is, however, often quoted as well as the Weimar edition because
 it is more widely known and more readily available for reference.

 Luther’s letters have been taken from the new edition of the
 “Briefwechsel” by Enders, which is also not yet quite complete. The
 epistles of Luther’s later years, which are still wanting in Enders’
 work, and also some of earlier date, are given as in volumes lii.-liv.
 of the Erlangen edition, where a great number of German letters are
 collected, or else as in the old edition of “Briefe, Sendschreiben
 und Bedenken” by De Wette-Seidemann. (_See_ above, p. xvii. ff.,
 “Correspondence,” “Letters,” “Works.”)

 With regard to the other sources of information we need only state,
 that until the whole of the “Tischreden” (Table-Talk) have been
 edited by Ernst Kroker in the Weimar series, we are compelled to
 have recourse to the older German and Latin collections of the
 same, together with the original notes mentioned above (p. xx.). Of
 the German collection, in addition to the work of Aurifaber, the
 “Tischreden” of Förstemann-Bindseil and of the Erlangen edition (vols.
 lvii.-lxii.) have been used, and, for the Latin collection, Bindseil’s
 careful edition (see p. xvi. f.).

 From among the large number of lives of Luther which have been
 consulted I shall mention only the two latest, one by a Catholic,
 Denifle, and the other by two Protestants, Köstlin and Kawerau.

It is hardly necessary to say, that I brought to the study of the
two last-mentioned works an absolutely independent judgment. The
information—universally acknowledged as extremely valuable—- supplied
by Denifle’s ponderous volumes on the relation between Luther’s
theology and that of the Middle Ages, was of considerable service
to me. To Köstlin’s biography of Luther, continued by Kawerau, I am
indebted for some useful data with regard to the history and chronology
of Luther’s writings.

This most detailed of the Protestant biographies, and the most
frequently quoted by me, offers this further advantage that in its
judgment of Luther, his life’s work, and his personal qualities,
it occupies a middle line between two Protestant extremes. Köstlin
having belonged to the so-called intermediary school of theology, the
author, in his delineation of Luther, avoids alike certain excesses
of the conservatives and the caustic, subtilising criticism of the
rationalists. There is no such thing as a simple “Protestant opinion”
on Luther; and Köstlin’s intermediary treatment is the one least likely
to lead a Catholic to commit an injustice against either of the extreme
parties in Protestantism.

Does a Catholic opinion exist with regard to Luther’s personal
qualities and his fate? Does the much-discussed work of Denifle
represent the “Catholic feeling”? That it does has frequently been
asserted by those most strongly opposed to Denifle. Yet Denifle’s
manner of regarding Luther was, on the whole, by no means simply
“Catholic,” but largely biassed by his individual opinion, as indeed
has ever been the appreciation by Catholic authors of the different
points of Luther’s character. Only on those points could Denifle’s
opinion strictly be styled “Catholic” where he makes the direct
acknowledgment of dogmas and the essential organisation of the Church
the standard for Luther’s views and reforms; and in this he certainly
had on his side the repudiation of Luther by all Catholics. A “Catholic
opinion,” in any other sense than the above, is the sheerest nonsense,
and the learned Dominican would certainly have been the last to make
such a claim on his own behalf. The present writer protests beforehand
against any such interpretation being placed on his work. The following
statements, whether they differ from or agree with those of Denifle,
must be looked on as a mere attempt to express what appears to the
author to be clearly contained in the sources whence his information
comes. In all purely historical questions, in questions of fact and
their inferences, the Catholic investigator is entirely free, and
decides purely and simply to the best of his knowledge and conscience.

A list of Luther’s writings with the volumes in which they occur in the
last two editions, as well as a detailed index of subjects and names at
the end of the sixth volume, will facilitate the use of this work.

The author would like to take this opportunity of expressing his most
cordial thanks to the Royal Bavarian Library of Munich, and also to the
University Library in that city, for the friendly assistance rendered
him. These rich sources of information have afforded him, during his
frequent and lengthy visits to the Bavarian capital, what the libraries
of Rome, which he had been in the habit of consulting for his History
of Rome and the Popes of the Middle Ages (Eng. trans., 3 vols.,
1911-12), could not supply on the subject here treated. The author will
now return to the exploitation of the treasures of Rome and to the task
he originally undertook and hopes to bring out, in the near future, a
further volume of the History of Rome.


  MUNICH, _January 1, 1911_.






1. Luther’s Novitiate and Early Life

ON July 16, 1505, Martin Luther, then a student at the University of
Erfurt, invited his friends and acquaintances to a farewell supper. He
wished to see them about him for the last time before his approaching
retirement to the cloister. “The bright, cheerful young fellow,” as
his later pupil, Mathesius,[2] calls him, was a favourite in his own
circle. Those assembled to bid him farewell, amongst whom were also
“honest, virtuous maidens and women,”[3] were doubtless somewhat taken
aback at their friend’s sudden determination to leave the world; but
Luther was outwardly “beyond measure cheerful” and showed himself so
light of heart that he played the lute while the wine-cup circled

On the following morning—it was the feast of St. Alexius, as Luther
remembered when an old man[5]—some of his fellow-students accompanied
him to the gate of the Augustinian monastery and then, with tears in
their eyes, saw the doors close upon him. The Prior, who was already
apprised of the matter, greeted the timid new-comer, embraced him,
and then, in accordance with the Rule, confided him to the Master of
Novices to be initiated into the customs of the community.

In the quiet monastic cell and amid the strange new surroundings the
student was probably able little by little to master the excitement
which, though hidden from outsiders, raged within his breast; for the
determination to become a monk had been arrived at under strange,
soul-stirring circumstances. He was on his way back to Erfurt, after a
visit to his parents’ house, when, near Stotternheim, he was overtaken
by a thunderstorm, and as a flash of lightning close beside him
threatened him “like a heavenly vision,” he made the sudden vow: “Save
me, dear St. Anne, and I will become a monk.”[6] He appears also at
that very time to have been reduced to a state of great grief and alarm
by the sudden death of a dear comrade, also a student, who had been
stabbed, either in a quarrel or in a duel. Thus the thoughts which had
perhaps for long been attracting his serious temperament towards the
cloister ripened with overwhelming rapidity. Could we but take a much
later assertion of his as correct, the reason of his resolve was to be
found in a certain vexation with himself: because he “despaired” of
himself, he once says, therefore did he retire into the monastery.[7]

It was his earnest resolution to renounce the freedom of his academic
years and to seek peace of soul and reconciliation with God in the
bosom of the pious community. He persisted in keeping the vow made in
haste and terror in spite of dissuading voices which made themselves
heard both within himself and around him, and the determined opposition
of his father to his embracing the religious state. Some were full
of admiration for the energetic transformation of the new postulant.
Thus the respected Augustinian of Erfurt, Johann Nathin, compared
the suddenness and decision of his step to the one-time conversion
of Saul into the Apostle Paul.[8] Crotus Rubeanus, the Humanist,
then stopping at Erfurt, in a later letter to Luther, expressed
himself no less forcibly with regard to the heavenly flash which had
made him a monk.[9] The brothers of the “German Congregation of the
Order of Hermits of St. Augustine”—such was the full title of the
Order—on their part rejoiced at the acquisition of the highly gifted
and promising youth, who had already taken his degree as Master of
Philosophy at the University of Erfurt.

If the novice, after gradually regaining peace of mind within the
silent walls, permitted his thoughts to recur to his former way of
life, this must have presented itself to him as full of trouble and
care and very deficient in the homely joys of family life. Luther’s
early career differed hardly at all from that of the poorest students
of that time. He was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben in Saxony;
his parents were Hans Luther, a miner of peasant extraction (he signed
himself Luder) and Margaret Luther. They had originally settled in the
town of Mansfeld, but had gone first to Möhra and then to Eisleben.
Their gifted son spent his childhood in Mansfeld and first attended
school there. His father was a stern, harsh man. His mother, too,
though she meant well by him, once beat him till the blood came, all
on account of a nut.[10] The boy was also intimidated by the stupid
brutality of his teachers, and it does not appear that the customary
religious teaching he received, raised his spirits or led to a freer,
more hopeful development of his spiritual life. He was one day, as
he relates later, “beaten fifteen times in succession during one
morning” at school, to the best of his knowledge without any fault of
his own, though, probably, not without having brought the punishment
upon himself by insubordination and obstinacy. After that, in his
fourteenth year, he received instruction in Magdeburg from the “Pious
Brethren of the Common Life,” and begged his bread by singing from door
to door. A year later he went to Eisenach, where his mother had some
poor relatives, to continue his Latin studies. In this town he still
pursued the same hard mode of earning his living, until a charitable
woman, Ursula, the wife of Kunz (Konrad) Cotta, received him into her
well-to-do and comfortable household, furnishing him with food and
lodging. Luther, in his old age, recalled with great gratitude the
memory of his noble benefactress.[11]

As a boy he had experienced but little of life’s pleasures and received
small kindness from the world; but now life’s horizon brightened
somewhat for the growing youth.

Full of enthusiasm for the career mapped out for him by his father,
that, namely, of the Law, he went in the summer of 1501 to the
University of Erfurt. His parents’ financial circumstances had
meanwhile somewhat improved as the result of his father’s industry in
the mines at Mansfeld. The assiduous student was therefore no longer
dependent on the help of strangers. According to some writers he
took up his abode in St. George’s Hostel.[12] He was entered in the
Matriculation Register of the Erfurt High School as “Martinus Ludher
ex Mansfelt,” and for some considerable time after he continued to
spell his family name as Luder, a form which is also to be found up
to the beginning of the seventeenth century in the case of others
(Lüder, Luider, Leuder). From 1512 he began, however, to sign himself
“Lutherus” or “Luther.”[13] The lectures on philosophy, understood in
the widest sense of the term, which he first attended were delivered
at the University of Erfurt by comparatively capable teachers, some
of whom belonged to the Augustinian Order. The Catholic spirit of
the Middle Ages still permeated the teaching and the whole life of
the little republic of learning. As yet, learning was still cast in
the mould of the traditional scholastic method, and the men, equally
devoted to the Church and to their profession, who were Luther’s
principal teachers, Jodocus Trutfetter of Eisenach and Bartholomew
Arnoldi of Usingen,[14] later an Augustinian, were well versed in the
scholastic spirit of the day.

Alongside the traditional teaching of the schools there already existed
in Erfurt and the neighbourhood another, viz. that of the Humanists, or
so-called poets, which, though largely at variance with Scholasticism,
was cultivated by many of the best minds of the day. Luther, with his
vivacity of thought and feeling, could not long remain a stranger to
them. With their spiritual head Mutianus at Gotha, close by, they
formed one of the more prominent groups of German Humanists, although,
so far, they had not produced any work of great consequence. The
contrast between Humanism and Scholasticism, which was to come out
so strongly at a later period, was as yet hardly noticeable in the
Erfurt schools. Crotus Rubeanus, at that time a University friend of
Luther’s, became at a later date, however, the principal author of
the “Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum,” a clever and biting libel on monks
and Scholastics, written from a Humanist standpoint. Crotus boasted
subsequently of his intimate intercourse (“_summa familiaritas_”) with

Another Humanist friend whose spiritual relationship with him dates
from that time, was Johann Lang, afterwards an Augustinian monk, with
whom Luther stood in active interchange of thought during the most
critical time of his development, as may be seen from the letters
quoted below, and who, caught up by the Lutheran movement, left his
Order[16] to become the first preacher of the new faith in Erfurt.
The third name which we find in connection with Luther is that of
Kaspar Schalbe, a cousin, or possibly a brother of the lady already
mentioned, Mistress Ursula Cotta of Eisenach. Schalbe did not turn out
any better than the others. A few years later, on being charged before
the Elector of Saxony with a crime against morality, he was glad to
avail himself of Luther’s mediation with the Ruler of the land.[17]
Finally, we also know that a later patron and supporter of Luther, the
Humanist Spalatinus, was then carrying on his studies in Erfurt. George
Burckhardt of Spalt—whence his name Spalatinus—was a student there
from 1498 to 1502, and, from 1505 to 1508, was engaged as a clerical
preceptor in the immediate vicinity of the town. Luther and Spalatinus
always looked on themselves later as early friends whom fate had
brought together.

As a student, Luther devoted himself with great zest to the various
branches of philosophy, and, carried away by the spirit of the
Humanists, in his private time he studied the Latin classics, more
particularly Cicero, Virgil, Livy, Ovid, also Terence, Juvenal, Horace
and Plautus. At a later date he was able to make skilful use of
quotations from these authors when occasion demanded. Amongst others,
he attended the lectures of Hieronymus Emser, a subsequent opponent
well worth his metal. Of his life during those years, which, owing to
the laxity of morals prevailing in the town, must have been full of
danger for him, we learn little, owing to the silence of our sources.
Luther himself in his later years coarsely described the town as a
“beer house” and a “nest of immorality.”

Unlike his frivolous comrades, he was often beset with heavy thoughts,
no doubt largely due to the after effects of his gloomy youth. Among
his chums he was known as “Musicus,” on account of his learning to
play the lute, and as the “Philosopher,” owing to his frequent fits of

In the monastery, where the reader left him, he no doubt remained
subject to such fits of depression, especially at the beginning when
dwelling on his change of life. It is difficult to say how far the
feeling of self-despair, which he mentions, had mastered him before his
entry into conventual life. In later years, apart from the vow and the
mysterious “heavenly terror,” he also says that in leaving the world
he was seeking to escape the severity of his parents. His statements,
however, do not always agree. As for the precipitate vow to enter
a monastery, he must have been well aware that, even if valid when
originally made, it was no longer binding on him from the day when,
after conscientious self-examination, he became aware that, owing to
his natural disposition, he had no vocation for a religious life. Not
every character is fitted for carrying out the evangelical counsels,
and to force oneself into a mould, however good, for which one is
manifestly unsuited is certainly not in accordance with the will of a
wise and beneficent Providence.

Luther, agreeably with the statutes of the Order, during the whole
period of his novitiate and until the hour of his profession had
arrived, was perfectly free to return to his fellow-students, the
religious tie never having been intended to bring him misery in
place of the happiness which it promises. Immediately after coming
to the monastery, i.e. before his clothing, he was, according to the
Rule, given considerable time in which to weigh earnestly, under the
direction of an experienced brother of the Order, whether, as stated
in the statutes of the Augustinians, “the spirit which was leading him
was of God.” Only after this did he receive the habit of the Order,
apparently, however, in the same year, 1505. The habit consisted of a
white woollen tunic, a scapular, also white, falling over the breast
and back, and a black mantle with a hood and wide sleeves to be worn
over all.

After the clothing began the novitiate, which lasted a whole year.
During this period the candidate had not only to undertake a series of
exercises consisting in prayer, manual labour and penitential works,
but had also to discharge certain humiliating offices, which might help
him to acquire the virtue of humility as practised in the Order. Out of
consideration for the University and his academic dignity Luther was,
however, speedily exempted from some of the latter duties. It appears
that during his noviceship he was attentive to the rules, and that the
superiors treated him with fatherly kindness. Although some members of
the community may have observed the Rule from routine, while others, as
is often the case in large communities, may not have been conspicuous
for their charity—Luther refers to something of this kind in his
Table-Talk—yet the spirit of the Erfurt monastery was, like that
of most of the other houses of the Congregation, on the whole quite
blameless. The novice himself, as yet full of goodwill, was not only
satisfied with his calling, but even looked on the state he had chosen
as a “heavenly life.”[18]

From the very first, however, as he himself complains later, he was
constantly “worried and depressed”[19] by thoughts connected with
religion. He was sorely troubled by the fear of God’s judgment, by
gloomy thoughts on predestination, and by the recollection of his
own sins. Although he made a general confession in the monastery
and renewed it again later, his confessions never gave him any
satisfaction, so that his director laid on him the obligation not to
hark back to things which caused him sadness of spirit nor to dwell on
the details of his sins. “You are a fool,” he once said to him; “God is
not angry with you, but it is you who are angry with Him.”

Those versed in the ways of the spiritual life are well aware that
many a one aiming at perfection is exposed to the purifying fire of
trials such as these. Traditional Catholic teaching and the experience
of those skilled in the direction of conventual inmates had laid
down the remedies most effectual for such a condition. What Luther
himself relates later with regard to the encouragement he received
from his superiors and brothers in the monastery, shows clearly that
suitable direction, enlightenment and encouragement were not wanting
to him either then or in the following years. He himself praises his
“Præceptor” and “monastic pædagogue,” i.e. the Novice-Master, as “a
dear old man,”[20] who “under the damned frock was without doubt a
true Christian.”[21] It was probably he who said to him in an hour of
trial that he should always recall the article of the Creed “I believe
in the forgiveness of sins.”[22] “What are you doing, my son?” he said
to him on another occasion; “do you not know that the Lord has Himself
commanded us to hope?”[23] words which made a great and unforgettable
impression on him. Later, in the year 1516, he pointed out another
brother, Master Bartholomew (Usingen), as the “best paraclete and
comforter”[24] in the Erfurt monastery, as he could testify from his
own experience. The monks knew well and impressed it upon his troubled
mind that, through the merits of the Redeemer, and after earnest
preparation of the soul, true forgiveness may be obtained, and that
through the cross of Christ, and through it alone, we can do all things
necessary, even in the midst of the bitterest assaults.

Luther, however, too often responded to such admonitions only by
cherishing his own views the more. He continued morbidly to torment
himself. This self-torture, at any rate during the first enthusiastic
days of his religious life, may have assumed the form of pious
scruples, but later it gradually took on another character under the
influence of bodily affections. He did not, like other scrupulous
persons, regain his peace of mind, because, led away by his distorted
and excited fancy, he liked, as he himself admits, to dwell on the
doubts as to whether the counsels he received were not illusion and
deception. Sad experience taught him into what devious paths and to
“what a state of inward unrest, self-will and self-sufficiency are
capable of leading a man.”[25]

The Superior or Vicar-General of the Saxon or German Augustinian
Congregation to which Luther belonged was at that time Johann Staupitz,
a man highly esteemed in the world of learning and culture.

He frequently visited Erfurt and had thus the opportunity of talking
to the new brother whom the University had given him, and who may well
have attracted his attention by his careworn look, his restless manner
and his peculiar, bright, deep-set eyes. Staupitz soon began to have
a great esteem for him. He had great influence over Luther, though
unable to free him from the strange spirit, already too deeply rooted.
To the sad doubts concerning his own salvation which Brother Martin
laid before him, Staupitz replied by exhorting him as follows in the
spirit of the Catholic Church: “Why torment yourself with such thoughts
and broodings? Look at the wounds of Christ and His Blood shed for
you. There you will see your predestination to heaven shining forth to
your comfort.”[26] Quite rightly he impressed upon him, in the matter
of confession and penance, that the principal thing was to arouse in
himself the will to love God and righteousness, and that he must not
pause before unhealthy imaginations of sin. The lines of thought,
however, which the imaginative and emotional young man laid bare to
him, were probably at times somewhat strange, and it is Luther himself
who relates that Staupitz once said to him: “Master Martin, I fail to
understand that.”

In spite of his inward fears Luther persevered, which goes to prove
the strength of will which was always one of his characteristics. As
the Order was satisfied with him, he was admitted at the end of the
year of novitiate to profession by the taking of the three Vows of the
Order. He received on this occasion the name of Augustine, but always
preferred to it his baptismal name of Martin. The text of the Vows
which he read aloud solemnly before the altar, according to custom, in
the presence of the Prior Winand of Diedenhofen and all the brothers,
was as follows: “I, Brother Augustine Luder, make profession and vow
obedience to Almighty God, Blessed Mary ever Virgin and to thee Father
Prior, in the name of, and as representing the Superior-General of
the Hermits of St. Augustine, and his successors, likewise to live
without property and in chastity until death, according to the Rule of
our Holy Father Augustine.” The young monk, voluntarily and after due
consideration, had thus taken upon himself the threefold yoke of Christ
by the three Vows, i.e. by the most solemn and sacred promise which it
is possible to make on earth. He had bound himself by a sacred oath to
God to prepare himself for heaven by treading a path of life in which
perfection is sought in the carrying out of the evangelical counsels of
our Saviour, and throughout his life to combat the temptations of the
world with the weapons of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Such was the solemn Vow, which, later on, he declared to have been
absolutely worthless.

2. Fidelity to his new calling; his temptations

After making his profession the young religious was set by his Erfurt
superiors to study theology, which was taught privately in the

The theological fare served up by the teachers of the Order was not
very inviting, consisting as it largely did of the mere verbalism
of a Scholasticism in decay. With the exception of the Sentences of
Peter Lombard, the students at the Erfurt monastery did not study the
theological works of the great masters of the thirteenth century;
neither Thomas of Aquin, the prince of scholastic theology and
philosophy, nor his true successors, not even Ægidius Romanus, himself
a Hermit of St. Augustine, were well known to them. The whole of their
time at Erfurt, as elsewhere also, was devoted to the study of the last
of the schoolmen who, indeed, stood nearer in point of time, but who
were far from teaching the true doctrine with the fulness and richness
of the earlier doctors. They were too much given to speculation and
logical word-play. The older schoolmen were no longer appreciated and
nominalistic errors, such as were fostered in the school of William
of Occam, held the field. One of the better schoolmen of the day was
Gabriel Biel. His works, which have a certain value, together with some
of the writings of the Fathers of the Church, formed the principal
arsenal from which Luther drew his theological knowledge, and upon
which he exercised his dialectics. In addition to this, he also studied
the theological tractates of John Gerson and Cardinal Peter d’Ailly,
works which, apart from other theological defects, contain various
errors concerning the authority of the Church and her Head; that
these particular errors had any deeper influence on the direction of
Luther’s mind cannot, however, be proved. What we do find is that the
one-sidedness of this school, with its tendency to hairsplitting, had
a negative effect upon him. At an early date he was repelled by the
scholastic subtleties, for which, according to him, Aristotle alone
was responsible, and preferred to turn to the reading and study of
the Bible. He nevertheless made the prevalent school methods so much
his own as to apply them often, in a quite surprising fashion, in his
earliest sermons and writings.

The man who exercised the greatest influence on the theological study
in the Erfurt monastery was the learned Augustinian, Johann Paltz,
who was teaching there when Luther entered. He was a good Churchman
and a fair scholar, and was also much esteemed as a preacher. By his
side worked Johann Nathin, who has already been mentioned, likewise
one of the respected theologians of the Order.[27] Luther’s teachers,
full of veneration for the Holy Scriptures as the revealed Word of
God, were not at all displeased to see their pupil having frequent
recourse to the Bible, in order to seek in the well of the Divine Word
instruction and enlightenment, by which to supplement the teachings of
the schoolmen and the Fathers.

Luther had, moreover, already become acquainted with the Bible in the
library of the Erfurt University, whilst still engaged in studying
philosophy. He had, however, not prosecuted his reading of the Bible,
though the same library would doubtless have supplied him with numerous
well-thumbed commentaries on Holy Writ. In the monastery a copy of the
Bible was given him at the beginning of his theological course. It was,
as we learn from him incidentally, a Latin translation bound in red
leather, and remained in his hands until he left Erfurt. The statutes
of the Order enjoined on all its members “assiduous reading, devout
hearing and industrious study of the Holy Scriptures.”

The young monk immersed himself more and more in the study of his
beloved Bible when Staupitz, the Vicar, advised him to select the same
as his special subject in order to render himself a capable “_localis_
and _textualis_” in the Holy Scriptures.

The Superior seems to have had even then the intention of making use
later of Luther as a public professor of biblical lore. So ardently
was the Vicar’s advice followed by Luther that, in his preference for
reading the Bible and studying its interpretation, he neglected the
rest of his theological education, and his teacher Usingen was obliged
to protest against his one-sided study of the sacred text. So full was
Luther of the most sacred of books, that he was able (at least this is
what he says later) to show the wondering brothers the exact spot in
his ponderous red volume where every subject, nay even every quotation,
was to be found. It was with great regret that, on leaving this
community, he found himself prohibited by the Rule from taking the copy
away with him. Later, as an opponent of the religious life, he states
that no one but himself read the Bible in the monastery at Erfurt,
whilst of his foe Carlstadt, a former Augustinian, he bluntly says
that he had never seen a Bible until he was promoted to the dignity of
Doctor. Of course, neither assertion can be taken literally.

When the day drew nigh for him to celebrate his first Mass as newly
ordained priest, he invited not only his father but several other
guests to be present at a ceremony which meant so much both to him and
to his friends. Thus, in a letter of invitation to Johann Braun, Vicar
in Eisenach, who had shown him much kindness and help during his early
years in that town, he says that: “God had chosen him, an unworthy
sinner, for the unspeakable dignity of His service at the altar,”
and begged his fatherly friend to come, and by his prayers to assist
him “so that his sacrifice might be pleasing in the sight of God.”
He also expressed to him his great indebtedness to Schalbe’s College
at Eisenach, which he would also have gladly seen represented at the
ceremony. This is the first letter of Luther’s which has been preserved
and with which the critical edition of his “Correspondence,” now being
published, commences.[28] The first Mass took place on Cantate Sunday,
May 2, 1507. Luther relates later, with regard to his state of mind
during the sacred ceremony, that he could hardly contain himself for
excitement and fear. The words “_Te igitur clementissime Pater_,” at
the commencement of the Canon of the Mass, and “_Offero tibi Deo meo
vivo et vero_,” at the oblation, brought so vividly to his mind the
Awful, Eternal Majesty, that he was hardly able to go on (“_totus
stupebam et cohorrescebam_”); he would have rushed down from the altar
had he not been held back; the fear of making some mistake in the
ceremonies and so committing a mortal sin, so he says, quite bewildered
him.[29] Yet he must have known, with regard to the ceremonies, that
any unintentional infringement of them was no sin, and least of all
a mortal sin, although he attributes the contrary opinion to the
“Papists” after his apostasy.

His father Hans assisted at the celebration. His presence in the
church and in the refectory was the first sign of his acquiescence
in his son’s vocation. But when the latter, during dinner, praised
the religious calling and the monastic life as something high and
great,[30] and went on to recall the vow he had made at the time of
the thunderstorm, asserting that he had been called by “terrors from
Heaven” (“_de cœlo terrores_”), this was too much for his level-headed
father, who, to the astonishment of the guests, sharply interposed with
the words: “Oh, that it may not have been a delusion and a diabolical
vision.” He could not overcome his dislike for his son’s resolve. “I
sit here and eat and drink,” he cried, “and would much rather be far
away.” Luther retorted he had better be content, and that “to be a monk
was a peaceful and heavenly life.”[31] The statement with regard to the
elder Luther agrees with the character of the man and with the severity
which he had displayed long before to Martin.

Here an assertion must be mentioned made by George Wicel, a
well-informed contemporary; once a Lutheran, he was, from 1533-8,
Catholic priest at Eisleben. Two or three times he repeats in print,
that Hans Luther had once slain a man in a fit of anger at his home
at Möhra. Luther and his friends never denied this public statement.
In recent years attempts have been made to support the same by local
tradition, and the fact of the father changing his abode from Möhra
to Mansfeld has thus been accounted for.[32] According to Karl
Seidemann, an expert on Luther (1859), the testimony of Wicel may be
taken as settling definitively the constantly recurring dispute on the

The following facts which have been handed down throw some light on the
inward state of the young man at this time and shortly after.

At a procession of the Blessed Sacrament he had to accompany Staupitz,
the Vicar, as his deacon. Such was the terror which suddenly seized him
that he almost fled. On speaking afterwards of this to his superior,
who was also his friend, he received the following instructive
reply: “This fear is not from Christ; Christ does not affright, He

One day that Luther was present at High Mass in the monks’ choir, he
had a fit during the Gospel, which, as it happened, told the story of
the man possessed. He fell to the ground and in his paroxysms behaved
like one mad. At the same time he cried out, as his brother monks
affirmed: “It is not I, it is not I,” meaning that he was not the man
possessed.[35] It might seem to have been an epileptic fit, but there
is no other instance of Luther having such attacks, though he did
suffer from ordinary fits of fainting. Strange to say, some of his
companions in the monastery had an idea that he had dealings with the
devil, while others, mainly on account of the above-mentioned attack,
actually declared him an epileptic. We learn both these facts from
his opponent and contemporary, Johann Cochlæus, who was on good terms
with Luther’s former associates. He asserts positively that a “certain
singularity of manner” had been remarked upon by his fellows in the
monastery.[36] Later on his brother monk, Johann Nathin, went so far
as to assert that “an apostate spirit had mastered him,” i.e. that he
stood under the influence of the devil.[37]

Melanchthon was afterwards to hear from Luther’s own lips something of
the dark states of terror from which he had suffered since his youth.
When he speaks of them at the commencement of his biographical eulogy
on his late friend[38] he connects Luther’s strange excitement in the
days before his entrance into religion with a certain event in his
later history at a time when he was engaged in public controversy.
“As he himself related, and as many are aware,” says Melanchthon,
“when considering attentively examples of God’s anger, or any notable
accounts of His punishments, such terror possessed him (‘_tanti
terrores concutiebant_’) as almost to cause him to give up the ghost.”
He describes how, as a full-grown man, when such fears overcame him,
he would actually writhe on his bed. He suffered from these terrors
(_terrores_) either for the first time, or most severely, in the year
in which he lost his friend by death in an accident, i.e. before
his admission to the monastery. “It was not poverty,” Melanchthon
continues, “but his love of piety which led him to choose the
religious life, and, while pursuing his theological and scholastic
studies, he drank with glowing fervour from the springs of heavenly
doctrine, namely, the writings of the prophets and apostles (i.e. the
Old and New Testament) in order to instruct his spirit in the Divine
Will and to nourish fear and love with strong testimony. Overwhelmed
with these pains and terrors (‘_dolores et pavores_’), he plunged only
the more zealously into the study of the Bible.”

According to Melanchthon’s account, the same old Augustinian who once
had directed Luther’s attention in an attack of faint-heartedness to
the Christian’s duty of recalling the article of the forgiveness of
sins, also quoted him a saying of St. Bernard: “Only believe that thy
sins are forgiven thee through Christ. That is the testimony which the
Holy Ghost gives in thy heart: ‘Thy sins are forgiven.’ Such is the
teaching of the apostle, that man is justified by faith.”[39]

Such words of Catholic faith and joyful trust in God might well have
sufficed to reassure an obedient and humble spirit. Luther began to
read more and more the mystic writings of the saint of Clairvaux, but
as to how far they served to bring him peace of conscience no one can
now say; certain it is that, at a later date, he placed a foreign
interpretation upon the above-mentioned text and upon many other
similar sayings of St. Bernard, which, taken in a Catholic sense, might
have been of comfort to him, in order to render them favourable to
the methods by which he proposed to make his new teaching a source of
consolation. He accustomed himself more and more to follow “his own
way,” as he calls it, in mind and sentiment. Though in later times he
speaks often and at length of his spiritual trials in the monastery, we
never hear of his humbling himself before God with childlike, trustful
prayer in order to find a way out of his difficulties.

If we consider the temptations of which he speaks, we might be tempted
to think that he, with his promising disposition and proneness to
extremes, had been singled out in a quite special manner by the
tempter. During the term of novitiate, writes Luther when more
advanced in years, the evil spirit of darkness, so he has learned,
does not usually assail so bitterly the monk who is striving after
perfection. Satan generally tempts him but slightly, and, more
especially as regards temptations of the flesh, the novice is left in
comparative peace, “indeed, nothing appears to him more agreeable than
chastity.”[40] But, after that time, so he tells us, he himself had to
bewail not only fears and doubts, but also numberless temptations which
“his age brought along with it.”[41] He felt himself at the same time
troubled with doubts as to his vocation and by “violent movements of
hatred, envy, quarrelsomeness and pride.”[42]

“I was unable to rid myself of the weight; horrible and terrifying
thoughts (‘_horrendæ et terrificæ cogitationes_’), stormed in upon
me.”[43] Temptations to despair of his salvation and to blaspheme God
tormented him more especially.

He had often wondered, he says on one occasion to his father Hans,
whether he was the only man whom the devil thus attacked and
persecuted,[44] and later he comforted one who was in great anxiety
with the words: “When beset with the greatest temptations I could
scarcely retain my bodily powers, hardly keep my breath, and no one was
able to comfort me. All those to whom I complained answered ‘I know
nothing about it,’ so that I used to sigh ‘Is it I alone who am plagued
with the spirit of sorrow!’”[45]

He thinks that he learned the nature of these temptations from the
Psalms, and that he had by experience made close acquaintance with the
verse of the Bible: “Every night I will wash my bed: I will water my
couch with my tears” (Ps. vi. 7). Satan with his temptations was the
murderer of mankind; but, notwithstanding, one must not despair. Luther
here speaks of visions granted him, and of angels who after ten years
brought him consolation in his solitude; these statements we shall
examine later.

Elsewhere he again recounts how Staupitz encouraged him and the manner
in which he interpreted his advice reveals a singular self-esteem.
Staupitz had pointed out to him the interior trials endured by holy
men, who had been purified by temptation, and, after having been
humbled, had risen to be powerful instruments in God’s hand. Perhaps,
said Staupitz, God has great designs also for you, for the greater
good of His Church. This well-meant encouragement remained vividly
impressed upon Luther’s memory, not least because it seemed to predict
a great future for him. “And so it has actually come to pass,” he
himself says later, “I have become a great doctor though in the time
of my temptations I could never have believed it.”[46] Speaking later
of a reference made by Staupitz to the temptations which humbled
St. Paul, he says: “I accepted the words which St. Paul uses: ‘A
sting of my flesh was given me lest the greatness of the revelation
should exalt me’ (2 Cor. xii. 7), wherefore I receive it as the word
and voice of the Holy Spirit.” Such reflections as these, to which
Luther gave himself up, certainly did not tend to help him to rid
himself completely of the temptations, and to vanquish his melancholy
thoughts of predestination. As a result of following “his own way” and
cultivating his morbid fears, he never succeeded in shaking himself
free from the thought of predestination. This will appear quite clearly
in his recently published Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,
written in 1515-16. In fact, the whole of the theology which he set up
against that of the Catholic Church was in some sense dominated by his
ideas on predestination.

We must, however, pay him this tribute, that during the whole of his
stay in the Erfurt monastery he strove to live as a true monk and to
keep the Rule. Such was the testimony borne by an old brother monk, as
Flacius Illyricus relates, who had lived with him at Erfurt and who
always remained true to the Church.

Though such may well have been the case, we cannot all the same accept
as reliable the accounts, exaggerated and distorted as they clearly
are, which, long after his falling away, he gives of his extraordinary
holiness when in the monastery. He there attributes to himself, from
controversial motives, a piety far above the ordinary, and speaks of
the tremendous labours and penances which he imposed upon himself in
his blindness. Led away by his imagination and by party animus, he
exalts his one-time “holiness by works,” as he terms it, to be the
better able to assure his hearers—ostensibly from his own experience
and from the bitter disappointment he says he underwent—that all
works of the Papists, even those of the most pious, holy and mortified,
were absolutely worthless for procuring true peace for the soul
thirsting after salvation, and that the Catholic Church was quite
unable by her teaching to reconcile a soul with God. History merely
tells us that he was an observant monk who kept the Rule, and, for that
reason, enjoyed the confidence of his superiors.[47]

Relying upon his ability and his achievements, Staupitz, the Vicar,
summoned him in the autumn of 1508, to Wittenberg, in order that he
might there continue his studies and at the same time commence his work
as a teacher on a humble scale.

As Master of Philosophy Luther gave lectures on the Ethics of Aristotle
and probably also on Dialectics, though, as he himself says, he would
have preferred to mount the chair of Theology, for which he already
esteemed himself fitted, and which, with its higher tasks, attracted
him much more than philosophy. In March, 1509, he was already the
recipient of a theological degree and entered the Faculty as a
“Baccalaureus Biblicus.” This authorised him to deliver lectures on the
Holy Scriptures at the University.

In the same year, however, probably in the late autumn, Luther’s
career at Wittenberg was interrupted for a time by his being sent back
to Erfurt. With regard to the reasons for this nothing is known with
certainty, but a movement which was going forward in the Congregation
may have been the cause. In the question of the stricter observance
which had recently been raised among the Augustinians, and which will
be treated of below, Luther had not sided with the Wittenberg monastery
but with his older friends at Erfurt. He was opposed to certain
administrative regulations promoted by Staupitz, which, in the opinion
of many, threatened the future discipline of the Order. At any rate, he
had to return to Erfurt just as he was about to become “Sententiarius,”
i.e. to be promoted to the office of lecturing on the “Magister
Sententiarium.” For these lectures, too, he had already qualified
himself. His second stay at Erfurt and the part—so important for the
understanding of his later life—which he played in the disputes of the
Order, are new data in his history which have as yet received little

He was made very welcome by his brothers at Erfurt, at once took up his
work as “Sententiarius” and, for about a year and a half, held forth on
that celebrated textbook of theology, the Book of Sentences.

He was also employed in important business for the monastery and
accompanied Dr. Nathin on a mission in connection with the question of
the statutes of the Congregation and the above-mentioned dispute. Both
went to Halle to Adolf of Anhalt, Provost of Magdeburg Cathedral, for
the purpose of defending the “observance in the vicariate.” The monk
made an excellent impression on the Provost of the Cathedral.[48] The
esteem which Luther enjoyed while he was at Erfurt exposes the futility
of those old fables, once widely circulated and generally believed,
that whilst there he had entered into a liaison with a girl and had
declared that he intended to go as far as he could until the times
permitted of his marrying in due form.[49]

Of Luther’s lectures at that time some traces are to be found in a book
in the Ratsschul-Library at Zwickau, these being the oldest specimens
of his handwriting which we possess. They were made public in 1893
in volume ix. of the “Kritische Gesamtausgabe” of Luther’s works now
appearing, and consist of detailed marginal notes to the Sentences of
the Lombard of which the book in question is a printed copy.[50] The
notes consist chiefly of subtle dialectic explanations or corrections
of Peter Lombard and are quite in the theological style of the day.
The vanity and audacity of the language used is frequently surprising;
for instance, when the young master takes upon himself to speak of the
“buffoonery” of contemporary theologians and philosophers, or of an
ostensibly “almost heretical opinion” which he discovers in Venerable
Duns Scotus; still more is this the case when he expresses his dislike
of the traditional scholastic speculation and logic, alluding to the
“rancid rules of the logicians,” to “those grubs, the philosophers,” to
the “dregs of philosophy” and to that “putrid philosopher Aristotle.”

It is worthy of note in connection with his mental growth that, on
the very cover of the book, he, most independently, declares war on
the “Sophists,” though we do not mean to imply that such a war was
not justifiable from many points of view. As a torch, however, for
the illuminating of theological truth he is not unwilling to use
philosophy. Very strong, nay emphatic, is his appeal to the Word of
God on a trivial and purely speculative question relating to the inner
life of the Trinity. He says: “Though many highly esteemed teachers
assert this, yet the fact remains that on their side they have not Holy
Scripture, but merely human reasons: but I say that on my side I have
the Written Word that the soul is the image of God, and therefore I say
with the Apostle ‘Though an angel from Heaven, i.e. a Doctor of the
Church, preach to you otherwise, let him be anathema.’”

In these glosses we may, however, seek in vain for any trace, even
the faintest, of Luther’s future teaching. The young theologian still
maintains the Church’s standpoint, particularly with regard to the
doctrines which he was afterwards to call into question.

He still speaks correctly of “faith which works through charity and by
which we are justified.” Equally blameless are his statements regarding
concupiscence in fallen man and the exercise of free will in the choice
of good under the influence of Divine Grace. Once, it is true, he
casually speaks of Christ as “our righteousness and sanctification,”
but, in spite of the weight which has been laid on this expression,
it is in no wise remarkable, and merely voices the Catholic view of
St. Augustine, or better still, of St. Paul. To Romans i. 16 f., to
which he was later to attach so much importance in his new system, he
refers once, interpreting it correctly and agreeably with the _Glossa
ordinaria_; clearly enough it had not yet begun to interest him and his
harmless words afford no proof of the statement which has been made,
that already at the time he wrote “the birth-hour of the reformation
had rung.”

That Luther also studied at that time some of the writings of St.
Augustine we see from three old volumes of the works of this Father in
the Zwickau Library, which contain notes made in Luther’s handwriting
on the _De Trinitate_, on the _De Civitate Dei_, and other similar
writings. These notes, made about the same time, are correct in their
doctrine. According to Melanchthon, already at Erfurt he had begun a
“very thorough study” of the African Father of the Church.

In the latter notes, which were also published in the Weimar edition
of Luther’s works,[51] he once flies into a violent fit of indignation
with the celebrated Wimpfeling, who was mixed up in a literary dispute
with the Augustinian Order. He calls the worthy man “a garrulous barker
and an envious critic of the fame of the Augustinians, who had lost
his reason through obstinacy and hate, and who requires a cut of the
knife to open his mole’s eyes”; he, “with his brazen front, should be
ashamed of himself.”[52] Glibness of tongue, combined with intelligence
and fancy, and, in addition to unusual talents, great perseverance in
study, these were the qualities which many admired in the new teacher.
Whoever had to dispute with so sharp and fiery an opponent, was sure to
get the worst of the encounter. The fame of the new teacher soon spread
throughout the Augustinian province, but his originality and want of
restraint naturally raised him up some enemies.

Alongside of his readiness in controversy which some admired, many
remarked in him quarrelsomeness and disputatiousness. He never learnt
how to live “at peace” with his brothers,[53] as some of the old monks
afterwards told the Humanist Cochlæus. His Catholic pupil Johann
Oldecop, says of his leaving Erfurt for Wittenberg, that the separation
was not altogether displeasing to the Augustinians of Erfurt, because
Luther was always desirous of coming off victor in differences of
opinion, and liked to stir up strife.[54] Hieronymus Dungersheim, a
subsequent Catholic opponent who watched him very narrowly, writes
that he “had always been a quarrelsome man in his ways and habits,”
and that he had acquired that reputation even before ever he came to
the monastery.[55] Dungersheim questioned those who had known him as a
secular student at Erfurt. The above statements come, it is true, from
the camp of his adversaries, but they are not only uncontradicted by
any further testimony, but entirely agree with other data regarding his

Luther, in his own account of himself which he gave later, tells us
that he was then and during the first part of his career as a monk,
so full of zeal for the truth handed down by the Church that he would
have given over to death any denier of the same, and have been ready
to carry the wood for burning him at the stake. He also says in his
queer, exaggerated fashion, that in those days he worshipped the Pope.
At the same time he announces that his study of the Bible at Erfurt
had already shown him many errors in the Papist Church, but that he
had sought to soothe his conscience with the question: “Art thou the
only wise man?” though by so doing he had retarded his understanding
of the Holy Scriptures.[56] He also asserts later that his father’s
words spoken at the banquet which followed his first Mass, viz. that
his religious vocation was probably a delusion, had pierced ever deeper
into his mind and appeared to him more and more true. Yet he likewise
tells us elsewhere of his persevering zeal in his profession, and of
his excessive fastings and disciplines.

It is hard to find the real clue in this tangle of later statements,
all of them influenced by polemical considerations.

He says quite seriously, and this may very well be true, that what
he was wont to hear at times outside the monastery from unbelieving
“grammarians,” i.e. humanists, regarding the great difference between
the teaching of Holy Scripture and that of the existing Church, made
a deep impression on him.[57] He had, however, calmed himself, so he
says, with the thought that this was other people’s business. In the
monastic library he once came across some sermons of John Hus. Their
contents appeared to him excellent, nevertheless, so he writes, from
aversion for the author’s name, he laid aside the book without reading
any further, though not without surprise that such a man should have
written in many ways so well and so correctly. Johann Grefenstein, his
master at Erfurt, had once let fall the remark in his presence that
Hus had been put to death without any previous attempt being made to
instruct or convert him.

At that time, Hus failed to make any impression on him. Doubts,
however, assaulted him in the shape of temptations. Those he repulsed,
well aware of the danger. In June, 1521, writing at the Wartburg,
he says that more than ten years before, much that was taught by
Popes, Councils and Universities had appeared to him absurd and in
contradiction with Christ, but that he had put a bridle on his thoughts
in accordance with the Proverb of Solomon: “Lean not upon thy own
prudence.”[58] Certain it is that his clear mind must early have
perceived that the Church of that day fell far short of the ideal, and
it is possible that even in those early years, such a perception may
have awakened in him doubts and discontent and have led him to take a
too gloomy view of the state of the Church.

In any case, Luther’s own testimony as given above leads us to
suspect the presence in his mind at an early date of a deep-seated
dissatisfaction which foreboded ill to the monk’s future fidelity to
the Church.[59]

A strong moral foundation would have been necessary to save a mind
so singularly constituted from wavering, and if we may believe the
statement of his contemporary, Hieronymus Dungersheim of Leipzig, this
was just what Luther had always lacked. Dungersheim, in a pamphlet
against Luther the heretic, harks back to the years he spent at
Erfurt as a secular student and accuses him of evil habits, probably
contracted then, but the after effects of which made themselves felt
when he had entered into religion and caused him to rebel against his
profession. If Luther, so he says, was now persuaded that no religious
could keep the vow of chastity, in his case the inability could only be
due to a certain “former bad habit,” of which stories were told, and
to his neglect of prayer.[60] In another writing the same opponent
accuses him openly of having indulged in the grossest vice during his
academic years, and mentions as his informant one of the comrades who
had, later on, accompanied Luther to the gates of the monastery.[61] He
says nothing, perhaps, indeed, he knew nothing more definite, and with
regard to Luther’s life in religion, he is unable to adduce anything to
his discredit.

But yet another of Luther’s later adversaries has strong words for
our hero’s early life. His testimony, which has not so far been
dealt with, must be treated of here because such charges, if well
founded, doubtless contribute much to the psychological explanation
of the processes going forward in Luther. This testimony is given by
Hieronymus Emser of Dresden, who, it is true, was himself by no means
spotless, and who, on that account, was roundly reprimanded by the man
he had attacked. In his rejoinder to Luther, a pamphlet published in
1520, and the only one preserved, he says: “Was it necessary on account
of my letter that you should hold up to public execration my former
deviations which are indeed, for the most part, mere inventions? What
do you think has come to my ears concerning your own criminal deeds
(‘_flagitia_’)?” He will be silent about them, he says, because he does
not wish to return evil for evil, but he continues: “That you also
fell, I must attribute to the same cause which brought about my own
fall, namely, the want of public discipline in our days, so that young
men live as they please without fear of punishment and do just what
they like.”[62] We must remember that at Erfurt Emser and Luther had
stood in the relation of teacher and disciple. His words, like those of
Dungersheim written from Leipzig, voice the opinion on Luther later on
current in the hostile University circles of Erfurt.

When Luther in his later years speaks of the “sins of his youth,” this,
in his grotesquely anti-catholic vocabulary, means the good works of
his monastic life, even the celebration of Holy Mass. Once, however,
at the end of his tract on the Last Supper (1528),[63] speaking of the
sins of his youth, he seems to distinguish between the Catholic works
above referred to and other faults of which he accuses himself in the
same general terms.

In the young Augustinian’s Erfurt days he was prevented by the Rule
from cultivating any intimate and distracting friendship with persons
in the world. We only know that he, and likewise his brother monk
Johann Lang, had some friendly intercourse with the Humanist Petreius
(Peter Eberbach), who not long after, in a letter dated May 8, 1512,
greets Lang—then already with Luther at Wittenberg—in these words:
“_Sancte Lange et Sancte Martine orate pro me_.” Mutianus, the Gotha
canon and chief of the Humanists, who was very unorthodox in his views,
in a letter to Lang of the beginning of May, 1515, seems to remember
Luther, for he sends greetings to the “pious Dr. Martin.”

His intercourse with the Humanists led Luther to make use of philology
in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. He thus entered upon a
useful, we may even say indispensable, course, in which he might have
done great service. At Erfurt he continued constantly to study his copy
of the Bible, which had become an inseparable companion. “As no one in
the monastery read the Bible” (at any rate not with his zeal) he was
able to flatter himself with being first in the house in the matter of
biblical knowledge; indeed in this field he was probably the greatest
expert in the whole Congregation.

In addition to this, he began to turn his busy mind to the study of
Hebrew, and contrived to provide himself with a dictionary, which at
that time was considered a treasure. Lang, with his humanistic culture,
was able to assist him with the Greek.

Meanwhile the dispute in the Order with regard to the observance had
reached a point when it seemed right to the party to which Luther
belonged to seek the intervention of Rome in their favour, or to
anticipate an appeal on the part of their opponents. The choice of
seven houses “of the observance” resulted in Luther being chosen as the
delegate to represent them in Rome. So little opposed to the Church
was Luther’s theology and Bible interpretation in his Erfurt days, and
so considerable was the number of brethren, even in other Observantine
houses who held him to be a faithful monk, that they deemed him
best suited for so difficult a mission. What Cochlæus, according to
information drawn from Augustinian sources, relates later sounds,
however, quite reasonable, viz. that he was selected on account of his
“cleverness and his forceful spirit of contradiction,” which promised a
complete victory over the other faction.[64]

Luther’s journey to Rome, according to Oldecop, was undertaken from

3. The Journey to Rome

The Saxon, or more correctly German, Congregation of Augustinians,
at the time of Luther’s journey to Rome, had reached a crisis in its

Founded on the old Order of Hermits of St. Augustine, by the pious
and zealous Andreas Proles (1503), and provided by him with excellent
statutes intended to promote a reform of discipline, the Congregation
had, since its foundation, been withdrawn from the control of the
Provincial of the unreformed Augustinian Province of Saxony in order
the better to preserve its stricter observance.[65] It stood directly
under the General of the Order at Rome, whose German representative
was a Vicar-General—in Luther’s time, Staupitz. He was simply styled
Vicar, or sometimes Provincial. The monasteries under him numbered
about thirty, and were distributed throughout several so-called
districts, each headed by a Rural Vicar.

Staupitz’s aim was to bring about a reunion of the German Congregation
with the numerous non-observant monasteries in Germany, an amalgamation
which would probably have led indirectly to his becoming the head
of all these communities. He had already, September 30, 1510, after
sounding the Pope, published a papal Bull approving such a union, and,
by virtue of the same, begun to style himself Provincial of Thuringia
and Saxony. His efforts were, however, met by decided opposition
within the Congregation. Certain houses which were in favour of the
old state of things and feared that union would lead to a relaxation
of discipline, vehemently opposed Staupitz and his plans. To this
party belonged also the Erfurt monastery, and Luther himself took an
active part in the position assumed by his house. The object of his
visit to Halle with Dr. Nathin to see Prince Adolf of Anhalt, the
Cathedral Provost, had been to obtain a “petition” in favour of the
“observance.” The opposition became acute when the Bull above referred
to was published by Staupitz, and we may consider the protest of the
seven Observantine monasteries against the Bull as the direct cause of
Luther’s despatch to Rome.

The monk, then seven-and-twenty years of age, with his written
authority to act as procurator in the case (“_litis procurator_” is
what Cochlæus, who was well informed on these matters, styles him),
set out forthwith on his journey. It was in the autumn 1510,[66] and
Luther was then lecturing on the third book of the Sentences. His
absence lasted four or five months, i.e. until the spring 1511, when we
again find him at Erfurt. Luther, and those who felt with him, found
no difficulty in reconciling their efforts for the preservation of the
observance against the will of Staupitz, with due submission to him as
their Superior.

Another monk of the Order accompanied Luther to the capital of
Christendom as the Rule enjoined in the case of journeys. The joy
at such an opportunity of seeing the Eternal City, of quenching his
ardent thirst for knowledge by the acquisition of new experiences and
of gaining the graces attached to so holy a pilgrimage, may well have
hurried his steps during the wearisome journey, which in those days had
to be undertaken on foot. He had even, according to a later statement,
made the resolution to cleanse his conscience—so frequently tortured
by fears—by a general confession, indeed he once says that this was
his main object, passing over the real reason.

With regard to the effect of the journey on the question concerning
the Order, according to Cochlæus a certain compromise was reached, the
details of which are, however, not told us. At any rate Staupitz was
unable to carry out his plan and eventually gave it up. The dispute
between “Observants” and “non-Observants” thus started, as we may
gather from statements made by Luther to which we refer later, far from
being at an end became more and more acute. It appears to have done
untold harm to the Congregation and to have largely contributed to its

What effect had the visit to Italy and Rome upon the development of the
young monk?

Thousands have been cheered in spirit by the visit to the tombs of the
Apostles; prayer at the holy places of Rome, the immediate proximity
of the Vicar of Christ and of the world-embracing government of the
Church made them feel what they had never felt before, the pulse-beat
of the heart of Christendom, and they returned full of enthusiasm,
strengthened and inspirited, and with the desire of working for souls
in accordance with the mind of the Church.

With Luther this was not the case.

He was much less impressed by the Rome of the Saints than by the
corruption then rampant in ecclesiastical circles.

On first perceiving Rome from the heights of Monte Mario, he devoutly
greeted the city, as all pilgrims were wont to do, overjoyed at
having reached the goal of their long pilgrimage.[67] After that, he
untiringly occupied himself, so far as his chief business permitted,
in seeing all that Rome had to show. He assures us that he believed
everything that was told him of the real or legendary reminiscences
of the holy places both above and under ground. He does not, however,
appear to have been very careful in his choice of guides and
acquaintances, for the anecdotes concerning the condition of things at
Rome which he brought back with him to his own country were, if not
untrue, at least exceedingly spiteful. The Augustinians whom he there
met had not the spirit of the reform inaugurated by Proles. Their
southern freedom and lack of restraint found all too strong an echo
in Luther’s character. The general confession he had projected was
probably never made,[68] for, as he asserts later, he had not found
among the clergy a single suitable, worthy man. During his distracting
stay in the Eternal City he said Mass, so he tells us, perhaps once,
perhaps ten times, i.e. occasionally, not regularly.[69] He was
greatly scandalised at much he heard and saw, partly owing to his
looking at things with the critical eye of a northerner, partly owing
to the really existing moral disorders.

The Rome of that day was the Rome of Julius II, the then Pope, and
of his predecessor Alexander VI; it was the Rome of the Popes of the
height of the Renaissance, glorified by art, but inwardly deeply
debased. The capital of Christendom, under the influence of the
frivolity which had seized the occupants of the Papal throne and
invaded the ranks of the higher clergy, had proved false to her dignity
and forgetful of the fact that the eyes of the Faithful who visited
Rome from every quarter of the globe were jealously fixed upon her in
their anxiety lest the godless spirit of the world should poison the
very heart of the Church.

Instead of being edified by the good which he undoubtedly encountered
and by the great ideal of the Church which no shadow can ever darken,
Luther, with his critically disposed mind, proved all too receptive to
the contrary impressions and allowed himself to be unduly influenced by
the dark side of things, i.e. the corruption of morals. Subsequently,
in his public controversies and private Table-Talk, he tells quite
a number of disreputable tales,[70] which, whether based on fact or
not, were all too favourable to his anti-Roman tendencies. He was in
the habit of saying, in his usual tone, that whoever looked about him
a little in Rome, would find abominations compared to which those of
Sodom were mere child’s play. He declares that he heard from the mouth
of Papal courtiers the statement: “It cannot go on much longer, it must
break up.” In the company in which he mixed he heard these words let
fall: “If there be a Hell, then Rome is built over it.” He says that
he had heard it said of one, who expressed his grief at such a state
of things, that he was a “_buon cristiano_” which meant much the same
as a good-natured simpleton. In his proneness to accept evil tales
he believed, at least so he asserts later, the statement made in his
presence, that many priests were in the habit of repeating jokes at
Mass in place of the words of consecration. He relates that he even
questioned whether the bishops and priests at Rome, the prelates of the
Curia, aye, the Pope himself, had any Christian belief left. It is not
worth while to go into the details of the scandals he records, because,
as Hausrath justly remarks, “it is questionable how much weight is due
to statements which, in part, date from the later years of his life,
when he had so completely altered.”[71]

In his accounts the share which he himself actually took in the pious
pilgrim-exercises of the time is kept very much in the background.

He came to the so-called Scala Santa at the Lateran, and saw the
Faithful, from motives of penance, ascending the holy steps on their
knees. He turned away from this touching popular veneration of the
sufferings of the Redeemer, and preferred not to follow the example
of the other pilgrims. An account given by his son Paul in 1582
says that he then quoted the Bible verse: “The just man liveth by
faith.” If it be a fact that he made use of these words which were to
assume so great importance and to be so sadly misinterpreted in his
subsequent theology, it was certainly not in their later sense. In
reality we have here in all probability an instance of a later opinion
being gratuitously anticipated, for Luther himself declares that he
discovered his gospel only after he had taken his Doctor’s degree, and
this we shall show abundantly further on. Older Protestant writers
have frequently represented the scene at the steps of the Lateran
in unhistorical colours owing to their desire to furnish a graphic
historical beginning of the change in Luther’s mind. Mylius of Jena was
one of the first to do this.[72] Mylius, in 1595, quite falsely asserts
that Luther had already commented on the Epistle to the Romans previous
to his journey to Rome, and adds that he had already then noted the
later interpretation of the Bible text in question. It is true that
his son Paul, where he speaks of Luther’s exclamation as having been
communicated to him by his father, expressly states that “he had
_then_, through the spirit of Jesus, come to the knowledge of the
truth of the holy gospel.” But Köstlin’s Biography of Luther rightly
denies this, and describes it as an “exaggeration”[73]—“error” would
have been better—for the assumption to which Luther’s friends still
cling with such affection, namely, that from the very commencement of
his journey to Rome he had been “haunted by the Bible text concerning
justification by faith,” at a time “when he still was striving to
serve God by his own works,” must be struck out of history as a mere

At Rome Luther’s conviction of the authority of the Holy See was in
no wise shaken, in spite of what some people have thought. All the
scandals had not been able to achieve this. As late as 1516 he was
still preaching in entire accordance with the traditional doctrine
of the Church on the power of the Papacy, and it is worth while to
quote his words in order to show the Catholic thoughts which engaged
him while wandering through the streets of Rome. “If Christ had not
entrusted all power to one man, the Church would not have been perfect
because there would have been no order and each one would have been
able to say he was led by the Holy Spirit. This is what the heretics
did, each one setting up his own principle. In this way as many
Churches arose as there were heads. Christ therefore wills, in order
that all may be assembled in one unity, that His Power be exercised
by one man to whom also He commits it. He has, however, made this
Power so strong that He looses all the powers of Hell (without injury)
against it. He says: ‘The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it,’
as though He said: ‘They will fight against it but never overcome it,’
so that in this way it is made manifest that this power is in reality
from God and not from man. Wherefore whoever breaks away from this
unity and order of the Power, let him not boast of great enlightenment
and wonderful works, as our Picards and other heretics do, ‘for much
better is obedience than the victims of fools who know not what evil
they do’ (Eccles. iv. 17).”[75] That, when in Rome, he was still full
of reverence for the Pope, Luther shows in his Table-Talk, though his
language on this occasion can only be described as filthy.[76]

His ideas with regard to the Church’s means of Grace, the Mass,
Indulgences and Prayer had not, at the time of his return to Germany,
undergone any theoretical change, though it is highly probable that his
practical observance of the Church’s law suffered considerably. The
fact is, his character was not yet sufficiently formed when he started
on his journey; he was, as Oldecop says, “a wild young fellow.”[77]

Luther later on relates it as a joke, that, when at Rome, he had been
so zealous in gaining Indulgences that he had wished his parents
were already dead so that he might apply to their souls the great
Indulgences obtainable there.[78] Of the Masses which he celebrated
in the Holy City he assures us—again more by way of a joke than as
an exact statement of fact—that he said them so piously and slowly
that three, or even six, Italian priests or monks had finished all
their Masses in succession before he had come to the end of one. He
even declares that in Rome Mass is said so rapidly that ten, one after
another, occupied only one hour, and that he himself had been urged
on with the cry: “Hurry up, Brother, hurry up.” Whoever is familiar
with the older Luther’s manner of speech, will be on his guard against
taking such jests seriously or as proof of scrupulosity; he is, in
reality, merely laying stress on the blatant contrast between his own
habit and the precipitation of the Italians.

In 1519, i.e. not yet ten years after Luther’s visit, his pupil Oldecop
came to Rome and set to work to make diligent enquiries concerning the
stay there of his already famous master, with whose teaching, however,
he did not agree. As he says in his “Chronik,” published not long
since, he learned that Luther had taken lessons in Hebrew from a Jew
called Jakob, who gave himself out to be a physician. He sought out the
Jew, probably a German, and heard from him that “Martinus had begged
the Pope to be allowed to study in Italy for ten years in secular
dress,” but that, owing to the absence of any authorisation from his
Superiors, his request had been refused, and Martinus, instead of being
privileged to dress as a secular priest, had been obliged to retain
his “cowl,” i.e. the habit of his Order. Oldecop then betook himself
to the official who, as he learnt, had drafted the monk’s petition,
and who fully confirmed the Jew’s statement. There is no reason for
doubting these new tales,[79] notwithstanding the fact that in some
of the other statements made by Oldecop, especially those in which he
had no personal concern, some unintentional errors occur. According to
the character given him by his editor Carl Euling, he was “an educated
and honourable man, with good judgment.”[80] Notice deserves to be
taken of a minor detail of the incident which confirms the truth of
this account, namely, that the official, affrighted at the mention of
Luther’s name, was at first unwilling to speak, and then begged that
the fact of his having had dealings with him should not be betrayed.
The man, who is here portrayed to the life, after he became more
loquacious, also expressed the opinion that had Luther been allowed
to take off the cowl he would never have put it on again; a view, of
course, merely based on the later course of events. Luther’s desire
for learning was so great, and his impulsive character so marked, that
it is quite possible that he cherished such a project. Nor was there
anything so very singular in the plan, for about that time other monks
had been secularised at their own request. In a Brief dated January
26, 1517, Erasmus, who was an Augustinian canon, received permission
to wear the dress of a secular priest, a fact to which Luther, on
occasion, makes allusion. As such a privilege, even though restricted
as to duration, would without doubt have appealed to the freedom of
thought which at that time Luther was beginning to cultivate, the
fact that it was refused owing to the lack of authorisation by his
German Superiors assuredly cannot have sweetened his recollection of
the Roman Curia; its only effect was probably to wound his vanity. He
himself never speaks of this petition; he had no cause to do so, and
indeed it ill agreed with the legend which, with advancing years, he
began to weave about his life in the monastery. On the other hand, we
have probably a distorted version of the incident in an assertion,
circulated later by his opponents, viz. that during his stay at Rome he
had sought secularisation in order to be able to marry.[81]

Regarding the morals of the Italians and not the Romans only, he makes
many unfavourable and even unfair statements in his later reminiscences
of his wanderings through their country. The only things which found
favour in his eyes were, in fact, their charity and benevolence as
displayed in some of the hospitals, particularly in Florence, the
sobriety of the people and, at Rome, the careful carrying out of
ecclesiastical business. An evil breath of moral laxity was passing
over the whole country, more especially, however, over the rich and
opulent towns and the higher classes, infected as they were with
the indifferentism of the Humanists. Those travelling alone found
themselves exposed in the inns to the worst moral dangers. We must
also call to mind that, in those very years the Neapolitan, or French
disease, as syphilis was then called, infested a wide area of this
otherwise delightful country, having been introduced by the troops
who came to southern Italy. The places where strangers from other
lands were obliged to spend the night on their travels were hotbeds of
infection for both body and soul.

Luther returned to Germany towards the month of February, 1511, though
he was no longer the same man as when he set out. He said, after his
apostasy: “I, like a fool, carried onions to Italy and brought garlic
(i.e. worse stuff) back with me.” As a controversialist he declared
that he would not take 100,000 gulden to have missed seeing Rome, as
otherwise he would feel that he was doing the Papacy an injustice; he
only wished that everyone who was about to become a priest would visit

A notable result of his stay in Italy was, that Luther, after his
return to the monastery, immediately changed his standpoint regarding
the “observance.” Sent to Rome for the defence of the “observance,” he
now unexpectedly veered round and became its opponent. “He deserted
to Staupitz” as Cochlæus puts it, evidently using the very words of
the Observantines, and soon Luther was seen passionately assailing
the Observantines, whose spokesman he had been shortly before. In all
likelihood his changed view stood in some connection with a change in
his domicile. No sooner had he returned to the Observantine monastery
of Erfurt, than he left it for Wittenberg, where he was to take his
degree of Doctor of Divinity and then ascend the professorial chair.
Doubtless under Staupitz’s influence the fulfilment of those great
hopes which he had formerly cherished now arose on the horizon of his
mind. To continue to withstand Staupitz in the matter of the observance
could but prove a hindrance to his advance, especially as the
Wittenberg community was for the most part opposed to the observance.
Nothing further is, however, known with regard to this strange change
of front. It was of the greatest importance for his future development,
as will appear in the sequel; the history of his warfare against the
Observantines, to which as yet little attention has been paid, may also
be considered as a new and determining factor in his mental career.

4. The Little World of Wittenberg and the Great World in Church and

Since the spring 1511, Luther had been qualifying, by diligent study in
his cell in the great Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg, to take his
degree of Doctor in Divinity in the University of that city.

In his later statements he says that he had small hopes of success
in his new career on account of his weak health; that he had in vain
opposed Staupitz’s invitation to take his doctorate, and that he had
been compelled by obedience to comply with his Superior’s orders. After
passing brilliantly the requisite tests, the University bestowed upon
him the theological degree on October 1, 1512. Luther at once commenced
his lectures on Holy Scripture, the subject of this, his first course,
being the Psalms (1513-16). His audience consisted mainly of young
Augustinians, to whom a correct understanding of the Psalms was a
practical need for their services in choir.

He displayed already in these early lectures, no less than in those of
the later period, the whole force of his fancy and eloquence, his great
ability in the choice of quotations from the Bible, his extraordinary
subjectivity, and, however out of place in such a quarter, the
vehemence of his passion; in our own day the sustained rhetorical tone
of his lectures would scarcely appeal to the hearer.

The fiery and stimulating teacher was in his true element at
Wittenberg. The animation that pervaded students and teachers, the
distinction which he enjoyed amongst his friends, his unlimited
influence over the numerous young men gathered there, more especially
over the students of his own Order, no less than the favour of the
Elector of Saxony for the University, the Order, and, subsequently,
for his own person, all this, in spite of his alleged unwillingness
to embrace the profession, made his stay at Wittenberg, and his work
there, very agreeable to him. He himself admits that his Superiors had
done well in placing him there. Wittenberg became in the sequel the
citadel of his teaching. There he remained until the evening of his
days as Professor of Holy Scripture, and quitted the town only when
forced by urgent reasons to do so.

As with all men of great gifts, who make a deep impression on their
day, but are, all the same, children of their time, so was it with
Luther. In his case, however, the influence from without was all the
deeper because his lively and receptive temperament lent itself to a
stronger external stimulus, and also because the position of so young
a man in a professorial chair in the very heart of Germany did much to
foster such influences.

Martin Pollich of Mellerstadt, formerly Professor at Leipzig, a
physician, a jurist and a man of humanistic tendencies who had helped
Staupitz to organise the new University, enjoyed a great reputation in
the Wittenberg schools. Alongside him were the theologians Amsdorf,
Carlstadt, Link, Lang and Staupitz. Nicholas von Amsdorf, who was
subsequently said to be “more Luther than Luther himself,” had been
since 1511 licentiate of theology, and had at the same time filled,
as a secular priest, the office of Canon at the Castle Church. Andreas
Bodenstein von Carlstadt, usually known as Carlstadt, occupied a
position amongst the Augustinians engaged in teaching. He had taken
his degree at Wittenberg in 1510, and was at the outset a zealous
representative of Scholasticism, though he speedily attached himself
to Luther’s new teaching. He was the first to proclaim the solubility
of religious vows. Wenceslaus Link worked at the University from
1509 to about 1516, eventually succeeding Staupitz as Augustinian
Vicar-General, and, later, by his marriage in 1523, gave the last
Augustinians of the unfortunate Congregation the signal for forsaking
the Order. Another Augustinian, Johann Lang, who had been Luther’s
friend since the days of his first studies at Erfurt, had come to
Wittenberg about 1512 as teacher at the “Studium” of the Order, though
he soon left it to return to Erfurt. Johann Staupitz, the Superior of
the Congregation, resigned in 1512 his Professorship of Holy Scripture
at Wittenberg, being unable to attend to it sufficiently owing to his
frequent absence, and made over the post to Luther, whom, as he says in
his eulogistic speech to the Elector of Saxony, he had been at pains to
form into a “very special Doctor of Holy Scripture.”

The teaching in the University at that time was, of course, from the
religious standpoint, Catholic. Its scholarship was, however, infected
with the humanistic views of the Italian naturalism, and this new
school had already stamped some of the professors with its freethinking

The influence of Humanism on Luther’s development must be admitted,
though it is frequently overrated, the subsequent open alliance of the
German Humanists with the new gospel being set back, without due cause,
to Luther’s early days. As a student he had plunged into the study of
the ancient classics which he loved, but there was a great difference
between this and the being in complete intellectual communion with
the later Humanists, whose aims were in many respects opposed to the
Church’s. Thanks to the practical turn of his mind, the study of the
classics, which he occasionally continued later, never engaged his
attention or fascinated him to the extent it did certain Humanists
of the Renaissance, who saw in the revival of classic Paganism the
salvation of mankind. As a young professor at the University he was
not, however, able to escape entirely the influence of the liberalism
of the age, with its one-sided and ill-considered opposition to so many
of the older elements of culture, an opposition which might easily
prove as detrimental as a blind and biassed defence of the older order.

It is not necessary to demonstrate here how dangerous a spirit of
change and libertinism was being imported in the books of the Italian
Humanists, or by the German students who had attended their lectures.

With regard to Luther personally, we know that he not only had some
connection with Mutian, the leader of a movement which at that time was
still chiefly literary, but also that Johann Lang at once forwarded to
Mutian a lecture against the morals of the “little Saints” of his Order
delivered by Luther at Gotha in 1515.[83] Luther also excused himself
in a very respectful letter to this leader of the Humanists for not
having called on him when passing through Gotha in 1516.[84] Luther’s
most intimate friend, Lang, through whom he seems to have entered
into a certain exchange of ideas with Humanism, was an enthusiastic
Humanist and possessed of great literary connections. Lang, for his
part, speaks highly to Mutian of the assistance rendered him in his
studies by Luther.[85] There can therefore be no doubt that Luther was
no stranger to the efforts of the Humanists, to their bold and incisive
criticism of the traditional methods, to their new idealism and their
spirit of independence. Many of the ideas which filled the air in those
days had doubtless an attraction for and exerted an influence on the
open-hearted, receptive disposition of the talented monk.

Luther’s friendship with Spalatin, which dated from his Erfurt days,
must also be taken into account in this regard. For Spalatin, who came
as tutor and preacher in 1508 to the Court of the Elector of Saxony,
was very closely allied in spirit with the Humanists of Erfurt and
Gotha. It was he who asked Luther for his opinion respecting the famous
dispute of the Cologne Faculty with the Humanist Reuchlin, a quarrel
which engaged the sympathy of scholars and men of education throughout
the length and breadth of Germany. Luther, in his reply, which dates
from January or February, 1514, had at that time no hesitation in
emphatically taking the side of Reuchlin, who, he declared, possessed
his love and esteem. God, he says, would carry on His work in spite of
the determined opposition of one thousand times one thousand Cologne
burghers, and he adds meaningly that there were much more important
matters with the Church which needed reform; they were “straining at
gnats and swallowing camels.”[86] The conservative attitude of the
authorities at Cologne was at that time not at all to his taste. Not
long after Luther writes very strongly to Spalatin, again in favour
of Reuchlin, against Ortwin de Graes of Cologne, and says among other
things that he had hitherto thought the latter an ass, but that he must
now call him a dog, a wolf and a crocodile, in spite of his wanting
to play the lion,[87] expressions which are quite characteristic of
Luther’s style.

On the appearance of the “Letters of Obscure Men,” and a similar
satirical writing which followed them, and which also found its way
into Luther’s hands, the young Wittenberg professor, instead of taking
the field against the evil tendency of these attacks of the Humanist
party on the “bigots of Scholasticism and the cloister” as such
diatribes deserved, and as he in his character of monk and theologian
should have done, sought to take a middle course: he approved of the
purpose of the attacks, but not of the satire itself, which mended
nothing and contained too much invective. Both productions, he says,
must have come out of the same pot; they had as their author, if not
the same, at least a very similar comedian. It is now known that the
real author of the letters which caused such an uproar was his former
University friend, Crotus Rubeanus.[88]

On what terms did Luther stand with respect to Erasmus, the leader
of the Humanists, before their great and final estrangement? As he
speaks of Erasmus in a letter of 1517 to Lang as “our Erasmus,” we may
infer that until then he was, to a certain extent, favourably disposed
towards him. He rejoiced on reading his humanistic writings to find
that “he belaboured the monks and clergy so manfully and so learnedly
and had torn the veil off their out-of-date rubbish.”[89] Yet, on the
same occasion, he confesses that his liking for Erasmus is becoming
weaker. It was not the attitude of Erasmus to the Church in general
which even then separated Luther from him, but his new teaching on
Grace, the origin of which will be treated of later. It is true Luther
conveyed to him through Spalatin his good wishes for his renown and
progress, but in the same message he admonished him not to follow the
example of nearly every commentator in interpreting certain passages
where Paul condemns “righteousness by works” as referring only to
the Mosaic ceremonial law, and not rather to all the works of the
Decalogue. If such are performed “outside the Faith in Christ,” then
though they should make of a man a Fabricius, a Regulus, or a paragon
of perfection, yet they have as little in common with righteousness
as blackberries have with figs”; it is not the works which justify a
man, but rather our righteousness which sanctifies the works. Abel was
more pleasing to God than his works.[90] The exclusive sense in which
Luther interprets these words, according to which he does not even
admit that works of righteousness are of any value for the increase of
righteousness, is a consequence of his new standpoint, to which he is
anxious to convert Erasmus and all the Humanists.

He had the Humanists in his mind when he wrote as follows to Johann
Lang: “The times are perilous, and a man may be a great Greek, or
Hebrew [scholar] without being a wise Christian.... He who makes
concessions to human freewill judges differently from him who knows
nothing save Grace alone.”[91] But this is to forestall a development
of his error, which will be described later. At the time that his new
doctrine originated he was far more in sympathy with the theories
of certain groups of late mediæval mystics than with the views of
the Humanists, because, as will appear later, he found in them the
expression of that annihilation of the human by means of Grace, of
which the idea was floating before his mind, and because he also
discovered in them an “inwardness” which agreed with his own feelings
at that time.

From Erasmus and his compeers he undoubtedly borrowed, in addition
to a spirit of justifiable criticism, an exaggerated sentiment of
independence towards ecclesiastical antiquity. The contact with their
humanistic views assuredly strengthened in him the modern tendency to
individualism. Not long after a change in the nature of his friendship
necessarily took place. His antagonism to Erasmus in the matter of his
doctrine of Grace led to a bitter dispute between the two, to which
Luther’s contribution was his work on “The Servitude of the Will” (_De
servo arbitrio_); at the same time his alliance with the Humanists
remained of value to him in the subversive movement which he had

Mighty indeed were the forces, heralds of a spiritual upheaval, which,
since the fifteenth century, had streamed through the Western world in
closer or more distant connection with the great revival of the study
of classical antiquity. They proclaimed the advent of a new cycle in
the history of mankind. This excited world could not fail to impart its
impulse to the youthful Luther.

The recently discovered art of printing had, as it were at one blow,
created a world-wide community of intellectual productions and literary
ideas such as the Middle Ages had never dreamed of. The nations were
drawn closer together at that period by the interchange of the most
varied and far-reaching discoveries. The spirit of worldly enterprise
awoke as from a long slumber as a result of the astonishing discovery
of great and wealthy countries overseas.

With the greater facilities for intellectual intercourse and the
increase of means of study, criticism set to work on all branches of
learning with greater results than ever before. The greater States
now did what they had been willing but unable to do before; they freed
themselves more and more from the former tutelage of the Church; they
aimed at securing freedom and shaking off that priestly influence to
which, in part at least, they owed their stability and their growth;
nor was this movement confined to the greater States, for, in Germany,
at any rate, the wealthy cities, the great landed proprietors and
princes were all alike intent on ridding themselves of the oppression
under which they had hitherto laboured and on securing for themselves
an increase of power. In brief, everywhere the old restraints were
breaking down, everywhere a forward movement of individualism was in
progress at the expense of the commonweal and the traditional order
of the Middle Ages; but, above all, at the expense of the Church’s
religious authority, which, alone till then, had kept individualism in
check to the profit of humanity.

It would indeed have been well had at least the Catholic Church at that
critical period been free from weakness and abuse. Her Divine power
of blessing the nations, it is true, still survived, her preaching
of the truth, her treasure of the Sacraments, in short, her soul,
was unchanged; but, because she was suffering from many lamentable
imperfections, the disruptive forces were able to come into play with
fatal results. The complaints of eloquent men full of zeal for souls,
both at that time and during the preceding decades, particularly in
Germany, over the decline of religious life among the Faithful and the
corruption in the clergy, were only too well founded, and deserved to
have met with a much more effectual reception than they did. What the
monk of Wittenberg, with unbridled passion and glaring exaggeration,
was about to thunder forth over the world in his mighty call for
reform, had already for the most part been urged by others, yea, by
great Saints of the Church who attacked the abuses with the high-minded
zeal of ripe experience. Strict, earnest and experienced men had set to
work on a Catholic reform in many parts of the Church, not excepting
Germany, in the only profitable way, viz. not by doctrinal innovation,
but by raising the standard of morality among both people and clergy.
But progress was slow, very slow, for reasons which cannot be dealt
with here. The life-work of the pious founder of his own Congregation
might well have served Luther as an admirable example of moral
regeneration and efficiency; for the aim of Andreas Proles was, as a
Protestant writer remarks: “A strong and mighty Reformation”; he lived
in hopes that God would shortly raise up a hero capable of bringing it
about with strength and determination, though the Reformation he had in
his mind, as our historian allows, could only have been a Reformation
in the Catholic sense.[92] Another attractive example of reforming zeal
was also given under Luther’s very eyes by the Windesheim Congregation
of the Brethren of the Common Life, with whom he had been in friendly
intercourse from his boyish days.

The disorders in Germany had an all too powerful stronghold in
the higher ranks of ecclesiastical authority. Not until after the
Council of Trent did it become apparent how much the breaking down
of this bulwark of corruption would cost. The bishops were for the
most part incapable or worldly. Abbots, provosts, wealthy canons
and dignitaries vied with and even excelled the episcopate in their
neglect of the duties of their clerical state. In the filling of
Church offices worldly influence was paramount, and in its wake
followed forced nominations, selfishness, incompetence and a general
retrograde movement; the moral disorders among the clergy and the
people accumulated under lazy and incompetent superiors. The system of
indulgences, pilgrimages, sodalities and numerous practices connected
with the veneration of the Saints, as well as many other details of
worship, showed lamentable excesses.

Of the above-mentioned evils within the German Church, two will be
examined more closely: the interference of the Government and the
worldly-minded nobility in Church matters, and the evil ways of the
higher and lower grades of the clergy.

Not merely were the clerical dues frequently seized by the princes
and lesser authorities, but positions in the Cathedral chapters
and episcopal sees were, in many cases, handed over arbitrarily to
members of the nobility or ruling houses, so that in many places the
most important posts were held by men without a vocation and utterly
unworthy of the office. “When the ecclesiastical storm broke out at
the end of the second decade of the sixteenth century the following
archbishoprics and bishoprics were filled by the sons of princes:
Bremen, Freising, Halberstadt, Hildesheim, Magdeburg, Mayence,
Merseburg, Metz, Minden, Münster, Naumburg, Osnabrück, Paderborn,
Passau, Ratisbon, Spires, Verden and Verdun.”[93] The bishops drawn
from the princely houses were, as a rule, involved in worldly business
or in Court intrigues, even where, as was the case, for instance, with
the powerful Archbishop of Mayence, Albrecht of Brandenburg, their
early education had not been entirely anti-ecclesiastical.

Another evil was the uniting of several important bishoprics in the
hands of one individual. “The Archbishop of Bremen was at the same time
Bishop of Verden, the Bishop of Osnabrück also Bishop of Paderborn,
the Archbishop of Mayence also Archbishop of Magdeburg and Bishop of
Halberstadt. George, Palsgrave of the Rhine and Duke of Bavaria, had
already in his thirteenth year been made Cathedral Provost of Mayence
and afterwards became a Canon of Cologne and Treves, Provost of St.
Donatian’s at Bruges, patron of the livings of Hochheim and Lorch on
the Rhine and finally, in 1513, Bishop of Spires. By special privilege
of Pope Leo X, granted June 22, 1513, he, an otherwise earnest and
pious man, was permitted to hold all these benefices in addition to
his bishopric of Spires.”[94] A contemporary, reviewing the condition
of the worldly-minded bishops, complains “that the higher clergy are
chiefly to blame for the careless way in which the cure of souls is
exercised. They place unsuitable shepherds over the people, while they
themselves draw the tithes. Many seek to unite in their grasp the
greatest possible number of livings without fulfilling the duties they
entail and waste the revenues of the Church in luxury, on servants,
pages, dogs and horses. One seeks to outvie the other in ostentation
and luxury.”[95] One of the most important explanations of the fact,
that, at the very outset of the religious innovation, the falling away
from the Church took place with such astonishing celerity, is to be
found in the corruption and apathy of the episcopate.[96]

Bertold Pirstinger, Bishop of Chiemsee and author of the lament
“_Onus ecclesiæ_,” wrote sadly in 1519: “Where does the choice fall
upon a good, capable and learned bishop, where on one who is not
inexperienced, sensual and ignorant of spiritual things?... I know
of some bishops who prefer to wear a sword and armour rather than
their clerical garb. It has come to this, that the episcopate is now
given up to worldly possessions, sordid cares, stormy wars, worldly
sovereignty.... The prescribed provincial and diocesan synods are
not held. Hence many Church matters which ought to be reformed are
neglected. Besides this, the bishops do not visit their parishes at
fixed times, and yet they exact from them heavy taxes. Thus the lives
of the clergy and laity have sunk to a low level and the churches are
unadorned and falling to pieces.” The zealous bishop closes his gloomy
description, in which perhaps he is too inclined to generalise, with a
touching prayer to God for a true reformation from within: “Therefore
grant that the Church may be reformed, which has been redeemed by
Thy Blood and is now, through our fault, near to destruction.”[97]
He considers, however, that a reform of the Church undertaken from
within and preserving her faith and institutions is what is needed. The
deterioration was in his eyes, and in those of the best men of the day,
undoubtedly very great, but not irreparable.

A glance at the work of many excellent men, such as Trithemius,
Wimpfeling, Geiler of Kaysersberg and others, may serve as a warning
against an excessive generalisation with regard to the deterioration
in the ranks of the higher and lower clergy. Weaknesses, disorders and
morbid growths are far more apparent to the eyes of contemporaries than
goodness, which usually fails to attract attention. Even Johann Nider,
the Dominican, who, as a rule, is unsparing in lashing the weaknesses
of the clergy of his day, is compelled to speak a word of warning:
“Take heed never to pass a universal judgment when speaking only of
many, otherwise you will never, or hardly ever, escape passing an
unjust one.”[98]

That there was, however, the most pressing need of a reform in the
lives of both higher and lower clergy is proved by a glance at the
state of the priesthood. The position of the lower clergy, in
comparison with that of their betters “who rolled in riches and
luxury,” was one not in keeping with the dignity of their state.
“Apart from the often very precarious tithes and stole-fees they
had no stipend, so that their poverty, and sometimes also their
avarice, obliged them to turn to other means of livelihood, which ...
necessarily exposed them to the contempt of the people. There can be
no doubt that ‘a very large portion of the lower clergy had fallen
so far from the ideal of their calling, that one may speak of the
priestly proletariat of that day, using the word in both its ordinary
and its literal sense.’ This clerical proletariat was ready to join any
movement which promised to promote its own low aims.”[99]

The number of clergy, largely owing to the excessive multiplication
of small foundations without any cure of souls, had increased to such
an extent that among so many there must necessarily have been a very
large number who had no real vocation, while their lack of employment
must have spelt a real danger to their morals. Attached to two churches
at Breslau at the end of the fifteenth century were 236 clerics, all
of them mere Mass-priests, i.e. ordained simply to say Mass in the
chantry chapels founded with very small endowments. Besides the daily
celebration, these Mass-priests had as their only obligation the
recital of the Breviary. In the Cathedral at Meissen there were, in
1480, besides 14 canons, 14 Mass-priests and 60 curates. In Strasburg
the Cathedral foundation comprised 36 canonries, that of St. Thomas 20,
Old St. Peter’s 17, New St. Peter’s 15 and All Saints’ 12. In addition
to these were also numerous deputies who were prepared to officiate
at High Mass in place of the actual beneficiaries. Of such deputies
there were no fewer than 63 attached to the Cathedral, where there
were also 38 chaplaincies. In Cologne Johann Agricola gives the number
of “priests and monks” (though he adds “so it is said”) as 5000; on
another occasion he estimates the number of monks and nuns only, at
5000. What is certain is that the “German Rome” on the Rhine numbered
at that time 11 collegiate foundations, 19 parish churches, over 100
chapels, 22 monasteries, 12 hospitals and 76 religious houses.[100]

The above-mentioned Bishop of Chiemsee attributes the corruption of
the priesthood principally to the misuse by clergy and laity of their
right of patronage both in nominations and by arbitrary interference.
Geiler of Kaysersberg is of the same opinion; he attributes to the
laity, more particularly to the patrons among the nobility, the sad
condition of the parishes. Uneducated, bad, immoral men were now
presented, he says, not the good and virtuous.[101] Cardinal Nicholas
of Cusa, who did so much service to Germany, had declared quite openly
the cause of the deformation of the clerical system to be the admission
to Holy Orders of unworthy candidates, the concubinage of the clergy,
plurality of benefices, and simony. Towards the end of the fifteenth
century the complaints increased, more especially with regard to the
immorality of the clergy. “The numerous regulations of bishops and
synods leave no doubt about the fact that a large portion of the
German clergy transgressed the law of celibacy in the most flagrant
manner.”[102] A statement which was presented to the Dukes of Bavaria
in 1477 declared that in the opinion of many friends and advocates of
a healthy reform, an improvement in the morals of the clergy, where
the real cause of all the Church’s evils lay, must be taken in hand.
It is true there were districts where a blameless and praiseworthy
clergy worked, as, for example, the Rhine-Lands, Schleswig-Holstein
and the Algäu. On the other hand, in Saxony, Luther’s home, and in
Franconia and Bavaria great disorders were reported in this respect.
The “_De ruina ecclesiæ_,” an earlier work, attributed to Nicholas of
Clémanges, tells us of bishops in the commencement of the fifteenth
century who, in consideration of a money payment, permitted concubinage
to their clergy, and Hefele’s “History of the Councils” gives numerous
synodical decrees of that date forbidding the bishops to accept money
or presents in return for permitting or conniving at concubinage.[103]

Along with concubinage many of the higher clergy displayed a luxury and
a spirit of haughty pride which repelled the people, especially the
more independent burghers. Members of the less fortunate clergy gave
themselves up to striving after gain by pressing for their tithes and
fees and rents, a tendency which was encouraged both in high and low
by the excessive demands made by Rome. Worthless so-called courtisans,
i.e. clerks furnished with briefs from the Papal Court (_corte_),
seized upon the best benefices and gave an infectious example of greed,
while at the same time their action helped to add fuel to the prejudice
and hatred already existing for the Curia.[104]

Innumerable were the causes of friction in the domain of worldly
interests which gave rise to strife and enmity between laity and
clergy. Laymen saw with displeasure how the most influential and
laborious posts were filled, not by the beneficiaries themselves, but
by incapable representatives, while the actual incumbents resided
elsewhere in comfortable ease and leisure at the expense of the old
foundations endowed by the laity. On the other hand, the churches and
monasteries complained of the rights appropriated or misused by the
princes and nobility, an abuse which often led to the monasteries
serving as homes for worn-out officials, or to the vexatious seizure
and retention of the estates of deceased priests or abbots. It is clear
that such a self-seeking policy on the part of the powerful naturally
resulted in the most serious evils and abuses in Church matters, quite
apart from the bad feeling thus aroused between the clerical and lay
elements of the State.

The richer monasteries in particular had to submit to becoming the
preserves of the nobles, who made it their practice to provide in this
way for the younger scions of their family, and for that reason sought
to prevent members of the middle classes being admitted to profession.
The efforts to reform lax monasteries, which are often met with about
the close of the Middle Ages, were frequently stifled by these and
similar worldly influences.

In the disintegration of ecclesiastical order, the power and influence
of the rulers of the land with regard to Church matters was, as might
be expected, constantly on the increase.

Many German princes, influenced by the ideas with regard to the dignity
of the State which came into such vogue in the fifteenth century, and
dissatisfied with the concessions already made to them by the Church,
arrogated still further privileges, for example, the taxation of Church
lands, the restriction of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the so-called
Government Placet and an oppressive right of visiting and supervising
the parishes within their territories. There had thus grown up in
many districts a system of secular interference in Church matters
long before the religious apostasy of the sixteenth century resulted
in the total submission of the Church to the Protestant princes of
the land. The Catholic ruler recognised in principle the doctrines
and rights of the Church. What, however, was to happen if rulers,
equipped with such twofold authority, altered their attitude to the
Church on the outbreak of the schism? Their fidelity was in many cases
already put to a severe test by the disorders of the clergy, which
were doing harm to their country and which Rome made no attempt to
suppress. The ecclesiastico-political complaints of the princes (the
famous Gravamina) against Rome are proofs of their annoyance; for
these charges, as Dr. Eck pointed out, were for the most part well
founded; Eck’s opinion was shared by other authorities, such as Bertold
von Henneberg, Wimpfeling, Duke George of Saxony, and Aleander the
Papal Nuncio, who all express themselves in the same manner regarding
the financial grievances against Rome, which were felt in Germany
throughout all ranks and classes down to the meanest individual.[105]

“On account of these and other causes the irritation and opposition
to the Holy See had, on the eve of the great German schism, reached
boiling point; this vexation is explained, as the _’Gravamina nationis
Germanicæ_’ clearly prove, by the disorders of the Curia, and still
more by its unceasing demands.” “That the smouldering discontent
broke into open flame was the doing of those scoffers without faith
or conscience, such as the Humanists, who persisted in pouring on the
fire the oil of their sophistries.”[106] The Catholic historian from
whom these words are borrowed rightly draws attention to the “mistaken
policy” entered on by Luther’s followers when they attacked the
hierarchical order on account of the disorders rampant in the life and
administration of the Church. The success of their “mistaken policy”
was a “speaking proof of the coarseness, blindness and passion of the
German people at that time,” but in its practical results their policy
helped to bring about an ever-to-be-regretted alteration and to open
a yawning chasm which still exists to-day. “That the vexation was not
altogether without cause no honest historian can deny, whatever his
enthusiasm for the Catholic Church,” for “the action of Churchmen,
whether belonging to the hierarchy or to the regular or secular clergy,
cannot be misunderstood. Throughout the whole of Christendom, and
particularly in Germany, the general state of things was deplorable....
Even though the evils of the waning Middle Ages may have been, and
still continue to be, grossly exaggerated by Protestants, and though in
the fifteenth century we see many cheering examples and some partially
successful attempts at reform, yet there still remains enough foulness
to account psychologically for the falling away.”[107]

And yet the disorders in matters ecclesiastical in Germany would
not have entailed the sad consequences they did had they not been
accompanied by a great number of social evils, especially the intense
discontent of the lower classes with their position and a hostile
jealousy of the laity against the privileges and possessions of the
clergy. Savage outbreaks of rebellion against the old traditional order
of things were of frequent occurrence. In many localities the peasants
were in arms against their princes and masters for the improvement of
their conditions; the knights and the nobility, to say nothing of the
cities, gave themselves up to the spirit of aggrandisement referred
to above. It was just this spirit of unrest and discontent of which
the coming mighty movement of intellectual and religious reform was to
avail itself.

If we look more closely at Italy and Rome we find that in Italy,
which comprised within its limits the seat of the supreme authority
in the Church and of which the influence on civilisation everywhere
was so important, complete religious indifference had taken root among
many of the most highly cultured. The Renaissance, the famed classic
regeneration, had undergone a change for the worse, and, in the name of
education, was promoting the most questionable tendencies. After having
been welcomed and encouraged by the Papacy with over-great confidence
it disappointed both the Popes and the Church with its poisonous fruits.

At the time that the Holy See was lavishing princely gifts on art and
learning, the pernicious system of Church taxation so often complained
of by the nations was becoming more and more firmly established.
This taxation, which had started at the time of the residence of the
Popes at Avignon in consequence of the real state of need in which
the central government of the Church then stood, became more and more
an oppressive burden, especially in Germany. It was exploited by
Luther in one of his earliest controversial writings where, voicing
the popular discontent in that spiteful language of which he was a
master, he joined his protest to that of the German Estates of the
realm. Combining truth and fancy, the administration of the Papal
finances became in his hands a popular and terribly effective weapon.
It has frequently been pointed out how much the authority of the Holy
See suffered in the preceding age, not only on account of the Western
Schism when three rival claimants simultaneously strove for the tiara,
but also through the so-called reforming councils and their opposition
to the constitution of the Church, through the political mistakes of
the Popes since they established their headquarters in France, through
the struggle they waged to assert their power in Italy, that apple of
discord of rising nations, and also, in the case of the Avignon Popes,
through their lack, or, at any rate, suspected lack, of independence.
To this we must add the shocking behaviour of the Curial officials and
of several of the cardinals in the Eternal City, especially at the
turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, also the disgraceful
example of Alexander VI and the Borgia family, the bearing of his
successor Julius II, more befitting a soldier than an ecclesiastic,
and the very worldly spirit of Leo X and his Court. Ostentation and
the abuse of worldly possessions and Church revenues which Alvarez
Pelayo, the Spanish Franciscan, had already bewailed in his “_De
planctu ecclesiæ_” had risen to still greater heights at Rome. The
work of this severe critic, who, in spite of his fault-finding, was
nevertheless well disposed to the Curia, was in general circulation
just previous to Luther’s appearance on the field; it was several
times reprinted, for instance, at Ulm in 1474, and again at Lyons in
1517, with a dedication to the later Pope Hadrian VI. It is there we
find the indignant assertion, that those who bear the dignity of the
primacy are God’s worst persecutors.[108] In the work “_De squaloribus
Romanæ curiæ_” various well-founded complaints were adduced, together
with much that was incorrect and exaggerated. The book “_De ruina
ecclesiæ_” (see above, p. 50) contained accusations against the Popes
and the government of the Church couched in rude and violent language,
and these too gained new and stronger significance at the end of the
fifteenth and commencement of the sixteenth century. We actually read
therein that the number of the righteous in the Church is diminutive
compared with that of the wicked.[109]

There is no doubt that the state of things, so far as it was known from
the above-mentioned books, or from observation or rumour, was busily
and impatiently discussed in the company frequented by Luther at the
University of Wittenberg. What Luther had himself seen at Rome must
have still further contributed to increase the bitterness among his

When the Monk of Wittenberg openly commenced his attacks on the Papacy,
it became apparent how far the disorders just alluded to had prepared
the way for his plans. It was clear that all the currents adverse to
the Papacy were, so to speak, waiting for the coming of one man, who
should unchain them with his powerful hand. Amongst those who hitherto
had been faithful adherents of the Church, Luther found combustible
material—social, moral and political—heaped up so high that a
stunning result was not surprising. Had there arisen a saint like St.
Bernard, on whose words the world of the Middle Ages had hung, with the
Divine gift of teaching and writing as the times demanded, who can say
what course events would have taken? But Luther arrived on the scene
with his terrible, mighty voice, pressed all the elements of the storm
into his service, and, launching a defiance of which the world had
never before heard the like, succeeded in winning an immense success
for the standard he had raised.[110]

Luther from the very outset of his career was too liberal in his blame
of the customs and conditions in the Church which happened to meet with
his disapproval.

Scarcely had he finished his course of studies as a learner than
he already began to wax eloquent against various abuses. In his
characteristic love of exaggeration of language he did not fear to use
the sharpest epithets, nor to magnify the evil, whether in his academic
lectures or in the pulpit, or in his letters and writings. He wrote,
for instance, to Spalatin in 1516 to dissuade the Elector of Saxony,
Frederick the Wise, from promoting Staupitz to a bishopric: he who
becomes a bishop in these days falls into the most evil of company,
all the wickedness of Greece, Rome and Sodom were to be found in the
bishops; Spalatin should compare the carryings-on of the present
bishops with those of the bishops of Christian antiquity; now a pastor
of souls was considered quite exemplary if he merely pursued his
worldly business and built up for himself with his riches an insatiable

In his first lectures at Wittenberg he complains that “neither
monasteries nor colleges, nor Cathedral churches will in any sort
accept discipline.”[112] The clergy, he says, in another place,
generalising after the fashion common among preachers, should be the
eyes of the Church, but to-day they do not direct the body, i.e. the
Faithful, for they are blinded: they are the soul, but they do not
give life, but rather kill by their deadly example; about nothing do
they trouble less than about souls.[113] In similar language he, in
these lectures, represents the bishops and priests as simply “full of
the most abominable unchastity”; according to him, they bring to the
pulpit nothing but “their views and fables, nothing but masquerading
and buffoonery,” so that the Church can do nothing but cry aloud over
the misery in which it is sunk. “The strength of her youth has forsaken

One of the earliest portions of Luther’s correspondence which has been
preserved and which takes us back to his little world at Wittenberg,
throws a clearer light on his character at that time. It deals with an
unpleasant dispute with his brother monks at Erfurt, which he became
involved in owing to his having taken his doctorate at Wittenberg
instead of at Erfurt. The Erfurt monastery reproached him with a
serious infringement of the rules and disrespect for the Theological
Faculty there; he had, they said, entered the teaching Corporation
of Erfurt in virtue of the oath which he had taken in the customary
manner on his appointment as Sententiarius, and was therefore under
strict obligation to take his degree of Doctor in this Faculty and not
elsewhere. Other unknown charges were also made against him, but were
speedily withdrawn. It is highly probable that the tension between
Observantines and Conventuals increased the misunderstanding.

 Nathin, the Erfurt Augustinian, first wrote a rather tactless letter
 to Luther about it all, as it would appear in the name of the
 council of the monastery. Luther was extremely angry and allowed his
 excitement free play. He first expresses his surprise in two letters
 to the Prior and the council, and was about to despatch a third when
 he learnt that the accusations against him, with the exception of that
 regarding his doctorate, had been withdrawn. While Nathin’s letter and
 also the two passionate replies of the young Doctor have been lost,
 two other letters of the latter regarding the matter exist, and are
 professedly letters of excuse. The first is in reality nothing of the
 kind, but rather the opposite. In this letter, dated June 16, 1514,
 and addressed to the Prior and the council, Luther to begin with
 complains vehemently of the evil reports against his person which,
 according to his information, some of those he was addressing at
 Erfurt had circulated previously. Nathin’s letter had, however, been
 the last straw. “This letter,” he says, which was written in the name
 of all, angered him so much with its lies and its provoking, poisonous
 scorn, that “I had almost poured out the vials of my wrath and
 indignation on his head and the whole monastery, as Master Paltz did.”
 They had probably received the two “amazed replies”; as however the
 other charges had been withdrawn, he would hold the majority of those
 he was addressing as excused; they must now, on their part, forget
 any hurt they had felt at his previous replies; “Lay all that I have
 done,” these are his words, “to the account of the furious epistle
 of Master Nathin, for my anger was only too well justified. Now,
 however, I hear still worse things of this man, viz. that he accuses
 me everywhere of being a dishonourable perjurer on account of the
 oath to the Faculty which I am supposed to have taken and not kept.”
 He goes on to explain that he had been guilty of no such crime, for
 the Biblical lectures at the commencement of which he was supposed to
 have taken the oath, and at which, it is true, in accordance with the
 customs of the University, such an oath was generally taken, had not
 been begun by him at Erfurt; at his opening lecture on the Sentences
 in that town he had, so far as he remembers, taken no oath, nor could
 he recall having ever taken any oath in the Faculty at Erfurt. He
 closes with an expression of respect and gratitude to the Erfurt
 Faculty. Though he was the injured party, he was calm and contented
 and joyful, for he had deserved much worse of God: they too should
 lay their bitterness aside, “as God has clearly willed my departure
 (_excorporatio_) from Erfurt, and we must not withstand God.”[115]
 This letter and Luther’s previous steps cannot be regarded as giving
 proof of a harmoniously attuned disposition. He may have been in the
 right in the matter of the oath, a question of which it is difficult
 to judge. It was not, however, very surprising that the Erfurt monks
 took steps to force Luther to make more satisfactory amends to the
 Faculty than the strange letter of excuse given above. It is plain
 that under pressure of some higher authority invoked by them, a second
 letter, this time of more correct character, was despatched by the
 Wittenberg Doctor. In judging of this academic dispute, we must bear
 in mind the store that was set in those days on University traditions.

 The second letter in question, dated December 21, 1514, is addressed
 to the “excellent Fathers and Gentlemen, the Dean and other Doctors of
 the Theological Faculty of Studies at Erfurt” and in the very first
 words shows itself to be a humble apology and request for pardon.
 It contains further information regarding the affair. He begs them
 at least not to deem him guilty of a fault committed knowingly and
 out of malice; if he had done anything unseemly, at least it was
 unintentionally (“_extra dolum et conscientiam_”); he begs them to
 dispense and ratify, to supply what is wanting and to remit, if not
 the penalty, at least the fault.[116]

We learn nothing further about the dispute. The negotiations did not
lead to the renewal of the good relations with Erfurt, which had been
interrupted by his brusque departure. The people of Erfurt were amongst
the first to object to the new, so-called Augustinism and Paulinism of
the Wittenberg Professor.



1. Sources, Old and New

THE history of Luther’s inward development during his first years
at Wittenberg up to 1517, is, to a certain extent, rather obscure.
The study of deep psychological processes must always be reckoned
amongst the most complex of problems, and in our case the difficulty
is increased by the nature of Luther’s own statements with regard
to himself. These belong without exception to his later years, are
uncertain and contradictory in character, and in nearly every instance
represent views influenced by his controversies and such as he was
wont to advocate in his old age. Thanks to more recent discoveries,
however, we are now possessed of works written by Luther in his youth
which supply us with better information. By a proper use of these, we
are able to obtain a much clearer picture of his development than was
formerly possible.

Many false ideas which were once current have now been dispelled;
more especially there can no longer be any question of the customary
Protestant view, namely, that the Monk of Wittenberg was first led to
his new doctrine through some unusual inward religious experience by
which he attained the joyful assurance of salvation by faith alone,
and not by means of the good works of Popery and monasticism. This
so-called inner experience, which used to be placed in the forefront
of his change of opinions, as a “Divine Experience,” as shown below,
must disappear altogether from history.[117] Objection must equally
be taken to some of the views with which Catholics have been wont to
explain Luther’s apostasy. The path Luther followed, though subject to
numerous and varied influences, is now seen to be much less complicated
than was hitherto supposed.

Two results already brought to light by other authors are now
confirmed. First, the process of his falling away from the Church’s
teaching was already accomplished in Luther’s mind before he began
the dispute about Indulgences with Tetzel; secondly, a certain moral
change, the outlines of which are clearly marked, went hand in hand
with his theological views, indeed, if anything, preceded them;
the signs of such an ethical change are apparent in his growing
indifference to good works, and to the aims and rules of conventual
life, and in the quite extraordinary self-confidence he displayed, more
especially when disputes arose.

Characteristic of the ethical side of his nature are the remarks
and marginal annotations we have of his, which were published by
Buchwald in 1893; these notes were written by Luther in many of the
books he made use of in his early days as theological lecturer at
Erfurt (1509-10). These books are the oldest available sources for
a correct estimation of his intellectual activity. They were found
in the Ratsschul-Library at Zwickau. Of special interest is a volume
containing various writings of St. Augustine, and a copy of the
Sentences of Peter Lombard, which is of great importance on account
of the notes. The running commentary in Luther’s early handwriting
shows his great industry, enables us to see what especially impressed
him, and betrays also his marvellous belief in himself as well as his
stormy, unbridled temper.

Of Luther’s letters written previous to 1514 only five remain, and are
of comparatively little historical interest. Of the year 1515 there is
only one, of 1516 there are nineteen, of 1517 already twenty-one, and
they increase in importance as well as in number.

In 1513 he began, at Wittenberg University, his Commentary on the
Psalms, which has been known since 1876, and continued those lectures
up to 1515 or 1516. Following his lively and practical bent, he refers
therein to the most varied questions of theology and the religious
life, and occasionally even introduces contemporary matters, so that
these lectures afford many opportunities by which to judge of his
development and mode of thought. First the scholia, which till then
had been known only in part, were edited in a somewhat cumbersome
form by Seidemann, then a better edition by Kawerau, containing both
the scholia and the glosses, followed in 1885.[118] In dividing this
exegetical work into scholia and glosses, Luther was following the
traditional method of the Middle Ages. The glosses are very short, as
was customary; they were written by Luther between the lines of the
text itself or in the margin and explained the words and grammatical
construction; on the sense they touch only in the most meagre fashion.
On the other hand, the detailed scholia seek to unfold the meaning of
the verses and often expand into free digressions. In addition to the
glosses and the scholia on the Psalms, Kawerau’s edition also includes
the preparatory notes, written by Luther in a copy of the first edition
of the “_Psalterium quincuplex_” of Faber Stapulensis (Paris, 1509),
which, like the glosses and scholia, attest both the learning of their
author and the peculiar tendency of his mind. Luther used for his
text the Latin Vulgate, making a very sparing use of his rudimentary
Hebrew. The glosses and the scholia were, however, intended chiefly
for the professor himself; to the students who attended his biblical
lectures Luther was in the habit of giving a short dictation comprising
a summary of what he had prepared, and then, with the assistance of
his glosses and scholia, dilating more fully on the subject. Scholars’
notebooks containing such dictations given by Luther in early days
together with his fuller explanation are in existence, but have never
been printed.

After the Psalms, the lectures of our Wittenberg “Doctor of the
Bible” dealt with St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. This work—of
such supreme importance for the comprehension of Luther’s spiritual
development—with its glosses and scholia complete, was published
only in 1908 in Ficker’s edition.[119] The lectures on the Book of
Judges, edited in 1884 by Buchwald and then again by Kawerau as a work
of Luther supposed to have been delivered in 1516, are, according
to Denifle, not Luther’s at all; they are largely borrowed from St.
Augustine, and, at the very most, are a redaction by another hand of
the notes of one of Luther’s pupils.[120] Transcripts of Luther’s
lectures on the Epistle to Titus, and Epistle to the Hebrews, delivered
in 1516 and 1517 respectively, are still lying unedited in the Vatican
Library.[121] On the other hand, his lectures on the Epistle to the
Galatians (1516-17) were brought out by himself in 1519.

Further light may be shed on them by the publication of a hitherto
unedited student’s notebook, discovered at Cologne in 1877.

To the years 1514-20 belongs a rich mine of information in the sermons
preached by Luther in the monastery church of the Augustinians, or in
the parish church of the town. They consist of more or less detailed
notes, written in Latin, on the Gospels and Epistles of the Sundays
and Feast days; some are the merest sketches, but all, as we may
assume, were written down by himself for his own use, or to be handed
to others.[122] Chronologically, they are headed by three sermons for
Christmas time, probably dating from 1515. The exact dating of these
older sermons is sometimes rather difficult, and will have to be
undertaken in the future, the Weimar edition of Luther’s works having
made no attempt at this. The sermons were all of them printed in 1720,
with the exception of two printed only in 1886. A complete discourse
held at a synodal meeting at Leitzkau, near Zerbst, and printed in
1708, stands apart, and probably belongs to 1515, a year of the
greatest consequence in Luther’s development. To the same year belongs,
without a doubt, the lecture delivered at a chapter of the Order, which
may aptly be entitled: “Against the little Saints.” (See below, p. 69.)

The first of the works written and published by Luther himself was of
a homiletic nature; this was his Commentary on the Seven Penitential
Psalms, published in 1517. To the same year, or the next, belong his
expositions of the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments, consisting of
excerpts from his sermons sent by him to the press. The celebrated
ninety-five Theses, which led directly to the dispute on Indulgences,
followed next in point of time.

Just as the Theses referred to throw light upon his development,[123]
so also, and to an even greater extent, do the Disputations which
took place at academic festivals about that same period. In these
Disputations propositions drawn up either by himself or by his
colleagues, were defended by his pupils under his own direction. They
display his theological views as he was wont to vent them at home, and
are therefore all the more natural and reliable. Of such Disputations
we have that of Bartholomew Bernhardi in 1516 “On the Powers and
the Will of Man without Grace”; that of Francis Günther in 1517
“Concerning Grace and Nature,” also entitled “Against the Theology of
the Schoolmen,” and the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, with Leonard
Beyer as defendant of twenty-eight philosophical and twelve theological
theses. In the latter theses there are also various notes in Luther’s

Of Luther’s writings, dating from the strenuous year 1518, some of
which are in Latin and others in German and which throw some light on
his previous development, we may mention in their chronological order:
the sermon on “Indulgence and Grace,” the detailed “Resolutions” on the
Indulgence Theses, the discourse on Penance, the “Asterisci” against
Eck, the pamphlet “Freedom of the Sermon on Indulgence and Grace,”
an exposition of Psalm cx., the reply to Prierias, the sermon on the
power of excommunication, then the report of his trial at Augsburg and
the sermon on the “Threefold Righteousness.” To these we must add his
complete edition of “Theologia Deutsch,” an anonymous mystical pamphlet
of the fourteenth century a portion of which he had brought out in 1516
with a preface of his own.[124]

These are the sources which Luther himself has left behind him and from
which the inner history of his apostasy and of his new theology must
principally be taken. The further evidence derivable from his later
works, his sermons, letters and Table-Talk, will be dealt with in due

       *       *       *       *       *

Only at the end of 1518 was his new teaching practically complete.
At that time a new and final element had been added, the doctrine
of absolute individual certainty of salvation by “Fiducial Faith.”
This was regarded by Luther and his followers as the corner-stone of
evangelical Christianity now once again recovered. At the commencement
of 1519, we find it expressed in the new Commentary on the Epistle to
the Galatians (a new and enlarged edition of the earlier lectures), and
in the new Commentary on the Psalms, which was printed simultaneously.
Hence Luther’s whole process of development up to that time may be
divided into two stages by the doctrine of the assurance of salvation;
in the first, up to 1517, this essential element was still wanting:
the doctrine of the necessity of belief in personal justification and
future salvation does not appear, and for this reason Luther himself,
later on, speaks of this time as a period of unstable, and in part
despairing, search.[125] The second stage covers the years 1517-18, and
commences with the Resolutions and the Augsburg trial, where we find
the Professor gradually acquiring that absolute certainty of salvation
to which he finally attained through an illumination which he was wont
to regard as God’s own work.[126]

In the next section we deal merely with the first stage, which we shall
seek to elucidate from the psychological, theological and ethical

2. Luther’s Commentary on the Psalms (1513-15). Dispute with the
Observantines and the “Self-righteous”

Presages of the storm which Luther was about to raise were visible in
his first course of lectures on the Psalms given at Wittenberg. With
regard to several particularly important parts of his work on the
Psalms, it would be desirable to determine to what precise time during
the period 1513-15 they belong; but this is a matter of considerable
difficulty. The polemics they contain against the so-called “Saints by
works,” the “Self-righteous” and the Observantines, the last of which
must here be considered first, seem to belong to the earlier part of
the period. In particular his animus against the Observantines, traces
of which are plentiful, seems to have been of early growth. It also
deserves more attention than has hitherto been bestowed on it, on
account of its psychological and theological influence on Luther.[127]

Under the Observantines Luther in his Commentary on the Psalms
refers, openly or covertly, to the members of the German Augustinian
Congregation, i.e. to those who adhered to that party to which, since
his return from Rome, he had been opposed.

No sooner had Luther, as Cochlæus remarked (p. 38), “deserted to
Staupitz” and begun to defend his opinions, the aim of which was
to surrender the privileged position of the Congregation and the
stringency of the Rule, than his fiery temper led him to constitute
himself the champion of the monasteries with whose cause he had
allied himself, particularly that of Wittenberg; indeed, he was, if
not actually the first, one of the earliest to take up the cudgels on
their behalf. The mission to Rome with which he had previously been
entrusted lent him special authority, and his expert knowledge of the
case seemed to entitle him to a voice on the subject. To this was added
the importance of his position at the University, his reputation as
a talented and eloquent lecturer, and his power as a preacher. His
sociability drew many to him, especially among the young, and his
readiness of tongue marked him out as a real party man.

 In his lectures on the Psalms his fiery nature led him to attack
 sharply the Observantines, whom he frequently mentions by name; even
 in the lecture-room his aim was to prejudice the young Augustinians
 who were his audience against the defenders of the traditional
 constitution; instead of encouraging the rising generation of monks
 to strive after perfection on the tried and proved lines of their
 Congregation, he broke out into declamatory attacks against those
 monks who took their vocation seriously as they received it from their
 predecessors, and abused them as Pharisees and hypocrites; according
 to him, they were puffed up by their carnal mind because they esteemed
 “fasting and lengthy prayers.”

 There are Pharisees, he cries, even now who extol fasting and
 long-drawn prayer; “they make rules,” but “their zeal is directed
 against the Lord.” There are many in the Church who “dispute
 about ceremonies and are enthusiastic for the hollowness of
 exterior observances.” “I am acquainted with still more obstinate
 hypocrites.”[128] “It is to be feared that all Observantines, all
 exempted, and privileged religious, must be reckoned among those
 puffed up in their carnal mind. How harmful they are to the Church
 has not yet become clear, but the fact remains and will make itself
 apparent in time. If we ask why they insist upon isolation, they
 reply: On account of the protection of the cloistral discipline. But
 that is the light of an angel of Satan.”[129]

 The following attack on the Observantines in the lectures on the
 Psalms is on the same lines: There are plenty of “men proud of their
 holiness and observance, hypocrites and false brothers.”[130] “But
 the fate of a Divine condemnation” will fall upon “all the proud and
 stiff-necked, all the superstitious, rebellious, disobedient, also, as
 I fear, on our Observantines, who under a show of strict discipline
 are only loading themselves with insubordination and rebellion.”[131]

 The Observantines were plainly in his opinion demonstrating their
 unruliness by seeking to stand by the old foundation principles of
 the Congregation. He is angered by their exemption from the General
 and their isolation from the other German Augustinians, and still
 less does he like their severities; they ought to fall into line with
 the Conventuals and join them. We know nothing further of the matter
 nor anything of the rights of the case; it may be noted, however,
 that the after history of the party with which Luther sided and the
 eventual dissolution of the Congregation, appear rather to justify the

 On the occasion of a convention of the Order at Gotha in 1515—at
 which the Conventuals must have had a decided majority, seeing
 that Luther was chosen as Rural Vicar—he delivered, on May 1, the
 strange address on slander, which has been preserved. He represents
 this fault as prevalent amongst the opposite party and lashes in
 unmeasured terms those in the Order “who wish to appear holy,” “who
 see no fault in themselves,” but who unearth the hidden sins and
 faults of others, and hinder them in doing good and “in teaching.”
 Thus the estrangement had proceeded very far. Perhaps, even allowing
 for Luther’s exaggeration, the other side may have had its weaknesses,
 and been guilty of precipitancy and sins of the tongue, though it
 is unlikely that the faults were all on one side. It is noticeable,
 however, that Luther’s discourse is not directed against calumniators
 who invent and disseminate untruths against their opponents, but only
 against those who bring to light the real faults of their brethren.
 Scattered through the Latin text of the sermon are highly opprobrious
 epithets in German. The preacher, for their want of charity, calls
 his opponents “poisonous serpents, traitors, vagabonds, murderers,
 tyrants, devils, and all that is evil, desperate, incredulous,
 envious, and haters.” He speaks in detail of their devil’s filth and
 of the human excrement which they busy themselves in sorting, anxious
 to discover the faults of their adversaries.[132] The wealth of
 biblical passages quoted in this strange address cannot make up for
 the lack of clear ideas and of any discrimination and judgment as to
 the limits to be observed by a preacher in commenting on the faults
 of his time. Luther’s fondness for the use of filthy and repulsive
 figures of speech also makes a very disagreeable impression. It is
 true that there we must take into account the manners of the time, and
 his Saxon surroundings, but even Julius Köstlin, Luther’s biographer,
 was shocked at the indecency of the expressions which Luther uses.[133]

 The real reason of this discourse was probably that Luther wished to
 enter on his office as Rural Vicar by striking a deadly blow at the
 Observant faction and at their habit of crying down his own party. It
 was this address which his friend Lang, fully alive to its range, sent
 at once to Mutian, the frivolous leader of the Humanists at Gotha,
 describing it as a sermon “Against the little Saints.”

Returning to the Commentary on the Psalms, we find that therein Luther
sometimes makes characteristic statements about himself. On one
occasion, doubtless in a fit of depression, he pours out the following
effusion: “If Ezechiel says the eyes wax feeble, this prophecy is
largely fulfilled at the present time, as I perceive in myself and in
many others. They know very well all that must be believed, but their
faith and assent is so dull that they are oppressed as by sleep, are
heavy of heart, and unable to raise themselves up to God.” Such states
of lukewarmness were to be banished by means of fear, but woe to him
who permits the feeling of self-righteousness to take the place of the
weariness, for “there is no greater unrighteousness than excessive
righteousness.”[134] In the latter words he seems to be again alluding
to the “little Saints” and the ostensibly self-righteous members of his

His ill-humour is partly a result of his dissatisfaction with the
disorders which he knew or believed to exist in his immediate
surroundings, in the Order, and in ecclesiastical life generally.
He frequently speaks of them with indignation, though from the new
standpoint which he was gradually taking. “We live in a false peace,”
he cries, and fancy we can draw on the “Treasure of the merits of
Christ and the Saints.” “Popes and bishops are flinging about graces
and indulgences.”[135] Unmindful of the consequences, he diminished
the respect of his youthful hearers for the authority of the Church.
As to the religious life, he was wont to speak as follows: “Here come
men of religion and vaunt their confraternities and indulgences at
every street corner only to get money for food and clothing. Oh! those
begging friars! those begging friars! those begging friars! Perhaps
you are to be excused because you receive alms in God’s name, and
preach the word and perform the other services gratis. That may be,
but see you look to it.”[136] These words in the mouth of one who was
himself a member of a mendicant Order, for this the Augustinian Hermits
undoubtedly were, amounted to an attack on the constitution of his own

In his Commentary on the Psalms he frequently at one and the same time
rails at the “self-righteous” and “holy by works” and at the opposition
party in his Order, so that it is not easy to distinguish against whom
his attacks are directed. Already at this period he shows a certain
tendency to under-estimate the value of Christian good works and to
insist one-sidedly on the power and efficacy of faith and on the
application of the merits of Christ.

 Most emphatically, as opposed to trust in good works and merits, does
 he insist on the grace of Christ, the “_nuda et sola misericordia Dei
 et benignitas gratuita_” which must be our support and stay.[137]
 His exhortations against works and human efforts sound as though
 intended to dissuade from any such, whether inward or outward, as
 though the merits of Christ and the righteousness which God gives us
 might thereby suffer.[138] Man’s interior efforts towards repentance
 by means of the contemplation of the misery and the consequences of
 sin, do not appeal to him. He is well aware that repentance consists
 in sorrow for and hatred of sin,[139] but he says that he himself has
 no personal experience of this kind of compunction.[140] He complains
 that so many turn to exterior works, they “follow their own inventions
 and make rules of their own at their choice; their ceremonies and the
 works they have devised are everything to them”: but to act thus is
 to set up “a new standard of righteousness instead of cultivating the
 spiritual things which God prescribes, namely, the Word of God, Grace
 and Salvation. These persons are in so much the greater error because
 it is a fine spiritual by-path, they are obstinate and stiff-necked,
 full of hidden pride in spite of the wonderful humility of which they
 make a show.” At last, carried away by his anger with what is mostly a
 phantom of his own creation, he exclaims: “Yes, they are given up to
 spiritual idolatry, a sin against the Holy Ghost for which there is no

 With such-like harsh accusations of presumptuous zeal for good
 works he frequently attacks the “_capitosi et ostentiosi monachi et
 sacerdotes_.” Let us go for them, he cries, since they are proud of
 despising others.[142] Obedience and humility they have none, for
 they are seduced by the angel of darkness, who assumes the garb of an
 angel of light. They wish to do great works and they set themselves
 above the small and insignificant things demanded by obedience. These
 devotees in religious dress (“_religiosi devotarii_”) should beware
 of putting their trust in the pious exercises peculiar to them,
 while they remain lazy, languid, careless, and disobedient in the
 common life of the Order.[143] The last words “_si in iis quæ sunt
 conventualia et communia_” are, in the MS., pointed to by a hand
 drawn in the margin. The term “_conventualia_” seems reminiscent of
 the Conventuals, but not much further on, in the Commentary on the
 same Psalm (cxviii.), we find the word “observance.” The Psalmist,
 he says, implicitly condemns “those who are proud of their holiness,
 and observance, who destroy humility and obedience.”[144] He goes
 on to advocate something akin to Quietism, saying we should do, not
 our own works, but God’s works, i.e. “those which God works in us”:
 everything we do of ourselves belongs only to outward or carnal
 righteousness.[145] It is quite possible that he did not wish to deny
 the correct sense these words might convey, for, elsewhere in his
 controversies, he appears unaware of the exaggeration of his language.
 But the skirmish with the so-called self-righteous had a deeper
 explanation. Luther was so fascinated with the righteousness which God
 gives through faith, that man’s share in securing the same is already
 relegated too much to the background.

 Thus he explains the verse of Psalm cxlii. where the words occur “Give
 ear to my supplication in Thy truth and hear me in Thy righteousness”
 as follows: “Hear me by Thy mercy and truth, i.e. through the truth
 of Thy promises of mercy to the penitent and those who beseech
 Thee, not for my merits’ sake; hear me in Thy righteousness, not
 in my righteousness, but in that which Thou givest and wilt give
 me through faith.”[146] With words of remarkable forcefulness he
 declares that, to be in sin, only makes more evident the value of the
 “_iustitia_” which comes through Christ. “It is therefore fitting
 that we become unrighteous and sinners”; what he really means to
 say is, that we should feel ourselves to be such.[147] Elsewhere he
 dwells, not incorrectly, but with startling emphasis, on the fact that
 justification comes only from God and without any effort on our part
 (_gratis_),[148] and that it is not due to works;[149] sanctification
 must proceed not from our own righteousness and according to the
 letter, but from the heart, and with grace, spirit and truth.[150]
 The desire for justification is to him the same as the desire for “a
 lively and strong faith in which I live and am justified.” “Enliven
 me,” he says, “i.e. penetrate me with faith, because the just man
 lives by faith; faith is our life.”[151]

 Even at that time he was not averse to dwelling on the strength of
 concupiscence and, in his usual hyperbolical style, he lays stress
 on the weakness and wickedness of human nature. “We are all a lost
 lump”;[152] “whoever is without God sins necessarily, i.e. he is in
 sin”;[153] “unconquerable” or “necessary” are terms he is fond of
 applying to concupiscence in his discourses.[154] From other passages
 it would almost appear as if, even then, he admitted the persistence
 of original sin, even after baptism; for instance, he says that the
 whole world is “_in peccatis originalibus_,” though unaware of it, and
 must therefore cry “_mea culpa_”;[155] our righteousness is nothing
 but sin;[156] understanding, will, and memory, even in the baptised,
 are all fallen, and, like the wounded Jew, await the coming of the
 Samaritan.[157] He also speaks of the imputation of righteousness by
 God who, instead of attributing to us our sins, “imputes [the merits
 of Christ] unto our righteousness.”[158]

Still, taken in their context, none of these passages furnish any
decisive proof of a deviation from the Church’s faith. They forebode,
indeed, Luther’s later errors, but contain as yet no explicit denial
of Catholic doctrine. In this we must subscribe to Denifle’s view, and
admit that no teaching actually heretical is found in the Commentary on
the Psalms.[159]

 With reference to man’s natural powers, that cardinal point of
 Luther’s later teaching, neither the ability to be good and pleasing
 to God, nor the freedom of choosing what is right and good in spite
 of concupiscence, is denied.[160] Concupiscence, as he frequently
 admonishes us, must be driven back, “it must not be allowed the
 mastery,” though it will always make itself felt; it is like a Red
 Sea through the midst of which we must pass, refusing our consent
 to the temptations which press upon us like an advancing tide.[161]
 Luther lays great weight on the so-called Syntheresis, the inner
 voice which, according to the explanation of the schoolmen, he
 believes cries longingly to God, by whom also it is heard; it is the
 ineradicable precious remnant of good left in us,[162] and upon which
 grace acts. Man’s salvation is in his own hands inasmuch as he is
 able either to accept or to reject the law of God.[163] Luther also
 speaks of a preparation for grace (“_dispositio et præparatio_”)
 which God’s preventing, supernatural grace assists.[164] He expressly
 invokes the traditional theological axiom that “God’s grace is
 vouchsafed to everyone who does his part.”[165] He even teaches,
 following Occam’s school, that such self-preparation constitutes a
 merit “_de congruo_.”[166] He speaks as a Catholic of the doctrine
 of merit, admits the so-called _thesaurus meritorum_ from which
 indulgences derive their efficacy, and, without taking offence,
 alludes to satisfaction (_satisfactio operis_),”[167] to works of
 supererogation,[168] as also to the place of purification in the next
 world (_purgatorium_).[169]

 Regarding God’s imputing of righteousness he follows, it is true, the
 Occamist doctrine, and on this subject the following words are the
 most interesting: faith and grace by which we to-day (i.e. in the
 present order of things) are justified, would not justify without the
 intervention of the _pactum Dei_; i.e. of God’s mercy, who has so
 ordained it, but who might have ordained otherwise.[170] Friedrich
 Loofs rightly says regarding imputation in the Commentary on the
 Psalms: “It must be noted that the _reputari iustum_, i.e. the
 being-declared-justified, is not considered by Luther as the reverse
 of making righteous; on the contrary, the _sine merito iustificari_
 in the sense of _absolvi_ is at the same time the beginning of a new
 life.”[171] “The faith,” so A. Hunzinger opines of the passages in
 question in the same work, “is as yet no imputative faith,” i.e. not
 in the later Lutheran sense.[172]

The Protestant scholar last mentioned has dissected the Commentary
on the Psalms in detail; particularly did he examine its connection
with the philosophical and mystical system sometimes designated as
Augustinian Neo-Platonism.[173] It may be left an open question
whether his complicated researches have succeeded in proving that in
the Commentary—interpreted in the light of some of the older sermons
and the marginal glosses in the Zwickau books—Luther’s teaching
resolves itself into a “somewhat loose and contradictory mixture of
four elements,” namely, Augustinian Neo-Platonism, an Augustinian
doctrine on sin and grace, a trace of scholastic theology, and some of
the mysticism of St. Bernard.[174] His researches and his comparison
of many passages in the Commentary on the Psalms with the works of
Augustine, especially with the “_Soliloquia_” and the book “_De vera
religione_,” have certainly shown that Luther was indebted for his
expressions and to a certain extent for his line of thought, to those
works of Augustine with which he was then acquainted. He had probably
been attracted by the mystical tendency of these writings, by that
reflection of Platonism, which, however, neither in St. Augustine’s
nor in Luther’s case, as Hunzinger himself admits, involved any real
acceptance of the erroneous ideas of the heathen Neo-Platonism. Luther
was weary of the dry Scholasticism he had learned at the schools and
greedily absorbed the theology of the Bishop of Hippo, which appealed
far more to him, though his previous studies had been insufficient to
equip him for its proper understanding. His own words in 1532 express
his case fairly accurately. He says: “In the beginning I devoured
rather than read Augustine.”[175] In a marginal note on the Sentences
of Peter Lombard he speaks, in 1509, of this Doctor as “_numquam satis
laudatus_,” like him, he, too, would fain send the “_moderni_” and that
“fabulator Aristoteles” about their business.[176]

The obscure and tangled mysticism which the young author of the
Commentary on the Psalms built up on Augustine—whose spirit was far
more profound than Luther’s—the smattering of Augustinian theology,
altered to suit his controversial purposes, with which he supplemented
his own scholastic, or rather Occamistic, theology, and the needless
length of the work, make his Commentary into an unattractive congeries
of moral, philosophical and theological thoughts, undigested,
disconnected and sometimes unintelligible. Various causes contributed
to this tangle, not the least being the nature of the subject itself.
Most of the Psalms present all sorts of ideas and figures, and give
the theological and practical commentator opportunity to introduce
whatever he pleases from the stores of his knowledge. With some truth
Luther himself said of his work in a letter to Spalatin, dated December
26, 1515, that it was not worth printing, that it contained too much
superficial matter, and deserved rather to be effaced with a sponge
than to be perpetuated by the press.[177] There is something unfinished
about the work, because the author himself was still feeling his way
towards that great alteration which he had at heart; as yet he has no
wish to seek for a reform from without the Church, he not only values
the authority of the Church and the belief she expounds, but also, on
the whole, the learned tradition of previous ages with which his rather
scanty knowledge of Scholasticism made him conversant. This, however,
did not prevent him attacking the real or imaginary abuses of the
Schoolmen, nor was his esteem for the Church and his Order great enough
to hinder him from criticising, rightly or wrongly, the condition and
institutions of the Church and of monasticism.

The statement made by him in 1537, that he discovered his new doctrine
at the time he took his degree as Doctor, i.e. in 1512, cannot
therefore be taken as chronologically accurate. His words, in a sermon
preached on May 21, were: “Now we have again reached the light, but I
reached it when I became a Doctor ... you should know that Christ is
not sent as a judge.”[178]

3. Excerpts from the Oldest Sermons. His Adversaries

In the sermons which Luther, during his professorship, preached at
Wittenberg in 1515-16, we notice the cutting, and at times ironical,
censure with which he speaks to the people of the abuses and excesses
which pervaded the exercise of the priestly office, particularly
preaching. He is displeased with certain excesses in the veneration
of the Saints, and reproves what he considers wrong in the popular
celebration of the festivals of the Church and in other matters. These
religious discourses contain many beautiful thoughts and give proof,
as do the lectures also, of a rich imagination and great knowledge of
the Bible. But even apart from the harsh denunciation of the conditions
in the Church, the prevailing tone is one of too great hastiness and
self-sufficiency, nor are the Faithful treated justly. It was not
surprising that remarks were made, and that he was jeered at as a
“greenhorn” by the listeners, who told him that he could not “convert
old rogues” with that sort of thing.[179]

He complains bitterly, and with some show of reason, that at that
time preaching had fallen to a very low ebb in Germany. The preachers
too often treated of trivial and useless subjects, enlarged, with
distinctions and sub-distinctions, on subjects belonging to the
province of philosophy and theology, and lost themselves in artificial
allegorical interpretations of the Bible. In their recommendation of
popular devotions they sometimes went to extremes and sometimes lapsed
into platitude. There was too little of the wealth of thought, power
and inward unction of Brother Bertold of Regensburg and his school
to be found in the pulpits of that day. Even in Luther’s own sermons
during these years we meet with numerous defects of the time, barren
speculations in the style of the nominalistic school through which he
had passed, too much forcing and allegorising of the Bible text, and
too much coarse and exaggerated declamation. To be pert and provoking
was then more usual than now, and owing to his natural tendency he
was very prone to assume that tone. The shyness which more recent
biographers and admirers frequently ascribe to the young professor
is not recognisable in his sermons. That he ever was shy can only be
established by remarks dropped by Luther in later life, and, as is well
known, such remarks cannot be taken as reliable sources of information
concerning his early years. Were Luther’s later account correct, then
we should be forced to ascribe to the young preacher and professor a
burning desire to live in the solitude of his cell and to spend his
days quite apart from the world and the debates and struggles going
forward in the Church outside. Yet, in reality, there was nothing to
which he was more inclined in his sermons than to allow his personal
opinions to carry him to violent polemics against people and things
displeasing to him; he was also in the habit of crediting opponents
more friendly to the Church than he, or even the Church itself, with
views which they certainly did not hold. Johann Mensing, one of his
then pupils at the University of Wittenberg, speaks of this in words
to which little attention has hitherto been paid: “I may say,” he
writes, “and have often heard it myself, that when Luther had something
especially good or new to say in a sermon he was wont to attribute to
other theologians the opposite opinion, and in spite of their having
written and taught just the same, and of his very likely taking it
from them himself, to represent it as a precious thing he had just
discovered and of which others were ignorant; all this in order to
make a name for himself, like Herostratus, who set fire to the temple
of Diana.”[180] We may also mention here a remark of Hieronymus Emser.
After saying that Luther’s sermons were not those of a cleric, he adds:
“I may say with truth that I have never in all my life heard such an
audacious preacher.”[181] These, it is true, are testimonies from the
camp of Luther’s opponents, but some passages from his early sermons
will show the tone which frequently prevails in them.

Already in the Christmas sermons of 1515 Luther does not scruple to
place himself, as it were, on the same footing with the prophets, wise
men and those learned in the Scriptures, whose persecution Christ
foretold, more particularly among the last of the three groups. Even
then his view was unorthodox.

 “There are some,” he says, “who by the study of Holy Scripture form
 themselves into teachers and who are taught neither by men nor
 directly by God alone.” These are the learned in the Scriptures.
 “They exercise themselves in the knowledge of the truth by meditation
 and research. Thus they become able to interpret the Bible and to
 write for the instruction of others.” But such men are persecuted,
 he continues, and, as the Lord prophesied of the prophets and wise
 men and scribes that they would not be received, but attacked, so is
 it also with me. They murmur against my teaching, as I am aware, and
 oppose it. They reproach me with being in error because “I preach
 always of Christ as the hen under whose wings all who wish to be
 righteous must gather.” Thus his ideas with regard to righteousness
 must have been looked upon as importunate or exaggerated, and, by
 some, in all probability, as erroneous. He immediately launches out
 into an apology: “What I have said is this: We are not saved by all
 our righteousness, but it is the wings of the hen which protect us
 against the birds of prey, i.e. against the devil ... but, as it was
 with the Jews, who persecuted righteousness, so it is to-day. My
 adversaries do not know what righteousness is, they call their own
 fancies grace. They become birds of prey and pounce upon the chicks
 who hope for salvation through the mercy of our hen.”[182]

Such rude treatment meted out to those who found fault with him (and
one naturally thinks of clergy and religious, perhaps even of his very
brethren, as the culprits), the denouncing them from the pulpit as
“birds of prey,” and his claim to lay down the law, this, and similar
passages in the sermons, throw a strong light on his disputatious

In a well-ordered condition of things the Superiors of the Augustinians
or the diocesan authorities would have intervened to put a stop to
sermons so scandalously offensive; at Wittenberg, however, the evil
was left unchecked and allowed to take deeper root. The students, the
younger monks and some of the burghers, became loud and enthusiastic
followers of the bold preacher. Staupitz was altogether on his side,
and, owing to him, also the Elector of Saxony. The Prince was, however,
so little of an authority on matters theological that Luther once
writes of him that he was “in things concerning God and the salvation
of the soul almost seven times blind.”[183]

Luther’s notes on his Sunday sermons during the summer of 1516—a
time when he had already expressed his errors quite plainly in his
lectures on the Epistle to the Romans—afford us a glimpse of an acute
controversy. At this time his sermons dealt with the first Commandment.

 The Gospel for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost with the words: “Beware
 of false prophets” gives him an all too tempting opportunity for a
 brush with his adversaries, and, on July 6, he attacks them from
 the standpoint of his new ideas on righteousness. “Much fasting,
 and long prayers,” he cries, “study, preaching, watching, and poor
 clothing, these are the pious lambskins under which ravening wolves
 hide themselves.” In their case these are only “works done for show.”
 These Observantines, for all their great outward display of holiness,
 are “heretics and schismatics.” Thus does he storm, evidently applying
 his words to his brother monks of the Observantine party, who probably
 had been among the first to criticise him. The following remarks on
 rebellion and defamation make this application all the clearer.[184]
 “The true works by which we may recognise the prophets are done in
 the inner and hidden man. But these proud men are wanting above all
 in patience and the charity which is forgetful of self, but concerned
 for others.” “When they have to do works which are not to their liking
 they are slow, rebellious, obstinate, but they well know how to
 take away the name of others and to pass judgment on them.... There
 is no greater plague in the Church to-day than these men with the
 words: ‘Good works are necessary’ in their mouths; men who refuse to
 distinguish between what is good and evil because they are enemies of
 the Cross, i.e. of the good things of God.”[185]

 Such a daring challenge on Luther’s part did not fail in its effect.
 Within as well as outside the Order united preparations were being
 made for a strong resistance, his foes working both openly and in

 Luther’s adversaries were again made the object of his public
 vituperation in two sermons preached on the same day a little
 later. This was on July 27, the 10th Sunday after Pentecost. In one
 sermon the passionate orator attempted to show the danger of the
 times; he describes how powerful the devil had become and how under
 the appearance of good works he was making certain persons “fine
 breakers” of the first Commandment. “And these venture,” he says, “to
 shoot arrows secretly against those who are right of heart.”[186]
 In the other sermon his opponents had to submit to being called—in
 allusion to the Sunday’s Gospel of the Pharisee and the Publican—real
 “Pharisees, who by reason of their assumed holiness and merits seek
 the praise of men,” whereas in reality, with their self-righteousness,
 they have merely erected an idol in their hearts.[187]

 Even this was not enough however. The continuous complaints of those
 who thought differently from himself called Luther into the field
 again the very next Sunday (August 3).[188] They heard what they might
 have anticipated, as soon as the fiery preacher, whose appearance was
 doubtless greeted by his pupils and adherents with looks of joy, got
 to work on his thesis: To place our hope in anything but God, even in
 the merit of our good works, is to have false idols before God. Then
 the stream of words flowed apace against the “proud saints,” against
 the presumptuous assurance of salvation on the part of the servitors
 of works, against the fools who make the narrow way to heaven still
 narrower, against the A B C pupils, who know nothing outside their
 own works. “These are old stagers,” he cries, because, like certain
 horses who only go along one track, they know only the one path of
 their own works. As though he recollected his own short-lived zeal for
 the work of the Order, he adds: “At the commencement, when a man first
 enters on the path of the religious life he has to exercise himself in
 many good works, fasts, vigils, prayers, works of mercy, submission,
 obedience and other such-like.” But to remain permanently stuck fast
 in these, that is what makes a man a Pharisee. “The truly pious who
 are led by the Spirit,” he continues, in a vein of peculiar mysticism,
 “once initiated into these things, do not trouble much more about
 them. Rather they offer themselves to God, ready for any work to which
 He may call them, and are led through many sufferings and humiliations
 without knowing whither they are going.”[189]

Luther frequently spoke at that time in the language of a certain
school of mysticism with which he was much enamoured. The following
extract from the sermon under consideration, together with some
thoughts on similar lines, from his synodal address at Leitzau, belong

 “The man of God leaves himself entirely in God’s hands and does
 not attach himself to any works. His works are nameless at the
 commencement, though not at the end, because he does not act, but
 remains passive; he does not calculate with his own cleverness, or
 make projects, but allows himself to be led and does differently
 from what he had intended; thus he is calm and at rest in God.
 Whereas the self-righteous who abound in their own sense (‘_sensuales
 iustitiarii_’) are apt to despair of their own works—for they want to
 determine and name every word beforehand, and with them the name is
 the first thing and this they follow up with their works—the man of
 God on the contrary hurries forward in advance of every name.”

 In the discourse which Luther wrote, probably in the autumn or winter
 months of 1515, for Georg Mascov, provost of Leitzau (see above, p.
 65), and which was intended for a synodal meeting of the clergy, he
 says, in his most exaggerated fashion: “The whole world lies as it
 were under a deluge of false and filthy teaching.” The Word of God
 like a tiny flame is barely kept alive. Egoism, worldliness and vice
 are predominant. And the remedy? He will cry it aloud over the whole
 world: the only remedy is to preach “the word of truth” with much
 greater zeal. The greatest, “nay almost the only sin of the priests”
 is the neglect of the “word of truth” and it is much to be deplored,
 according to him, “that priests who fall into sins of the flesh make
 more account of them than of the neglect of the preaching of the word
 of truth.”[190]

 The address deals further at great length with the holy regeneration
 of man in God. This is something which God works in us while we remain
 altogether passive: a man’s seeking, praying, knocking has nothing to
 do with it because mercy alone effects it. Man does nothing (“_ipso
 nihil agente, petente, merente_”); in this mystical regeneration by
 God, it is as with the natural generation of man: “he who is generated
 in both cases does not count, and can do nothing by his work or merits
 towards his begetting, but lies wholly in the will of the Father.”

 As sons of God we must bear fruit—here the discourse becomes quite
 practical—and the purpose of this meeting is to demand it of the
 clergy. “We must not expose our Synod to the scorn of our enemies.”
 It is more important that chastity and every virtue should dwell in
 the priests than that statutes should be made with regard to readings,
 prayers, festivals, and ceremonies.

The vague, obscure mysticism which played a part in Luther’s
spiritual development at that time, as well as his wrong, one-sided
interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans, had, as already stated,
led him into a heterodox by-way.

A cursory glance at the influence of Scholasticism and Mysticism on his
mental progress, may perhaps be here in place.

4. Preliminary Remarks on Young Luther’s Relations to Scholasticism and

In the years of Luther’s development the two great intellectual forces
of the Middle Ages, Scholasticism and Mysticism, no longer exercised
quite so powerful an influence as of yore, when they ruled over the
world of intellect. Their influence on Luther’s views and his career
was diverse. Scholasticism in its then state of decay, with its endless
subtilties and disputatiousness, which, moreover, he knew only under
the form of Occam’s nominalism, repelled him, to his own great loss.
As a result he never acquired those elements of knowledge of true
and lasting value to be found in the better schools, of which the
traditions embodied the work of centuries of intellectual effort on the
part of some of the world’s greatest minds. Mysticism, on the other
hand, attracted him on account of his natural disposition, so full of
feeling and imagination. He had been initiated into it at the monastery
by the works of Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventure and Gerson, and,
later, by the sermons of Tauler and the so-called German Theology. This
study had been recommended him by Staupitz and also by his brother
monks, especially by Johann Lang. It was, however, the more obscure and
ambiguous writings and extracts from mystic works which appealed to him
most, owing to his being able to read into them his own ideas.

As regards Scholasticism, his character predisposed him against it.
Scholastic learning is founded on conceptual operations of reason; it
aims at clear definitions, logical proofs and a systematic linking
together of propositions. Luther’s mind, on the other hand, inclined
more to a free treatment of the subject, one which allowed for feeling
and imagination, and to such descriptions as offered a field for his
eloquence. One of the chief reasons, however, for his lifelong dislike
of Scholasticism was his very partial acquaintance with the same.
He had, as we shall see, never studied its great representatives in
the thirteenth century; he had made acquaintance only with its later
exponents, viz. the Nominalists of Occam’s school, who gave the tone to
his theological instructions and whose teachings were very prevalent in
the schools in that day. He speaks repeatedly of William of Occam as
his teacher. Of Luther’s relations to his doctrines we shall have to
speak later: some of Occam’s views he opposed, others, which happened
to be at variance with those of St. Thomas of Aquin, he approved. He
would not have attributed to the latter and to other exponents of the
better school of Scholasticism such foolish theses as he did—theses
of which they never even dreamt—had he possessed any clear notion of
their teaching. There can be no doubt that he also imbibed during his
first years as a student at Erfurt, the spirit of antagonism against
Scholasticism which Humanism with its craving for novelty displayed,
an antagonism based ostensibly on disgust at the unclassic form of the

Already during the earliest period of his career at Wittenberg, as
soon, indeed, as he began to preach and lecture, he commenced his
attacks against Scholasticism.

 He considers that Aristotle, on whom in the Middle Ages both
 theologians and philosophers had set such store, had been grossly
 misunderstood by most of the scholastics; all the good there is
 in Aristotle, he says, he has stolen from others; whatever in him
 is right, others must understand and make use of better than he

 He often passes judgment on the theology of the Middle Ages from the
 point of view of the narrow, one-sided school of Occam, and then, with
 his lively imagination, he grossly exaggerates the opposition between
 it and St. Thomas of Aquin and the more classic schoolmen. The whole
 herd of theologians, he says, has been led astray by Aristotle; nor
 have they understood him in the least; according to him, Thomas of
 Aquin—the Doctor whom the Church has so greatly honoured and placed
 at the head of all theologians—did not expound a single chapter of
 Aristotle aright; “all the Thomists together” have not understood
 one chapter. Aristotle has only led them all to lay too much stress
 upon the importance and merit of human effort and human works to
 the disadvantage of God’s grace. Here lay Aristotle’s chief crime
 discovered by Luther, thanks to his own new theology.[192]

 In his lectures on the Psalms Luther already tells his hearers that
 the bold loquacity of theology was due to Aristotle;[193] he makes
 highly exaggerated remarks regarding the disputes between the Scotists
 and Occam and between Occam and Scotus.[194] Peter Lombard, no less
 than Scotus and St. Thomas, comes in for some harsh criticism. But
 Luther ever reverts to Aristotle. He wishes, so he writes to his
 friend Lang in February, 1516, to tear off “the Greek mask which
 this comedian has assumed to pass himself off in the Church as a
 philosopher; his shame should be laid bare to all.”[195]

Such audacious language had probably never before been used against
the greatest minds in the history of human thought by a theological
professor, who himself had as yet given no proof whatever of his

His attacks on Scholasticism and the philosophical and theological
schools up to that day, were soon employed to cover his attacks on
dogma and the laws of the Church. In 1518 he places Scholasticism and
Canon Law on the same footing, both needing reform.[196]

The learned Martin Pollich, who was teaching law at the University
of Wittenberg, looked at the young assailant with forebodings as to
the future. He frequently said that this monk would overthrow the
teaching which yet prevailed at all the universities. “This brother has
deep-set eyes,” he once remarked, “he must have strange fancies.”[197]
His strange eyes, with their pensive gleam, ever ready to smile on a
friend, and, in fact, his whole presence, made an impression upon all
who were brought into close contact with him. It is an undoubted fact,
true even of his later days, that intercourse with him was pleasant,
especially to those whom he honoured with his friendship or whom he
wished to influence. Not only were his pupils at Wittenberg devoted
admirers of the brave critic of the Schoolmen, but, little by little,
he also gained an unquestioned authority over the other professors,
the more so as there was no one at the University able or willing to
take the risks of a challenge.

The psychological reaction on himself of so high a position at the
University must not be under-estimated as a factor in his development.
He felt himself to be a pioneer in the struggle against Scholasticism,
and one called to reinstate a new theology.

His attitude to mysticism was absolutely different from that which he
assumed with regard to Aristotle and Scholasticism.

Luther speaks in praise of Tauler for the first time in 1516, though
he had probably become acquainted with him earlier. At about that
same time a little booklet, “_Theologia Deutsch_,” exercised a great
influence upon him.

 In a letter to Lang—who was also inclined to look with favour on
 Tauler, the master of German mystic theology—Luther betrays how
 greatly he was attracted by this writer. In his sonorous, expansive
 language, he speaks of him as a teacher whose enlightenment was such,
 that, though utterly unknown in the theological schools, he contains
 more real theology than all the scholastic theologians of all the
 universities put together. He also repeatedly assured his hearers that
 Tauler’s book of sermons had “led him to the spirit.”[198]

 At that time Luther showed great preference for the exhortations of
 the German mystics on self-abasement, apathy and abnegation of self.
 “_Theologia Deutsch_,” that little work of an unknown Frankfort
 priest of the fourteenth century, which he came across in a MS.,
 so fascinated him that, adding to it a preface and his own name,
 “Martinus Luder,” he published it in 1516 at Wittenberg. It was the
 first occasion of his making use of the press; this first edition
 was, however, incomplete, owing to the state of the MS.; the work was
 finally reissued complete and under the title which Luther himself had
 selected, viz. “A German Theologia,” in 1518. In the sub-title of the
 first edition he had called it a “noble spiritual booklet,” and in
 the preface had praised it, saying that it did not float like foam on
 the top of the water, but that it had been brought up from the bottom
 of the Jordan by a true Israelite.[199] In the first edition he had
 erroneously attributed the booklet to Tauler; in the second he says it
 is equal in merit to Tauler’s own writings. Yet, to tell the truth,
 it is far from reaching Tauler’s high standard of thought. Luther,
 however, assures us that, next to the Bible and St. Augustine, he
 can mention no book from which he has learned more of the nature of
 God, Christ, man and all other things, than from this work. When he
 forwarded a printed copy of the first edition to Spalatin (December
 14, 1516), he wrote, that Tauler offered a solid theology which was
 quite similar to the old; that he was acquainted with no theology
 more wholesome and evangelical. Spalatin should saturate himself with
 Tauler’s sermons; “taste and see how sweet the Lord is, after you have
 first tasted and seen how bitter is everything that is ourselves.”[200]

 In addition to the authors mentioned, the mysticism of
 Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and of Gerard Groot, the founder of
 the Community of the Brethren of the Common Life, were known to him.
 That he was, or had been, fond of reading the writings of St. Bernard,
 we may guess from his many—often misunderstood—quotations from the

 Luther was also well able, whilst under the influence of that
 inwardness which he loved so much in the mystics, to make his own
 their truly devotional and often moving language.

 In a friendly letter he comforts, as follows, an Augustinian at
 Erfurt, Georg Leiffer, regarding his spiritual troubles: “The Cross
 of Christ is distributed throughout the whole world and each one gets
 a small piece of it. Do not throw yours away, but lay it, like a
 sacred relic, in a golden shrine, i.e. in a heart filled with gentle
 charity. For even the wrongs which we suffer from men, persecutions,
 passion and hatred, which are caused us either by the wicked or by
 those who mean well, are priceless relics, which have not indeed, like
 the wood of the cross, been hallowed by contact with our Lord’s body,
 but which have been blessed by His most loving heart, encompassed by
 His friendly, Divine Will, kissed and sanctified. The curse becomes a
 blessing, insult becomes righteousness, suffering becomes an aureole,
 and the cross a joy. Farewell, sweet father and brother, and pray for

5. Excerpts from the Earliest Letters

The above letter of Luther’s is one of the few remaining which belong
to that transition period in his life. His letters are naturally not
devoid of traces of the theological change which was going forward
within him, and they may therefore be considered among the precursors
of his future doctrine.

His new theological standpoint is already apparent in the charitable
and sympathetic letter of encouragement which, as Rural Vicar, he
sent to one of his brother monks about that time. “Learn, my sweet
brother,” he writes to George Spenlein, an Augustinian of the monastery
of Memmingen, “learn Christ and Him Crucified, learn to sing to Him,
and, despairing of your own self, say to Him: Thou, Lord Jesus, art
my righteousness, but I am Thy sin; Thou hast accepted what I am and
given me what Thou art; Thou hast thus become what Thou wast not, and
what I was not I have received.... Never desire,” he exhorts him, “a
purity so great as to make you cease thinking yourself, nay being, a
sinner; for Christ dwells only in sinners; He came down from heaven
where He dwells in the righteous in order to live also in sinners. If
you ponder upon His love, then you will become conscious of His most
sweet consolation. What were the use of His death had we to attain to
peace of conscience by our own trouble and labour? Therefore only in
Him will you find peace through a trustful despair of yourself and your

A similar mystical tone (we are not here concerned with the theology
it implied) shows itself also here and there in Luther’s later
correspondence. The life of public controversy in which he was soon to
engage was certainly not conducive to the peaceful, mystical tone of
thought and to the cultivation of the interior spirit; as might have
been expected, the result of the struggle was to cast his feeling and
his mode of thought in a very different mould. It was impossible for
him to become the mystic some people have made him out to be owing to
the distractions and excitement of his life of struggle.[202]

In the above letter to Spenlein, Luther speaks of this monk’s relations
to his brethren. Spenlein had previously been in the monastery at
Wittenberg, where Luther had known him as a zealous monk, much troubled
about the details of the Rule, and who even found it difficult to have
to live with monks who were less exact in their observance. “When
you were with us,” says the writer, “you were under the impression,
or rather in the error in which I also was at one time held captive,
and of which I have not even now completely rid myself (‘_nondum
expugnavi_’), that it is necessary to perform good works until one is
confident of being able to appear before God decked out, as it were,
in deeds and merits, a thing which is utterly impossible.” Luther is
desirous of hearing what Spenlein now thinks, “whether he has not at
last grown sick of self-righteousness and learnt to breathe freely and
trust in the righteousness of Christ.” “If, however, you believe firmly
in the righteousness of Christ—and cursed be he who does not—then
you will be able to bear with careless and erring brothers patiently
and charitably; you will make their sins your own,” as Christ does
with ours, “and in whatever good you do, in that you will allow them
to participate ... be as one of them and bear with them. To think of
flight and solitude, and to wish to be far away from those who we think
are worse than ourselves, that is an unhappy righteousness.... On the
contrary, if you are a lily and a rose of Christ, then remember that
you must be among thorns, and beware of becoming yourself a thorn by
impatience, rash judgment and secret pride.... If Christ had willed to
live only amongst the good or to die only for His friends, for whom,
pray, would He ever have died, or with whom would He have lived?”

Spenlein was then no longer living in a monastery subject to the Rural
Vicar. It is even probable that he had left Wittenberg and the new
Vicar’s district on account of differences of opinion on the matter
of Observance. He betook himself to the imperial city of Memmingen,
presumably because a different spirit prevailed in the monastery there.
This would seem to explain how Luther came to speak to this doubtless
most worthy religious of “unhappy righteousness,” interpreting the
state of the case in his own perverse fashion.

Among the other letters despatched in 1516 that to Lang at Erfurt
deserves special attention; in it Luther expresses himself in
confidence, quite openly, on the disapproval of his work and of his
theological standpoint which was showing itself at Wittenberg and at

 His study of St. Augustine had put him in a position to recognise, on
 internal grounds, that a work, “On true and false penance,” generally
 attributed to this African Father, was not really his. He tells his
 friend that his opinion of the book had “given great offence to all”;
 though the insipid contents of the same were so far removed from the
 spirit of Augustine, yet it was esteemed because it had been quoted
 and employed by Gratian and Peter Lombard as one of Augustine’s works.
 That he had been aware of this and nevertheless had stood up for the
 truth, that was his crime, which had aroused the enmity particularly
 of Dr. Carlstadt; not, however, that he cared very much; both Lombard
 and Gratian had done much harm to consciences by means of this stupid

 His opinion regarding the spuriousness of the work was in the end
 generally accepted, even, for instance, by Bellarmine; Trithemius,
 moreover, had been of the same opinion before Luther’s time; in his
 attacks on its contents, however, Luther, led astray by his false
 ideas of penance, exceeded all bounds, and thus vexed, beyond measure,
 his colleagues who at that time still held the opposite view.

 According to this letter, he had also challenged all the critics of
 his new ideas in a disputation held by one of his pupils under his
 direction. “They barked and screeched at me on account of my lectures,
 but their mouths were to be stopped and the opinions of others heard.”
 It was a question of defending his erroneous doctrine, regarding the
 absolute helplessness of nature, which he had meantime formulated,
 and to which we shall return immediately. In consequence, he says,
 all the “Gabrielists” (i.e. followers of the scholastic Gabriel Biel)
 here, as well as in the Faculty at Erfurt, were nonplussed. But I
 know my Gabriel quite as well as his own wonderful, wonderstruck
 worshippers; “he writes well, but as soon as he touches on grace,
 charity, hope, and faith, then, like Scotus his leader, he treads in
 the footprints of Pelagius.” Luther was quite free to dissent from the
 view, even of so good a professor as Biel, in this question of grace
 and virtue, but, already at that time, he had denounced as Pelagian
 several doctrines of the Church. Among those who were angered was the
 theologian Nicholas von Amsdorf, who took his licentiate at the same
 time as Luther, and became later on his close friend. Amsdorf secretly
 sent one of Luther’s theses, of which he disapproved, to Erfurt, but
 afterwards allowed himself to be pacified.

The humanistic tendency which was at that time beginning to make its
way had, as we see from the letters, little part in the rise of the
Lutheran movement at Wittenberg.

The view that Luther’s new teaching was due to the direct influence
of the mode of thought of such men as Hutten, Crotus and Mutian is
incorrect. On the contrary, Luther, full as he was of his one-sided
supra-naturalism, was bound to disapprove of the Humanist ideal and
made no secret of his disapproval. In his letters in 1516 he also
found fault with the satirical and frivolous attacks of the Humanists
on the state of the Church and the theological learning of the day.
He considered the “_Epistolæ obscurorum virorum_” impudent, and
called the author a clown.[204] A similar work by the same group of
Humanists against the “Theologasters,” entitled “_Tenor supplicationis
Pasquillianæ_”—as he informs Spalatin, himself a Humanist—he had held
up to the ridicule of his colleagues, as it richly deserved on account
of the invective and slanders which it contained.[205]

 He appealed to Spalatin to draw the attention of Erasmus to his
 misapprehension of righteousness as it appears in the Epistle to the
 Romans; he says that Erasmus overrates the virtues of heathen heroes,
 whereas even the most blameless of men, even Fabricius and Regulus,
 were miles away from righteousness; outside of faith in Christ there
 is, according to him, no righteousness whatever; Aristotle, whom
 everybody follows, likewise knew nothing of this righteousness; but
 Paul and Augustine teach it; what Paul calls self-righteousness is not
 merely, as Erasmus says, a righteousness founded on the observances of
 the Mosaic Law, but any righteousness whatever which springs out of
 works, or out of the observance of any law; Paul also teaches original
 sin in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, a fact which
 Erasmus wrongly denies. With regard to Augustine, he could unfold
 to him (Erasmus) St. Paul’s meaning better than he thinks, but he
 should diligently read the writings against the Pelagians, above all
 the _De Spiritu et littera_. Augustine there takes a firm stand on
 the foundation of the earlier Fathers (Luther’s quotations from his
 authorities show how much the study had fascinated him). But after
 Augustine’s day, dead literalism became the general rule. Lyra’s Bible
 Commentary, for instance, is full of it; the right interpretation of
 Holy Scripture is also wanting in Faber Stapulensis, notwithstanding
 his many excellencies. Hence, he writes, we must fall back on
 Augustine, on Augustine rather than on Jerome to whom Erasmus gives
 the preference in Bible matters, for Jerome keeps too much to the
 historical side; he recommends Augustine not merely because he is an
 Augustinian monk, for formerly he himself did not think him worthy of
 consideration until he “fell in” (_incidissem_) with his books.[206]

 Augustine’s “On the Spirit and the Letter,” a work dedicated to
 Marcellinus, and dating from the end of 412, with which Luther
 had become acquainted in 1515, had a lasting influence on him. In
 this book the great Doctor of the Church strikes at the very root
 of Pelagianism and shows the necessity, for the accomplishment of
 supernatural good works (“_facere et perficere bonum_”), of inward
 grace which he calls “_spiritus_” in contradistinction to outward
 grace which he terms “_littera_.” Luther, however, referred this
 necessity more and more to everything good, even to what is purely
 natural, hence his loud accusations soon after against the theology of
 the Church as savouring of Pelagianism.

 Humanism at that time stood for a Pelagian view of life and therefore
 could not be altogether sympathetic to Luther. Its influence on him,
 especially in his youth, cannot, however, be altogether disregarded;
 he had been brought into too close contact with it in his student days
 and also during his theological course at Erfurt, and his mind was too
 lively and too open to the currents of the time for him not to have
 felt something of its effects. The very extravagance of his criticism
 of things theological may, in part, be traced back to the example of
 the Humanists.

From Luther’s lectures on the Psalms, as well as from his sermons and
letters till 1516 inclusive, we have adduced various elements which may
be considered to forebode the greater and more important change yet to
come. They are, indeed, not exactly precursors of what one designates
usually as the Reformation, but rather of the new Lutheran theology
which was responsible for that upheaval in the ecclesiastical, ethical
and social sphere which became known as the Reformation.

6. The Theological Goal

Before continuing in a more systematic form the examination of the
origin of Luther’s new theology, of which we have just seen some of
the antecedents, we must cast a glance at the erroneous theological
result which Luther had already reached in 1515-16, and which must be
considered as the goal of his actual development.

 Several of the above passages, from sermons and letters of the years
 1515-16, have already in part betrayed the result. It appears,
 however, in full in the lectures on the Epistle to the Romans
 delivered between the autumn, 1515, and the summer, 1516, already
 several times referred to.[207] Everyone who has followed the course
 of Luther research during the last decade will recall the commotion
 aroused when Denifle announced the discovery in the Vatican Library
 of a copy hitherto unknown of Luther’s youthful work (Palat. 1826).
 Much labour has since been expended in connection with the numerous
 passages quoted from it by this scholar. A popular Protestant history
 of dogma even attempted to arrange Denifle’s quotations so as to form
 with them a complete picture.[208] Meanwhile a complete edition
 of the lectures on the Epistle to the Romans has been brought out
 by Johann Ficker which will serve as the foundation for a proper
 treatment of the new material. It may, however, be of interest, and
 serve to recall the literary movement of the last few years, if
 we here sum up Luther’s errors of 1516 according to the extracts
 from the lectures on the Epistle to the Romans adduced by Denifle.
 The present writer, on the ground of his study of the Vatican copy
 undertaken previous to the appearance of Ficker’s edition, can assure
 the reader that the extracts really give the kernel of the lectures.
 Some additions which he then noted as elucidating Denifle’s excerpts
 are given in the notes according to the MS. and alongside of the
 quotations from Denifle; everywhere, however, Ficker’s new edition
 has also been quoted, reference being made to the scholia, or to the
 glosses, on the Epistle to the Romans, according as the passages are
 taken from the one or the other part of Luther’s Commentary.

The Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans really represents the first
taking shape of Luther’s heretical views. From the very beginning he
expresses some of them without concealment. It is clear that during his
preparation for these lectures in the summer and early autumn of 1515
things within him had reached a climax, and, overcoming all scruples,
he determined to take the decisive step of laying the result of his new
and quite peculiar views before his audience at the University. At the
very commencement his confident theses declare that the commentator
will deduce everything from Paul, and as we proceed we see more and
more clearly how his immersion in his mistaken interpretation of the
Epistle to the Romans—that deep well of apostolic teaching—led him
to propound the false doctrines born of his earlier antipathy for
Scholasticism and liking for pseudo-mysticism.

In the very first pages Luther endeavours to show how imputed
righteousness is the principal doctrine advocated by St. Paul in
the Epistle to the Romans. Justification by faith alone and the new
appreciation of works is expressed quite openly.

 “God has willed to save us,” this he represents as the sum total of
 the Epistle, “not by our own but by extraneous righteousness and
 wisdom, not by such as is in us or produced by our inner self, but by
 that which comes to us from elsewhere.” “We must rest altogether on
 an extraneous and foreign righteousness,” he repeats, “and therefore
 destroy our own, i.e. our homely righteousness” (“_non per domesticam
 sed per extraneam iustitiam_,” etc.).[209] So fascinated is he by
 the terrifying picture of self-righteousness and holiness by works,
 that he is more than inclined to weaken the inclination for good
 works, though he indeed declares them necessary: according to him
 they produce in man a self-consciousness which prevents him regarding
 himself as unrighteous and as needing the justification of Christ.
 The truly righteous, such are his actual words, always believe “that
 they are sinners ... they sigh until they are completely cured of
 concupiscence, a release which takes place at death.” Everyone must
 be distrustful even of his good intentions, he tells his adversaries,
 i.e. “those who trust in themselves, who, thinking they are in
 possession of God’s grace, cease to prove themselves, and sink daily
 into greater lukewarmness.” He asks ironically whether “they acted
 from the pure love of God,” for now, erroneously, he will allow only
 the purest love of God as a motive.[210] He writes: “he who thinks,
 that the greater his works, the more sure he is of salvation shows
 himself to be an unbeliever, a proud man and a contemner of the word.
 It does not depend at all on the multitude of works [in the right
 sense this was admitted by the old theologians]; it is nothing but
 temptation to pay any attention to this.” It is mere “wisdom of the
 flesh,” he thinks, for anyone to pay attention to the “difference of
 works” rather than to the word, particularly the inward word and its

 Here in his mystical language he states the following paradoxical
 thesis: “the wisdom of the spiritually minded knows neither good
 nor evil (“_prudentia spiritualium neque bonum neque malum scit_”);
 it keeps its eyes fixed always on the word, not on the work.”[212]
 He concludes: “let us only close our eyes, listen in simplicity to
 the word, and do what it commands whether it be foolish or evil or
 great or small” (“_sive stultum sive malum, sive magnum sive parvum
 præcipiat, hoc faciamus_”).[213] As righteousness does not proceed
 from works we must so much the more cling to imputation. “Our works
 are nothing, we find in ourselves nothing but thoughts which accuse
 us ... where shall we find defenders? Nowhere but in Christ ... the
 heart, it is true, reproves a man for his evil works, it accuses
 him and witnesses against him. But he who believes in Christ turns
 at once [from himself] to Christ and says: He has done enough, He
 is righteous, He is my defence, He died for me, He has made His
 righteousness mine and my sin His. But if He has made my sin His, then
 it is no longer mine and I am free. If He has made His righteousness
 mine, then I am righteous through the same righteousness as He.”[214]

 Here then the sinner, as Luther teaches in his letter to Spenlein (see
 above, p. 88 ff.), simply casts himself upon Christ and hides himself
 just as he is “under the wings of the hen” (p. 80), comforting himself
 with the doctrine of imputation. The old Church, on the contrary,
 not only pointed to the merits of Christ (see above, pp. 10, 18) but
 also to the exhortations of St. Paul where he calls for zealous,
 active co-operation with the Divine grace, for inward conversion in
 the spirit, for works of penance and for purification from sin by
 contrition in order that our reconciliation with God and real pardon
 may become possible. Hence, while the Catholic doctrine conceives of
 justification as an interior, organic process, Luther is beginning
 to take it as something exterior and mechanical, as a process which
 results from the pushing forward of a foreign righteousness, as if it
 were a curtain. He turns away from the Catholic doctrine according
 to which a man justified by a living and active faith is really
 incorporated in Christ as the shoot is grafted into the olive tree, or
 the branch on the vine, i.e. to a new life, to an interior ennobling
 through sanctifying grace and the infused supernatural virtues of
 faith, hope and charity.

 Nevertheless Luther himself was affrighted at the theory of faith
 alone, and imputation. He feared lest he should be reproached with
 setting good works aside with his doctrine of imputed merit. He
 therefore explains in self-defence that he did not desire a bare
 faith; “the hypocrites and the lawyers” thought they would be saved by
 such a faith, but according to Paul’s words a faith was requisite by
 which we “approach Christ” (“_per quem habemus accessum per fidem_,”
 Rom. v. 2). Those are therefore in error who go forward in Christ
 with over-great certainty, but not by faith; as though they would
 be saved by Christ, for not doing anything themselves and giving no
 sign of faith. These possess too much faith, or, better still, none
 at all. Both must exist: “by faith” and “by Christ”; we must do and
 suffer gladly all that we can in the faith of Christ, and yet account
 ourselves in all things unprofitable servants, and only through Christ
 alone think ourselves able to go to God. For the object of works of
 faith is to make us worthy of Christ and of the refuge and protection
 of His righteousness.”[215] With this is connected Luther’s insistence
 on the necessity of invoking God’s grace in order that we may be
 able to fight against our passions and to bring forth good works,
 and in order that the passions, which in themselves are sin, may not
 be imputed by God.[216] Thus can “the body of sin be destroyed” and
 the “old man overcome.”[217] Luther admits, though with hesitation
 and in contradiction with himself, works which prepare us for

In spite of everything, in this first stage of his development,
justification appears to him uncertain. He declares in so many words:
“We cannot know whether we are justified and whether we believe”; and
he can only add rather lamely: “we must look upon our works as works
of the Law and be, in humility, sinners, hoping only to be justified
through the mercy of Christ.”[219] He has no “joyful assurance of
salvation”—which, in fact, had no place whatever in the new teaching
as expounded by Luther himself—and its name is always drowned by the
loud cry of sin. Even saints, on account of the sin which still clings
to them, do not know whether they are pleasing to God. If they are well
advised, they beg solely for the forgiveness of their sin which lies
like lead on their conscience. “That is,” the mystic explains, “the
wisdom which is hidden in secret” (“_abscondita in mysterio_”), because
our righteousness “being entirely dependent on God’s decree remains
unknown to us.”[220]

Luther cannot assure us sufficiently often that man is nothing but sin,
and sins in everything. His reason is that concupiscence remains in man
after baptism. This concupiscence he looks upon as real sin, in fact
it is the original sin, enduring original sin, so that original sin is
not removed by baptism, remains obdurate to all subsequent justifying
grace,[221] and, until death, can, at the utmost, only be diminished.
He says expressly, quite against the Church’s teaching, that original
sin is only covered over in baptism, and he tries to support this
by a misunderstood text from Augustine and by misrepresenting

 Augustine teaches with clearness and precision in many passages that
 original sin is blotted out by baptism and entirely remitted;[223]
 Luther, however, quotes him to the opposite effect. The passage in
 question occurs in _De nuptiis et concupiscentia_ (l., c. xxv.,
 n. 28) where Luther makes this Father say: sin (_peccatum_) is
 forgiven in baptism, not so that it no longer remains, but that it
 is no longer imputed.[224] Whereas what Augustine actually says
 is: the concupiscence of the flesh is forgiven, etc. (“_dimitti
 concupiscentiam carnis non ut non sit, sed ut in peccatum non
 imputetur_”). And yet Luther was acquainted with the true reading of
 the passage—which is really opposed to his view—as he had annotated
 it in the margin of the Sentences of Peter Lombard, where it is
 correctly given.[225] Luther, after having thus twisted the passage
 as above, employs it frequently later.[226] In the original lecture
 on the Epistle to the Romans he has, it is true, added to the text,
 after the word “_peccatum_,” the word “_concupiscentia_,” as the new
 editor points out, in excuse of Luther.[227] But on the preceding page
 Luther adds in exactly the same way in two passages of his own text
 where he speaks of “_peccatum_,” the word “_concupiscentia_,” so that
 his addition to Augustine cannot be regarded as a mere correction
 of a false citation, all the less since the incorrect form is found
 unaltered elsewhere in his writings.[228]

 As regards Scholasticism, Luther holds that its teaching on original
 sin was very faulty, because it “dreamt” that original sin, like
 actual sin, was entirely removed (by baptism).[229] This is one of his
 first attacks on a particular doctrine of Scholasticism, his earlier
 opposition having been to Scholasticism in general. The blame he here
 administers presupposes the truth of his view that concupiscence and
 original sin come under the same category, and that the former is
 culpable. Almost all the Scholastics had made the essence of original
 sin to consist in the loss of original justice, whilst allowing
 that its “_materiale_,” as they called it, lay in concupiscence, so
 that without any “dream” it was quite easy to conceive of original
 sin as blotted out, while the “_materiale_” or “_fomes peccati_” or
 concupiscence remained.[230] Other examples of how Luther, partly
 owing to his ignorance of true Scholasticism, came to bring the most
 glaring charges against that school, will be given later.

Actual sins remain, according to Luther, even after forgiveness,
for they too are only covered over. Formerly, it is true, he admits
having believed that repentance and the sacrament of penance removed
everything (“_omnia ablata putabam et evacuata, etiam intrinsece_”),
and therefore in his madness he had thought himself better after
confession than those who had not confessed.[231] “Thus I struggled
with myself, not knowing that whilst forgiveness is certainly true, yet
there is no removal of sin.”

Not only does real sin continue to dwell in man through concupiscence,
but, according to a further statement of Luther, the keeping of God’s
law is impossible to man. “As we cannot keep God’s commandments we are
really always in unrighteousness, and therefore there remains nothing
for us but to fear and to beg for remission of the unrighteousness, or
rather that it may not be imputed, for it is never altogether remitted,
but remains and requires the act of non-imputation.[232]

But how, then, he must have asked himself in following out the train of
thought of his new system, if, owing to the depravity of human nature
as the result of original sin there remains in man no freedom in the
choice of good? “Where does the freedom of the will come in?” he asks,
as it follows from the Apostle’s teaching that “the keeping of the law
is simply impossible” (“_sæpius dixi, simpliciter esse impossibile
legem implere?_”).[233] He hesitates, it is true, to deny free will,
but only for a moment, and then tells us boldly that the will has been
robbed of its freedom (of choosing) good. “Had I said this, people
would curse me,” but, according to him, it is St. Paul who advocates
the doctrine that without grace there is no freedom of the will in the
choice of good which can please God.[234] Here we have a foretaste
of the doctrine Luther was to express at the Leipzig disputation and
elsewhere, viz. that the freedom of the will for good is merely a
name (“_res de solo titulo_”),[235] and of that later terrible thesis
of his that free will in general is dead (“_liberum arbitrium est
mortuum_”),[236] a thesis he defended more particularly against Erasmus.

The young Monk was thus prepared to admit all the consequences of his
new ideas, whereas the Apostle Paul, more particularly in his Epistle
to the Romans, recognises the ability of man for natural goodness, and
speaks of the law of nature in the heathen world and the possibility
and actuality of its observance. “They do by nature the things of the
law” (Rom. ii. 14). Luther will only allow that they do such things by
means of grace, and the word grace again he uses merely for the grace
of justification. His opinion with regard to the virtues of the heathen
sages is noteworthy. He says that the philosophers of olden time had to
be damned, although they may have been virtuous from their very inmost
soul (“_ex animo et medullis_”), because they had at least experienced
some self-satisfaction in their virtue, and, in consequence of the
sinfulness of nature, must necessarily have succumbed to sinful love of
self.[237] Not long after, i.e. as early as 1517, he declares in his
MS. Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews their virtues to be merely
vices (“_revera sunt vitia_”).[238]

But what place is given to the virtues of the righteous in
Christianity? “As even the righteous man is depraved by sin he cannot
be inwardly righteous without the mercy of God.... In the believers
and in those who sigh unrighteousness is absent only because Christ
comes to their assistance with the fulness of His sinlessness, and
covers over their imperfections.”[239] Even when we “do good, we sin”
(“_bene operando peccamus_”), so runs his paradoxical thesis; “but
Christ covers over what is wanting and does not impute it.” And why
do we always sin in doing good? “Because owing to concupiscence and
sensuality we do not perform the good with the intensity and purity
of intention which the law demands, i.e. not with all our might (‘_ex
omnibus viribus_,’ Luke x. 27), the desires of the flesh being too
strong.”[240] The Church, on the other hand, teaches that good works
done in the state of sanctifying grace are pleasing to God in spite of
concupiscence, which, it is true, remains after baptism and after the
blotting out of original sin which ensued, but which is not sinful so
long as there is no consent to its enticements.

As regards the distinction between mortal and venial sin, we find
Luther’s doctrine has already reached its later standpoint, according
to which there is no difference between them. In the same way he
already denies the merit of good works. “It is clear,” he writes,
“that according to substance and nature venial sin does not exist, and
that there is no such thing as merit.”[241] All sins, in his opinion,
are mortal, because even the smallest contains the deadly poison of
concupiscence. With regard to merit, according to him, even “the saints
have no merit of their own, but only Christ’s merits.”[242] Even in
their actions the motive of perfect love was not sufficiently lively.
“If it might be done unpunished and there were no expectation of
reward, then even the good man would omit the good and do evil like the

With this pessimistic view of Luther’s we conclude our preliminary
glance at the theological goal to which his development had led him. We
will not at present pursue further the theme of pessimism which might
be brought out more clearly in the light of the doctrine contained
in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans regarding absolute
predestination to hell, and resignation to hell as the highest act of
virtue.[244] All the new doctrines we have passed in review may be
regarded as forerunners of the great revolution soon to come; we see
here in these questions of doctrine the utter lack of respect and the
boldness which the originator of this revolutionary theology will,
later on, manifest against the Church, when it became clear that,
without being untrue to herself, she could not approve his teaching.
Meanwhile the connection of these doctrines among themselves and with
the coming world-historic movement calls for further elucidation. We
need offer no excuse for attempting this in detail in the following
pages. The history of Luther’s development has passed into the
foreground of literary interest by reason of the works which have
appeared within the last few years, and, owing to the numerous sources
and particular studies recently published, the historian is now in the
fortunate position of being able to offer a sure solution of much that
has hitherto been doubtful on a subject which has always exercised, and
doubtless will continue to exercise, people’s minds.



1. Former Inaccurate Views

THE views formerly current with regard to the origin of Luther’s
struggle against the old Church were due to an insufficient knowledge
of history, and might be ignored were it not that their after effects
still remain in literature.

It will be sufficient to mention three of these views. It was said that
the Church’s teaching on Indulgences, and the practices of the Quæstors
or Indulgence-preachers, first brought Luther into antagonism with the
Church authorities and then gradually entangled him more and more in
the great struggle regarding other erroneous teachings and usages. As a
matter of fact, the question of Indulgences was raised only subsequent
to Luther’s first great departures from the Church’s doctrine.

Then it was said that the far-seeing teacher of Wittenberg had from
the very first directed his attention to the reformation of the whole
Church, which he found sunk in abuses, and had therefore commenced with
a doctrinal reform as a necessary preliminary. As though Luther—this
is what this childish view presupposes—had before him from the
beginning the plan of his whole momentous work, or sat down to draw
up a general programme for the reformation of doctrine, commencing
with the fall of Adam. We are to believe that the Monk at once severed
all connecting ties with the whole of the past, in faith as well
as in the practical conception of the Church’s life; that he went
through no previous long inward process, attended for him by a weary
conflict of soul; that, in fact, such a world-stirring revolution
had been dependent on the will of one man, and was not the result of
the simultaneous action of many factors which had, at the outset,
been ignored and not taken into consideration. The whole struggle for
the “betterment of the Church” was a gradual development, and the
co-operating elements led their originator, both in his teaching and
his practical changes, far beyond what he had originally aimed at. When
Luther, brooding over original sin, grace and justification, first
began to set up his new ideas against the so-called self-righteous and
“little Saints” of his immediate surroundings, he did, it is true, now
and again speak excitedly of the reforms necessary to meet certain
phases of the great decline in the public life of the Church; but the
Doctor of Holy Scripture was, as a matter of fact, far more preoccupied
with the question of the theology of Paul and Augustine than with the
abuses in the Church and outer world, which were, to tell the truth,
very remote from the Monk’s cell and lecture-room.

The third view is also incorrect which has it that it was rivalry
between two Orders, viz. dissatisfaction and envy on the part of the
Augustinians against the Dominicans, which set the Monk on his career.
The Augustinians, it was said,[245] were annoyed with the rival Order
because the preaching of the Indulgence had been entrusted to its
members and not rather to so capable a man as Luther. Notwithstanding
the early date at which this charge was made, even by Luther’s own
contemporaries, the fact remains, that not only were there Augustinian
Indulgence-preachers, as, for instance, Johann Paltz, but that Luther’s
erroneous teaching had already made its appearance before he had as
yet commenced his struggle with Tetzel, and before he had even thought
of the Dominicans Prierias and Cardinal Cajetan. Jealousy against his
adversaries, the Dominicans, afterwards added fuel to the flame, but it
was not the starting-point.

Moreover, in treating here of Luther’s starting-point, we are not
seeking to determine, as was the case with the three views mentioned
above, the origin and points of contact of the whole movement comprised
under the name of the Reformation, but only of the first rise of
Luther’s new opinions on doctrine. These originated quite apart from
any attempt at external reform of the Church, and were equally remote
from the idea of breaking away from the Pope or of proclaiming freedom
of belief or unbelief, though many have fancied that these were
Luther’s first aims.

Points of contact have been sought for not only in Humanism and its
criticism of Church doctrine, but more particularly in the teaching
and tenets of Hus, Luther’s starting-point being traced back to his
deep study of the writings of John Hus, which had ultimately led him to
revive his errors; most of Luther’s theses, so we are told, were merely
a revival of Hus’s teaching. This view calls for a closer examination
than the others.

_A priori_ we might easily fancy that he had been led to his teaching
on the Church by means of the writings of Wiclif and Hus, for here we
do find a great similarity. But it is precisely this teaching on the
Church which is not to be found amongst his earlier errors; he reached
his views on this subject only as a result of the conflict he had to
wage, and, moreover, even then he brought them forward under varying
aspects. Erasmus, it is true, thought it fair to say, not merely of
his teaching on the Church, but of his teaching in general, that if
“what he has in common with Wiclif and Hus be removed, there would
not be much left.”[246] Erasmus does not analyse Luther’s assertions,
otherwise he would certainly have experienced some difficulty in
bringing out in detail his supposed dependence. We do not, however,
deny that there may be some connection on certain points.

Luther himself is absolutely silent as regards having arrived at his
ideas through Wiclif and Hus. He evidently considers himself quite
independent. In his earlier years he even speaks very strongly against
the Bohemian heretics and the Picards, as he frequently calls the
Husites. In his Commentary on the Psalms he regards them simply as
heretics,[247] and in his lectures on the Epistle to the Romans he
once instances the “_hæresis Pighardorum_” as an example of the wilful
destruction of what is holy.[248] Later, however, at and after his
public apostasy, and even shortly after the Leipzig Disputation, he
defends some of Hus’s doctrines, and the result of his perusal of Hus’s
work, “_De ecclesia_,” was to make him more audacious in upholding the
views it contains.[249] This quite explains the great sympathy with
which he afterwards speaks of Hus and his writings in general, and
the passionate way in which he blames the Catholic Church for having
condemned him. He says in 1520: “In many parts of the German land there
still survives the memory of John Hus, and, as it did not fade, I also
took it up, and discovered that he was a worthy, highly enlightened
man.... See, all ye Papists and Romanists,” he cries, “whether you are
able to undo one page of John Hus with all your writings.”[250] That
book of Hus’s sermons which he found as a young student of theology in
the monastery library at Erfurt (p. 25), he declares that he laid aside
because it was by an arch-heretic, though he had found much good in it,
and had been horrified that such a man had suffered death as a heretic;
as he had at that time convinced himself, Hus interpreted Scripture
powerfully and in a Christian manner.[251] We also know that Luther
relates that Staupitz had told him of Proles, his predecessor, how he
disapproved of Johann Zachariæ, one of the most capable opponents of
Hus, and that Staupitz had agreed: the latter also held that “Zachariæ
had gone to the devil, but that Hus had been unfairly treated.”[252]
This opinion reinforces that of Grefenstein, mentioned above.[253]
Nor does Luther, when speaking of his later development, ever admit
having read Hus and other heretical books, or being in any way indebted
to them. On the other hand, he tries always to place himself above
Hus. What Hus, according to him, discovered was quite insignificant
(“_minora et pauciora_”); he only commenced bringing the light which
had in reality to come from him (Luther).[254] He only “reproved the
abuses and the life of the Pope,” he says on a later occasion, “but I
put the knife to his throat, I oppose his existence and his teaching
and make him merely equal to other bishops; that I did not do at
first,”[255] i.e. I did not commence that way. It is certainly true
that at the beginning he made no attempt to oppose the Papacy and the
power of the Church.

At any rate, and this is what is most true in the above statements
regarding Luther’s connection with Hus, the feeling against Rome which
Hus had stirred up, and the memory of the latter, proved of assistance
to Luther when he came forward and brought him a speedier success; he
himself says on one occasion: “It is a tradition among honest people
that Hus suffered violence and injustice,” and calls the belief that
Hus was condemned by false judges “_robustissima_,” so that no Pope, or
Kaiser or University can shake it.[256]

Protestant biographers, as is well known, are fond of representing the
inward process through which Luther went in the monastery, agreeably
with his own descriptions in later years.[257] Unable to find peace
of conscience and assurance of salvation in the “works” of his
monastery life or of the Papacy, his one aim had been to arrive at
the knowledge of a “merciful God,” and for this purpose he had been
obliged to unearth in Holy Scripture the long-forgotten doctrine of
justification by faith. Some Protestant writers dwell not so much
upon his longing for certainty of salvation as upon his desire for
virtue and true righteousness. “Oh, when wilt thou become pious and
do enough?”[258] Others again complete the picture by laying stress
upon his recognition of the concupiscence which is always reigning in
man and which is sin, and of man’s inability to keep the commandments;
it was his recognition of this which “produced Luther’s theology; his
whole doctrine of justification culminated in the warfare against
sin.” All these descriptions are, however, based on an uncritical
acceptance of Luther’s later accounts of his life in religion, accounts
plainly inspired by his polemic against the old Church, and intended to
illustrate his false assertion that, in the cloister and in the Papacy,
the way to obtain grace from God was utterly unknown.

 Here we will mention only cursorily some of Luther’s later statements,
 purporting to give a picture of his life as a monk.

 To these belong the assertion that in the monastery he had not prayed
 with faith in Christ, because “no one knew anything” about Christ:
 that there the Saviour was known only as a strict Judge, and that he
 had therefore wished there were no Saviour: “I wished there had been
 no God.” “None of us” believed at all that Christ was our Saviour,
 and, by dint of works, we “lost our baptism.” We were always told:
 “Torment yourself in the monastery ... whip yourself until you destroy
 your own sin; that was the teaching and faith of the Pope.”[259]
 “It was a cursed life, full of malignity, was the life of that

 The apostate monk’s object in all those statements regarding his
 interior or exterior experiences in the monastery was to strike at the
 Catholic Church.

 We certainly cannot accept as historic the picture of religious
 practice, or malpractice, given in the following: whenever his eyes
 fell upon a figure of Christ, owing to his popish upbringing, he
 “would have preferred to see the devil rather than Christ”; he had
 thought “that he had been raised to the company of angels,” but found
 he had really been “among devils”; he had “raged” in his search for
 comfort in Holy Scripture; he had also continuously suffered “a
 very great martyrdom and the task-mastership” of his conscience.
 “Self-righteousness” only had counted for anything; so great was it
 that he had been taught not to thank God for the Sacrament, but that
 God should thank him; but, notwithstanding all these errors, he had
 always sought after a “merciful God” and had at last found Him by
 coming to understand His gospel.

 The birth and growth of this fable in the mind of Luther as he
 advanced in years will occupy us later. The present writer may point
 out, that no convincing answer has been given to the objections
 against the legend which he made public even prior to the appearance
 of Denifle’s first volume,[261] and which were repeated therein
 independently, and at considerably greater length. On the Protestant
 side, too, much more caution is now being observed in the use of
 Luther’s later descriptions of his own development, the tendency being
 to use contemporary sources instead. This is seen, for instance,
 in the studies by Braun on Luther’s theory of concupiscence and by
 Hunzinger on Luther’s mysticism, which will be quoted later.

In explanation of the inner process through which Luther went, the
primary reason for his turning away from Catholic doctrine has been
attributed by some Catholics to scrupulosity combined with an unhealthy
self-righteousness, which by an inward reaction grew into carelessness
and despair. How far this view is correct, and how far it requires to
be supplemented by other important factors, will be shown further on.

Meanwhile another altogether too summary theory, a theory which
overshoots the mark, must first be considered.

2. Whether Evil Concupiscence is Irresistible?

Formerly, and even in recent times, many writers on the Catholic side
have endeavoured to prove that the principal motive for Luther’s new
opinions lay in worldliness, sensuality, and more especially sins of
the flesh. In order to explain his teaching attempts were made to
establish the closest connection between Luther’s views with regard
to the survival of sin in man without his consent, the covering over
of man’s guilt by the merits of Christ and the worthlessness of good
works on the one hand, and on the other a nature ravaged by sinful
habits, such as was attributed to the originator of these doctrines.
The principal argument in favour of this view was found in the not
unusual experience that intellectual errors frequently arise from
moral faults. When, however, we come to examine Luther’s character more
narrowly, we at once perceive that other factors must be taken into
consideration in his inward change, so that, in his case, it is not
easy to decide how far his new ideas were produced under the pressure
of his own sensuality. It was taken for granted that, owing to habitual
moral faults, and through constant indulgence in the concupiscence of
the flesh, he had been reduced to a state of utter inward degradation.
Now, in point of fact, beyond what has been already quoted nothing can
be found regarding his moral conduct previous to his change of view.
No other circumstances are known concerning Luther than those already
mentioned and those to be given later. It is true that history does
not possess the all-seeing eye of Him who searches the heart and the
reins; the sources containing information concerning the youth of
Luther, before and after his profession, are also very inadequate;
nevertheless, we must admit that the only arguments upon which the
assertion of his great inward corruption could historically be based,
namely, actual texts and facts capable of convincing anyone, are not
forthcoming in the material at our command.[262]

If Luther did actually teach the fatal invincibility of concupiscence
(of this we shall have more to say later), yet he might well have
arrived at this view by some other way than that of constant falls and
the abiding experience of his own weakness and sinfulness. It is at
least certain that sad personal experience is not the only thing which
gives rise to grave errors of judgment.

Nor does the manner in which Luther represents concupiscence prove his
own inward corruption. He does not make it to consist merely in the
concupiscence of the flesh, and when he says that it is impossible to
conquer concupiscence he is not thinking merely of this. When he speaks
of concupiscence, and of a “_fomes peccati_” in man, he usually means
concupiscence in the wide theological sense, i.e. as the attraction to
every transgression which flatters our imperfect and evil nature, in
particular to selfishness, as the centre around which clusters all that
is sinful—pride, hatred, sensuality, etc.

Luther certainly teaches, even at the outset, as we shall point out
later, that the will of man, by Adam’s Fall, has lost in our ruined
nature even the power to work anything that is good or pleasing to God,
and therefore that it is impossible for man, in his own strength, to
withstand sin and its lusts.

But he does not bring forward this doctrine under circumstances and in
words which give us to understand that he was guided by the intention
of showing any indulgence to concupiscence; on the contrary, he would
like to encourage everyone to oppose concupiscence by means of grace
and faith. Numerous texts might be quoted which clearly show this to
have been the case.

In what sense then does he allow the irresistibility of concupiscence?
We shall find the answer in what follows.

He frequently expresses the truth, taught by faith and experience
alike, regarding the continuance of concupiscence in man, even in
the most perfect, and he does so in terms so strong that he seems to
make concupiscence invincible. We can also see that he has a lively
sense of the burden of concupiscence, that he cherishes a certain
gloomy distrust of God’s readiness to come to man’s assistance—a
distrust connected with his temptations on predestination—and that he
undervalues the helps which the Church offers against evil desires.
Finally, he sees in the very existence of concupiscence a culpable
offence against the Almighty, and declares that, without grace, man
is an unhappy prisoner, who in consequence of original sin is in the
fullest sense incapable of doing what is good.

In his Commentary on the Psalms (1512-15-16) he still, it is true,
upholds the natural freedom of man as opposed to his passions. In the
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1515-16), and frequently in
the sermons of that period, he indeed sacrifices this freedom, but
even there he insists that the grace of God will in the end secure the
victory to those who seek aid and pray humbly, and he also instances
some of the means which, with the efficacious assistance of God, may
help to victory in the religious life. To this later standpoint of
the possibility of resistance with the assistance of grace he adhered
to his end. Exhortations to struggle not only against actual sins,
but also against the smouldering fire of concupiscence—which must be
extinguished more and more in the righteous until at length death sets
him free—occupy many pages of his writings. The jarring notes present
in the above teaching do not seem to have troubled him at any time; he
seeks to conceal them and to pass them over. Never once does he enter
upon a real theological discussion of the most difficult point of all,
the relation of grace to free will.

 Luther also speaks of our freedom and our responsibility for our
 personal salvation in his Commentary on the Psalms: “My soul is in my
 own keeping; by the freedom of my will I can make it eternally happy
 or eternally unhappy by choosing or rejecting Thy law.” Therefore
 Psalm cxviii. 109 says, “My soul is always in my hands,” and although
 I am free to do either, yet I have not “forgotten Thy law.”[263] He
 defends the principle of the theologians, that God does not refuse
 His grace to him who does his best (“_facienti quod est in se, Deus
 non denegat gratiam_”).[264] He teaches also that it is possible to
 prepare for grace which is always at hand.[265]

 “Whoever keeps the law,” he writes in the lectures on the Epistle to
 the Romans, at a time when he had already denied the freedom of the
 will for good, “is in Christ, and grace is given him according as he
 has prepared himself for it to the best of his power.”[266] Without
 grace man is, it is true, unable to do anything that is good in God’s
 sight, but “the law of nature is known to everyone, and therefore no
 one is excusable” who does not follow it and fight against evil.[267]
 Grace, according to him, sets the enslaved will in the righteous free
 again to work for his salvation. “After he has received grace, he has
 been set free, at least to work for his eternal salvation.”[268] This
 remarkable passage together with its continuation will be considered
 later when we deal more fully with the Commentary on Romans. We
 may also draw attention to the fact, that in his Notes on Tauler’s
 sermons, written about the same time as the Commentary, quite against
 the supposed utter inability of the will for good, he acknowledges the
 natural inclination in man towards good—the so-called Syntheresis, or
 moral good conscience.[269]

 In his lectures on Romans he insists that, “by means of works of
 penance and the cross,” concupiscence must be fought against without
 intermission, forced back and diminished; “the body of sin” must,
 according to the Apostle, be destroyed.[270] Luther must therefore
 certainly have regarded man as capable of resisting his evil passions,
 at any rate with assistance from above.

 Of his later statements it will suffice to mention the following:
 “If I will not leave sin and become pious,” he says of the struggle
 against evil, “I may indeed strive to become the master, and God’s
 property, and to be free, but nothing will come of it.”[271] Or again:
 “As long as we live here, evil desires and passions remain in us which
 draw us to sin, against which we must strive and fight, as St. Peter
 says (1 Peter ii. 11 f.). We must therefore always exercise ourselves
 and pray always and fight against sin ... as often as you feel
 yourself tempted to impatience, pride, unchastity or other sins ...
 you must forthwith think how best to withstand these arrows, and beg
 the Lord Jesus that your sin may not gain the upper hand and overcome
 you, but that it may be conquered by His grace.”[272] “Do you wish to
 keep all the commandments,” he says later, “to be free from your evil
 desires and from sin, as the commandments require and demand, then see
 you believe in Christ.”[273]

 Further, if we consider those passages in Luther’s earlier
 writings alleged as proofs of his belief in the irresistibility of
 concupiscence, we find that in every case they merely emphasise the
 inevitable continuance of concupiscence in man, without in any way
 implying the necessity of our acquiescing in the same, and without
 excluding grace. In the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518 he says for
 instance, “Why do we hold concupiscence to be irresistible? Well,
 try and do something without the interference of concupiscence.
 Naturally you cannot. So then your nature is incapable of fulfilling
 the law.”[274] Elsewhere also Luther lays much stress upon the
 indestructibility and the impossibility of rooting out of man the
 smouldering fire of evil, the “_fomes peccati_,” though he is wrong
 in making this condition equivalent to a culpable non-fulfilling of
 the law by man; he is mistaken not only in his common statement that
 man’s evil inclination, even though involuntary, is sinful in God’s
 sight, that it is in fact original sin, and that it would carry man
 to damnation were God not to impute to him Christ’s righteousness; he
 also errs by unduly magnifying the power of concupiscence, as though
 the practice of virtue, prayer and the reception of the Sacraments did
 not weaken it much more than he is willing to admit.

 In 1515 he declares that evil concupiscence or sin “cannot be removed
 from us by any counsel or work,” and that “we all recognise it to be
 quite invincible (“_invincibilem esse concupiscentiam penitus_”);[275]
 invincible, i.e. in the sense of ineradicable, for which reason,
 as he again repeats here, it must at least be rendered innocuous
 by humble prayer for God’s help. In spite of the strong expression
 “_invincibilis_,” and in spite of the comparison he makes elsewhere
 between the evil inclination and Cerberus or Antæus,[276] he does not
 go further here than in another assertion in the Commentary on the
 Psalms which has also been urged against him: “the passion of anger,
 pride, sensuality, when it is aroused, is strong, yea invincible
 (‘_immo invincibilis_’), as experience teaches,” i.e. it appears so
 to the person attacked by it. He had just remarked that in such a
 case we must hope in God and despair of ourselves. He describes in
 the strongest terms, in the Commentary on the Psalms, the strength
 of concupiscence in habitual sinners who are not accustomed to turn
 to God’s grace: “the sinner who is oppressed by vice, and feels the
 devil and his body of sin forcing him to evil, allows the inner voice
 to speak constantly against sin, and severely blames himself in his
 conscience ... reason and the moral sense, remnants left over from
 the ruin of original sin, awaken in him and cry without ceasing to
 the Lord, even though the will sins, forced thereto by sin.”[277] We
 repeat, that in his Commentary on the Psalms he does not yet actually
 deny natural freedom in the doing of what is good.

The view that man, without God’s grace, is entirely lacking in freedom
with regard to his passions—a view which, it is true, permeates
Luther’s Commentary on Romans—was not the starting-point of Luther’s
theological development. It was the end of the first stage through
which he had passed. This doctrine reached later on its culminating
point in his book, “_De servo arbitrio_,” against Erasmus. Here, at
the head of his proofs, he openly confesses himself a determinist,
admitting that God has decreed beforehand all man’s actions; any such
determinism is, however, wanting in his earlier life, nor is it to be
found in his Commentary on Romans; Luther does not yet show himself to
be led by determinist ideas. Even in his work against Erasmus there are
no forcible grounds for attributing the origin of his new teaching to
his inward corruption. Therein he merely denies the freedom of the will
for good without grace, though he allows it to be free in indifferent
matters, a somewhat inconsistent theory owing to the difficulty of
determining exactly the limitations of these indifferent things.

Neither the Commentary on the Psalms nor that on Romans gives us
the impression of being the work of an immoral man, a fact which
should also carry some weight. An author who at the first assault had
capitulated to his evil desires would hardly have been able to conceal
his low moral standard; he would rather have been tempted to join the
Epicureans or the Sceptics, or the unbelieving ranks of the Humanists.
Of anything of the kind there is no trace in the books last mentioned.

Their characteristic is rather—there is no harm in mentioning it
now—a certain false spiritualism, a mysticism, which, especially in
the interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans, frequently follows
quite devious paths. In consequence of his unceasing opposition to
self-righteousness, of his poor idea of God and of human strength, and
of his false mystical train of thought, Luther came to dismiss human
freedom and to set up the power of sin on the throne. Aristotle’s
teaching regarding the natural righteousness which arises from
good actions is particularly distasteful to Luther, and equally
distasteful to the nominalistic critic is the doctrine of supernatural
righteousness through infused sanctifying grace, which he prefers to
replace by the imputation of the merits of Christ.

3. The Real Starting-point and the Co-operating Factors

The real origin of Luther’s teaching must be sought in a fundamental
principle which governed him, which was fostered by the decline in
his life as a religious and a priest, and more particularly by his
inordinate love of his own opinion and by the uncharitable criticisms
he passed upon others. This was his unfavourable estimate of good
works, and of any effort, natural or supernatural, on the part of man.

This opposition to a principle, common to the Church and to
monasticism, as to the necessity in which men generally and
religious in particular stand of performing good works if they wish
to please God, is the first deviation from the right path which we
notice in him. He called it a fight against “holiness by works” and
self-righteousness, and in this fight he went still further. He made
his own the deadly error that man by his natural powers is unable to do
anything but sin. To this he added that the man who, by God’s grace,
is raised to justification through divinely infused faith and trust
must, it is true, perform good works, but that the latter are not to be
accounted meritorious. All works avail nothing as means for arriving
at righteousness and eternal salvation; faith alone effects both. Not
at the outset, but gradually, did he make his antagonism to good works
the foundation of a doctrine built up under the influence of a lively
imagination, a powerful and undisciplined self-confidence and other
factors which will be mentioned below. In his controversy with the
“holy by works” he had exclaimed (p. 81) “there is no greater pest in
the Church to-day than those men who go about saying ‘we must do good
works.’” His real enemies were soon the traditional Catholic belief
and practice regarding good works and personal activity in general;
he did not confine himself to expressing his dissatisfaction with
the Observantines in his own Order or the possible excesses of other
supporters of outward works.

It is easy to recognise how this opposition to works runs like a dark
thread through the first beginnings of his teaching of the new doctrine
and onward through the whole course of his life. We may here, starting
at the commencement, anticipate his history somewhat.

“At the first,” so he says himself in later years, “my struggle
was against trust in works,”[278] and this is confirmed by the MS.
Commentary on Romans which he commenced in 1515 (see below, chap. vi.
3). The first occasion in his correspondence in which he allows his
new views to appear is in 1516, in a recommendation to a friend that
“he should cultivate disgust with his own righteousness and despair
of himself,” that this was better than to do as “those who plague
themselves with their works until they think they are fit to stand
in God’s sight.”[279] He expresses himself in a similar strain on
self-righteousness in sermons preached at this time.[280]

 The same line of thought also appears in a paradoxical form, as
 the basis of a disputation held at Wittenberg in 1516 under his
 presidency. Man sins, so we find it said, “when he does what is in
 him” (“_quod est in se_”), and those who are “righteous in their
 own eyes” by reason of their good works, i.e. all who do not simply
 “despair of themselves,” are condemned. This ruling thought also
 pervades another disputation of one of his pupils in 1517, where
 we read: “every good work must needs at once make nature proud and
 puffed up,” and “hope is not given us by our merits, but by suffering
 [painful interior struggles], which root out merit,”[281] i.e. which
 destroy every feeling of self-satisfaction grounded on merit. He tells
 one of his confidants in the same year that his great aim was “to
 grant nothing to human works, but to know only God’s grace.”[282]

 In his first German work, printed in 1517, the Commentary on the
 Seven Penitential Psalms, he opposes “all proud living and work and
 righteousness” and bewails the “spiritual pride, the last and deepest
 of all vices,”[283] with which, according to him, those are filled
 who seek for “safety and false consolation” in their works instead
 of simply embracing the “word of grace.” He places works so much in
 the background in his teaching at that time, that he brings forward
 this objection against himself, whether, instead of always speaking
 of grace, he should not speak more of “human righteousness, wisdom
 and strength.” Instead of defending himself he declares “a good life
 does not consist in many works”; to feel oneself “a miserable, damned,
 forsaken sinner” is better, even when God sends trouble of soul, which
 is “a drop or foretaste of the pains of hell,” and which renders the
 human corpse quite ill and weak; such suffering makes a man like
 Christ who also bore the same.[284]

 When in 1518 he published his Latin sermon on Penance, its chief
 thesis was that man’s part in his reconciliation with God counted
 for nought; we must despair in order to attain contrition, at least
 from the motive of fear of God; we must merely submit with faith to
 the action of grace. “Whoever trusts to his contrition when receiving
 absolution, builds on the sand of his works and is guilty of shameless

 He writes in the same year that blinded adversaries accuse him of
 condemning good works, more especially that he dared to declare war
 against rosaries, the Little Office, and other prayers, and yet
 the sum of his sermon was only this: “that we must not place our
 confidence in our own work.”[286]

 Thus the depreciation of works is the prevailing note, even in his
 first public utterances; this it also remains.

 When he began his attack on religious vows, he supported his campaign
 by preference on the ostensible worthlessness of human works for
 obtaining merit in heaven; vows were to be rejected because the
 heart must not seek its stay in works,[287] and in his attacks on
 the celibacy of the clergy and religious, he again declared that he
 was attacking the “false saints” who intrench themselves behind the
 holiness of the works accomplished by them in a state superior to that
 of family life, but that faith makes all outward things free.[288]
 This prejudice against works is the principal feature in his polemics;
 for instance, he explains to King Henry VIII in a rejoinder directed
 against him that the enemy he was called upon to overcome was the
 pestilential doctrine of the necessity of appearing before God with
 works (“_velle per opera coram Deo agere_”), whereas works were good
 only in the eyes of man.[289] In season and out of season, he pours
 forth his rage against the works in the Papacy with such words as
 these: Away with masses, pilgrimages, Office in Choir, saint-worship,
 cowls, virginity, confraternities, rules, and such-like, away with
 “the lousy works”;[290] and so he preached to his very end in

It is not, however, sufficient to take as Luther’s starting-point his
opposition to good works, though this always remains the chief feature
in his doctrine. Further fresh light may be thrown on the enigmatical
process of his inner change if we consider various influences which
contributed to lead him to his new doctrine and to develop the same.

A preliminary glance at the case shows us, first of all, that Luther
in his youth was trained in the theological school of Occam, i.e. in a
form of theology showing great signs of decadence. The nominalistic,
and more particularly the false anthropological speculations of Occam,
d’Ailly and Biel, which did not allow its full rights to grace,
called forth his opposition, and he soon lost all confidence in the
old theology; in his exaggeration he went to the theological extreme
contrary to Occamism and declared war against the ability of nature to
do good. This was a negative effect of Occamism. This view encouraged
him in his opposition to the “self-righteousness” which he fancied
he saw everywhere, even in the zeal of the Observantines for their
rule, especially when he had already fallen away from the ideals of
his profession, from monastic piety and the spirit of the priesthood.
A boundless self-reliance began to possess him, and led him forward
regardless of all. This was the “wisdom of his own mind” of which
he accuses himself in 1516 in a letter to a friend in the Order,
speaking of it as the “foundation and root” of much unrest; bitterly
he exclaims: “Oh, how much pain has the evil eye [this self-conceit]
already caused me, and how much does it continue to plague me.”[292] We
may take these words more seriously than they were probably meant. His
egotism and pride were flattered to such an extent by his imagination
that he seemed to find everywhere confirmation of his own preconceived
notions. Having read Tauler he at once considered him as the greatest
of writers, because he was able to credit him with some of his own
sentiments. Then again in Augustine, the Doctor of the Church, he
found, as he imagined, a true reflection of his new doctrine. Devoid of
the necessary intellectual and moral discipline, he allowed himself to
be blinded by a fanatic attachment to his own opinion.

Carried away by his own judgment and regardless of the teaching of
all the schools, yea, even of the Church herself, he passed into the
camp of the enemy, perhaps without at first being aware of it; he
came to deny entirely the merit of good works as though they were of
no importance for our salvation as compared with the power of faith,
an idea in which he fortified himself by his one-sided study of Holy
Scripture and by his misinterpretation of the Epistles of St. Paul,
that preacher of the power of faith and of the grace of Christ. He
was always accustomed to consider the Bible as his special province,
and, given his character, it was not difficult for him to identify
himself with it, and to ascribe to himself the discovery of great
Scriptural truths till then misunderstood or forgotten; for instance,
the destruction of man’s powers by original sin and their renewal
by faith and grace. The false doctrine of the outward imputation of
the merits of Christ came next. The school of Occam here prepared
the way for him by its views on sanctifying grace and “acceptation”
(imputation). Luther found in Occam’s views on this subject no
obstacle, but rather a support. This positive influence on him of
Occam will be dealt with below (chap. iv. 3), together with other
positive effects which decadent Scholasticism exercised upon him. Just
as it suited his violent character to declare in no gentle words the
renunciation of personal merit of every kind for the imputation of the
merits of Christ, so the tendency of his own religious life, which
had become alienated from the ideals of his Order, encouraged him to
make the whole moral task consist in a simple, trustful appropriation
of the saving merits of Christ, in confidence, comfort and safety,
notwithstanding the dissentient inner voices.

Further, his study of false mysticism (see below, chap. v.) helped to
clothe his new ideas in the deceptive dress of piety. To himself he
seemed to be fulfilling perfectly the precepts of the mystics to seek
everywhere the spirit and make small account of outward things: he
imagined that Christ would be truly honoured, and the importance of
Divine grace effectually made manifest, by despair of our own works,
yea, even of ourself. The power which a mysticism gone astray exercised
in those early stages upon a mind so full of imagination and feeling
cannot be overestimated.

The oldest letter we have of Luther to Staupitz is in itself a witness
to its writer’s self-deception; to his fatherly friend he speaks quite
openly and even appeals to his sermons “on the Love of God” in support
of his own errors. Staupitz had warned him in a friendly manner that
in many places his name stood in very bad repute. Luther admits in
this letter, written four months after he had affixed the well-known
Wittenberg Theses, that his doctrine of justification, his sermons on
the worthlessness of works, and his opposition to the theology in vogue
in the schools had raised a storm against him. People said that he
rejected pious practices and all good works. And yet he was merely a
disciple of Tauler’s theology, and, like Staupitz, had taught nothing
else but that “we should place our confidence in none other than Jesus
Christ, not in any prayers and merits and good works, because we are
saved not by our works, but by God’s mercy.” If God were working in
him, so he concludes enthusiastically, then no one can turn him aside;
but if it was not God’s work, then, indeed, no one can advance his

We must assume that at the beginning of his alienation from the Church
among other motives he was largely deceived by the appearance of good;
there is, in any case, nothing decisive to show the process as purely
material, as a result of his efforts to relieve himself from his
moral obligations, or as due to a worldly spirit. His responsibility,
of course, became much greater when, as he advanced and was able to
review things more calmly, he obstinately adhered to his new views,
and, as his sermons and writings prove, defended them, even against the
best-meant criticism, with bitterness, hate and passion. Self-love,
which, even in his earlier life, had held too great a place, now took
complete control of him, and the spirit of contradiction closed the
gates for ever against his return. Luther’s character was one which
contradiction only served to stimulate and to drive to extremes.

Thus his spiritual pride was his real misfortune.[294]

In his case we find a sad confirmation of what is frequently observed
in the falling away from truth of highly gifted minds; self-esteem and
self-conceit suggest the first thoughts of a turning away from the
truth, hitherto held in honour, and then, with fatal strength, condemn
the wanderer to keep to the path he has chosen. Further concessions to
the spirit of the world then follow as a consequence of the apostate’s
continued enmity to the Church. Of the last moral decline so noticeable
in Luther’s later life there is also no lack of similar instances, for
it is the rule that after a man has been led astray by pride there
should follow further moral deviations from the right path. The Monk’s
subsequent breach of his vows and his marriage with a former nun was a
sacrilege, which to Catholic eyes showed plainly how he who begins in
the spirit of pride, even though his purposes be good, may end in the

At the earliest inception of Luther’s theological errors other elements
may however be perceived which help to explain more easily his growing
antipathy to so-called holiness by works. First, there was the real
abuse then prevalent in the practice of works. Here we find a weak
spot in the religious life of the time, nor is it unlikely that grave
faults and repulsive excesses were to be found even in the Augustinian
monasteries with which Luther was acquainted. We have already drawn
attention to the formalism which in many cases had affected the
clergy and the monastic houses. The often one-sided cultivation of
exterior works, which, for instance, by the Indulgence-preachers,
were proclaimed unfailing in their effects; the popular excesses
in saint-worship; far-fetched legends and exhortations to imitate
the extraordinary practices of saintly heroes; the stepmotherly
treatment meted out in the pulpit to the regular and ordinary duties
of a Christian; the self-interest, avarice and jealousy rampant in
confraternities, pilgrimages and other public expressions of worship,
faults which had slipped in partly owing to the petty egotism of the
corporations and Orders, partly to the greed of their members, partly
to a mania for false piety; all this may well have made a painful
impression on the Wittenberg Professor, and have called forth his
eloquent reproof. His tendency to look at the worst side of things
doubtless contributed, together with the above reasons, to fill him
with distaste for good works in general.

The extraordinary exaggerations of which he was guilty must, however,
be imputed to himself alone. It has been said to his excuse that,
as Rural Vicar, he had been able to acquire correct information
regarding the state of things. But, as it happens, his frequent and
unrestrained outbursts against abuses belong, at least in great part,
to the time when he was a simple monk, who, apart from his journeys
to Rome and Cologne and his stay at Erfurt, had seen little outside
his cell beyond the adjoining walls of Wittenberg. His lectures on the
Psalms and the Epistle to the Romans both offer strange examples of
such exaggerations, though both were delivered before he had had any
experience as Rural Vicar.

Finally his own morbid personal condition must be taken into account;
the after-effects of his passing fit of scrupulosity, and the lasting
feeling of fear which sometimes quite overmastered him. His inclination
to doubts concerning his election remained, and therewith also the
moral results which the fear of being predestined to hell would
naturally exercise upon his peculiar temperament. He remained an
outspoken predestinarian of the most violent type. (See chap. vi. 2.)
He had to come to terms with this fear of hell, and his system shows
the result; in many respects it appears as a reaction against the
oppressive burden of the thought of eternal rejection.

His state of fear, however, as already indicated, proceeded not merely
from the numerous temptations of which he himself speaks, but also from
his own inward depression, from an affection, partly psychical and
partly physical, which often prostrated him in terror. Only later, with
the help of other facts of his inner life, will it be possible to deal
with this darker side of Luther (vol. vi. xxxvi.). He imagined that
during these fits, in which troubles of conscience also intervened,
and which, according to his description, were akin to the pains of
hell, he was forsaken by God, and sunk in the eerie night of the soul
of which the mystics treat. He also considered them at an early period
as a trial sent by God and intended to prepare him for higher things.
In trying to escape from this feeling of terror, at the time of his
change he embraced all the more readily ideas of false security which
seemed to be offered by the appropriation of the merits of Christ, and
the rejection of all attempt to acquire merit on one’s own account.
Psychologically, it is comprehensible that this solution seemed to him
to let a beam of sunlight into the darkness of his terror. Anxious
to escape from fear he threw himself frantically into the opposite
extreme, into a system of self-pacification hitherto unknown to
theology. But even this new system did not serve to calm him in the
first stage of his error. There was still something lacking, so he
felt, in his doctrine, and to this he attained only in the second stage
of the process by his discovery that the seal is set on inward peace by
the doctrine of the absolute assurance of salvation imparted by Faith.
(See chap. x.)

Morbid fears prevented any childlike trust in God taking root in a mind
so inexplicably agitated as his. With what great fervour he prepared
himself for his priestly ordination, and for celebrating his first
Mass, may here be illustrated by his own statement, that he then read
Gabriel Biel’s book on the Mass (“_Sacri canonis missæ expositio
literalis ac mystica_”) “with a bleeding heart.” So he himself says
later, when he also speaks of the work, then widely used, as “an
excellent book, as I then thought.”[295] From the tone of his letter of
invitation to his first Mass we can judge of his state of commotion.
The confusion and trouble which he experienced at his first Mass,
and the fear which seized him during the procession of the Blessed
Sacrament, lead us to conclude that he was readily overcome by vain
apprehensions combined with physical excitement. Here also belongs
Luther’s later statement concerning the fears which he (and others too)
experienced when in the monastery at the smallest ritual blunders, as
though they had been great sins; such an assertion, though exaggerated
and untrue, is probably an echo of his own troubled state during the
liturgical ceremonies.

It is possible that those fears may have been the cause of his great
pessimism with regard to human works. They may have contributed to make
him see sin in what was merely the result of fallen nature with its
involuntary concupiscences, without any consent of the will. Such fears
may have pursued him when he began to brood over the doctrine of man’s
powers, original sin and grace; we speak of his “brooding,” for his
inclinations at that time were to a melancholy contemplation of things
unseen. The timidity which he had acquired in the early days of his
boyhood and at school doubtless had its effect in keeping him in such
moods, apart from his own temperament.

       *       *       *       *       *

On close examination of Luther’s theological studies we find that
his preparation for the office of professor—so far as a knowledge
of the positive doctrine of the Church, of the Fathers and of good
Scholasticism is concerned—was all too meagre.

He had not at his command the time necessary for penetrating deeply
into dogma or into its presentment by earlier exponents. What was said
above of his course of studies must, however, be supplemented by some
further details.

 After his ordination in Erfurt, at Easter, 1507, he began the two-year
 course of theology to which alone the privileges of the Augustinians
 obliged him. In addition to the lectures, which, as was usual, were
 based on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, there was also the Office in
 Choir; the pupils of the Order were indeed on lecture days not obliged
 to attend Matins, Sext and Compline, but the latter had to be said
 by Luther privately, as he was a priest. While the lectures on the
 Sentences were still in progress, Luther was pursuing his scriptural
 studies. Before the full time had expired however, after about
 eighteen months of theological study, he was, as mentioned before,
 called to the University of Wittenberg at the commencement of the
 winter term, 1508, in order to deliver “_Lectiones publicæ_” on moral
 philosophy, i.e. on the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle. He was, it is
 true, expected to prosecute his theological studies at the same time
 by attending lectures, but for this he can scarcely have found much
 time, seeing that he had himself to give a daily lecture of one hour
 on so difficult a subject as the Ethics in the Faculty of Philosophy.
 A capable young man was needed by Staupitz to supply the requirements
 of the University, which was largely under his care, for the former
 lecturer on Ethics, Wolfgang Ostermayr, had, so it appears, suddenly
 left, and dire necessity caused the incompleteness of Luther’s
 philosophical training to be overlooked. Staupitz was the more willing
 to shut his eyes to what was wanting, as he was personally much
 attached to the highly promising lecturer, about whom moreover he had
 already his plans. That Luther was not particularly pleased at the way
 in which he was employed, we learn from his Table-Talk: “At Erfurt I
 was reading nothing but the Bible, when God, in a wonderful manner,
 and contrary to everyone’s expectations, sent me from Erfurt to
 Wittenberg; that was a nice come down for me.”[296] The word actually
 made use of in the last sentence was a slang expression of the
 students and implied that his new position was not to his liking. It
 was less the overwork than his antipathy to philosophy and Aristotle
 that made him feel uncomfortable; he himself complains: “_violentum
 est studium, maxime philosophiæ_” in his letter from Wittenberg to
 Johann Braun in Eisenach (March 17, 1509). In this letter he also
 confesses that he is longing to exchange philosophy for theology.[297]
 After a single term his professors thought him worthy of the degree of
 “Bacularius (Baccalaureus) Biblicus.” This was the lowest theological
 degree, and was conferred on him by Staupitz the Dean on March 9,
 1509, according to the Dean’s Register of the Theological Faculty.
 Thus did he pass the two years of his course of theology.

 Besides the lecture on philosophy he had now also to discourse daily
 for one hour on portions of Holy Scripture, teaching being then
 considered a part of the course of studies. In addition to this he was
 obliged to attend the theological lectures and disputations. “Indeed
 a colossal task,” says a Protestant Luther-scholar, “which shows what
 great demands Staupitz made on the powers of his pupils.”[298]

 The next degree in theology, that of “Sententiarius” was to have
 been conferred on Luther, as we know, in the autumn of 1509, when
 suddenly, owing to internal disputes, he was recalled from Wittenberg
 to his monastery at Erfurt. What prospect of quiet theological study
 opened out before him there? At Erfurt his preparation again consisted
 principally in teaching and in disputing in his own peculiar way. As
 soon as the University had accepted him as “Sententiarius,” he had
 at once to give theological lectures on the Sentences. He was also
 employed in the monastery, together with Dr. Nathin, as sub-regent of
 house studies, i.e. in the instruction of the novices in the duties
 of their profession. At the same time he not only continued his
 accustomed biblical reading, but, in order to be able to prosecute
 it more thoroughly, began to study Greek and Hebrew, in which Johann
 Lang, an Augustinian who has been frequently mentioned and who was
 a trained Humanist, rendered him appreciable service. The eighteen
 months he spent in the Erfurt monastery were distracted by the
 dissensions within the Order, by his journeys to Halle and then to
 Rome and his intercourse with Erfurt Humanists, such as Petrejus
 (Peter Eberbach). After his return from five months’ absence in Rome,
 the dispute in the Order continued to hinder his studies and finally
 drove him to the friends of Staupitz at Wittenberg, as soon as he had
 declared himself against the Erfurt Observantines. Thence the affairs
 of the Order carried him in May, 1512, to the Chapter at Cologne,
 where the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him. During
 his preparation for his doctorate he already began, urged on by
 Staupitz, to preach in the monastery church at Wittenberg, where the
 Elector once heard him and was filled with admiration. He was also
 always ready to assist others with their work, as for instance when
 he prepared for the Provost the address to be delivered before the
 Synod at Leitzkau. And when at thirty years of age, in October, 1515,
 he undertook, as Doctor, to deliver the _lectura in biblia_ at the
 University of Wittenberg, this was not in his case the commencement of
 a career of learned leisure, but the filling of a position encumbered
 with the cure of souls, with preaching and much monastic business.

 In view of his defective education in theology properly so called, we
 may well raise the question how, without any thorough knowledge of the
 subject, he could feel himself summoned to undertake such far-reaching
 theological changes.

 “At the parting of the ways,” says Denifle, regarding Luther’s
 knowledge of theology, “and even when he had already set up his
 first momentous theses and declared war on Scholasticism, he was
 still but half-educated.... He knew nothing of the golden age of
 Scholasticism, and was even unacquainted with the doctor of his own
 Order [who followed the greater Schoolmen] Ægydius of Rome.” “He was
 a self-taught, not a methodically trained, man.”[299] In spite of
 his self-reliance, a feeling of the insufficiency of his education
 seems to have tormented him at the outset. We should not perhaps
 be justified in accepting what he said in later years, that he had
 at first “been greatly afraid of the pulpit” even when (in his
 second stay at Wittenberg) it was only a question of preaching “in
 the Refectory before the brethren.”[300] But according to his own
 statement, he expressed very strongly to Staupitz his fear of taking
 the degree of Doctor of Divinity, and two years later he declared
 that he had only yielded to pressure.[301] But Staupitz, who urged
 him forward with excessive zeal, had said in his presence when Luther
 preached before the Elector: “I will prepare for Your Highness in this
 man a very special Doctor, who will please you well,” words which the
 Elector did not forget and of which he reminded Staupitz in 1518.[302]

 The fact that Staupitz made such slight demands in Luther’s case
 regarding theological preparation may be explained from his own
 course of studies. His previous history shows his studies to have
 been anything but deep, and this is a matter worth noting, because
 it is an example of how a solid study of theology was at that time
 often wanting even in eminent men in the Church. After he had been
 entered at Tübingen in 1497 as Master of Arts, he commenced (October
 29, 1498), the biblical course, and, a little more than two months
 later (January 10, 1499), began to deliver theological lectures on
 the Sentences. Half a year of this qualified him for the Licentiate,
 and, a day after, he became Doctor of Divinity. “These untrained
 theologians,” says Denifle, after giving the dates just mentioned,
 “wanted to reform theology, and looked with contempt on the theology
 of the Middle Ages, of which they were utterly ignorant.”[303]



1. A closer examination of Luther’s Theological Training

IT was not time only which was wanting in Luther’s case for a deep
course of theological study, he was even denied what was equally
essential, namely, a really scholarly presentment of theology such as
is to be found in the best period of Scholasticism.

The great Schoolmen of the Middle Ages, with their finished system,
combining a pious veneration for the traditions of the Fathers with
high flights of thought, were almost unknown to him; at least, he never
esteemed or made any attempt to penetrate himself with the learning of
Albertus Magnus, Thomas of Aquin or Bonaventure, notwithstanding the
fact that in the Church their teaching, particularly that of Aquinas,
already took the first place, owing to the approval of the Holy See.
Luther frequently displayed his utter ignorance of Thomism, as we shall
show later.[304]

The nominalistic philosophy and theology offered him by the
schools he attended has, with reason, been described as a crippled
parody of true Scholasticism. In this, its latest development,
Scholasticism had fallen from its height, and, abandoning itself to
speculative subtleties, had opened a wide field to Nominalism and its
disintegrating criticism. The critical acumen demonstrated by John Duns
Scotus, the famous Franciscan Doctor (_Doctor Subtilis_), who died at
Cologne in 1308, the late-comers would fain have further emphasised.
Incapable as they were of producing anything great themselves, they
exercised their wits in criticising every insignificant proposition
which could possibly be questioned in philosophy and theology.
The Franciscan, William of Occam (Ockham, Surrey), called _Doctor
Singularis_, or _Invincibilis_, also _Venerabilis Inceptor Nominalium_,
was one of the boldest and most prolific geniuses of the Middle Ages
in the domain of philosophy and theology. His great works, composed
during his professorship, especially his Commentary on the Sentences,
his “_Centifolium_” and his “_Quodlibeta_,” are proofs of this. On
theological questions concerning poverty he came into conflict with
the Pope, his Sentences were condemned by the University of Paris, he
appealed from the Holy See to a General Council, was excommunicated in
1328, protested against the decisions of the General Chapter of the
Order, and then took refuge with Lewis of Bavaria, the schismatic,
whose literary defender he became. He wrote for him, among other
things, his ecclesiastico-political “_Dialogus_,” and even after his
protector’s death continued to resist Clement VI. Occam died at Munich
in 1349, reconciled with his Order, though whether the excommunication
had already been removed or not is doubtful.

He revived Nominalism in philosophy and theology. His teaching was
so much that of the schools through which Luther had been that the
latter could declare: “_sum occamicæ factionis_,”[305] and speak quite
simply of Occam as “_magister meus_.”[306] It cannot, however, be
said, as it recently has been, that Luther “prided himself on being
Occam’s disciple,” and that he “would not give a refusal to his beloved
master”; for it was more in irony than in earnest that he spoke when he
said: “I also am of Occam’s party”; and when, as late as 1530, he still
speaks of “Occam, my beloved master,”[307] this is said in jest only
in order to be able to accuse him more forcibly as an expert with the
greatest of errors; nevertheless, he places Occam in point of learning
far above Thomas of Aquin, the “so-called Doctor of Doctors,” whom he
despised. Regarding, however, the esteem in which Occam was held in his
youth, he afterwards said: “We had to give him the title _Venerabilis
huius sectæ [scholæ] primus repertor_,” but adds: “Happy are you [my
table-companions] in not having to learn the dung which was offered
me.”[308] He felt compelled, nevertheless, to praise Occam’s dialectic
skill and his inexhaustible acuteness, and for his part considered him
the most gifted of the Schoolmen (“_summus dialecticus, scholasticorum
doctorum sine dubio princeps et ingeniosissimus_”).[309] It was not
only at a later period that he was ready to admit his weaknesses,
for even at the beginning of his course, in the Commentary on Romans
(1515-16), he attacks certain essential errors of Occam and his school.

His acquaintance with the master he owed, moreover, more to Occam’s
disciples, i.e. to the later theologians of the Occamist school, more
especially Gabriel Biel, than to his own reading of the voluminous and
unwieldy works of Occam himself. We are already aware that, of the
disciples and intellectual heirs of Occam, he studied more particularly
the two well-known writers d’Ailly, Cardinal of Cambrai—whom Luther
usually calls quite simply the Cardinal—whose ideas were very daring,
and the humble Gabriel Biel, Professor at Tübingen, whose writings,
clear, and rich in thought, possessed many good qualities.

Their one-sided Nominalism unfortunately led these Occamists to an
excessive estimate of the powers of nature and an undervaluing of
grace, and also to a certain incorrect view of the supernatural. We
must add that they were disposed to neglect Holy Scripture and to set
too much store on their speculations, and that, with regard to the
relations between reason and faith, they did not abide by the approved
principles and practice of the earlier Schoolmen.

The Occamist theology strongly influenced the talented and critical
pupil, though diversely. Most of the elements of which it was made
up repelled him, and as he regarded them as essential parts of
Scholasticism, they filled him with a distaste for Scholasticism
generally. Other of its elements attracted him, namely, those more in
conformity with his ideas and feeling. These he enrolled in the service
of his theological views, which—again following Occam’s example—he
developed with excessive independence. Thus the tendency to a false
separation of natural and supernatural commended itself to him; he
greedily seized upon the ideas of Nominalism with regard to imputation
after he had commenced groping about for a new system of theology. His
greatest objection was for the views of his teachers regarding the
powers of man and grace. This it was, more especially, which raised in
him the spirit of contradiction and set him on a path of his own. To
one in his timorous state such views were unsympathetic; he himself
scented sin and imperfection everywhere; also he preferred to see the
powers of the will depreciated and everything placed to the account
of grace and Divine election. Thus, what he read into Holy Scripture
concerning faith and Christ seemed to him to speak a language entirely
different from that of the subtleties of the Occamists.

His unfettered acceptance or rejection of the doctrinal views submitted
to him was quite in accordance with his character. He was not one to
surrender himself simply to authority. His unusual ability incited him
to independent criticism of opinions commonly received, and to voice
his opposition in the public disputations against his not overbrilliant
Nominalist professors; the strong appeal which he made to the Bible,
with which the others were less well acquainted, and to the rights of
faith and the grace of Christ, was in his favour.

2. Negative Influence of the Occamist School on Luther

Besides the recently published Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
various statements in his sermons, disputations and letters prove the
opposition that existed between Luther and his own school. In the
Disputation of 1517 entitled “_Contra scholasticam theologiam_,” for
instance, he expressly names, as the opponents against whom his various
theses are aimed, Scotus, Occam, the Cardinal, Gabriel, and, generally,
“_omnes scholastici_” or “_communis sententia_,” “_dictum commune_,”
“_usus multorum_,” “_philosophi_” or “_morales_.”[310]

Before we proceed to examine the individual points of Luther’s conflict
with Occamism and with what he considered the teaching of Scholasticism
as a whole, two general points of this opposition must be mentioned.
His first grievance is the neglect of Holy Scripture.

 A sensible want in the Divinity studies of that time lay, as a matter
 of fact, in the insufficient use of the positive foundations of
 theology, i.e. above all of Holy Scripture, and also of the tradition
 of the Fathers of the Church and the decisions of the Church in her
 office as teacher. “Luther had rightly recognised,” says Albert Weiss,
 “what harm resulted from the regrettable neglect of Holy Scripture
 on the part of so many theologians, and therefore he chose as his
 watchword the cry for the improvement of theology by a return to the
 Bible.”[311] “That Luther was moved to great anger by the Nominalists’
 neglect of the Bible is not to be wondered at.”[312] “He would not
 have been Luther,” the same author rightly says, “had he not soon
 veered round to the other extreme, i.e. to the battle-cry: Scripture
 only, and nothing but the Scripture, away with all Scholasticism.”

 This abuse, however, had already been reproved and bewailed by the
 Church before Luther’s time; there is no dearth of statements by the
 very highest authorities urging a remedy, though it is true more
 should have been done. Pope Clement VI wrote reprovingly to the
 University of Paris, on May 20, 1346: “Most theologians do not trouble
 themselves about the text of Holy Scripture, about the actual words
 of their principal witnesses, about the expositions of the Saints
 and Doctors, i.e. concerning the sources from which real theology is
 taken, a fact which is bitterly to be deplored.... In place of this
 they entangle themselves in philosophical questions and in disputes
 which merely pander to their cleverness, in doubtful interpretations,
 dangerous doctrines and the rest.”[313] But “with the prevalent
 spirit of formalism and disorder, embodied chiefly in Nominalism,” “a
 healthy and at the same time fruitful treatment of Holy Scripture had
 become impossible.... These were abuses which had long been calling
 for the reintroduction of a positive and more scriptural treatment
 of theology.”[314] Though the judgment passed by Luther in his later
 years on the neglect of Holy Scripture was somewhat too general
 (for it was historically untrue to say that Scripture had ever been
 altogether given up by the Church),[315] yet contemporaries agree with
 him in blaming the too extensive use of Aristotle’s philosophy in
 the schools to the detriment of the Bible-text. Long before, Gerson,
 whose books were in Luther’s hands, had laid stress on the importance
 of Holy Scripture for theology. “Holy Scripture,” he says, “is a Rule
 of Faith, which it is only necessary to understand aright; against it
 there is no appeal to authority or to the decisions of human reason:
 nor can custom, law or practice have any weight if proved to be
 contrary to Holy Scripture.”[316]

 Luther, with palpable exaggeration, lays the charge at the door of
 theology as a whole, even of the earlier school, and would have us
 believe that the abuse was inseparable from ecclesiastical science.
 He speaks to this effect more and more forcibly during the course
 of his controversies. Thus in 1530 he says of the Scholastics, that
 they “despised Holy Scripture.” “What! they exclaimed, the Bible?
 Why, the Bible is a heretic’s book, and you need only read the
 Doctors to find that out. I know that I am not lying in saying this,
 for I grew up amongst them and saw and heard all about them.” And
 so they had arrived at doctrines about which one must ask: “Is this
 the way to honour Christ’s blood and death?” Everything was full of
 “idle doctrines which did not agree among themselves, and strange
 new opinions.”[317] Occam, he declares in his Table-Talk in 1540,
 “excelled them all in genius and has confuted all the other schools,
 but even he said and wrote in so many words that it could not be
 proved from Scripture that the Holy Ghost is necessary for a good
 work.”[318] “These people had intelligence, had time for work and had
 grown grey in study, but about Christ they understood nothing, because
 they esteemed Holy Scripture lightly. No one read the Bible so as to
 steep himself in its contents with reflection, it was only treated
 like a history book.[319]

 It is true that the scholastic treatment of the doctrines of faith, as
 advocated by Occam against the more positive school, disregarded Holy
 Scripture to such an extent that, in the master’s subtle Commentaries,
 it hardly finds any place; even in the treatment of the supernatural
 virtues—faith, hope and charity—Scripture scarcely intervenes.[320]
 But it was unjust of Luther, on this account, to speak of the
 Schoolmen’s contempt for the Bible, or to say, for instance in his
 Table-Talk, about his master, Gabriel Biel, whose Commentary on the
 Sentences had become, so to speak, a hand-book: “The authority of
 the Bible counted for nothing with Gabriel.”[321] Biel esteemed and
 utilised the Bible as the true Word of God, but he did not satisfy
 young Luther, who desiderated in him much more of the Bible and a
 little less of philosophy. The “word,” he declares, was not cherished
 by the priests, and this he had already shown in his Leitzkau
 discourse to be the reason of all the corruption.[322]

The preponderance of philosophy, and more particularly the excessive
authority of Aristotle, in the theological method of his circle
offered Luther a second point of attack. Here also it was a question
of a rather widely spread abuse which the better class of Schoolmen
had prudently avoided. The Nominalistic schools, generally speaking,
showed a tendency to a rationalistic treatment of the truths of faith,
which affrighted Luther considerably. General ideas, according to the
Nominalists, were merely “_nomina_,” i.e. empty words; Nominalists
concerned themselves only with what was actual and tangible. Nominalism
was fond of displaying its dialectic and even its insolence at the
expense of theology on the despised Universal ideas. We can understand
the invective with which Luther gives expression to his hatred of
Scholasticism, though his right to do so arose only from his limited
acquaintance with those few Scholastics whom he had chosen,[323] or,
rather, who had been allotted to him, as his masters; the schools he
attended were at that time all following the method of the Nominalists,
then usually known as “modern.”

 Already, in 1509 (see above, p. 22), a severe criticism of Aristotle
 appears in Luther’s marginal notes. This is in a gloss on Augustine’s
 work “On the City of God” which he was then devouring as a sort of
 antidote: “Far more apparent is the error of our theologians when
 they impudently chatter (‘_impudentissime garriunt_’) and affirm of
 Aristotle that he does not deviate from Catholic truth.”[324]

 Luther’s later exaggerations need not be refuted, in which he
 complains so loudly of the idolatrous Aristotelian worship of reason
 on the part of all the Scholastics. It was in general perfectly
 well known regarding Aristotle that he had erred, and also where he
 erred; books had even been written dealing with his deviations from
 the faith. This, however, did not prevent many from over-estimating
 him. We must set against this, however, the fact that Luther’s own
 professor of philosophy in the University of Erfurt, Bartholomew
 Arnoldi of Usingen, had declared, like others before him, that those
 who represented the Stagirite as without errors were “not worthy of
 the name of philosophers, for they were not lovers of the truth but
 mocked at philosophy; they should just read their hero more carefully
 and they would find that, for instance, he made out the world to be
 without any beginning, a view which Moses, the prophet of truth, had
 shown to be an error; Scotus, too, wrote in the first book of his
 Commentary on the Sentences, that the works of Aristotle were more in
 agreement with the law of Mohammed than with that of Christ.”[325]
 Usingen was an earnest and moderate man, who did not shrink, even in
 his philosophical writings, from preferring Divine Revelation to the
 exaggeration of the rights of reason. “The inadequacy of philosophers
 is as apparent as the great value of the Sacred Books. The latter rise
 far above the knowledge attained by mere human reason and natural
 light.”[326] Owing to the fact that he had made no secret of his
 views in his intercourse with Luther, especially when they became
 more intimate on Luther’s entering the Order to which he himself
 belonged,[327] we can understand and explain the sympathy and respect
 with which Luther long after cherished his memory, though the path
 he followed was no longer that of his old teacher. Usingen was a
 Nominalist, but his example shows that there were some enlightened men
 who belonged to this school, and who did it honour.

 In the course of time, regardless of the numerous examples giving him
 the lie, Luther came ruthlessly to condemn all the Schoolmen and the
 whole Middle Ages ostensibly on the ground of the pretended poisoning
 of the faith by Aristotle, but really because he himself had set up a
 contradiction between faith and reason.[328] He says in 1521 that the
 Scholastics, headed by Aquinas, “_solus aristotelicissimus ac plane
 Aristoteles ipse_,” had smuggled philosophy into the world, though the
 Apostle had condemned it; thus it became too powerful, made Aristotle
 equal to Christ in dignity and trustworthiness, and darkened for us
 the Sun of righteousness and truth, the Son of God.[329] Three years
 before he had declared in writing to his other professor of philosophy
 at the University of Erfurt, Jodocus Trutfetter, who was vexed with
 his theses _Contra scholasticam theologiam_, that he daily prayed to
 God that in place of the perverse studies in vogue, the wholesome
 study of the Bible and the Fathers might again be introduced (“_ut
 rursum bibliæ et s. patrum purissima studia revocentur_”).[330] Yet
 three years earlier, in his first lectures on the Epistle to the
 Romans, he had said to his pupils: “let us learn to know Jesus Christ,
 and him crucified,” and urged them not to waste their time in the
 study of the foolish whims of metaphysicians, but at most, to treat
 philosophy as a subject which one must be acquainted with in order to
 be able to refute it, and on the other hand to throw themselves with
 all their might into the study of Holy Scripture.[331]

 There can therefore be no question, as we have seen, that his idea
 that philosophy was the ruin of the Church, an idea present in his
 mind even in his earliest public life, was founded on the many
 actually existing abuses, though his own ultra-spiritualism and his
 gloomy mistrust of man’s nature led him to feel the evil more than
 others, so that, in reacting against it, he lost his balance instead
 of calmly lending his assistance towards improving matters.

Luther’s reaction was not only against Occamism in general, but also
against various particular doctrines of that school, especially, as
stated before, against such doctrines as exalted the powers of nature
at the expense of grace.

Here again he committed his first fault, the indefensible injustice
of blindly charging Scholasticism and theology generally with what
he found faulty in his own narrow circle, though these errors had
been avoided by St. Thomas and the best of the Schoolmen. It has been
pointed out that he was not acquainted with this real Scholasticism,
nevertheless, in 1519, he had the assurance to say: “No one shall teach
me scholastic theology, I know it.”[332] “I was brought up amongst them
(Thomas, Bonaventure, etc.), I am also acquainted with the minds of
the most learned contemporaries and have saturated myself in the best
writings of this sort.”[333]

 He, all too often, gives us the means to judge the value of this
 assertion of his. In the same year, for instance, he sums up the chief
 points of the theology which alone he had learnt, and calls it in all
 good faith the scholastic theology of the Church, though it was merely
 the meagre theology of his own Occamist professors.

 In order to show all he had had to struggle with he says: “I had
 formerly learned among the monstrous things (‘_monstra_’) which are
 almost accounted axioms of scholastic theology ... that man can do his
 part in the acquiring of grace; that he can remove obstacles to grace;
 that he is able to oppose no hindrance to grace; that he can keep the
 commandments of God according to the letter, though not according to
 the intention of the lawgiver; that he has freedom of choice [personal
 freedom in the work of salvation] between this and that, between both
 contradictories and contraries; that his will is able to love God
 above all things through its purely natural powers and that there is
 such a thing as an act of charity, of friendship, by merely natural

We are to believe that these were the “axioms of scholastic theology!”

Such was not the case. For all acts necessary for salvation true
Scholasticism demanded the supernatural “preventing” grace of God.[335]
Yet as early as 1516 Luther had elegantly described all the scholastic
theologians as “Sow theologians,” on account of their pretended
“_Deliria_” against grace.[336] His first fault, that of unwarranted
generalisation, comes out clearly.

The second, more momentous, fault which Luther committed was to fly
to the extreme even in doctrine, abolishing all that displeased him
and setting up as his main thesis, that man can do nothing, absolutely
nothing, good. Not only did he say: “I learnt nothing in scholastic
theology worth remembering; I only learnt what must be unlearnt, what
is absolutely opposed to Holy Scripture” (“_omnino contraria divinis
litteris_”).[337] He also asserted at a very early period that Holy
Scripture teaches that God’s grace does everything in man of itself
alone without his vital participation, without liberty, without
resolve, without merit. Such a statement does not indeed appear in
the Commentary on the Psalms, but it will be found in his academic
lectures on the Pauline Epistles, more especially in the Commentary
on Romans. For a moment he thought he had discovered in St. Augustine
the necessary weapons against the formalism of his school of theology,
but now St. Paul appeared to him to give the loudest testimony against
it; the Apostle is so determined in his denunciation of the pride of
human reason and human will, and in presenting the Gospel of the Son of
God, faith and grace, as the only salvation of mankind. Luther imagined
he had found in Paul the doctrines which appealed to him: that all
human works were equally useless, whether for eternal salvation or for
natural goodness; that man’s powers are good for nothing but sin; if
grace, which the Apostle extols, is to come to its rights, then we must
say of original sin that it has utterly ruined man’s powers of thinking
and willing so far as what is good in God’s sight is concerned;
original sin still lives, even in the baptised, as a real sin, being an
invincible attraction to selfishness and all evil, more particularly to
that of the flesh; by it the will is so enslaved that only in those who
are justified by grace can there be any question of freedom for good.

 As regards Occam’s teaching concerning man, his Fall and his powers,
 so far as this affects the question of a correct understanding of
 Luther’s development: in the matter of original sin it agreed with
 that of Aquinas and Scotus, according to which its essence was a
 _carentia iustitiæ debitæ_, i.e. _originalis_; likewise it asserted
 the existence of concupiscence in man, the _fomes_ or tinder of sin,
 as Occam is fond of calling it, as the consequence of original sin;
 on the other hand it minimised too much the evil effects of original
 sin on the reason and on the will, by assuming that these powers still
 remain in man almost unimpaired. This was due to the nominalistic
 identification of the soul with its faculties; as the soul remained
 the same as before, so, they said, the powers as a whole also remained
 the same.[338] The “disabling” of these powers of which St. Thomas
 and the other Scholastics speak, i.e. the weakening which the Council
 of Trent also teaches (“_liberum arbitrium viribus attenuatum et
 inclinatum_”),[339] was not sufficiently emphasised.

 Gabriel Biel, whose views are of some weight on account of his
 connection with Luther, finds the rectitude of the natural will
 (_rectitudo_) in its liberty, and this, he says, has remained intact
 because it is, as a matter of fact, the will itself, from which it
 does not differ.[340] In other passages, it is true, he speaks of
 “wounds”; for owing to concupiscence the will is “inconstant and
 changeable”; but he nevertheless reverts to “_rectitudo_,” erroneously
 relegating the results of original sin to the lower powers alone.
 Following Occam, and against St. Thomas and Scotus, he makes of
 concupiscence a “_qualitas_,” viz. a “_qualitas corporalis_.”[341]
 Again, following his master and d’Ailly, Biel asserts—and this is
 real Occamism—that the will is able without grace to follow the
 dictates of right reason (“_dictamen rectæ rationis_”) in everything,
 and is therefore able of itself to keep the whole law of nature,
 even to love God purely and above all things.[342] An example of how
 inaccurate Biel is in the details of his theological discussions has
 been pointed out by Denifle, who shows that in quoting three various
 opinions of the greater Scholastics on a question of the doctrine of
 original sin (“_utrum peccatum originale sit aliquid positivum in
 anima vel in carne_”) “not one of the opinions is correctly given,”
 and yet this “superficial and wordy author was one of Luther’s
 principal sources of information regarding the best period of

 The Nominalists doubtless recognised the supernatural order as
 distinct from the natural, and Occam as well as Biel, d’Ailly and
 Gerson do not here differ materially from the rest of the Scholastics;
 but the limits of natural ability, more particularly in respect of
 keeping the commandments and loving God above all, are carried too
 far. Luther’s masters had here insisted with great emphasis on the
 argument of Scotus which they frequently and erroneously made to
 prove even more than was intended, viz. that as reason is capable of
 realising that man is able to fulfil the law and to render such love,
 and as the will is in a position to carry out all that reason puts
 before it, therefore man is able to fulfil both requirements.[344] In
 this argument insufficient attention has been paid to the difficulties
 which interior and exterior circumstances place in the way of
 fallen man. Theologians generally were very much divided in opinion
 concerning the possibility of fulfilling these requirements, and the
 better class of Scholastics denied it, declaring that the assistance
 of actual grace was requisite, which, however, they held, was given to
 all men of good will. Against the doctrine which Biel made his own,
 that man is able, without grace, to avoid all mortal sin,[345] keep
 all the commandments and love God above all things, not only Thomists,
 but even some of the Nominalists protested.[346]

 Here again, according to Denifle, a serious error, committed by Biel
 regarding St. Thomas, must be pointed out, one, too, which may have
 had its effect upon Luther. Biel erroneously makes the holy Doctor
 say the opposite of what he really teaches when he ascribes to him
 the proposition: “_Homo potest cavere peccata mortalia_ [_omnia_]
 _sine gratia_.” As Denifle reminds us again, it was “from this
 author that Luther drew in great part his knowledge of the earlier
 Scholastics.”[347] Biel, however, in his sermons and instructions
 to preachers restricts the thesis of the possibility of loving God
 above all things through our natural powers. This, man is able to do,
 he says, “according to some writers, more especially in the state
 of paradisiacal innocence, but the act is not so perfect and not
 so easy as with God’s grace and is without supernatural merit. God
 has so ordained that He will not accept any act as meritorious for
 heaven excepting only that which is elicited by grace” (“_ex gratia

 The views of the Occamists or “Moderns” exhibited yet other weak
 points. Man, so they taught, is able to merit grace “_de congruo_.”
 They admitted, it is true, that grace was a supernatural gift,
 “_donata_” and “_gratuita_,” as they termed it, but they saw in man’s
 natural love of God, and in his efforts, an adequate disposition
 for arriving at the state of saving grace.[349] The great Schoolmen
 on the contrary taught with St. Thomas, that the preparation and
 disposition for saving grace, i.e. all those good works which precede
 justification, do not originate in us but are due to the grace of

 As for the teaching regarding natural and supernatural love of God,
 the keeping of the commandments and the predisposition for grace,
 Luther, in 1516, appears to have scarcely been acquainted with the
 opinion of any of the better representatives of Scholasticism, to whom
 he had access. It was only in 1518 that his attention was directed
 to Gregory of Rimini (General of the Augustinian Hermits in 1357),
 an eclectic whose views were somewhat unusual, and in this case,
 Luther, instead of making use of the good which was to be found in
 him in abundance, preferred to disregard his real opinion and to set
 him up as opposed to the teaching of the Schoolmen.[350] In 1519,
 labouring under a total misapprehension of the truth as regards both
 Gregory and the Schoolmen, he wrote: “the ‘Moderns’ agree with the
 Scotists and Thomists concerning free will and grace, with the one
 exception of Gregory of Rimini, whom they all condemn, but who rightly
 and effectively proves them to be worse than the Pelagians. He alone
 among all the Scholastics agrees with Augustine and the Apostle
 Paul, against Carlstadt and all the new Schoolmen.”[351] As though
 all Scholastics, old and new, had taught what Luther here attributes
 to them, viz. that “it is possible to gain heaven without grace,”
 because, according to them, “a good though not meritorious work can be
 done” without grace. On the contrary, not the Thomists only, but also
 many other theologians were opposed to the thesis that the will could,
 of itself, always and everywhere, conform itself to the dictates of
 right reason and thus arrive at grace, but Gregory of Rimini, whom
 Luther favours so much as a Doctor of his own Order, declares that
 the keeping of the whole law was only possible through grace, and
 that therefore God had, with His law, imposed nothing impossible on
 man.[352] According to Luther, however, God had demanded of human
 nature what was impossible.

 Occam and his school deviate somewhat from the rest of the Scholastics
 in the application of the well-known axiom: “_Facienti quod est in se
 Deus non denegat gratiam._”[353]

 While the better class of Scholastics understood it as meaning that
 God allows the man to arrive at saving grace and justification,
 who does his part with the help of actual grace, the schools of
 the decline interpreted the principle as implying that God would
 always give saving grace where there was adequate human and natural
 preparation; they thus came to make this grace a mere complement of
 man’s natural effort; the effect of grace was accordingly purely
 formal; man’s effort remained the same as before, but, by an act of
 favour, it was made conformable with God’s “intention”; for it was
 God’s will that no man should enjoy the Beatific Vision, without such
 grace, which, however, He never failed to bestow in response to human
 efforts. Some modern writers have described this view of grace to
 which the Nominalists were inclined, as a stamp imprinting on purely
 human effort a higher value. At any rate, according to the Occamists,
 man prepares for grace by natural acts performed under the ordinary
 concurrence of God (_concursus generalis_),[354] whereas, according
 to the better Scholastics, this preparation demanded, not only the
 ordinary, but also the particular concurrence of God, namely, actual
 grace; they maintained that ordinary concurrence was inadequate
 because it belonged to the natural order.

 Actual grace was entirely neglected by the Occamists; the special
 help of God is, according to most of them, saving grace itself; actual
 grace, i.e. the divinely infused intermediary between man’s natural
 and supernatural life, finds no place in their system. This explains,
 if we may anticipate a little, how it is that Luther pays so little
 attention to actual grace;[355] he has no need of it, because man,
 according to him, cannot keep the law at all without the (imputed)
 state of grace. It is unfortunate that Biel, in whom Luther trusted,
 should have misrepresented the actual teaching of true Scholasticism
 concerning the necessity and nature of grace, whether of actual or
 saving grace.

 As early as 1515 Luther, with the insufficient knowledge he possessed,
 accused the Scholastics generally of teaching that “man by his natural
 powers is able to love God above all things, and substantially to do
 the works commanded, though not, indeed, according to the ‘intention’
 of the lawgiver, i.e. not in the state of grace.” “Therefore,
 according to them,” he says, “grace was not necessary save by a
 new imposition demanding more than the law (‘_per novam exactionem
 ultra legem_’); for, as they teach, the law is fulfilled by our own
 strength. Thus grace is not necessary to fulfil the law, save by
 reason of God’s new exaction which goes beyond the law. Who will put
 up with these sacrilegious views?” Assuredly his indignation against
 Scholasticism would have been righteous had its teaching really
 been what he imagined. In the same way, and with similarly strong
 expressions, he generalises what he had learnt in his narrow world at
 Erfurt and Wittenberg, and ascribes to the whole of Christendom, to
 the Popes and all the schools, exactly what the Occamists said of the
 results of original sin being solely confined to the lower powers.
 Here, and in other connections too, he exclaims: “the whole Papacy has
 taught this, and all the schools of Sophists [Scholastics].” “Have
 they not denied that nature was ruined by sin when they assert that
 they are able to choose what is good according to the dictates of
 right reason?”[356]

 From his antagonism to such views, an antagonism we find already in
 1515, when he was preparing for his lectures on the Epistle to the
 Romans, sprang his own gloomy doctrine of the death of free will for
 good, and the poisoning of human nature by original sin. With its
 first appearance in the lectures mentioned we shall deal later.

Here a more general question must first receive an answer. How came
the youthful Luther to absorb into his life the views above described
without apparently shrinking in the least from the opposition to the
Church’s teaching manifest in them?

Various answers are forthcoming. In the first place, in consequence
of his training which consisted too exclusively in the discussion
of speculative controversies, he had come to see in the theological
doctrines merely opinions of the schools, on which it was permissible
to sit in judgment. He had forgotten that there existed a positive body
of unassailable doctrine. Even when engaged in mercilessly attacking
this body of doctrine he still appears to have been unaware of having
outstepped the lines of permissible disputation. We cannot, however,
altogether exonerate him from being in some degree conscious that in
his attack on the Church he was treading dangerous ground. In the
lectures on the Epistle to the Romans he goes so far as to declare,
that the Church was almost destroyed (“_pene subversa_”) by the
teaching of the Scholastics, and that everything was full of Pelagian
errors, because grace for the support of the will had been abolished.
Things such as these and others of a like nature he could assuredly not
have uttered without, in his calmer hours, asking himself how he could
reconcile such a standpoint with his duty to the Church. It is true,
however, that such quiet hours were exceptional in his case. There
can be no doubt also that his idea of the Church and of the binding
character of her doctrine was confused. In 1519 he had no hesitation
in pointing to the action of other Doctors, who, before that date,
had engaged in controversy with each other, in vindication of the
tremendous struggle he had just commenced. I am only doing what they
did; “Scotus, single-handed, opposed the opinions of all the schools
and Doctors and gained the victory (?). Occam did the same, many others
have done and are doing likewise up to the present day (?). If then
these are at liberty to withstand all, why not I?”[357]

The second answer to the above question lies in the outward
circumstances existing in his monastic home at the time of the
beginning of his struggle. The members of his Congregation, most of
whom were of Occam’s school, were still greatly excited and divided
by the quarrel going on in their midst regarding organisation and
discipline. The Observantines with their praise of the old order
and exercises were a thorn in the flesh of the other Augustinians,
more lax and modern in their views, especially for Luther, who was
at their head. A spirit of antagonism existed not merely between the
different houses of the Order, but even in the houses themselves a
struggle seems to have been carried on. On the one side there was a
tenacious adherence to the older practices of the Order, on the other
suspicion and reproaches were levelled against the innovations of the
Observantines. The result was that the fiery young Professor, while
inveighing against the Occamist theory of self-righteousness, thundered
at the same time against the Observantines as living instances of
the self-righteous and holy-by-works. Some of the reasons for this
supposition have already been given, and more will be forthcoming when
we consider the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.[358]

War was to the Wittenberg Doctor even then an element of life. He found
it going on, and encouraged it amongst the wearers of the Augustinian
habit. The first and second “factions” in the Order, as Usingen calls
them, i.e. the first division caused by the question of observance,
and the second by the great controversy concerning faith, were, we may
be sure, closely allied in Luther’s mind; the controversy concerning
observance may assuredly be reckoned amongst the outward causes which
carried him along with them into the greater struggle and contributed
for a time to hide from him the danger of his position. Though details
are lacking of the resistance to Luther’s first challenge to the
theologians of his Order, to Scholasticism and the Church’s doctrine,
yet, as already said, we can see from the Commentary on Romans, from
other unprinted early lectures, and also from the disputations and
sermons, that the Order continued in a state of commotion, and that,
as a matter of fact, the second “faction” was an outgrowth of the
first.[359] The Observantines had to put up with hearing themselves
styled by Luther “_iustitiarii_” and Pharisees; but probably there were
others, even members of the Wittenberg University, perhaps some of
those jurists and philosophers[360] to whom he refers in his Commentary
on Romans, and whom he so cordially detested, who also were counted
amongst the “_iustitiarii_,” in fact all whom the outrageous assertions
of their young colleague regarding the observance of precepts and
regulations and against human freedom, roused to opposition.

To these two answers a third must be added, which turns upon the
character of Luther in his youth. His extreme self-sufficiency blinded
him, and his discovery of real errors in the theology in which he
had been trained drove him in his impetuosity to imagine that he was
called, and had the right, to introduce an entirely new theology. His
searching glance had spied out real mistakes; his strength and boldness
had resulted in the bringing to light of actual abuses; his want of
consideration in the pointing out of blemishes in the Church had, in
some degree, been successful and earned for him the applause of many;
his criticism of theology was greeted as triumphant by his pupils,
the more so as the Doctors he attacked were but feeble men unable to
reply to so strong an indictment, or else living at a distance (in
Erfurt). The growing self-consciousness, which expresses itself even in
the form of his controversial language, must not be disregarded as a
psychological fact in the problem, one, too, which also helped to blind
him to the real outcome of his work.

       *       *       *       *       *

Only the most extreme spirit of antagonism could have led the Monk
to make, in addition to his other harsh exaggerated charges against
Scholasticism, the following assertion, to which, as it is important
for the origin of Lutheranism, some attention must be paid. He says
the doctrine is false that righteousness which can be acquired by
means of good works (of the natural order) is even conceivable; this
was invented by Aristotle; this righteousness of the philosophers and
jurists has penetrated into the Church, while, as a matter of fact,
owing to the naughtiness, nay, corruption of mankind, resulting from
original sin, it was a monstrosity and an abomination in God’s sight;
the scholastic distinctions of distributive and commutative justice,
etc., “were also due to blindness of spirit and mere human wisdom”;
the Scholastics have put this infamous, purely human righteousness in
the place of righteousness by grace, which is of value in God’s sight;
they have said there is no original sin, and have acted as though all
men did not feel concupiscence within themselves very strongly; they
have represented righteousness as the fruit of our natural efforts,
and in consequence of this people now believe that righteousness may
be had through Indulgences costing two pence, i.e. through works of
the very slightest worth! But “the Apostle teaches,” he says, “_Corde
creditur ad iustitiam_, i.e. not by works, or wisdom, or study, not by
riches and honours can man attain to righteousness.... That is a new
way to righteousness, against, and far above, Aristotle ... and his
political, God-forsaken righteousness.”[361] Yet, according to him, the
Scholastics knew no better. “They speak like Aristotle in his ‘Ethics,’
who makes ... righteousness consist in works, as also its attainment
and its loss.”[362]

 Is it possible that the writer of the above sentences was really
 incapable of distinguishing between the natural and the supernatural
 in moral good according to the fundamental principle of true
 Scholasticism? Was Luther really ignorant of the theses which run
 through the whole of Scholasticism such as this of St. Thomas:
 “_Donum gratiæ excedit omnem præparationem virtutis humanæ_”?[363]
 The great lack of discrimination which underlies the above attack is
 characteristic of Luther in his youth and of his want of consideration
 in the standpoint he assumed. He starts from some justifiable
 objection to the nominalistic theology—which really was inadequate on
 the subject of the preparation for supernatural righteousness—sets
 up against it his own doctrine of fallen man and his salvation, and,
 then, without further ado, ascribes an absolutely fanciful idea of
 righteousness to the Church and the whole of Scholasticism. What he
 failed to distinguish, St. Thomas, Thomism, and all true Scholastics
 distinguished with very great clearness. Aquinas draws a sharp line
 of demarcation between the civil virtue of righteousness and the
 so-called infused righteousness of the act of justification. He
 anticipates, so to speak, Luther’s objection and his confusion of one
 idea with another, and teaches that by the repeated performance of
 exterior works an inward habit is without doubt formed in consequence
 of which man is better disposed to act rightly, as Aristotle teaches
 in his “Ethics”; “but,” he says, “this only holds good of human
 righteousness, by which man is disposed to what is humanly good
 (‘_iustitia humana ad bonum humanum_’); by human works the habit of
 such righteousness can be acquired. But the righteousness which counts
 in the eyes of God (i.e. supernatural righteousness) is ordained to
 the Divine good, namely, to future glory, which exceeds human strength
 (‘_iustitia quæ habet gloriam apud Deum; ordinata ad bonum divinum_’)
 ... wherefore man’s works are of no value for producing the habit of
 this righteousness, but the heart of man must first of all be inwardly
 justified by God, so that he may do the works which are of worth for
 eternal glory.”[364]

 So speaks the most eminent of the Schoolmen in the name of the true
 theology of the Middle Ages.

 For Luther, who brings forward the above arbitrary objection in his
 Commentary on Romans, it would have been very easy to have made use of
 the explanation just given, for it is found in St. Thomas’s Commentary
 on this very Epistle. Luther, one would have thought, would certainly
 have consulted this work for his interpretation of the Epistle, were
 it only on account of its historical interest, and even if it had not
 been the best work on the subject which had so far appeared. But no,
 it seems that he never looked into this Commentary, nor even into the
 older glosses of Peter Lombard on the Epistle to the Romans, then
 much in use; in the latter he would at once have found the refutation
 of the charge he brought against the Scholastics of advocating the
 doctrine of Aristotle on righteousness by works, as the gloss to the
 classic passage (Romans iii. 27) runs as follows: “For righteousness
 is not by works (‘_non ex operibus est iustitia_’), but works are
 the result of righteousness, and therefore we do not say: ‘the
 righteousness of works, but the works of righteousness.’”[365]

       *       *       *       *       *

 He does not even trouble to uphold the frivolous accusation that the
 Schoolmen had been acquainted only with Aristotelian righteousness,
 but actually refutes it by another objection. He finds fault with the
 “scholastic theologians” for having, as he says in the Commentary on
 Romans, “held the doctrine of the expulsion of sin and the infusion
 of grace” to be a single change.[366] He hereby admits that they were
 familiar with something more than mere Aristotelian righteousness, for
 in Aristotle there is certainly no question of any infusion of grace.
 But Luther frequently speaks in this way of the distinction which the
 Scholastics made between acquired and infused righteousness.

The changeableness and inconstancy of his assertions regarding
the doctrines of the Scholastics is quite remarkable. He makes no
difficulty about admitting later, against his previous statements, that
the Scholastics did not teach that man was able to love God above all
things merely by his own strength; this was the teaching only of the
Scotists and the “Moderns” (i.e. Nominalists or Occamists).[367] At
that time he was perhaps better acquainted with Biel, who instances
Thomas and Bonaventure in opposition to this doctrine.[368] Luther
was also careless in the accounts he gave even of the theology of
his own circle, viz. that of the Occamists, and the injustice he
does Scholasticism as a whole, he repeats against his own school by
exaggerating its faults or suppressing the necessary distinctions in
order to be the better able to refute its theses by the Bible and
St. Augustine. As therefore it is impossible to form an opinion on
Scholasticism as a whole from Luther’s assertions, so we cannot trust
his account even of his own masters, in whose works he thinks himself
so well versed.

 He is, for instance, neglecting a distinction when he repeatedly
 asserts that Occam, his “Master,” denied the biblical truth that the
 Holy Ghost is necessary for the performance of a good work. As a
 matter of fact, the Occamists, like the Scotists, did not here differ
 essentially from the Thomists, although differences are apparent in
 their teaching on the supernatural habit, and on the preparation
 for the attainment of this supernatural righteousness, i.e. for
 justification.[369] He is wronging his own “_factio occamica_” when,
 from its teaching that man could, by his natural powers, acquire a
 love of God beyond all things, he at once infers that it declared
 infused grace to be superfluous,[370] and further, when, for instance,
 he asserted that the axiom quoted above, and peculiarly beloved of
 the Occamists, “_Facienti quod est in se Deus non denegat gratiam_,”
 was erroneous, as though it placed a “wall of iron” between man and
 the grace of God.[371] No Occamist understood the axiom in the way he
 wishes to make out.

Luther went so far in his gainsaying of the Occamist doctrine of the
almost unimpaired ability of man for purely natural good, that he
arrived at the opposite pole and began to maintain that there was no
such thing as vitally good acts on man’s part; that man as man does not
act in doing what is good, but that grace alone does everything. The
oldest statements of this sort are reserved for the quotations to be
given below from his Commentary on Romans. We give, however, a few of
his later utterances to this effect. They prove that the crass denial
of man’s doing anything good continued to characterise him in later
life as much as earlier.

 In the Gospel-homilies contained in his “Postils,” he teaches the
 people that it was a “shameful doctrine of the Popes, universities,
 and monasteries” to say “we ought by the strength of our free will
 to begin [exclusive of God’s help?] by seeking God, coming to Him,
 running after Him and earning His grace.” “Beware, beware,” he cries,
 “of this poison; it is the merest devil’s doctrine by which the whole
 world is led astray.... You ask: How then must we begin to become
 pious, and what must we do that God may begin in us? Reply: What,
 don’t you hear that in you there is no doing, no beginning to be
 pious, as little as there is any continuing and ending? God only is
 the beginning, furthering and ending. All that you begin is sin and
 remains sin, let it look as pretty as it will; you can do nothing but
 sin, do how you will ... you must remain in sin, do what you will, and
 all is sin whatever you do alone of your free will; for if you were
 able of your own free will not to sin, or to do what is pleasing to
 God, of what use would Christ be to you?”[372]

 Elsewhere, on account of the supposed inability of man, he teaches
 a sort of Quietism: “Is anyone to become converted, pious and a
 Christian, we don’t set about it; no praying, no fasting assists it;
 it must come from heaven and from grace alone.... Whoever wants to
 become pious, let him not say: ‘I will set about doing good works in
 order to obtain grace,’ but, ‘I will wait to see whether God by His
 word will give me His grace and His spirit.’”[373]

 And on another occasion his words are still stronger: “The gospel
 tells us only to open our bosom and take, and says: ‘Behold what God
 has done for you, He made His Son become flesh for you.’ Believe this
 and accept it and you will be saved.”[374]

Seen in the light of such passages, it becomes clear that the
following must not be taken as a mere expression of humility, but as a
deprecation of good deeds. Already, in 1519, Luther says: “Man, like a
cripple with disabled hands and feet, must invoke grace as the artisan
of works (‘_operum artificem_’).”[375] The difficulty is that this
very invocation is itself a vital, though surely not a sinful, action.
Would not a man have been justified in saying even of this preliminary
act: I will wait, I may not begin? “Luther was scarcely acquainted
with the doctrine of a wholesome Scholasticism and with that of the
Church concerning the mysterious reciprocal action of grace and free
will in man. He was qualified to oppose the Occamist teaching, but was
incapable of replacing it by the true doctrine.”[376]

 Against the prevalent doctrine on the powers of man, Luther, among
 other verses from the Bible, brought forward John xv. 5: “Without me
 ye can do nothing.” A remark on his use of this supposed scriptural
 proof may serve to conclude what we have said of the far-reaching
 negative influence of Occamism on the youthful Luther.

 The decisive words of the Redeemer: “Without me ye can do nothing,”
 so Luther says to his friend Spalatin, had hitherto been understood
 quite wrongly. And, in proof of this, he adduces the interpretation
 which he must have heard in his school, or read in the authors who
 were there in repute: “Our masters,” he says, “have made a distinction
 between the general and the particular concurrence of God” (_concursus
 generalis_ and _concursus specialis_ or _gratia_); with the general
 concurrence man was able, so they taught, to do what is naturally
 good, i.e. what they considered to be good; with the particular,
 however, that which is beyond nature (“_quæ gratiæ sunt et supra
 naturam_”), and meritorious for heaven. To this statement of the
 perfectly correct teaching of his masters he adds, however, the
 following: they taught that “with our powers we are able, under the
 general Divine concurrence, to prepare ourselves for the obtaining of
 grace, i.e. for the obtaining of the particular concurrence, hence
 that we can ‘_inchoative_’ do something, to gain merit and the vision
 of God, notwithstanding the express teaching of Christ, though we
 are indeed unable to do this ‘_perfective_,’ without the particular
 assistance of grace.”[377]

 What Luther says here applies at most to the Nominalists; according
 to Occam’s school the preparation for sanctifying grace takes place
 by purely natural acts,[378] and accordingly this school was not
 disposed to take Christ’s words about eternal life too literally.
 Although healthy Scholasticism knows nothing of this and holds fast
 to the literal meaning of the words “Without me ye can do nothing,”
 viz. nothing for eternal life (the absolute necessity of the general
 concurrence is taken for granted), yet Luther, in all simplicity,
 assures his friend that the whole past had taken the words of Christ
 in the sense he mentions (“_Sic est hucusque autoritas ista exposita
 et intellecta._”)[379] This doctrine he detests so heartily, that
 he sets up the very extreme opposite in his new system. The general
 Divine concursus, he says in his letter to Spalatin quoted above,
 certainly leads nature on to work of itself, but it cannot do
 otherwise than “seek its own and misuse the gifts of God.” Nature
 merely provides stuff for the “punishing fire,” however “good and
 moral its works may appear outwardly.” Hence, according to him, there
 is no distinction between general and particular concurrence, between
 the inchoative and the perfective act; without Christ, and “before
 we have been healed by His grace,” there is absolutely nothing but
 mischief and sin.

By “grace,” here and elsewhere, he means the state of justifying grace.
Whereas true Scholasticism recognises actual grace, which assists
man even before justification, this is as good as excluded by Luther
already in the beginning of his theological change. Why? Partly because
he cannot make use of it as he refers everything to justifying faith,
partly because the Occamists, his masters, erroneously reduced the
particular influence of God almost entirely to sanctifying grace, and
neglected or denied actual grace.

In the latter respect we perceive one of the positive effects of
Occamism on Luther. This leads us to another aspect of the present

3. Positive Influence of Occamism

We have so far been considering the precipitate and excessive
antagonism shown at an early date by Luther towards the school of
Occam, especially towards its anthropological doctrines; we have also
noted its influence on his new heretical principles, particularly on
his denial of man’s natural ability for good. Now we must turn our
attention to the positive influence of the Occamist teaching upon his
new line of thought, for Luther’s errors are to be ascribed not only to
the negative, but also to the positive effects of his school.

His principal dogma, that of justification, must first be taken into

This he drew up entirely on the lines of a scheme handed down to him by
his school. It is no uncommon thing to see even the most independent
and active minds tearing themselves away from a traditional train of
thought in one particular, and yet continuing in another to pursue the
accustomed course, so great is the power which a custom acquired at
school possesses over the intellect. The similarity existing between
Luther’s and Occam’s doctrine of the imputation of righteousness is
quite remarkable. Occam had held it, at least as possible, that a
righteousness existed which was merely imputed; at any rate, it was
only because God so willed it that sanctifying grace was necessary in
the present order of things. He and his school had, as a matter of
fact, no clear perception of the supernatural habit as a supernatural
principle of life in the soul. According to the Occamist Peter d’Ailly,
whom Luther repeatedly quotes in his notes on Peter Lombard, reason
cannot be convinced of the necessity of the supernatural habit; all
that this is supposed to do can be done equally well by a naturally
acquired habit; an unworthy man might be found worthy of eternal
life without any actual change taking place in him; only owing to an
acceptation on God’s part (“_a sola divina acceptatione_”) does the
soul become worthy of eternal life, not on account of any created cause
(therefore not on account of love and grace).[380] “The whole work of
salvation here becomes external; it is mechanical, not organic.”[381]

If Luther, in consequence of his study of these Occamist doctrines,
fell into error regarding the supernatural, the consequences were even
worse when, with his head full of such Occamistic ideas, he proceeded
to expound the most difficult of the Pauline Epistles, with their dim
and mysterious handling of grace, and, at the same time, to ponder on
the writings of St. Augustine,[382] that deep-thinking Doctor of grace.
Such studies could only breed fresh confusion in his mind.

The result was as follows: regarding imputation, i.e. one of the
foundations of his theology, Luther quotes Occam in such a way as to
represent him as teaching as a fact what he merely held to be possible.
He declares sanctifying grace to be not merely superfluous, but also
non-existent, and erects the theory of Divine acceptation into a dogma.
This alone would be sufficient to demonstrate his positive dependence
on Occamism.

The theories of acceptation, which were peculiar to the Occamists and
which Luther took over—though what they called by this name he prefers
to call imputation—had not only met with approval, but had also been
widely applied by this school.

 According to d’Ailly, evil is not evil on account of its special
 nature, but only because God forbids it (“_præcise, quia lege
 prohibitum_”); a law or rule of conduct does not exist by nature, for
 God might have willed otherwise (“_potest non esse lex_”); He has,
 however, decreed it in the present order of things. Similar views
 appear in Luther’s Commentary on Romans, where little regard is paid
 to the objective foundation of the moral law.[383]

 According to Occam, God acts according to whim. D’Ailly actually
 discovers in him the view that it is not impossible to suppose that
 the created will might deserve well by hating God, because God might
 conceivably command this. In Luther we at least find the opinion that
 God knows of no grounds for His action and might therefore work what
 is evil in man, which then, of course, would not be evil in God in
 consequence of His not imputing it to Himself as such.

 The Divine imputation or _pactum_ plays its part in the Occamistic
 sense in Luther’s earliest theological lectures on the Psalms. “Faith
 and Grace,” he there says, “by which we are justified to-day, would
 not justify us of themselves save as a consequence of the ‘_pactum
 Dei_.’” In the same place he teaches that, as a result of such an
 “agreement and promise,” those who, before Christ, fulfilled the
 law according to the letter, acquired a supernatural merit _de

 Luther’s dependence on Occamism caused him, as Denifle expresses
 it, to be always “on bad terms with the supernatural”;[385] we must
 not, however, take this as meaning that Luther did not do his best,
 according to his own lights, to support and to encourage faith in
 revelation, both in himself and in others.

We shall see how in the case of justification he regards faith, and
then his particular “faith only” as the one factor, not, however,
the faith which is animated by charity, and this because, with the
Occamists, he rejects all supernatural habits. He extols the value of
faith on every occasion at the expense of the other virtues.[386]

The positive influence of Occam on Luther is also to be traced in the
domain of faith and knowledge. Luther imagines he is fortifying faith
by laying stress on its supposed opposition to reason, a tendency which
is manifest already in his Commentary on Romans. In this Occam and his
school were his models.

 The saying that there is much in faith which is “plainly against
 reason and the contrary of which is established by faith”[387] comes
 from d’Ailly. Occam found the arguments for the existence of one God
 inadequate.[388] Biel has not so much to say against these proofs, but
 he does hold that the fact that one only God exists is a matter of
 faith not capable of being absolutely proved by reason.[389]

 Occam, whom Biel praises as “_multum clarus et latus_,” made faith
 to know almost everything, but the results achieved by reason to be
 few and unreliable.[390] He employed the function of reason, of a
 caustic reason to boot, in order to raise doubts, or to exercise the
 mind at the expense of the truths of revelation; yet in the positive
 recognition of articles of faith he allowed reason to recede into the
 background. In any case he prepared the way for the saying, that a
 thing may be false in theology and yet true in philosophy, and _vice
 versa_, a proposition condemned at the 5th Lateran Council by the
 Constitution _Apostolici Regiminis_ of Leo X.[391]

 Luther came to state clearly that “it was quite false to say the
 same thing was true in philosophy and also in theology”; whoever
 taught this was fettering the articles of faith “as prisoners to
 the judgment of reason.”[392] We shall have to speak later of many
 examples of the violent and hateful language with which he disparages
 reason in favour of faith. His love for the Bible at an early period
 strengthened in him the idea—one which the Occamists often advanced
 in the course of the dialectic criticism to which they subjected the
 truths of religion—that after all, the decisions of faith are not the
 same as those of the mind, and that we must make the best of this
 fact. Luther even in his Commentary on Romans is ever ready to decry
 the “wisdom of the flesh,” which is there described as constantly
 interfering with faith.

 The union of faith and knowledge, of which true Scholasticism was
 proud, never appealed to Luther.

 The Occamists had also been before him in attacking Aristotle. The
 fact that many esteemed this philosopher too highly gave rise in their
 camp to bitter and exaggerated criticism, and to excessive abuse of
 the Stagirite. Against the blind Aristotelians d’Ailly had already
 written somewhat unkindly: “In philosophy, i.e. in the teaching of
 Aristotle, there are no, or but few, convincing proofs ... we must
 call the philosophy or teaching of Aristotle an opinion rather than
 a science.”[393] Gregory of Rimini, whom Luther made use of and who
 was not ignorant of Occamism, says that Aristotle had shockingly gone
 astray (“_turpissime erravit_”) on many points, and, in some, had
 contradicted himself.

Such were the minds that inspired Luther at the time when he was
already making for a theological goal different from that of the
“rationalists,” wise ones of this world, and loquacious wiseacres,
as he calls all the Scholastics indiscriminately in his Commentary
on Romans. Wherever theology has made a right and moderate use of
philosophical proofs, philosophy has always shown itself as the
_ancilla theologiæ_, and has been of assistance in theological
development. After expelling reason from the domain of supernatural
knowledge Luther was forced to fall back on feeling and inward
experience, i.e. on elements, which, owing to their inconstancy and
variability, did not deserve the place he gave them. This was as
harmful to faith as the denial of the rights of reason.

Gerson had lamented, concerning the misuse of philosophical criticism
in religious matters, that the methods of the Nominalists made faith
grow cold,[394] and it may be that Luther had experienced these effects
in himself, since, in his lectures on the Psalms, he acknowledges and
regrets the cooling of his life of faith.[395] But, surely, in the same
way the predominance of feeling and so-called religious experience was
also to be regretted, as it crippled faith and deprived it of a sure

Staupitz spoke from feeling and not from a clear perception of facts
when, in his admiration, he praised Luther as exalting Christ and
His grace. He applauded Luther, as the latter says “at the outset
of his career”: “This pleases me in your teaching, that it gives
honour and all to God alone and nothing to man. We cannot ascribe to
God sufficient honour and goodness, etc.”[396] Staupitz sought for
enlightenment in a certain mysticism akin to Quietism, instead of in
real Scholasticism. On such mystic by-ways Luther was sure to fall in
with him, and, as a matter of fact, from the point of view of a false
mysticism, Luther was to denounce “rationalising wisdom” and to speak
in favour of religious feeling even more strongly than he had done

Under the influence of both these elements, a quietistic mysticism and
an antagonism to reason in matters of faith, his scorn for all natural
works grew. This made it easier for him to regard the natural order
of human powers as having been completely upset by original sin. More
and more he comes to recognise only an appearance of natural virtues;
to consider them as the poisonous blossoms of that unconquerable
selfishness which lies ever on the watch in the heart of man, and is
only to be gradually tamed by the justifying grace of God. The denial
of all freedom, under the ban of sin, little by little becomes for
him the principal thing, the “_summa causa_,” which, as he says in so
many words, he has to defend.[397] Beside the debasement of reason and
the false fancies of his mysticism, stood as a worthy companion the
religion of the enslaved will; this we find present in his mind from
the beginning, and at a later period it obtained a lasting monument in
the work “_De servo arbitrio_,” which Luther regarded as the climax of
his theology.[398]

But there are other connecting-links between Occamism and the errors of
the young Monk.

According to Occam’s school the purely spiritual attributes of God
cannot be logically proved; it does not consider it as proved merely
by reason that God is the last and final end of man, and that outside
of Him there is no real human happiness, nor even, according to
Occam himself, that “any final cause exists on account of which all
things happen”;[399] not only, according to him, must we be on our
guard against any idea that reason can arrive at God as the origin
of happiness and as the end of salvation, but even His attributes
we must beware of examining philosophically. God’s outward action
knows no law, but is purely arbitrary. Thus Occamism, with its
theory of the arbitrary Divine Will, manifesting itself in the act
of “acceptation” or imputation, was more likely to produce a servile
feeling of dependence on God than any childlike relationship; with this
corresponded the feeling of the utter worthlessness of man’s own works
in relation to imputation, which, absolutely speaking, might have been
other than it is.

It is highly probable that the bewildered soul of the young Augustinian
greedily lent an ear to such ideas, and laboured to make them meet
his own needs. The doubts as to predestination which tormented him
were certainly not thereby diminished, but rather increased. How could
the idea of an arbitrary God have been of any use to him? In all
likelihood the apprehensiveness and obscurity which colours his idea
of God, in the Commentary on Romans, was due to notions imbibed by him
in his school. Luther was later on to express this conception in his
teaching regarding the “_Deus absconditus_,” on whom, as the source of
all predestination (even to hell), we may not look, and whom we may
only timidly adore. Already in the Commentary referred to he teaches
the absolute predestination to hell of those who are to be damned, a
doctrine which no Occamist had yet ventured to put forward.

Among the other points of contact between Luther’s teaching and
Occamism, or Nominalism, we may mention, as a striking example, his
denial of Transubstantiation, which he expressly associates with one
of the theses of the Occamist d’Ailly. Here his especial hatred of the
school of St. Thomas comes out very glaringly.

 Luther himself confesses later how the Occamist school had led him
 to this denial.[400] When studying scholastic theology he had read
 in d’Ailly that the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Sacrament
 of the Altar would be much more comprehensible could we but assume
 that He was present _with_ the bread, i.e. without any change of
 substance, but that this was impossible owing to the unassailable
 contrary teaching of the Church on Transubstantiation. The same idea
 is found in Occam, but of this Luther was unaware. Luther criticises
 d’Ailly’s appeal to the Church, and then proceeds: “I found out
 later on what sort of Church it is which sets up such a doctrine;
 it is the Thomistic, the Aristotelian. My discovery made me bolder,
 and therefore I decided for Consubstantiation. The opinions of the
 Thomists, even though approved by Pope or Council, remain opinions and
 do not become articles of faith, though an angel from heaven should
 say the contrary; what is asserted apart from Scripture and without
 manifest revelation, cannot be believed.”[401] Yet in point of fact
 the term “_Transsubstantiatio_” had been first used in a definition by
 the Œcumenical Lateran Council of 1215 to express the ancient teaching
 of the Church regarding the change of substance. According to what
 Luther here says, St. Thomas of Aquin (whose birth occurred some ten
 years later) was responsible for the introduction of the word and
 what it stood for, in other words for the doctrine itself. A little
 later Luther solemnly reaffirmed that “Transubstantiation is purely
 Thomistic” (1522).[402] “The Decretals settled the word, but there
 is no doubt that it was introduced into the Church by those coarse
 blockheads the Thomists” (1541).[403] Hence either he did not know of
 the Council or its date, or he did not know when St. Thomas wrote; in
 any case he was ignorant of the relation in which the teaching of St.
 Thomas on this point stood to the teaching of earlier ages. He was
 unaware of the historical fact of the general adoption of the term
 since the end of the eleventh century;[404] he was not acquainted
 with the theologians who taught in the interval between the Lateran
 Council and St. Thomas, and who used both the name and the idea of
 Transubstantiation, and among whom were Albertus Magnus and Alexander
 of Hales; he cannot even have noted the title of the Decretal from
 which he derived the knowledge of the existence of the doctrine of
 Transubstantiation in the Middle Ages, for it is headed: “_Innocentius
 tertius in concilio generali_.”

That he should have made St. Thomas responsible for the doctrine of
Transubstantiation, and that so rudely, appears to be a result of his
ever-increasing hatred for Aquinas. In the first period of his change
of view, his opposition was to the Scholastics in general, but from
1518 onwards his assaults are on St. Thomas and the Thomists. Why was
this? A Thomist, Prierias of Rome, was the author of the first pamphlet
against him; another Thomist, Cardinal Cajetan, had summoned him to
appear before his tribunal; both belonged to the Dominican Order, in
which Thomas, the great Dominican Saint, was most enthusiastically
studied. Tetzel, too, was a Dominican and a Thomist. Any examination
of Luther’s development cannot but pay attention to this circumstance,
though it is true it does not belong to his earliest period. It
makes many of the outbreaks of anger to which he gave way later more
comprehensible. In 1522 Luther pours out his ire on the “asinine
coarseness of the Thomists,” on “the Thomist hogs and donkeys,” on
the “stupid audacity and thickheadedness of the Thomists,” who “have
neither judgment, nor insight, nor industry in their whole body.”[405]
His theology, we may remark, largely owed its growth to this quarrel
and the contradiction it called forth.

Luther’s tendency to controversial theology and his very manner of
proceeding, in itself far less positive than negative, bore the
Occamist stamp. It is true he was predisposed this way by nature, yet
the criticism of the nominalistic school, the acuteness and questioning
attitude of Occam and d’Ailly, lent an additional impulse to his
putting forth like efforts. We shall not be mistaken in assuming that
his doctrinal arbitrariness was, to a certain extent at least, a result
of the atmosphere of decadent theology in which his lot had been
cast. The paradoxes to which he so frequently descends are manifestly
modelled on the antilogies with which Occam’s works abound; like
Occam, he frequently leaves the reader in doubt as to his meaning, or
speaks later in quite a different way from what he did before. Occam’s
garrulity was, so it would appear, infectious. Luther himself, while
praising his acuteness, blames Occam for the long amplifications
to which he was addicted.[406] On more than one occasion Luther
reproaches himself for his discursiveness and superabundance of
rhetoric. Even the Commentaries he wrote in his youth on the Psalms and
the Epistle to the Romans prove to the reader that his self-reproof was
well deserved, whilst the second Commentary also manifests that spirit
of criticism and arbitrariness, bold to overstep the barriers of the
traditional teaching of the Church, which he had likewise received from
his Occamist masters.

       *       *       *       *       *

Various attempts have been made to point out other theological
influences, besides those considered above, as having worked upon
Luther in his earlier years.

It would carry us too far to discuss these opinions individually,
the more so that there are scarcely sufficient data to hand to lead
to a decision. Luther himself, who should be the principal witness,
is very reticent concerning the authors and the opinions he made use
of in forming his own ideas. He would rather give the impression
that everything had grown up spontaneously from his own thought and
research; that his teaching sprang into being from himself alone
without the concurrence of outsiders, like Minerva from the head of
Jupiter. He assumes to himself with the utmost emphasis the precedence
in the discovery of the Gospel, for instance, against rivals such as
Carlstadt and Zwingli; he alone had read his Bible, and Carlstadt was
quite unacquainted with it; he only, with illumination from above, had
discovered everything.

As we find in his writings so few allusions to outside influences—save
to that of Occamism—it does not appear worth while to philosophise as
to whether he had, or had not, been touched by the Gallicanism which
was in the air. It is very doubtful whether he, in the comparative
seclusion of his little world of Erfurt and Wittenberg, came to
any extent under this influence, especially as his studies were so
cursory and brief and confined within such narrow limits. The Gallican
tendencies did not find in Germany anything like so fruitful a soil as
in France. It is true that Luther soon after his change of opinions
was capable of rivalling any Paris professor of Gallican sympathies in
his depreciation of the Holy See. Hence though no immediate influence
on Luther can be allowed to Gallicanism, yet the fact remains that
the prevalent anti-Roman tendencies greatly contributed to the wide
acceptance of the Lutheran schism in Germany, and even beyond its

Again, that Luther, as has been asserted, after having tasted the food
provided by Nominalism, was so disgusted as to rush to the opposite
extreme in Scholasticism, making his own the very worst elements of
realism, both philosophical and theological, seems to rest on fancy
rather than on facts. We may likewise refuse to see in Wiclifism, with
which Luther was acquainted only through the Constance Theses, any
element of inspiration, and also shake our heads when some Protestants,
at the other extreme, try to show that the Doctors of the Church, St.
Augustine and St. Bernard, were really the parties responsible for
Luther’s turning his back on the doctrines of the Church.

On the other hand, the influence of mysticism, with which we have now
to deal, deserves much more attention. It cannot be denied that a very
considerable part in the development of his new ideas was played by
mysticism; already at an early date the mystic spirit which Augustine’s
works owed to their writer’s Platonic studies, had attracted Luther
without, however, making him a Neo-Platonist.[407] During the time of
his mental growth he was likewise warmly attached to German mysticism.
Yet, here again, it is an exaggeration, as we can already see, to
state as some non-Catholics do that Luther, “as the theologian of the
Reformation,” was merely “a disciple of Tauler and the Frankfort author
of the German Theology,” or that “it was only through meeting with the
Frankfort theologian that he was changed from a despairing swimmer
struggling in the billows of a gloomy sea into a great reformer.”



1. Tauler and Luther

JOHN TAULER, the mystic and Dominican preacher of Strasburg, whom
Luther so favoured, was quite Catholic in his teaching; to attribute
to him, as has been done, any Pantheistic ideas is to do him an
injustice, and it is equally wrong to imagine that he forestalled
Luther’s notions regarding grace and justification. Yet his fanciful
and suggestive mode of expression, his language which voiced, not the
conceptual definiteness of Scholasticism, but the deep feelings of the
speaker, often allows of his words being interpreted in a way quite
foreign to his real meaning. It was just this depth of feeling and this
obscurity which attracted Luther. As his letters show, he breathed more
freely while perusing Tauler’s writings, because they responded to his
natural disposition and his moods, not the least point in their favour
being the absence in them of those hard-and-dry philosophical and
dialectical mannerisms which were hateful to him. Without even rightly
understanding it, he at once applied the teaching of this master of
mysticism to his own inward condition and his new, growing opinions; he
clothed his own feelings and views in Tauler’s beautiful and inspiring
words. His beloved mother-tongue, so expertly handled in Tauler’s
sermons, was at the same time a new means of binding him still more
firmly to the mystic. In Tauler the necessity of the complete surrender
of the soul to the action of God, of indifference and self-abandonment,
is strongly emphasised. To free oneself as far as possible of self; to
renounce all confidence in oneself in so far as this implies self-love
and the pride of the sinful creature; to accept with waiting, longing,
suffering confidence God’s almighty working, this, with Tauler as with
all true mystics, is the fundamental condition for a union through
love with the most Perfect Being. Luther, in his false interpretation
of Tauler, came to dream of a certain false passivity on man’s part,
which he then expanded into that complete passivity which accompanies
the process of justification. He thought that Tauler repudiated the
doing of good works in his own sense. He fancied that in him he
had an ally in his fight against the so-called self-righteous and
holy-by-works. He quite overlooked the contrary exhortations to the
practice of good works and all observances of the Church which the
great mystic had so much at heart.[408]

Tauler frequently speaks of the night of the soul, of the darkness in
which the natural man must place himself on the way from death to life
and through the cross to light; by this he means the self-humiliation
which is pleasing to God, by which man fills himself with the sense
of his own nothingness, and so prepares for the incoming of God into
his innermost being. He often insists that the Creator, by means of
the suffering and cruel inward desolation which He sends His elect,
brings about that state of night, cross and death, to prove and refine
the soul in order to prepare it for an intimate union with Himself.
Such passages Luther referred to the states of fear and fright from
which he so frequently suffered, possibly also to his want of joy in
his vocation, and the state of unrest which, as he complains to his
brother monk, George Leiffer, owing to his surrendering himself too
much to his own excessive cleverness, pressed heavily upon him.[409]
When, during the warfare he had to wage on behalf of his new doctrine,
his inward unrest increased, and at times almost mastered him, he
took refuge still more eagerly in the tenets of the mystic, striving
to calm himself with the idea that his pangs of conscience and his
mental anguish were merely a preparation for the strong, joyous faith
which must spring up in his soul and those of his followers as a
pledge of justification. His very doubts and difficulties became to
him, with the help of his misunderstood mysticism, a sign that he was
chosen for the highest things, and that God would lead him and all to
peace through the new doctrine. It is in connection with his teaching
concerning the night of the soul that he most frequently quotes Tauler
at the commencement of his public struggle, whereas, before that, he
had been wont to bring him into the field only against the so-called
self-righteous, or against Scholasticism.[410]

It was known at that time that he had become a pupil of Tauler, whom he
frequently quoted, but few of his adversaries seem to have recognised
the above-mentioned psychological connection. Dungersheim of Leipzig
on one occasion, in 1519, rightly holds up before him the teaching and
example of Tauler, and tells him he might have learnt from him how
useful it was to accept from others warnings and criticisms; he gloried
in having learnt from Tauler many more spiritual doctrines than from
any other man, but he really only understood one thing well, namely,
how to kick against the pricks to his own hurt.[411]

 Luther’s first mention of Tauler is not contained in his letter to
 Lang of the late summer of 1516,[412] as was hitherto thought, but in
 the Commentary on Romans, which was already finished in the summer of

 It follows from this circumstance that he was already acquainted with
 Tauler’s sermons during the time that he was busy on this Epistle.
 He had come across them somewhat earlier, probably in the course of
 1515, when he was nearing his inward crisis. In this passage of the
 Commentary[413] he declares that God works secretly in man and without
 his knowledge, and that what He does must be borne, i.e. must be
 accepted with humility and neglect of self. How we are thus to suffer
 what God sends, “Tauler,” he says, “explains in the German language
 better than the others. Yes, yes, we do not know how to pray in the
 way we should. Therefore God’s strength must come to the assistance
 of our misery. We, however, must acknowledge our despair and utter

 But without actually mentioning Tauler by name, he frequently in
 this Commentary, utilises ideas which he supports by his teaching.
 Thus, when in Romans v. 3 he describes in far-fetched terms the
 self-annihilation of the soul, its fears and pains, from which finally
 its firm hope in God emerges. The “_tribulatio patientiam operator_”
 of the Apostle he takes there to mean mystical inward tribulation;
 one must desire to be as nothing, in order that the honour of the
 Eternal God as Creator may remain.[414] Only the self-righteous and
 the hypocrites shun the mystical death which lies in a renunciation of
 all self-merit; according to a mystical interpretation of a certain
 Bible passage the “strong man armed” (Luke xi. 21 f.) will destroy
 the “mountains of their works”; but the good, in their absolute
 destitution and tribulation, rejoice in God only, because, according
 to Paul, “the charity of God is poured forth” in the hearts of the
 sorely proved; they are drawn into the mysterious darkness of the
 Divine union and recognise therein not what they love, but only what
 they do not love; they find nothing but satiety in what they know
 and experience, only what they know not, that they desire.[415] Such
 language simply misinterprets some of Tauler’s profound meditations.

 As, in his Commentary on the Psalms, Luther does not yet refer either
 directly or indirectly to Tauler, although the matter frequently
 invited him to do so, this confirms the supposition that it was only
 after the termination of those lectures, or towards their conclusion
 in 1515, that he became acquainted with the Master’s sermons—which
 alone come under consideration. Probably, as mentioned elsewhere, he
 owed his knowledge of them to Johann Lang.[416]

One of the books used by Luther in his youth and preserved in the
Ratsschul-Library at Zwickau is a copy of Tauler’s sermons in the 1508
Augsburg edition with Luther’s annotations made about 1515.[417] The
notes prove how strongly his active imagination was caught up into this
new world of ideas, and how, with swelling sails, he set out for the
port he thought lay beyond the mystic horizon.

 Mysticism teaches the true wisdom, he there says, warmly praising this
 knowledge as “experimental, not doctrinal” (“_sapientia experimentalis
 et non doctrinalis_”). Dimly the error breaks in upon his mind, that
 man can have no wish, no will of his own with respect to God; true
 religion (_vera fides_) is the complete renunciation of the will,
 the most absolute passivity; only thus is the empty vessel of the
 heart filled by God, the cause of all; the work of salvation is a
 “_negotium absconditum_,” entirely the work of God, and He commences
 it by the destruction of our self (“_quod nos et nostra destruat_”);
 He empties us not only of our good works and desires, but even of our
 knowledge, for “He can only work in us while we are ignorant and do
 not comprehend what He is doing.” Any active striving after virtue on
 our part (“_operatio virtutum_”) only hinders the birth of the word in
 our soul.[418]

 His new ideal of virtue necessarily involves our not striving
 after any particular virtues; we are not to imitate this or that
 special virtue of some saint lest this prove to be the result of
 our own planning, and not God’s direction, and thus be contrary to
 passivity.[419] Not only will he grant nothing to sexual desire,
 or allow it anywhere, but even the enjoyment of the five senses
 (he calls it simply _luxuria_) must be struggled against, and the
 “sweets of the spirit” be kept at a distance, namely, “_devotiones_,”
 “_affectiones_,” “_consolationes et hominum bonorum societates_.”[420]

 In his recommendation of passivity two tendencies unite, the negative
 influence of the school of Occam, viz. the opposition to human works,
 and the influence of certain dimly apprehended mystical thoughts.

 While Luther twists Tauler’s expressions to suit the errors which
 were germinating in his mind in opposition to Scholasticism, or,
 rather, to Occamism, he proceeds, according to his manuscript notes in
 Tauler’s book, seriously to jeopardise free will without, however, as
 yet actually attacking it. He finds the origin of all evil in man’s
 setting up against God his own will, and cherishing his own individual
 intentions and hopes. He thinks he is summing up the whole of Tauler’s
 doctrine with the words “God does everything in us” (“_omnia in nobis
 operatur Deus_”).[421] Where Tauler in one of his sermons, obviously
 speaking of other matters, says: “When God is in all things,” Luther
 immediately follows up the author’s words with: “_Hoc, quæso,
 nota_”;[422] the exclusiveness of the Divine being and working appears
 to him of the utmost moment.

 And yet it should be expressly pointed out that Tauler and the
 real Christian mystics knew nothing of that passivity and complete
 surrendering of self which floated before Luther’s mind. On the
 contrary, they declare such ideas to be false. “The ideal of Christian
 mysticism is not an ideal of apathy but of energy,”[423] “a striving
 after an annihilation of individuality” was always a mark of mock
 mysticism. Another essential difference between true mysticism and
 that of Luther is to be found in the quality of the state of spiritual
 sadness and abandonment. Luther’s descriptions of the state mirror
 the condition of a soul without hope or trust and merely filled with
 despair and dull resignation; this we shall see more clearly in his
 accounts of the pains of hell and of readiness for hell. With the
 recognised Catholic mystics this is not the case, and, in spite of
 all loss of consolation, there yet remains, according to them, “in
 the very depths of the soul, the heroic resolve of fidelity in silent
 prayer.”[424] Confidence and love are never quenched though they are
 not sensibly felt, and the feeling of the separation of the soul from
 its God in this Gethsemane proceeds merely from a great love of God
 which does not think of any “readiness for hell.” “That is love,”
 Tauler says, where there is a burning in the midst of starvation,
 want and deprivations, and yet at the same time perfect calm.[425]

 It is no wonder that in Luther’s Commentary on Romans, written
 at about the same time as the notes, or shortly after, his
 pseudo-mysticism breaks out. In addition to the already quoted
 passages from the Commentary let us take the following, which is
 characteristic of his new conception of perfect love: With the cross
 we must put everything of self to death; should God give spiritual
 graces, we must not enjoy them, not rejoice over them; for they may
 bring us in place of death a mistaken life of self, so that we stop
 short at the creature and leave the Creator. Therefore away with all
 trust in works! Only the most perfect love, the embracing of God’s
 will absolutely, without any personal advantage is of any worth,
 only such love as would, if it could, strip itself even of its own

Frequently in this period of strange spiritual transition Luther’s
manner of speaking of the dissolving of the soul in God, and the
penetrating of all things by the Divine, borders on Pantheism, or on
false Neo-Platonism. This, however, is merely owing to his faulty
mode of expression. He does not appear to have been either disposed
or tempted to leave the path of Christianity for actual Pantheism or
Neo-Platonism, although the previous example of Master Eckhart and of
others shows us, that mysticism has not infrequently allured even great
and talented minds on to these rocks. That he should, as already shown,
have welcomed without any sign of scruple the actual destruction of
all free will for good must, in part, be explained by his lack of a
thorough theological and philosophical training. How different might
have been his development, given his mental character, had he, instead
of devoting his attention in his unripe years to the teachings of
mysticism, steeped himself, for instance, in the “_Summa Theologica_”
of Thomas of Aquin, that brightest and greatest mind of the Middle
Ages! After making himself thoroughly at home in such a theology he
would then have been qualified to summon to his assistance the better
sort of mysticism, in which he would have found much agreeing with
his stamp of mind and which would have allowed him to rise to a still
higher enjoyment of the true and good. If then he was not content to
stop short at Tauler and the “German Theology,” there was the Dominican
Henry Suso also at his service, the godly author of writings such as
“The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom,” which has been called the “finest
fruit of German mysticism” (Denifle). He shows in how inspiring a union
pious immersion in God can be combined with theological clearness of
thought. Many others who flourished after the time of Suso, in Germany
and elsewhere, and who distinguished themselves as practical and at the
same time theoretical mystics by the depth of their feeling and their
theological culture would have served as his examples. Such were Johann
Ruysbroek, of Groenendael near Brussels, Gerard Groot of Deventer, the
founder of the Brothers of the Common Life, Henry of Louvain, Ludolf
the Carthusian, Gerson of Paris—with his excellent Introduction
to Mysticism, on the lines of the so-called Areopagite—Thomas à
Kempis, the pious guide, and, among enlightened women, Lidwina of
Schiedam in Holland, Catherine of Bologna and Catherine of Genoa.
The names mentioned, so far as they belong to the domain of German
mysticism, point to a fertile religious and literary field in Luther’s
own country, as attractive by profundity of thought and beauty of
representation as by depth of feeling and heartiness of expression.
It was a cruel misunderstanding—which, however, is now breaking down
more and more, even in the case of Protestant writers—to represent the
ideas of German mysticism as precursors of Luther’s later doctrine.

This vein of true mysticism remained sealed to Luther. By attempting to
create a theology of his own with the fantastic notions which he read
into Tauler, he fell into the mistake against which Thomas of Aquin had
already sounded a warning note in his “_Summa Theologica_.” Without a
safe guiding star many minds are led astray by the attraction of the
extraordinary, by the delusions of an excited fancy or the influence of
disordered inclinations, and consider that to be the work of Divine
grace which is merely deception, as experience shows.[427]

As an expression of the spiritual turmoil going on in Luther, we
may quote a passage from a sermon of January, 1517. Speaking of the
gifts of the three kings he says: “the pure and choice myrrh is
the abnegation with which we must be ready to return to absolute
nothingness, to the state before creation; every longing for God is
there relinquished (!), and likewise the desire for things outside
of God; one thing only is desired: to be led according to His good
pleasure back to the starting-point, i.e. to nothingness. Ah, yes,
just as before God called us into existence we were nothing, desired
nothing, and existed only in the mind of God, so we must return to
that point, to know nothing, to desire nothing, to be nothing. That
is a short way, the way of the cross, by which we may most speedily
arrive at life.”[428] Whether a sermon was the right place for such,
at best purely incomprehensible, an outburst, is doubtful. Luther,
the idealist, was then disposed to pay but little attention to such
practical considerations. In the eyes of many of his pupils and
friends, however, mystical discourses of this sort may have lent him
the appearance of a pious, spiritually minded man.

With regard to the “way of the cross” and the “theology of the cross,”
which he began to teach as soon as he had lost himself in the maze of
mysticism, he explains himself more clearly in the Disputations which
he organised at Wittenberg, and which will be dealt with below.[429]

2. Effect of Mysticism on Luther

The study of mysticism was not altogether disadvantageous to Luther,
for it proved of use to him in various ways.

First, as regards his grasp of spiritual subjects and their expression
in words, Tauler’s simple and heartfelt manner taught him how to
clothe his thoughts in popular and attractive dress. The proof of
this is to be found in his writings for the people and in several of
his more carefully prepared sermons, particularly in the works and
sermons of the first period when the mystical influence was still
predominant. Also with regard to the common body of Christian belief,
so far as he still held fast to the same, several excellent elements of
Catholic mysticism stood him in good stead, notwithstanding his inward
alienation. The intimate attachment of the mystics to Christ and their
longing expectation of salvation through the Lord alone, sentiments
which made an immense impression on his soul, notwithstanding the fact
that he understood them in a one-sided and mistaken fashion, probably
had their share in preserving in him to the very end his faith in
the Divinity of Christ and in the salvation He wrought. They also
led him to esteem the whole Bible as the Word of God, and to hold
fast to various other mysteries which some of the Reformers opposed,
for instance, the mysterious presence of Christ in the Sacrament,
even though they did not prevent him from modifying these doctrines
according to his whim. While Luther retained many of the views rooted
in the faith and sentiment of earlier ages, the Rationalism of Zwingli
was much more ready to throw overboard what did not appear to be
sanctioned by reason; this came out especially in the controversy on
the Lord’s Supper. The reason of this was that Zwingli had been trained
in the school of a narrow and critical Humanism; of mysticism in any
shape or form he knew nothing at all.

Among the advantages which Luther derived from mysticism we cannot,
however, reckon, as some have done, his later success against the
fanatics; this success was not a result of his having overcome their
false mysticism by the true one. By that time he had almost completely
given up his mysticism, whether true or false. He certainly met
the attacks of the fanatics and Anabaptists by appealing to his own
mystical experiences, but that was really a mere tactical, though
none the less effective, manœuvre on his part, which, with his ready
tongue and pen, he was able to put to excellent account. “Who spoke of
spirits?” he says; “I also know the spirit and have had experience of
the spirit; I am able, yea, am called, to reveal their delusions.” And
in the eyes of many he may certainly have been considered, on account
of the “mystical” terrors he had suffered, and to which he frequently
referred in public, to be specially fitted to unmask the false
spiritualism of his opponents. As a matter of fact, his fears and his
mysticism had nothing to do with the real discerning of spirits; they
never brought him light, but only darkness. The truth is that, at the
time of his contest with the fanatics, he had become more sober, had
a clear, practical eye for the mischief of the movement, and regarded
it as the highest duty of self-preservation to stamp out the flame of
revolt against his patrons and his own teaching. We shall see, however,
that the fanatics were, in a certain sense, the children of Luther’s
own spirit.

       *       *       *       *       *

The real good which Luther may have derived from the study of mysticism
was far more than counterbalanced by the regrettable results of his
notions concerning the “pure myrrh” of passivity, and the desire for
nothingness, which at one and the same time involved him in a real
labyrinth, and raised his estimation of his own mission to an enormous
and dangerous height. He came to fancy himself far superior not only
to the Occamists, but to the whole of the secular and regular clergy,
the “swarm of religious and priests,” even to all the theologians, and
particularly to the Scholastics, those “sow theologians,” who knew
nothing of what he was conversant with.

His mysticism had already paved the way for his later belief with
regard to his own Divine call to establish the new teaching; it was
supported by his views of God’s guidance of the unconscious soul;
what he would formerly have regarded as a mistaken road and due to
diabolical inspiration was now labelled a godly act.

True and real mysticism could not take root in him because, to start
with, the necessary predisposition, concerning which the other
mystics and Tauler are agreed, was wanting, viz. above all humility,
calmness and that holy indifference, which allows itself to be led by
God along the path of the rules of its calling without any ulterior,
private aims; peaceableness, composure of mind and zeal in prayer were
not his. What mysticism left behind in Luther was scarcely more than
the fragrance of its words, without any real fruit. What took root
and grew in him was rather the hard wood from which lances are made,
ready for every combat that may arise. His mysticism itself gives the
impression of being part of the battle which his antagonism to the
Occamists led him to give to Scholasticism. Those who contradicted
his new ideas—even his brother monks, like the Erfurt philosophers
and theologians—appeared to him to be opposed on account of their
Scholasticism. The most effective way of escaping or overcoming them
seemed to him the replacing of the older theology by another, in which,
together with Holy Scripture and St. Augustine, mysticism should occupy
a chief place.

 By this, however, we do not mean that the mysticism of Luther was
 merely a fighting weapon. From his letters we may gather that he lived
 in the belief that his new road would conduct him to a joyous nearness
 to God.

 The letter is dated December 14, 1516, in which he exhorts his friend
 Spalatin, at the Court of the Elector, to taste in Tauler “the pure,
 thorough theology, which so closely resembles the old, and to see
 how bitter everything is that is ourselves,” in order to “discover
 how sweet the Lord is.”[430] He is already so mystically inclined
 that he will not even advise his friend in answer to a query, which
 little religious books he should translate into German for the use of
 the people; this advice lay in the counsel of God, as what was most
 wholesome for man was generally not appreciated; hardly was there one
 who sought for Christ; the world was full of wolves (these thoughts
 certainly seem to have remained with him in his public career); we
 must mistrust even our best intentions and be guided only by Christ in
 prayer; but the “swarm of religious and priests always follow their
 own good and pious notions and are thereby miserably deceived.”

 His letter to George Spenlein, which is saturated with an extravagant
 mysticism of grace, also belongs to the same year, 1516.[431]

 On December 4, 1516 (see above, p. 87), Luther finished seeing through
 the press the “Theologia Deutsch,” which he brought out, first in an
 incomplete edition, because he was under the impression that it was by
 Tauler. It is an echo of Tauler’s authentic works, somewhat distorted,
 however, by Luther’s Preface, at the end of which he declares that a
 thorough teaching of the Holy Scripture “must make fools,” intending
 thereby to contrast the insignificance of natural knowledge with
 Divine revelation. The booklet teaches mysticism from the Church’s
 standpoint, though its language is not well chosen. There is, however,
 no real need to interpret certain obscure passages in a pantheistic
 sense, as has been done. The booklet cannot therefore be taken as a
 proof that Luther at that time was pantheistically inclined, or that
 he possessed so little theological and philosophical knowledge as not
 to be able to distinguish between Pantheism and the teaching of the
 Church. Nor is there the slightest trace of specifically Lutheran
 doctrine in the “Theologia Deutsch.”[432]

 In a sermon of February 15, 1517, based on Tauler, Luther busies
 himself with those priests, laymen, and in particular religious,
 who, so he says, wish to be thought especially pious, but who
 are hypocrites because, even in spiritual things, they do not
 overcome their self-love because they attempt, for the love of God,
 to accomplish much and to do great things; almost all Tauler’s
 sermons, he remarks, show how clearly he saw through these false
 self-righteous, and how energetically he opposed them.[433] As a
 matter of fact, Tauler, in the remarks referred to, has in his mind
 those who deserve, for other reasons, to be blamed on account of their
 perverse and proud mind, while Luther utilises such utterances in
 support of his own notorious dislike for good works and for zealous
 individual effort.[434]

 In his defence of his Wittenberg Indulgence Theses against Eck’s
 “Obelisci” (1518), we also find a characteristic misrepresentation
 of Tauler. Tauler, speaking of the possible torments resulting from
 the deprivation of religious consolation which may be experienced on
 earth, instances the vision of a poor soul who, by humble resignation
 to God’s Will, was delivered from its trouble. Luther takes the story
 as referring to a soul in Purgatory, and sees therein not merely a
 proof that souls are resigned in the place of purgation, but that
 they actually rejoice in the separation from salvation which God
 has imposed upon them; finally, he uses the story in support of
 his twenty-ninth pseudo-mystical thesis, in which he says that, on
 account of the piety of those who have died in the peace of God, it
 is uncertain whether all souls in Purgatory even wish to be delivered
 from their torments.[435] His mystical ideas concerning abandonment to
 God’s good pleasure had warped his understanding.

 In the above passage, and again later, he instances Paul and Moses as
 men who had desired to become a curse of God. If they expressed such
 a wish during life, he declares, a similar desire on the part of the
 dead is comprehensible. The common and better interpretation of the
 Bible passages in question regarding Moses and Paul differs very much
 from that of Luther.

Luther embraced the idea, which permeates Tauler’s works, of
the painful annihilation of self-will and of all man’s sensual
inclinations, not in order to mortify his own self-will and sensuality
by obedience to the rules of his Order and humble submission to the
practices of the Church, but the better to make his delusive disregard
for the zealous performance of good works appear high and perfect to
his own mind and in that of others.

One should be ready, so he asserts in the defence of his theses
against Prierias, to renounce all hope in any merit or reward to
such an extent that “if you were to see heaven open before you, you
would nevertheless, as the learned Dr. Tauler, one of your own Order
[Prierias was also a Dominican], says, not enter unless you had first
consulted God’s Will as regards your entering, so that even in glory
you may not be seeking your own will.”[436] In Tauler there is, it
is true, something of the sort,[437] though it does not authorise
Luther to assume the standpoint he does in his theory of resignation.
Luther in his Commentary on Romans, as already stated, goes so far as
to preach resignation to eternal damnation, and even to demand of us
a desire to be damned should it please God to decree it for us (see
below, vi. 9). All this for the ostensible purpose of excluding the
slightest appearance of self-love. “But how,” a modern author asks,
writing with a knowledge of the better Christian mysticism, “can there
be less merit in striving after the final consummation in the next
life which is offered and recommended to us by the Divine favour, and
from which final salvation is inseparable? How then can the ideal
state of the mystic consist in indifference to his perfection and
salvation, to heaven or hell?”[438] “Indifference with regard to the
attainment of the highest, uncreated, eternal, endless Good can never
be postulated.”[439] But Luther thinks he can justify this and other
errors with the help of Tauler and his own mysticism.

But he did not, and could not, use Tauler as a weapon against the
Schoolmen. All he could do was to magnify the loss which these had
suffered through not being acquainted with such a theology as Tauler’s,
“the truest theology.” Tauler, as a matter of fact, was not opposed
to Scholasticism, indeed, the pith of his exhortations rests upon
well-grounded scholastic principles.

By the time his second and complete edition of the “Theologia Deutsch”
appeared, the printing of which was finished on June 4, 1518, Luther
knew with certainty that this booklet was not by Tauler. Nevertheless,
in the Preface he heaps exaggerated praise upon it, gives it a
place beside the Bible and St. Augustine, and declares that his own
teaching, on account of which Wittenberg is being assailed, possesses
in it a real bulwark: “Only now” has he discovered that, before his
time, “other people” thought just the same as he. Here then we see
the alliance which he has entered into with mysticism, now placed
completely at the service of his rediscovered Evangel; the sympathy
which had attracted him to the German mystics during the last few years
here reveals its true character and is led to its overdue triumph. In a
certain sense mysticism was always to remain harnessed to his chariot.

On the other hand, Luther very soon gave up pseudo-Dionysius the
Areopagite, the mystic whose teaching had spread from the East over
the whole of the West. At first, following public opinion, he had
esteemed him very highly, the more so since he had taken him for a
disciple of the Apostles; but, subsequently to the Disputation at
Leipzig, where the Areopagite was urged against him, he shows himself
very much opposed to him. According to Luther, he does not allow
Christ to come to His rights, he grants too much to philosophy and is,
of course, all wrong in his teaching concerning the hierarchy of the
Church.[440] Luther, however, always remained true to St. Bernard, with
whom he had become acquainted, together with Gerson, in his spiritual
reading at the monastery. From St. Bernard, as likewise from Tauler, he
borrowed many mystic ideas, yet not without at the same time forcibly
misinterpreting them and ascribing to the former, ideas which are
altogether foreign to his mind.[441] Gerson’s theologico-mystical
introduction, which Luther cites in his glosses on Tauler, did not
experience any better treatment at his hands,[442] while Bonaventure,
the mystic whom he once prized, came under suspicion on account of his
theological teaching, even before the Areopagite.[443]

On the other hand, he retained his esteem for Tauler till the end.

Some very remarkable references which Luther makes to Tauler’s teaching
are in connection with the troubles of conscience which dogged the
steps of the Wittenberg Doctor from his first public appearance. These
will be mentioned later, together with the means of allaying such
torments of soul, which he gives in his “_Operationes in Psalmos_”
(1519-21), borrowing them from misunderstood passages of Tauler.

We conclude with another passage from the “_Operationes_” in which,
following Tauler, he gives expression to that favourite idea of
his, which like a star of ill-omen presided at the rise of his new
theology. Psalm xi., according to him, is intended to demonstrate
the “righteousness by faith” against “the supporters of holiness by
works and the deceptive appearance of human righteousness.” This is a
forced interpretation going far beyond his own former exposition of
the Psalm in question. “To-day,” he says—with an eye on the so-called
holy-by-works, or _iustitiarii_—“there are many such seducers, as
Johann Tauler also frequently warns us.”[444] Of course, here again,
what he has in mind are the well-known admonitions of Tauler, to trust
in God more than in our own acts of virtue, though he takes them
quite wrongly as implying the worthlessness of works for salvation. A
Protestant authority here meets us at least half-way: “Tauler certainly
did not hold in so accentuated a fashion as Luther the antithesis
between grace and works, for he allows that ‘good works’ bring a man
forward on the way of salvation.”[445]

Luther, since beginning his over-zealous and excited perusal of
Tauler’s writings, presents to the calm observer the appearance of a
man caught up in a dangerous whirl of overstrain. Even in the first
months this whirl of a mystic world brought up from the depth of his
soul all the accumulated sediment of anti-theological feeling and
disgust with the state of the Church. The enthusiasm with which Luther
speaks of the “Theologia Deutsch” and Tauler, shows, as a Protestant
theologian has it, “that the mysticism of the late Middle Ages had
intoxicated him.” “It is clear that we have here a turning-point in
Luther’s theology.”[446]

Of mighty importance for the future was his unfortunate choice, perhaps
due to his state of mind, just in that period of storm and stress,
to deliver lectures at the University on the Epistle to the Romans.
Through his Commentary on this Epistle he set a seal upon his new views
directed against the Church’s doctrine concerning grace, works and



1. The New Publications

LUTHER’S lectures on the Epistle to the Romans which, as mentioned
above (p. 93), he delivered at Wittenberg from April, 1515, to
September or October, 1516, existed till recently (1904-8) only in
MS. form. To Denifle belongs the merit of having first drawn public
attention to this important source of information, which he exploited,
and from the text of which he furnished long extracts according to the
Vatican Codex palatinus lat. 1826.[447] The MS. referred to, containing
the scholia, is a copy by Aurifaber of the lectures which Luther
himself wrote out in full, and once belonged to the library of Ulrich
Fugger, whence it came to the Palatina at Heidelberg, and, ultimately,
on the transference of the Palatina to Rome, found its way to the
Vatican Library. It was first made use of by Dr. Vogel, and then, in
1899, thoroughly studied by Professor Joh. Ficker.[448] While the work
was in process of publication the original by Luther’s own hand was
discovered in 1903 in the Codex lat. theol. 21,4º of the State Library
in Berlin, or rather rediscovered, for it had already been referred
to in 1752 in an account of the library.[449] According to this MS.,
which also contains the glosses,[450] the Commentary, after having
been collated with the Roman MS., which is frequently inaccurate, was
edited with a detailed introduction at Leipzig in 1908 by Joh. Ficker,
Professor at Strasburg University; it forms the first volume of a
collection entitled “Anfänge reformatorischer Bibelauslegung.”

Denifle’s preliminary excerpts were so ample and exact that, as a
comparison with what has since been published proves, they afforded a
trustworthy insight into a certain number of Luther’s doctrinal views
of decisive value in forming an opinion on the general course of his
development.[451] But it is only now, with the whole work before us,
scholia and glosses complete, that it is possible to give a fair and
well-founded account of the ideas which were coming to the front in
Luther. The connection between different points of his teaching appears
in a clearer light, and various opinions are disclosed which were
fresh in Luther’s mind, and upon which Denifle had not touched, but
which are of great importance in the history of his growth. Among such
matters thus brought to light were Luther’s gloomy views on God and
predestination, with which we shall deal in our next section.

The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans ranks first among all his letters
for the depth of thought and wealth of revelation which it contains. It
treats of the most exalted questions of human thought, and handles the
most difficult problems of Christian faith and hope. Its subject-matter
is the eternal election of the Gentile and Jewish world to salvation in
Christ; the guidance of the heathen by the law of nature, and of the
Jews by the Mosaic law; the powers of man when left to himself, and of
man supernaturally raised; the universality and potency of the saving
grace of Christ, and the manner of its appropriation in justification
by faith; finally the life, death and resurrection in which the
Christian, through faith, unites himself with Christ.[452]

We may doubt whether the young Doctor of Wittenberg was qualified to
grapple with so great a task as the explanation of this charter of
faith, especially bearing in mind his comparatively insignificant
knowledge of the Fathers of the Church and the theological literature
of the past, his impetuosity in dealing with recondite questions, and
his excitable fancy which always hurried in advance of his judgment. At
any rate, he himself thought his powers sufficient for a work on which
the most enlightened minds of the Church had tested their abilities. He
immediately followed up this Commentary with other lectures on certain
epistles of St. Paul, wherein the Apostle discloses the depths of his

On perusing the lengthy pages of the Commentary on Romans we are amazed
at the eloquence of the young author, at his dexterity in description
and his skill in the apt use of biblical quotations; but his manner
of working contrasts very unfavourably with that of the older
Commentators on the Epistle, such as Thomas of Aquin with his brevity
and definiteness and, particularly, his assurance in theological
matters. Luther’s mode of treating the subject is, apart from other
considerations, usually too rhetorical and not seldom quite tedious in
its amplitude.

The work, with its freedom both in its language and its treatment of
the subject, reveals many interesting traits which go to make up a
picture of Luther’s inward self.

He starts with the assumption that the whole of the Epistle was
intended by its author to “uproot from the heart the feeling of
self-righteousness and any satisfaction in the same,” and—to use his
own odd expression—“to implant, establish and magnify sin therein
(‘_plantare, ac constituere et magnificare peccatum_’).”[453] “Although
there may be no sin in the heart or any suspicion of its existence,”
he declares, we ought and must feel ourselves to be full of sin, in
contradistinction to the grace of Christ from Whom alone we receive
what is pleasing to God.

In his passionate opposition to the real or imaginary self-righteous
he allows himself, in these lectures, to be drawn into an ever deeper
distrust of man’s ability to do anything that is good. The nightmare
of self-righteousness never leaves him for a moment. His attack would
have been justifiable if he had merely been fighting against sinful
self-righteousness which is really selfishness, or against the delusion
that natural morality will suffice before God. Nor does it appear
who is defending such erroneous ideas against him, or which school
upheld the thesis Luther is always opposing, viz. that there is a
saving righteousness which arises, is preserved, and works without the
preventing and accompanying grace of God. It is, however, clear that
there was in his own soul a dislike for works; so strong in fact is his
feeling in this regard that he simply calls all works “works of the
law,” and cannot be too forcible in demonstrating the antagonism of the
Apostle to their supposed over-estimation. Probably one reason for his
selection of this Epistle for interpretation was that it appeared to
him to agree even better than other biblical works with his own ideas
against “self-righteousness.” We must now consider in detail some of
the leading ideas of the Commentary on Romans.

2. Gloomy Views regarding God and Predestination

The tendency to a dismal conception of God plays, in combination with
his ideas on predestination, an incisive part in Luther’s Commentary on
Romans, which, so far, has received too little attention. The tendency
is noticeable throughout his early mental history. He was never able to
overcome his former temptations to sadness and despair on account of
the possibility of his irrevocable predestination to hell, sufficiently
to attain to the joy of the children of God and to the trustful
recognition of God’s general and certain will for our salvation. The
advice which Staupitz, among others, gave him was assuredly correct,
viz. to take refuge in the wounds of Christ, and Luther probably
tried to follow it. But we do not learn that he paid diligent heed to
the further admonitions of the ancient ascetics, to exert oneself in
the practice of good works, as though one’s predestination depended
entirely on the works one performs with the grace of God. On the
contrary, of set purpose, he avoided any effort on his own part and
preferred the misleading mystical views of Quietism.

The melancholy idea of predestination again peeps out unabashed in the
passage in his Commentary on the Psalms, where he says, that Christ
“drank the cup of pain for His elect, but not for all.”[454]

If he set out to explain the Epistle to the Romans with a gloomy
conception of God, in which we recognise the old temptations regarding
predestination, owing to his misapprehension of certain passages of the
Epistle concerning God’s liberty and inscrutability in the bestowal
of grace, his ideas, as he advances, become progressively more stern
and dismal. The editor of the Commentary remarks, not without reason,
on the forcible way in which Luther, “even in chapter i., emphasises
the sovereignty of the Will of God.”[455] It is true of many, Luther
says there, that God gives them up to the desires of their heart, unto
uncleanness (cp. Rom. i. 24), nor is this merely a permission, but
an appointment and command (“_non tantum permissio, sed commissio et
iussio_”).[456] In such a case God commands the devil or the flesh to
tempt a man and conquer him. It is true that when God chooses to act
graciously He prevents the evil; but He also wills to be severe and to
punish, and “then He makes the wicked to sin more abundantly (‘_facit
abundantius peccare_’)”; then “He forsakes a man so that he may not be
able to resist the devil, who carries out the order and the Will of God
in bringing about his fall.”

The youthful University Professor believes that he is here teaching
a “more profound theology.” No one was to come to him, he says, with
the shallow and hackneyed assertion that, on the above hypothesis,
man’s free will was destroyed; only narrow minds (“_rudiores_”) take
exception at this “_profundior theologia_.”[457] The teaching of this
new theology was the following:

 “This man may do what he pleases, it is God’s will that he should
 be overcome by sin.” “It is true that God does not desire the sin,
 although He wills that it shall take place (‘_non sequitur quod Deus
 peccatum velit, licet ipsum velit fieri_’); for He only wills that it
 shall happen, in order to manifest in man the greatness of His anger
 and His severity by punishing in him the sin which He hates.” “It is
 therefore on account of the punishment that God wills that the sin
 shall be committed.... God alone may will such a thing” (“_Hoc autem
 soli Deo licitum est velle_”),[458] and he repeats fearlessly: “in
 order that all misery and shame may be heaped upon the man, God wills
 he should commit this sin.”[459] He fancies he is communicating to his
 pupils “the highest secrets of theology,” meant only for the perfect,
 when he assures them that both statements are right: God wills to
 oblige me and all men [to do what is good] and yet He does not give
 His grace to all, but only to whom He will, reserving to Himself the
 choice. Some it does not please Him to justify because He manifests
 so much the more through them His honour in the elect; in the same
 way He also wills sin, though only indirectly, viz. “that He may be
 glorified in the elect.” Hence we must not make it a mere matter of
 permission, for “how would God permit it unless it were His will?”
 “Senseless chatter,” thus he describes the unanimous contrary teaching
 of theologians, “such is the objection they raise that man would thus
 be damned without any fault on his part, because he could not fulfil
 the law and was expected to do what was impossible.”—We can only ask
 how his own method is to be described when he contents himself with
 this solution: “If that objection had any weight it would follow that
 it was not necessary to preach, to pray, to exhort, and Christ’s death
 would also not be necessary. Yet by means of all this God has chosen
 to save His elect.”[460]

Luther, as this somewhat lengthy passage shows, had, at any rate
at that time, no bright, kindly idea of God’s Nature, Goodness and
inexhaustible Mercy, which wills to make every creature here on earth
happy and to save them in eternity; his mind was imprisoned within
the narrow limits to which he had before this accustomed himself; a
false conception of God’s essence—perhaps a remainder of his Occamist
training—was already poisoning the very vitals of his theology.

His melancholy conception of God comes to light not only in the
various passages where he speaks of predestination, but also in the
dark pictures, which, in his morbid frame of mind, he paints of the
wickedness and sin of man pitting his unquenchable concupiscence
against God, the All Holy.[461] In order to adore this stern and cruel
God in his own way he had already built up on his false mysticism a
practical theory of resignation and self-surrender to whatever might
be the Divine Will, even should it destine him to damnation. In the
first pages of the Commentary on Romans his idea of God enables him
to proclaim loudly and boldly, and with full knowledge of what he is
doing, his opposition to the religious practice of his many zealous
contemporaries, whether clerics or laymen.

 Many have, according to him, an idea of God different from his: “Oh,
 how many there are to-day who do not worship God as He is, but as they
 imagine Him to be. Look at their singularities and their superstitious
 rites, full of delusions. They give up what they ought to practise,
 they choose out the works by which they will honour Him, they fancy
 that God is such that He looks down upon them and their works.” “There
 is spread abroad to-day a sort of idolatry by which God is not served
 as He is. The love of their own ideas and their own righteousness
 entirely blinds mankind, and they call it ‘good intention.’ They
 imagine that God is thereby graciously disposed to them, whereas it
 is not so: and so they worship their phantom God rather than the true

 Neither do they understand how to pray, because they do not know the
 awfulness of God. Does not the Scripture say; he asks them: “Serve ye
 the Lord with fear and rejoice unto Him with trembling” (Ps. ii. 11),
 and “with fear and trembling work out your salvation” (Phil. ii. 12)?
 Not wanting to look at their own works as “bad and suspicious” in the
 eyes of this God, “they do not assiduously call upon His grace.” They
 assume that their good intention arises out of themselves, whereas it
 is a gift of God, and desire to prepare themselves for the infusion
 of grace.[463] “Pelagian notions are at the bottom of all this.
 No one acknowledges himself now to be a Pelagian, but many are so
 unconsciously, with their principle that free will must set to work to
 obtain grace.”[464]

 Such is the perilous position he reaches under the influence of his
 distaste for works, viz. a violent antagonism to free will. Man is
 unable to do the least thing to satisfy this Holy God.[465] The
 Occamist theology of the school in which he was trained here serves
 him in good stead, as the following sentences, which are closely akin
 to Occam’s acceptation-theory, show: “We must always be filled with
 anxiety, ever fear and await the Divine acceptance”; for as all our
 works are in themselves evil, “only those are good which God imputes
 as good; they are in fact something or nothing, only in so far as
 God accepts them or not.” “The eternal God has chosen good works
 from the beginning that they should please Him,”[466] “but how can I
 ever know that my deed pleases God? How can I even know that my good
 intention is from God?”[467] Hence, away with the proud self-righteous
 (“_superbi iustitiarii_”) who are so sure of their good works!

 Fear, desponding humility and self-annihilation, according to Luther,
 are the only feelings one can cherish in front of this terrible,
 unaccountable God.[468] “He who despairs of himself is the one whom
 God accepts.”[469]

 He also speaks of a certain “_pavor Dei_,” which is the foundation
 of salvation: “_trepidare et terreri_” is the best sign, as it is
 said in Psalm cxliii.: “Shoot out Thy arrows and Thou shalt trouble
 them,” the “_terrens Deus_” leads to life.[470] True love does not
 ask any enjoyment from God, rather, he here repeats, whoever loves
 Him from the hope of being made eternally happy by Him, or from fear
 of being wretched without Him, has a sinful and selfish love (“_amor
 concupiscentiæ_”); but to allow the terrors of God to encompass us,
 to be ready to accept from Him the most bitter interior and exterior
 cross, to all eternity, that only is perfect love. And even with such
 love we are dragged into thick interior darkness.[471]

All these gloomy thoughts which cloud his mind, gather, when he comes
to explain chapters viii. and ix. of the Epistle to the Romans, where
the Apostle deals with the question of election to grace.

Luther thinks he has here found in St. Paul the doctrine of
predestination, not only to heaven, but also to hell, expressed,
moreover, in the strongest terms. At the same time he warns his hearers
against faint-heartedness, being well aware how dangerous his views
might prove to souls.

 “Let no one immerse himself in these thoughts who is not purified in
 spirit, lest he sink into an abyss of horror and despair; the eyes
 of the heart must first be purified by contemplating the wounds of
 Christ. I discourse upon these matters solely because the trend of
 the lectures leads up to them, and because they are unavoidable. It
 is the strongest wine there is, and the most perfect food, a solid
 nourishment for the perfect; it is that most exalted theology of which
 the Apostle says (1 Cor. ii. 6): ‘we speak wisdom among the perfect’
 ... only the perfect and the strong should study the first book of
 the Sentences [because predestination is dealt with at the end of
 Peter Lombard’s first book]; it should really be the last and not the
 first book; to-day many who are unprepared jump at it and then go away
 blinded in spirit.”[472]

 Luther teaches that the Apostle’s doctrine is: God did not in their
 lifetime exercise His mercy towards the damned; He is right and not
 to be blamed when He follows herein His own supreme will alone. “Why
 then does man murmur as though God were not acting according to the
 law?” His will is, for every man, the highest good. Why should we not
 desire, and that with the greatest fervour, the fulfilment of this
 will, since it is a will which can in no way be evil? “You say: Yes,
 but for me it is evil. No, it is evil for none. The only evil is that
 men cannot understand God’s will and do it”; they should know that
 even in hell they are doing God’s will if it is His wish that they
 should be there.[473]

Hence the only way he knows out of the darkness he has himself
created is recognition of, and resignation to, the possibility of a
purely arbitrary damnation by God. The expressions he here makes use
of for reprobation, “_inter reprobos haberi_,” “_damnari_,” “_morte
æterna puniri_” make it plain that he demands resignation to actual
reprobation and to being placed on a footing with the damned. Yet,
as he always considers this resignation as the most perfect proof
of acquiescence in the Will of God, it does not, according to him,
include within itself a readiness to hate God, but, on the contrary,
the strongest and highest love.[474] With such an exalted frame of
mind, however, the actual penalty of hell would cease to exist. “It is
impossible that he should remain apart from God who throws himself so
entirely into the Will of God. He wills what God wills, therefore he
pleases God. If he pleases God, then he is loved by God; if he is loved
by God, then he is saved.”[475] That he is thus cutting the ground
from under his hypothesis of an inevitable predestination to hell by
teaching how we can escape it, does not seem to strike him. Or does he,
perhaps, mean that only those who are not predestined to hell can thus
overcome the fear of hell? Will such resignation be possible to him
who really believes himself destined to hell, and who sees even in his
resignation no means whereby he can escape it?

To such a one even the “wounds of Christ” offer no assurance and no
place of refuge. They only speak to man of the God of revelation,
not of the mysterious, unsearchable God. The untenable and insulting
comparison between the mysterious and the revealed Supreme Being which
Luther was later on to institute is here already foreshadowed.

He explains in detail how the will of man does not in the least belong
to the person who wills, or the road to the runner. “All is God’s, who
gives and creates the will.” We are all instruments of God, who works
all in all. Our will is like the saw and the stick—examples which he
repeatedly employs later in his harshest utterances concerning the
slavery of the will. Sawing is the act of the hand which saws, but the
saw is passive; the animal is beaten, not by the stick, but by him who
holds the stick. So the will also is nothing, but God who wields it is

Hence he rejects most positively the theological doctrine that God
foresees the final lot of man as something “_contingenter futurum_,”
i.e. that he sees his rejection as something dependent on man and
brought about by his own fault. No, according to Luther, in the
election of grace everything is preordained “_inflexibili et firma
voluntate_,” and this, His own will, is alone present in the mind of

 Luther speaks with scorn of “our subtle theologians,” who drag
 in their “_contingens_” and build up an election by grace on
 “_necessitas consequentiæ, sed non consequentis_,” in accordance
 with the well-known scholastic ideas. “With God there is absolutely
 no ‘_contingens_,’ but only with us; for no leaf ever falls from
 the tree to the earth without the will of the Father.” Besides, the
 theologians—so he accuses the Scholastics without exception—“have
 imagined the case so, or at least have led to its being so imagined,
 as though salvation were obtained or lost through our own free

 We know that here he was wrong. As a matter of fact, true
 Scholasticism attributed the work of salvation to grace together with
 free will, so that two factors, the Divine and the human, or the
 supernatural and the natural, are mutually engaged in the same. But
 Luther, when here reporting the old teaching, does not mention the
 factor of grace, but only “_nostrum arbitrium_.”

 He then adds: “Thus I once understood it.” If he really ever believed
 salvation to be exclusively the work of free will, then he erred
 grievously, and merely proves how defective his study, even of Gabriel
 Biel, had been.

 He also interpreted quite wrongly the view of contemporary and earlier
 scholastic theologians on the love of God, and, again, by excluding
 the supernatural factor. He reproaches them with having, so he says,
 considered the love in question as merely natural (“_ex natura_”) and
 yet as wholesome for eternal life, and he demands that all wholesome
 love be made to proceed “_ex Spiritu Sancto_,” a thing which all
 theologians, even the Occamists, had insisted on. He says: “they do
 not know in the least what love is,”[478] “nor do they know what
 virtue is, because they allow themselves to be instructed on this
 point by Aristotle, whose definition is absolutely erroneous.”[479]
 It makes no impression upon him—perhaps he is even ignorant of the
 fact—that the Scholastics consider, on good grounds, the love which
 loves God’s goodness as goodness towards us, and which makes personal
 salvation its motive, compatible with the perfect love of friendship
 (_amicitiæ, complacentiæ_).[480] According to him, this love must be
 extirpated (“_amor exstirpandus_”) because it is full of abominable
 self-seeking.[481] In its place he sets up a most perfect love (which
 will be described below), which includes resignation to, and even a
 desire for, hell-fire, a resignation such as Christ Himself manifested
 (!) in His abandonment to suffering.

 Luther had now left the safe path of theological and ecclesiastical
 tradition to pursue his own ideas.

 It is true that, notwithstanding his exhortation to be resigned to
 the holy will of God in every case, he looks with fear at the flood
 of blasphemies which must arise in the heart of one who fears his own
 irrevocable, undeserved damnation. Anxious to obviate this, or to arm
 the conscience against it, when pointing to the wounds of Christ he
 adds these words: “Should anyone, owing to overmastering temptation,
 come to blaspheme God, that would not involve his eternal damnation.
 For even towards the godless our God is not a God of impatience and
 cruelty. Such blasphemies are forced out of a man by the devil,
 therefore they may be more pleasing to God’s ear than any Alleluia
 or song of praise. The more terrible and abominable a blasphemy is,
 the more pleasing it is to God when the heart feels that it does not
 acquiesce in it, i.e. when it is involuntary.”[482]

 Involuntary thoughts, to which alone he sees fit to refer, are, of
 course, not deserving of punishment; but are the murmurs and angry
 complaints against predestination to hell of which he speaks always
 only involuntary? The way to resignation which he mentions in the
 same connection is no less questionable. It consists largely in “not
 troubling about such thoughts.”[483] But will all be able to get so
 far as this?

 He again repeats with great insistence that “everything happens
 according to God’s choice”; “he upon whom God does not have mercy,
 remains in the ‘_massa_’” [_perditionis_].[484] “For whom it is, it
 is,” he adds elsewhere in German, “whom it hits, him it hits.”[485]
 God permits at times even the elect to be reduced, as it were, to
 nothingness,[486] but only in order that His sole power may be made
 manifest and that it may quench all proud boasting; for man is so
 ready to believe that he can by the exercise of his free will rise
 again, and waxes presumptuous; but here he learns that grace exalts
 him before and above every choice of his own (“_ante omne arbitrium et
 supra arbitrium suum_”).[487]

We shall not here examine more closely his grave misapprehension of
the teaching of the Apostle in the Epistle to the Romans, on which he
tries to prop up his glaring theory concerning predestination. Suffice
it to say that the principal passage to which he refers (Rom. ix. 11
ff.), according to the exegetist Cornely, is not now taken by any
expositor to refer to predestination, i.e. to the selection by grace
of each individual.[488] The passage treats of the promises made to
the Jewish people (as a whole) which were given without desert and
freely; but Israel, as St. Paul explains, has, by its fault, rendered
itself unworthy of the same and excluded itself (as a whole) from the
salvation which the heathen obtain by faith—a reward of Israel’s
misdeeds, which, in itself, is incompatible with Luther’s doctrine of
an undeserved predestination to hell.[489]

Luther also quotes St. Augustine, but does not interpret him correctly.
He even overlooks the fact that this Father, in one of the passages
alleged, says the very opposite to his new ideas on unconditional
predestination to hell, and attributes in every case the fate of
the damned to their own moral misdeeds. Augustine says, in his own
profound, concise way, in the text quoted by Luther: “the saved may
not pride himself on his merits, and the damned may only bewail his
demerits.”[490] In his meditations on the ever-inscrutable mystery
he regards the sinner’s fault as entirely voluntary, and his revolt
against the eternal God as, on this account, worthy of eternal
damnation. Augustine teaches that “to him as to every man who comes
into this world” salvation was offered with a wealth of means of grace
and with all the merits of Christ’s bitter death on the cross.[491]

Luther also quoted the Bible passages regarding God’s will for
the salvation of all men, but only in order to say of them: “such
expressions are always to be understood exclusively of the elect.” It
is merely “wisdom of the flesh” to attempt to find a will of God that
all men be saved in the assurance of St. Paul: “God wills that all men
shall be saved” (1 Tim. ii. 4), or “in the passages which say, that He
gave His Son for us, that He created man for eternal life, and that
everything was created for man, but man for God that he might enjoy Him

 Other objections which Luther makes he sets aside with the same
 facility by a reference to the thoughts he has developed above.[493]
 Thus the first: Why did God give to man free will by means of which he
 can merit either reward or punishment? His answer is: Where is this
 free will? Man has no free will for doing what is good. Then a second
 objection: “God damns no one without sin, and he who is forced to sin
 is damned unjustly.” The answer to this is new: God ordains it so
 that those who are to be damned are gladly, even though of necessity,
 in sin (“_dat voluntarie velle in peccato esse et manere et diligere
 iniquitatem_”). Finally, the last objection: “Why does God give them
 commandments which He does not will them to keep, yea hardens their
 will so much that they desire to act contrary to the law? Is not God
 in this case the cause of their sinning and being damned?” “Yes, that
 is the difficulty,” he admits, “which, as a matter of fact, has the
 most force; it is the weightiest of all. But to it the Apostle makes
 a special answer when he teaches: God so wills it, and God Who thus
 wills, is not evil. Everything is His, just as the clay belongs to the
 potter and waits on his service.” Enough, he continues, “God commands
 that the elect shall be saved, and that those who are destined for
 hell shall be entangled in evil in order that He may show forth His
 mercy and also His anger.”

 It makes one shudder to hear how he cuts short the sighs of the
 unhappy soul which sees itself a victim of God’s harshness. It
 complains: “It is a hard and bitter lot that God should seek His
 honour in my misery!” And Luther replies: “See, there we have the
 wisdom of the flesh! _My_ misery; ‘my,’ ‘my,’ that is the voice of the
 flesh. Drop the ‘my’ and say: Be Thou honoured, O Lord.... So long as
 you do not do that, you are seeking your own will more than the will
 of God. We must judge of God in a different manner from that in which
 we judge of man. God owes no man anything.”

 “With this hard doctrine,” he concludes, “the knife is placed at the
 throat of holiness-by-works and fleshly wisdom and therefore the flesh
 is naturally incensed, and breaks out into blasphemies; but man must
 learn that his salvation does not depend upon his acts, but that it
 lies quite outside of him, namely, in God, Who has chosen him.”

 He attempts, however, to mingle softer tones with the voices of
 despair, which, he admits, these theories have let loose. This he can
 only do at the expense of his own teaching, or by fining it down. He
 says: whoever is terrified and confused, but then tries to abandon
 himself with indifference to the severity of God, he, let this be
 his comfort, is not of the number of those predestined to hell. For
 only those who are really to be rejected are not afraid[?], “they
 pay no heed to the danger and say, if I am to be damned, so be it!”
 On the other hand, confusion and fear are signs of the “_spiritus
 contribulatus_,” which, according to his promise, God never rejects
 (Ps. 1.).

 After all, then, we are forced to ask, according to this, is not man
 to be saved by his own act, namely, the act of heroic indifference to
 his eternity? For this act remains an act of man: “Whoever is filled
 with the fear of God, and, taking courage, throws and precipitates
 himself into the truth of the promises of God, he will be saved, and
 be one of the elect.”[494]

3. The Fight against “Holiness-by-Works” and the Observantines in the
Commentary on Romans

His ideas on predestination were not the direct cause of Luther’s
belittling of human effort and the value of good works; the latter
tendency was present in him previous to his adoption of rigid
predestinarianism; nor does he ever attribute to election by grace
any diminution of man’s powers or duties, whether in the case of the
chosen or of the reprobate. The same commandments are given to those
whom God’s terrible decree has destined for hell as to the elect; they
possess the same human abilities, the same weaknesses. It was not
predestination which led him in the first instance to attribute such
strength to concupiscence in man, and to invest it, as he ultimately
did, with an actually sinful and culpable character.

His ideas concerning the absolute corruption of the children of Adam,
even to the extinction of any liberty in the doing of what is good, had
another origin, and, in their development, were influenced far more by
false mysticism than by the predestinarian delusion.

He approached the lectures on the Epistle to the Romans in the
conviction that, in this Epistle, he would find the sanction of his
earlier efforts against the self-righteous and “holy-by-works,”
against whom his peculiar mysticism had still further prejudiced
him. From the very outset he interprets the great Apostolic document
on the calling of the heathen and the Jews to salvation as directed
exclusively against those who, according to him, were imperilling the
Church; against those who (whether in his own Order or in Christendom
generally) laid stress on the importance of works, on the duty of
fulfilling observances and the merit of exercises of virtue for gaining
heaven, and who were unmindful of the righteousness which Christ gives
us. This is not the place to point out how Paul is speaking in quite
another sense, against those Jewish Christians who still adhered to the
works of the Mosaic Law, of the merely relative value of works, of the
liberty which Christianity imparts and of the saving power of faith.

 Luther, however, in the very first lines, tells the “holy-by-works”
 that the whole purpose of the Epistle to the Romans is a driving
 back and rooting out of the wisdom and righteousness of the flesh.
 Among the heathen and the Jews were to be found those who, though
 “devoted in their hearts to virtue,” yet had not suppressed all
 self-satisfaction in the same, and looked upon themselves as
 “righteous and good men”; in the Church, according to Paul, all
 self-righteousness and wisdom must be torn out of the affections, and
 self-complacency. God willed to save us not by our own righteousness
 but by an extraneous righteousness (“_non per domesticam sed per
 extraneam iustitiam vult salvare_”), viz. by the imputed righteousness
 of Christ, and, owing to the exterior righteousness which Christ
 gives (“_externa quæ ex Christo in nobis est iustitia_”), there can
 be no boasting, nor must there be “any depression on account of the
 sufferings and trials which come to us from Christ.”[495]

 “Christ’s righteousness and His gifts,” he says, “shine in the true
 Christian.... If any man possesses natural and spiritual advantages,
 yet this is not considered by God as being his wisdom, righteousness
 and goodness (‘_non ideo coram Deo talis reputatur_’), rather, he must
 wait in humility, as though he possessed nothing, for the pure mercy
 of God, to see whether He will look upon him as righteous and wise.
 God only does this if he humbles himself deeply. We must learn to
 regard spiritual possessions and works of righteousness as worthless
 for obtaining the righteousness of Christ, we must renounce the idea
 that these have any value in God’s sight and merit a reward, otherwise
 we shall not be saved” (“_opera iusta velint nihil reputare_,”

Any pretext, or even none at all, serves to bring him back again
and again in the work to the “Pelagian-minded _iustitiarii_.” It is
possible that amongst these the “Observantines” ranked first. Our
thoughts revert to those of his brother monks, whose cause he had at
first defended in the internal struggle within the Congregation, only
to turn on them unmercifully afterwards. On one occasion he mentions
by name the “Observants,” reproaching them with trying to outshine
one another in their zeal for God, while at the same time they had
no love of their neighbour, whereas, according to the passage he is
just expounding, “the fulness of the law is love.”[497] He would also
appear to be referring to them, when, on another occasion, he rails at
such monks, who by their behaviour bring their whole profession into

“They exalt themselves against other members of their profession,”
he cries, “as though they were clean and had no evil odour about
them,”[498] and continues in the style of his monastic discourse on the
“Little Saints” mentioned above (p. 69 f.). “And yet before, behind and
within they are a pig-market and sty of sows ... they wish to withdraw
from the rest, whereas they ought, were they really virtuous, to help
them to conceal their faults. But in place of patient succour there is
nothing in them but peevishness and a desire to be far away (‘_quærunt
fugam ... tediosi sunt et nolunt esse in communione aliorum_’). They
will not serve those who are good for nothing nor be their companions;
they only desire to be the superiors and companions of the worthy,
the perfect and the sound. Therefore they run from one place to

The struggle of which this is a picture continued among the German
Augustinians. In the spring, 1520, a similar conflict broke out in
the Cologne Province, one side having the sympathy of the Roman
Conventuals.[500] We can well understand how the General of the Order
in Rome was not disposed to grant the exemptions claimed by the
Observantines of the Saxon Congregation against his own Provincials.

 Luther brandishes his sharp blade against the “spiritually minded, the
 proud, the stiff-necked, who seek peace in works and in the flesh, the
 _iustitiarii_,”[501] without making any sharp distinction between the
 actual Observantines and the “self-righteous.”

 With regard to himself, he admits that he is so antagonistic to the
 “_iustitiarii_,” that he is opposed to all scrupulous observance of
 “_iustitia_,” to all regulations and strict ordinances:

 “The very word righteousness vexes me: if anyone were to steal
 from me, it would hurt me less than being obliged to listen to the
 word righteousness. It is a word which the jurists always have on
 their lips, but there is no more unlearned race than these men of
 the law, save, perhaps, the men of good intention and superior
 reason (‘_bonæ-intentionarii seu sublimatæ rationis_’); for I have
 experienced both in myself and in others, that when we were righteous,
 God mocked at us.”[502]

4. Attack on Predisposition to Good and on Free Will

The assertion of the complete corruption of human nature owing to
the continuance of original sin and the inextinguishable tinder of
concupiscence, arose from the above-mentioned position which Luther had
taken up with regard to self-righteousness.

Man remains, according to what Luther says in the Commentary on Romans,
in spite of all his veneer of good works, so alienated from God that he
“does not love but hates the law which forces him to what is good and
forbids what is evil; his will, far from seeking the law, detests it.
Nature persists in its evil desires contrary to the law; it is always
full of evil concupiscence when it is not assisted from above.” This
concupiscence, however, is sin. Everything that is good is due only to
grace, and grace must bring us to acknowledge this and to “seek Christ
humbly and so be saved.”[503]

The descriptions of human doings which the author gives us in eloquent
language are not wanting in fidelity and truth to nature, though we
cannot approve his inferences. He has a keen eye on others and is
unmerciful in his delineation of the faults which he perceived in the
pious people around him.

 He spies out many who only act from a desire for the praise of men,
 and who wish to appear, but not really to be, good. How ready are
 such, he says, to depreciate themselves with apparent humility. Others
 only do what is right because it gives them pleasure, i.e. from
 inclination and without any higher motive. Others do it from vain
 self-complacency; yea, selfishness is present in almost all, and mars
 their works. Outward routine and a business-like righteousness spoils
 a great deal. It is to be deplored that, like the Pharisees, they
 only keep what is commanded in view and long for the rewards of a busy
 and petty virtue.[504]

 In such descriptions he is easily carried too far and is sometimes
 even obviously unjust. Thus, for instance, of evil practices he makes
 conscious theories, in order the more readily to gain the upper hand
 of his adversaries. “They teach,” he cries, “that it is only necessary
 to keep the law by works and not with the heart ... their efforts are
 not accompanied with the least inward effort, everything is wholly

In respect of the doctrine of original sin and its consequences in man,
he not only magnifies enormously the strength of the concupiscence
which remains after baptism, without sufficiently taking into account
the spiritual means by which it can be repressed, but gives the most
open expression to his belief that concupiscence is actually sin;
it is the persistence of original sin, rendering every man actually
culpable, even without any consent of the will. The “_Non concupisces_”
of the Ten Commandments—which the Apostle emphasises in his Epistle
to the Romans, though in another sense—Luther makes out to be such a
prohibition that, by the mere existence of concupiscence, it is daily
and hourly sinfully transgressed. He pays no attention to the theology
of the Church, which had hitherto seen in the “_Non concupisces_”
a prohibition of any voluntary consent to a concupiscence existing
without actual sin.

His attack on free will is very closely bound up with his ideas on

 “Concupiscence with weakness is against the law ‘Thou shalt not
 covet,’ and it is deadly [a mortal sin], but the gracious God does not
 impute it on account of the work of salvation which has been commenced
 in [pardoned] man.” “Even a venial sin,” he teaches in the same
 passage, “is, according to its nature [owing to human nature which is
 entirely alienated from God], a mortal sin, but the Creator does not
 impute (‘_imputat_’) it as mortal sin to the man whom he chooses to
 perfect and render whole.”[506]

 He makes various attempts to deduce from concupiscence the absolute
 want in the will of freedom to do what is good. There is not the
 slightest doubt that he does deny this freedom, though, on the other
 hand, he grants so much to liberty in his admonitions concerning
 predestination (see below, p. 219) that he practically retracts his
 denial. The position he takes up with regard to grace ought to be a
 test of what he actually held: did he look upon grace as in every case
 irresistible? But on this very point he is as yet indisposed to commit
 himself as he will not hesitate to do later, to a positive, erroneous
 “yes.” In short, though he stands for a denial of liberty, he has not
 yet seen his way to solve all the difficulties.

 If we seek some specimens illustrating the course of his ideas
 regarding lack of liberty, we find, perhaps, the strongest utterance
 in his comments on Romans viii. 28: “Free will apart from grace
 possesses absolutely no power for righteousness, it is necessarily
 in sin. Therefore St. Augustine in his book against Julian terms
 it ‘rather an enslaved than a free will.’ But after the obtaining
 of grace it becomes really free, at least as far as salvation is
 concerned. The will is, it is true, free by nature, but only for what
 comes within its province, not for what is above it, being bound in
 the chain of sin and therefore unable to choose what is good in God’s
 sight.”[507] Here Luther makes no distinction between natural and
 supernatural good, but excludes both from our choice; in fact there is
 no such thing as natural goodness, for what nature performs alone is
 only sin.

 “Where is our righteousness,” he exclaims rhetorically some pages
 before this, “where are our works, where is the liberty of choice,
 where the presupposed ‘_contingens_’ (see above, p. 193)? This is what
 must be preached, this is the way to bring the wisdom of the flesh
 to the dust! The Apostle does so here. In former passages he cut off
 its hands, its feet, its tongue; here he seizes it [the wisdom of
 the flesh which speaks in defence of free will] and makes an end of
 it. Here, like a flash of light, it is seen to possess nothing in
 itself, all its possession being in God.”[508] This, then, is Luther’s
 conclusion: the elect are not saved by the co-operation of their
 free will, but by the Divine decree; not by their merits, but by the
 unalterable edict from above by means of which they conquer all the
 difficulties in the way of salvation. He is silent here as to whether
 the elect may not succumb to sin temporarily, either by the misuse of
 liberty, or from lack of compelling grace.

 Towards the end of the Commentary he asserts quite definitely that we
 are unable to formulate even a good intention with our human powers
 which could in any way [even in the natural order] be pleasing to God.

 He here examines certain opponents, who rightly denied this
 inability, “otherwise man would be forced to sin.” Further on he
 attributes to all theologians the teaching of the Occamists (see
 above, p. 75): “therewith we receive without fail the infusion of
 God’s grace”; a proposition which certainly sounds Pelagian. He
 passes over one point which true scholastic theologians did not omit,
 viz. that God’s supernatural assistance “prevents” our natural will,
 raises the same into the order of grace, and thus enables us to merit
 salvation. Further, again disregarding the scholastic teaching, he
 foists upon all theologians the idea that, having once formed our
 intention, “we need have no further anxiety, or trouble ourselves to
 invoke God’s grace.”[509] Such is, according to him, the position of
 his opponents.

 In his answer he does not assert, as regards the first proposition,
 that God forces us to evil; “the wicked,” he says, “do what they wish,
 perhaps even with good intentions, but God allows them to sin even
 in their good works.” Of this, according to him, his opponents must
 be aware and therefore ought not to act with so much assurance and
 certainty as though they were really performing good works. Everyone
 should rather say: “Who knows whether God’s grace is working this
 in me?” Then only does man acknowledge “that he can do nothing of
 himself”; only thus can we escape Pelagianism, which is the curse
 of the self-righteous. “But because they are persuaded that it is
 always within their power to do what they can, and therefore also to
 possess grace [here he is utilising some of the real weaknesses of
 Occamism], therefore they do nothing but sin all the time in their

 Luther does not here ask himself what else man is to perform in order
 to possess the grace of God, beyond doing what he can, humbling
 himself and praying for grace, as all preceding ages had taught. He
 is still looking for an assurance of salvation by some other method.
 Only at a later date does he learn, or thinks he learns, how it is
 to be obtained (by faith alone). Here he merely says: “It is the
 greatest plague to speak of the signs of possessing grace and thereby
 to lull man into security.” He has not yet found the assurance of the
 “Gracious God,” as he is to express it later.

Meanwhile he proceeds, ostensibly following St. Paul, to denounce the
principle “he who does what he can,” etc., like wise freewill and the
possibility of fulfilling the law.

 Paul teaches, for instance, in Romans viii. 3 f.: What the Mosaic
 law could not do on account of the rebellion of the flesh in man,
 namely, conquer sin, that God did by the incarnation of His Son, who
 overcame sin and helps us to fulfil the law; in those who are not
 born again, sin lives as the “law of sin,” because they are “weak”
 _ἠσθένει_ against the attacks of concupiscence; on the other hand,
 the saving grace of the gospel frees us from the “law of sin and
 death.” To the proposition with which Paul introduces this doctrine,
 viz. that it had not been possible for the law (i.e. the Mosaic Law)
 to conquer sin, Luther simply adds: “where now is the freedom of the
 will?[511] ... the holy Apostle Paul says here expressly that the
 law was unable to condemn [overcome] sin, or even the weakness which
 proceeds from the flesh. This is nothing else but the doctrine which I
 have so frequently been insisting upon, that a fulfilling of the law
 through our own efforts is impossible; it cannot even be said that
 we have the power to will and to be able, in such a way as God would
 have us, viz. by grace [thus it is possible to us to perform what
 is naturally good]; for otherwise grace would not be necessary, but
 only useful, and otherwise the sin of Adam would not have corrupted
 our nature, but have left it unimpaired.... It is true that the law
 of nature is written in the hearts of all; reason also has a natural
 desire for what is good, but this is selfish, being directed to our
 own good, not to that which pleases God; only faith working by love is
 directed towards God. All that nature desires and acquires, goodness,
 wisdom, virtue and whatever else there is, are evil goods (‘_male bona
 sunt_’), because nature, by original sin, is blinded in its knowledge
 and chained in its affections, and therefore cannot know God, nor love
 Him above all things nor yet refer all to Him. Therefore it follows
 that, without faith and love, man is unable to desire, have, or do
 anything that is good, but only evil, even when he does what is good.”
 “Without love, i.e. without the assistance of an external and higher
 power, he sins continually against the law ‘Thou shalt not covet,’
 for this commandment requires that we should not appropriate or seek
 anything for ourselves, but live, act and think for God in all things.
 This commandment is simply beyond us.”[512]

His object in thus disparaging liberty is not for the present grounded
on the Almighty Power of God, as though this stood in its way, or, as
was the case later, on predestination, as though its irrefutable decree
were incompatible with liberty, but merely on his exaggeration of the
results of original sin with regard to doing what is good (i.e. on
concupiscence); he simply moves along the old lines of his distaste for
good works and for so-called self-righteousness.[513]

His misinterpretation of the Scholastics, due partly to ignorance,
partly to the strength of his prejudice against them, here did him very
notable service. He says on one occasion: “In their arbitrary fashion
they make out that, on the infusion of grace, the whole of original
sin is remitted in everyone just like all actual sin, as though sin
could thus be removed at once, in the same way as darkness is dispelled
by light.... It is true their Aristotle made sin and righteousness
to consist in works. Either I never understood them, or they did not
express themselves well.”[514] Here there can be no doubt that the
former hypothesis is the correct one. That he did not understand his
teachers and the school books is apparent from the following remark:
If sin were completely removed in confession (“_omnia ablata et
evacuata_”), then he who comes from confession ought to prefer himself
to all others, and not look upon himself as a sinner like the rest.
Even the Occamists never provided the slightest ground for such an
inference, though they admitted in the justified the entire remission
of all sin, original as well as actual. Luther had said in the very
passage of the Commentary on Romans just quoted: “the remission of
sin is, it is true, a real remission, yet not a removal of sin; the
removal is only to be hoped for (“_quod non sit ablatio peccati, nisi
in spe_”) from the giving of grace; grace commences the process of the
removal in this way, that the sin is no longer imputed as sin.”[515]
But, without recalling his own admission that he may possibly have
misunderstood the Scholastics, he goes on to speak of the “deliria” of
such Doctors.

5. Luther rudely sets aside the older doctrine of Virtue and Sin

In his Commentary on Romans Luther enters upon the domain of
theological and philosophical discussion regarding the questions of
natural and supernatural morality, the state of grace and the infused
habit, sometimes with subtilty, sometimes with coarse invective, but
owing to the limits of the present work we are unable to follow him
except quite cursorily.

The manner in which he flings his “curses” at the doctrines of
Scholasticism is distinctive of him; he says they are entirely
compounded of pride and ignorance with regard to sin, to God and the
law;[516] “cursed be the word ‘_formatum charitate_,’ and also the
distinction between works according to the substance of the deed and
the intention of the Lawgiver.”[517] There is perhaps no previous
instance of a learned, exegetical treatise intended for academic
consumption being thus spiced with curses.

 Certain of Luther’s remarks on his practical experience call for
 consideration. Such is the following: “Everywhere in the Church great
 relapses after confession are now noticeable. People are confident
 that they are justified instead of first awaiting justification, and
 therefore the devil has an easy task with such false assurance of
 safety, and overthrows men. All this is due to making righteousness
 consist in works. But whoever thinks like a Christian can find this
 out for himself.”[518]

 He gives the following exhortation with great emphasis and almost
 as though he had made an astounding discovery: “Whoever goes to
 confession, let him not believe that he gets rid of his burden and can
 then live in peace.”[519] His new doctrine of sin, which he discloses
 in the same passage, lies at the bottom of this; the baptised and
 the absolved must on no account forthwith consider themselves free
 from sin, on the contrary “they must not fancy themselves sure of
 the righteousness they have obtained and allow their hands to drop
 listlessly as though they were not conscious of any sin, for they have
 yet to fight against it and exterminate it with sighs and tears, with
 sadness and effort.”[520]

 “Sin, therefore, still remains in the spiritual man for his exercise
 in the life of grace, for the humbling of his pride, for the driving
 back of his presumption; whoever does not exert himself zealously in
 the struggle against it, is in danger of being condemned even though
 he cease to sin any more (‘_sine dubio habet, unde damnetur_’).
 We must carry on a war with our desires, for they are culpable
 (‘_culpa_’), they are really sins and render us worthy of damnation;
 only the mercy of God does not impute them to us (‘_imputare_’) when
 we fight manfully against them, calling upon God’s grace.”[521]

There are few passages in the Commentary where his false conception of
the entire corruption of human nature by original sin and concupiscence
comes out so plainly as in the words just quoted. We see here too how
this conception leads him to the denial of all liberty for doing what
is good, and to the idea of imputation.

We can well understand that he needed St. Augustine to assist him to
cover all this. And yet, as though to emphasise his own devious course,
he quotes, among other passages, one in which Augustine confutes the
view of any sin being present in man simply by reason of concupiscence.

 “If we do not consent to concupiscence,” Augustine says, “it is no sin
 in those who are regenerate, so that, even if the ‘_Non concupisces_’
 is infringed, yet the injunction of Jesus Sirach (xviii. 30) ‘Go not
 after thy lusts’ is observed. It is merely a manner of speaking to
 call concupiscence sin (“_modo quodam loquendi_”), because it sprang
 from sin, and, when it is victorious, causes sin.”[522] To this
 statement of the Father of the Church, which is so antagonistic to his
 own ideas, Luther can only add: that, certainly, concupiscence is in
 this way merely the cause and effect of sin, but not formally sinful
 (“_causaliter et effectualiter, non formaliter_”); Augustine himself
 had taught in another passage,[523] that owing to the mere existence
 of concupiscence, we are able to do what is good only in an imperfect
 way, not well and perfectly (“_facere, non perficere_”; cp. Rom vii.
 18); that we ought, however, to strive to act well and perfectly “if
 we wish to attain to the perfection of righteousness” (“_perficere
 bonum, est non concupiscere_”).[524]

 St. Augustine’s words, which are much to the point if taken in
 the right sense, only encouraged Luther in his opposition to the
 Scholastics; he points out to them that Augustine’s manner is not
 theirs, and that at least he supports his statements by Holy Scripture
 when speaking of the desires which persist without the consent of the
 will; they on the other hand come along without Bible proofs and thus
 with less authority; those old Doctors quieted consciences with the
 voice of the Apostle, but these new ones do not do so at all, rather
 they force the Divine teaching into the bed of their own abstractions;
 for instance, they derive from Aristotle their theory as to how
 virtues and vices dwell in the soul, viz. as the form exists in the
 subject; all comprehension of the difference between flesh and spirit
 is thus made impossible.

The question which here forces itself upon Luther, viz. how virtue and
vice exist in the soul, is of fundamental importance for his view of
ethics, and, as it frequently occurs in the Commentary, it must not be
passed over.

When he says that virtues and vices do not adhere to the soul, he means
the same as what he elsewhere expresses more clearly, viz. that “it
depends merely on the gracious will of God whether a thing is good or

 “Nothing is good of its own nature, nothing is bad of its own nature;
 the will of God makes it good or bad.”[526]

 This is the merest Nominalism, akin to Occam’s paradox that “hatred
 of God, theft and adultery might be not merely not wicked, but even
 meritorious were the will of God to command them.”

 From such ideas of Occam Luther advanced to the following: “The will
 of God decides whether I am pleasing to Him or not.”[527]

 This explains the proposition which frequently appears, in the
 Commentary on Romans and elsewhere, that man is at the same time
 righteous and a sinner, that the righteous man has the left foot still
 in sin and the right in grace.[528]

 In the Commentary he attacks self-complacency in the performance
 of good works with the cry: “Good works are not something that can
 please because they are good or meritorious, but because they have
 been chosen by God from eternity as pleasing to Himself,” words
 which presuppose that only the imputation matters. “Therefore,”
 he continues, “works do not render us good, but our goodness, or
 rather the goodness of God, makes us good and our works good; for in
 themselves they would not be good, and they are or are not good in so
 far as God accounts them, or does not account them good (‘_quantum
 ille reputat vel non reputat_’). Our own accounting or not accounting
 does not matter in the least. Whoever keeps this before him is always
 filled with fear, and waits with apprehension to see how God’s
 sentence will fall out. This puts an end to all that puffing up of
 self and quarrelling, so beloved of the proud ‘_iustitiarii_,’ who are
 so sure of their good works.”

 “Even the very definition of virtue which Aristotle gives,” he
 concludes, “is all wrong, as though, forsooth, virtue made us perfect
 and its work rendered us worthy of praise. The truth is simply that it
 makes us praiseworthy in our own eyes and commends our works to us;
 but this is abominable in God’s sight, while the contrary is pleasing
 to Him.”[529]

 As a matter of fact, Scholasticism, basing its teaching on Aristotle,
 considered virtue and vice as something real and objective, as
 qualities of the soul which adhere to it inwardly and “inform” it,
 i.e. impart to it a spiritual form and become part of it in the same
 way as material things have their special qualities, for instance,
 their natural colour without which they do not exist. These, as a
 matter of fact, were merely learned ways of expressing the fundamental
 truth naturally perceived by all, viz. that evil deeds and vices
 render a man evil, and good deeds and virtues render him good; no sane
 mind could conceive of a theory of imputation by which good is made
 evil or evil good.

Luther was naturally obliged by his new theology of imputation to
declare war on the older theological view of the existence of virtue
and vice in the soul.[530] It was in so doing that, in his excitement,
he uttered the curses above referred to (p. 209). It was no mere
question of words, but of the very foundation of his new theology, a
fact which makes his excitement comprehensible.

As a matter of fact, by his application of the theory of imputation he
was heading for a “transformation of all values” and drifting towards
the admission of a “future life of good and evil” long before modern
philosophy had confidently opened up a similar perspective.

6. Preparation for Justification

Notwithstanding the fact that, according to the above exposition in
the Commentary on Romans, man has absolutely no freedom of choice for
doing what is good and that we cannot know with regard to our works
how God will account them, Luther frequently speaks in the same book
of the preparation necessary for obtaining justification, namely, by
works. Here his feeling and his eloquence come into full play at the
expense of clear theology. He does not even take into account the
irresistibility of grace, which is the point he is bound to arrive
at finally. Christ alone does the work, he says (“_soli Christo
iustitia relinquitur, soli ipsi opera gratiæ et spiritus_”).[531]
On the other hand, the bringing about of justification, at least
so far as preparation goes, is imposed upon man. There are “works
which predispose to justification,” he teaches (“_opera quæ fiunt
præparatorie ad iustificationem acquirendam_”). “Whoever by his works
disposes himself for the grace of justification is already, to a
certain extent, righteous; for righteousness largely consists in the
will to be righteous.”[532]

 “Such works,” he continues, “are good, because we do not trust in
 them, but by them prepare ourselves for justification by which
 alone we may hope for righteousness.”[533] “Therefore we must
 pray earnestly, be zealous in good works and mortify ourselves
 (‘_castigandum_’) until readiness and joyousness develop in the will
 and its old inclination to sin is overcome by grace.”

 “For the grace [of justification] will not be given to man without
 this personal agriculture of himself” (“_non dabitur gratia sine ista
 agricultura sui ipsius_”).[534]

 We must continue to “look upon such works as merely preparatory,
 just as all works of righteousness performed in grace, prepare in
 their turn for an increase of justification, according to Apoc. xxii.
 11.”[535] “Only so can we be saved, namely, by repenting that we are
 laden with sin and are living in sin, and by imploring of God our
 deliverance.[536] He also, in other passages, emphasises the fact that
 works are necessary for justification as its preparation: “We must do
 works in order to obtain justification (‘_opera pro iustificatione
 quærenda_’), works of grace and faith; they confirm the desire for
 justification and the fulfilment of the law, but we may not think that
 we are justified by them.” “Rather, true believers spend their whole
 life in seeking justification ... whoever seeks it with the heart and
 by works, is without doubt already justified in God’s sight.”[537]
 Towards the end of the Commentary he describes in emphatic words,
 which will be quoted below, the humility and sighing which should
 bring about justification.

 We need not here specify how far the demand for individual effort is
 here a reminiscence of his Catholic training, or more particularly
 due to the school of Occam. It is an undoubted fact that Occamism and
 pseudo-mysticism are here rubbing shoulders, and that Luther himself
 is aware of the incongruity.[538]

7. Appropriation of the righteousness of Christ by humility—Neither
“Faith only” nor assurance of Salvation

Luther’s words, quoted above, where he says that Christ fulfilled the
law for us, He made His righteousness ours and our sins His (see above,
p. 95 f.), show that he applied in the fullest manner the theory of
imputation to justification. Man remains a sinner, but the sin is not
imputed to him, he is accounted righteous by the imputing to him of
what is quite alien to him, viz. the righteousness of Christ. Thus he
is at one and the same time the friend and the enemy of God.[539]

 The verb “to justify” as used in Holy Scripture the author of the
 Commentary on Romans simply takes to mean “to account as righteous,”
 or “to declare righteous.” Thus he says: “The doers of the law
 (according to Rom. ii. 13) are justified, i.e. they are accounted
 righteous. In Psalm cxlii. we read: ‘In Thy sight no man living shall
 be justified,’ i.e. be accounted righteous.... The Pharisee in the
 Temple wished to ‘justify himself’ (Luke x. 29), i.e. to declare his

 “Whoever seeks peace in his righteousness, seeks it in the flesh.”
 “Christ only is righteousness and truth, and in Him all is given us
 in order that by Him we may be righteous and true and escape eternal
 damnation.”[541] “This justification takes place (according to Paul)
 outside of works of the law, i.e. without works which are outside of
 faith and grace, that is, which come from the law, which forces by
 fear and attracts by temporal promises. The Apostle calls those only
 works of faith which proceed from the spirit of freedom through the
 love of God, and these can only be done by the man who is justified by
 faith. The works of the law however do not help towards justification,
 but are rather a hindrance because they prevent a man from looking
 upon himself as unrighteous and in need of justification.”[542]

 “Christ, according to the Apostle, has become our righteousness (1
 Cor. i. 30), i.e. all the good that we possess is exterior, it is
 Christ’s. It is only in us by faith and hope in Him.” “Our fulness and
 our righteousness is outside of us, within we are empty and poor....
 The pious know that sin alone dwells in them, but that this is covered
 over and not imputed on account of Christ.... The beauty of Christ
 conceals our hideousness.”[543]

 “There is in this system,” says Denifle, in his description of it,
 “no question of the expulsion of sin. The sinner ... casts himself
 in his sinful condition on Christ without any means of his own, he
 hides himself under the wings of the hen and comforts himself with the
 idea: Christ has done everything in place of me, all my works would
 be merely sin ... Luther did not perceive what a grievous wrong he
 was doing to God by this theory. It entirely suppresses the inward
 grace of God which raises a man up again, penetrates to the depths of
 his soul and purifies and fills it with supernatural strength. The
 organic process of justification thus shrinks into a purely mechanical
 shifting of the scenery.” To this Denifle opposes the statement of
 Holy Scripture: “That man by a living faith is implanted in Christ
 as the sapling is grafted on to the olive tree, or the branch on the
 vine, so that there must be an interior change, an ennobling, and thus
 a new life.”[544]

 Luther says, “we are outwardly righteous because we are justified,
 not by our works, but only by the reputation of God; but His
 reputation is not inwardly within us, and is not within our power.”
 “_Solum Deo reputante sumus iusti, ergo non nobis viventibus vel
 operantibus; quare intrinsece et ex nobis impii semper._”[545]

The connection between “reputation” as above and Occam’s theory of
acceptation is unmistakable.

The nominalistic views of God and of His arbitrary acceptation were the
form in which Luther’s ideas were moulded. The general structure of his
thoughts was derived from what he had retained of the Nominalism of
Occam.[546] On the principal point, however, Luther diverges from the
theology of the school of Occam by not admitting in any way the saving
grace which the latter teaches. There is with him no such thing as an
infused virtue of righteousness.[547] Luther in his doctrine on virtue
and vice had already suppressed them as “qualities,” i.e. as objective
realities; still more so does he deny that the grace which makes us
righteous is in any sense a real “_qualitas_,” or “_habitus_”; in fact,
he leaves no actual justifying grace whatever actually inherent in
man, but merely sees in God a gracious willingness not to regard us as
sinners, and to lend us His all-powerful assistance for the struggle
against sin (concupiscence and actual sin).

Thus the outlines of the strongest assertions which he makes later as
to the imputing of the righteousness of Christ are already apparent
in his interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans. Christ alone has
assumed the place of what the Catholic calls saving grace. He already
teaches what he was to sum up later in the short formula: “Christ
Himself is my quality and my formal righteousness,” or, again, what he
was to say to Melanchthon in 1536: “Born of God and at the same time
a sinner; this is a contradiction; but in the things of God we must
not hearken to reason.”[548] His Commentary on Romans prepares us for
his later assertions: “The gospel is a teaching having no connection
whatever with reason, whereas the teaching of the law can be understood
by reason ... reason cannot grasp an extraneous righteousness and,
even in the saints, this belief is not sufficiently strong.”[549] “The
enduring sin is admitted by God as non-existent; one and the same act
may be accepted before God and not accepted, be good and not good.”
“Whoever terms this mere cavilling (‘_cavillatio_’) is desirous of
measuring the Divine by purblind human reason and understands nothing
of Holy Scripture.”[550]

       *       *       *       *       *

How then are we to obtain from God the imputation of the righteousness
of Christ? There is surely some condition to be supplied by man
which may allow it to be conferred, for it cannot rule blindly and
unconsciously. Or are we never certain of this imputation? Luther’s
answer is very pessimistic: Man never knows that it has been bestowed
upon him. He can only hope, by sinking himself in his own nothingness
(“_humilitas_”), to placate God and obtain this imputation.

Thus the author of the Commentary on Romans is still very far from that
absolute assurance of salvation by faith which he was subsequently to

 He insists so much on the uncertainty of salvation that he blames
 Catholic theologians severely for the assurance and confidence
 which their teaching induces in man, and refuses to admit any of the
 customary signs which moralists and ascetics look upon as conclusive
 testimony of a soul being in a state of grace.

 The advantage he perceives in his new ideas is precisely that they
 keep man ever in a state of fear (“_semper pavidus_”).[552] That, as
 Luther expressly says, “we can never know whether we are justified
 and whether we believe, is owing to the fact that it is hidden from
 us whether we live in every word of God.”[553] When dealing with a
 passage, which he makes use of later in quite a different sense (Rom.
 iii. 22, “the justice of God by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and
 upon all”), he says: “We must fear and tremble (‘_timent et pavent_’)
 lest we please not God; we must be in fear and despair (‘_pavor et
 desperatio_’), for such is God’s own work in us; if this fear does not
 take the place of the customary signs, then there is no hope possible;
 and, in so far, fear alone is a good sign.”[554] “Our life is in
 death [here speaks the mystic], our salvation in destruction, our
 kingdom in banishment, our heaven in hell.”[555] “Away with all trust
 in righteousness.” Arise and “destroy all presumption in wholesome

 On this road of painful despair Luther fancies he discovers the only
 really “good sign” of salvation, so far as any sign at all can be said
 to exist: “On account of the confession of their sins God accounts the
 saints as righteous.”[556]

 “Whoever renounces everything, even himself, is ready to become
 nothing (_volens it in nihilum_), to go to death and to damnation,
 whoever voluntarily confesses and is persuaded that he deserves
 nothing good, such a one has done enough in God’s sight and is
 righteous. We must, believing in the word of the cross, die to
 ourselves and to everything; then we shall live for God alone.” “The
 saints have their sins ever before them, they beg for righteousness
 through the mercy of God and, for that very reason, they are always
 accounted righteous by God; in truth they are sinners, though
 righteous by imputation; unconsciously righteous and consciously
 unrighteous, sinners in deed but righteous in hope.” “God’s anger is
 great and wonderful; He accounts them at the same time righteous and
 unrighteous, removing sin and not removing it.”[557] Here he exclaims
 pathetically: “God is wonderful in His saints (Ps. lxvii. 36), who are
 at the same time righteous and unrighteous.” Of the “self-righteous”
 he immediately adds ironically: Wonderful is God in the hypocrites,
 “who are at the same time unrighteous and righteous!” Without any
 suspicion of paradox, he concludes: “It is certain that God’s elect
 will be saved, but no one is certain that he is chosen.”

 Luther repeatedly represents the feeling of despair (under the name
 of “_humilitas_”) as not merely a means of recognising the imputation
 of God and therewith one’s salvation, but even as in itself the only
 means which can lead to salvation. He praises “humility” in mystical
 language as something man must struggle to attain and as the ideal
 of the devout. It occupies almost the same place in his mind as the
 “_sola fides_” at a later date.

 That “humility” is to him the actual factor which obtains the
 imputation of the merits of Christ and thus makes the soul righteous
 and wins for it eternal salvation, is apparent not only from the
 above, but also from the following utterances: “When we are convinced
 that we are unrighteous and without the fear of God, when, thus
 humbled, we acknowledge ourselves to be godless and foolish, then we
 deserve to be justified by Him.”[558] The fear of God works humility,
 but humility makes us fit for all [salvation]; we must merely resign
 ourselves to the admission that “there is nothing so righteous that it
 is not unrighteous, nothing so true that it is not a lie, nothing so
 pure that it is not filthy and profane before God.”[559] “Let us be
 sinners in humility and only desire to be justified by the mercy of
 God.” He alone who acknowledges his entire unrighteousness, who fears
 and beseeches, he alone, “as an abiding sinner,” opens for himself the
 door to salvation.[560]

 We must believe everything that is of Christ, he says, and only he
 does this who humbly bewails his own utter unrighteousness.[561] The
 mystic star of “humility” which has arisen to him he even describes
 as the “_vera fides_,” and makes the following inference: “As this is
 so, we must humble ourselves beyond bounds.” “When we have humbled
 ourselves wholly before God, then we have fulfilled righteousness,
 wholly and entirely (‘_totam perfectamque iustitiam_’); for what else
 does all Scripture teach but humility?”[562]

 Luther ascribes to “humility” all that he later ascribes to faith;
 “all Scripture,” which now teaches humility, will later teach
 that faith is the only power which saves. In that very Epistle to
 the Romans, which at a later date was to be the bulwark of his
 “_sola fides_,” he can as yet, in 1515 and 1516, find only “_sola
 humilitas_.” His frequent exhortations to self-annihilation and
 despair of one’s own efforts, exhortations taking the form of
 fulsome praise of one particular kind of humility, must be traced
 back to mystical influence and to his irritation against the “proud

It is true that Luther had, from the very beginning of his exposition,
as the editor of the Commentary justly points out, “taken his stand
against the scholastic [rather the Church’s] doctrine of salvation; it
is apparent at the very outset of the lectures that the separation has
already taken place.” It could not be otherwise, as at the commencement
of the Commentary he already denies the power of man to do what is
good. Ficker also says with truth: “Luther again and again comes back
to his oldest and deepest torment, viz. the struggle against free will
and man’s individual powers”;[563] his study of St. Paul confirms his
views, which now take clearer shape, until finally “he incontinently
identifies his opponents with the Pelagians.”[564]

With regard to Luther’s tenets on faith in the matter of salvation
he has so far not departed in any essential from the accepted olden
doctrine that faith is the commencement, root and foundation of

 The editor of the Commentary also admits, though with limitations,
 the very remarkable fact that faith does not yet occupy in the
 Commentary on Romans the position which Luther assigns to it later:
 “the ‘_fides_,’ which Luther explains with the help of a number of
 terms borrowed from his lectures on the Psalms, in the exposition
 of the Pauline Epistle does not as yet appear in its entire fulness
 and depth, as the expression of the relation of man to the eternal,
 at least not to the same extent as it does later; frequently we have
 a mere reproduction of the Pauline phraseology; there is no lack of
 reminiscences of Augustine, and the results of an Occamist training
 are also apparent.”[565]

 We certainly cannot say that at the very beginning of the
 Commentary,[566] faith or even “_sola fides_” is conceded the high
 place which it is afterwards to occupy in his system; the expression
 “_sola fides_” occurs there by pure accident and does not bear its
 later meaning; it is only intended to elucidate a sentence which in
 itself is correct: “_iustitia Dei est causa salutis_.” By this is
 meant that “_fides evangelii_” to which, as Luther says, Augustine
 ascribes justification, but which the latter, according to Luther’s
 own admission, did not intend to take in the sense of the later
 Lutheran “_sola fides_.” Above all, as already pointed out, faith, in
 the Commentary on Romans, lacks its chief characteristic and does not
 of itself alone produce an absolute assurance of the state of grace.
 It was only in 1518 that Luther arrived at his peculiar belief in
 justification by virtue of a confident faith in Christ (assurance of

 In the Commentary on Romans Luther understands by faith, first the
 general submission of the mind to Divine revelation, a faith which he
 here, as also later, in agreement with the Church’s teaching, accounts
 as the first preliminary for the state of grace. His opposition to
 works and self-righteousness frequently urges him to praise the high
 value of the faith which comes from God, whilst his mysticism likewise
 makes him accentuate the importance of trust and blind submission.
 “_Credite, confidite_” he cries in his exposition of the Psalms—of
 which the standpoint is still entirely that of the Church—also
 fervently recommending to his hearers the “_fiducia gratiæ Dei_.”[568]
 All that can be complained of is that there, as in the Commentary
 on the Psalms, he seizes every occasion to speak in favour of the
 advantages which faith possesses over works.

 With regard to his teaching on faith in the Commentary on Romans,
 Denifle complains of “Luther’s want of clearness in respect of
 justifying faith,” of his exaggerations and indistinctness, of “his
 absolute ignorance of wholesome theology.”[569] “The medium in this
 doctrine of justification,” he says, “is really not faith at all, but
 the confession that we are always under the works of the law, always
 unrighteous, always sinners”; “he never, even later, arrived at a
 correct or uniform idea of faith.... Luther’s assertion of the bondage
 of the will (complete passivity) renders faith in the process of
 justification, a mere monstrosity.”[570]

 Here we are not as yet concerned with the qualities of faith in
 the Lutheran process of justification, but it must be pointed out,
 that the acceptance of complete passivity in justification is a
 necessary corollary of the above ideas of “_humilitas_.” “Whereas the
 Christian,” Denifle says, following the Catholic teaching, “moved and
 inspired by the grace of God repents of his sins, and, with a trusting
 faith, turns to God and implores their pardon, Luther excludes from
 justification all acts whether inward or outward on the part of the
 sinner; for God could not come into our possession or be attained to
 without the suppression of everything that is positive. Our works must
 cease and we ourselves must remain passive in God’s hands.”[571] In
 the Commentary on Romans passivity in the work of justification is
 certainly insisted on. Luther does not take the trouble to reconcile
 this with the activity which man is to exert in steeping himself
 in humility in order, by his prayers and supplications, to gain
 salvation.[572] He says of passivity: “God cannot be possessed or
 touched except by the negation of everything that is in us.”[573]
 “Then only are we capable of receiving God’s works and plans, when
 our planning and our works cease; when we are altogether passive
 with regard to God interiorly as well as exteriorly.”[574] In
 the Commentary on Galatians, not long after, he calls Christian
 righteousness a “passive righteousness,” because we “there do nothing,
 and give God nothing.”[575]

8. Subjectivism and Church Authority. Storm and Stress

Subjectivism plays an important part in the exposition of the Epistle
to the Romans.

It makes itself felt not merely in Luther’s treatment of the Doctors
and the prevalent theological opinions, but also in his ideas
concerning the Church and her authority. We cannot fail to see
that the Church is beginning to take the second place in his mind.
Notwithstanding the numerous long-decided controversial questions
raised in the Commentary, there is hardly any mention of the teaching
office of the Church, and the reader is not made aware that with regard
to these questions there existed in the Church a fixed body of faith,
established either by actual definition or by generally accepted
theological opinion. The doctrine of absolute predestination to hell,
for instance, had long before been authoritatively repudiated in the
decisions against Gottschalk, but is nevertheless treated by Luther
as an open question, or rather as though it had been decided in the
affirmative, thus making of God a cruel avenger of involuntary guilt.

The impetuous author, following his mistaken tendency to independence,
disdains to be guided by the heritage of ecclesiastical and theological
truth, as the Catholic professor is wont to be in his researches in
theology and in his explanations of Holy Scripture. Luther, though by
no means devoid of faith in the Church, and in the existence in her
of the living Spirit of God, lacks that ecclesiastical feeling which
inspired so many of his contemporaries in their speculations, both
theological and philosophical; we need only recall his own professor,
Johann Paltz, and Gabriel Biel to whom he owed so much. Impelled by
his subjectivism, and careless of the teaching of preceding ages,
he usually flies straight to his own “profounder theology” for new
solutions. Here the habits engendered by the then customary debates in
the schools exercise a detrimental effect on him. He is heedless of the
fact that his hasty and bold assertions may undermine the foundations
which form the learned support to the Church’s dogmas. Important and
assured truths become to him, according to this superficial method,
mere “soap bubbles” which his breath can burst, “chimeras of fancy”
which will melt away in the mist. This is the case, for instance,
with the traditional doctrines of saving grace, of the distinction
between original and actual sin, and of meritorious good works.
Whoever does not agree with his terrible doctrine of predestination
is simply reckoned among the subtle theologians, who are desirous of
saving everything with their vain distinctions.[576] We cannot, of
course, measure Luther by the standard of the Tridentine decrees, which
embodied these and other questions in distinct formularies of which the
Church in his time had not yet the advantage. Yet the principal points
which Luther began to agitate at this time were, if not already actual
dogmas, yet sufficiently expressed in the body of the Church’s teaching
and illuminated by ecclesiastical theology.

 That he still adheres in the Commentary to the principle of the
 hierarchy is apparent from the fact that he declares its office
 to be sublime, and loudly bewails the fact that so many unworthy
 individuals had forced themselves at that time into its ranks; he
 says in his curious language: “It is horrifying and the greatest of
 all perils that there can be in this world or the next; it is simply
 the one biggest danger of all.”[577] In the hierarchy, he says, God
 condescended to our weakness by choosing to speak to us and come to
 our assistance through the medium of men, and not directly, in His
 unapproachable and terrible majesty.[578]

 He also recognises the various grades of the hierarchy, priestly
 and episcopal Orders. “The Church is a general hospital for healing
 those who are spiritually sick”;[579] the rules which she gives to
 the clergy, the recital of the Divine Office for instance, must be
 obediently carried out.[580] She has a right to temporal possessions,
 only “at the present day almost all declare these to be spiritual
 things; they, the clergy, are masters in this ‘spiritual’ domain and
 are more careful about it than about their real spiritualities, or
 about their use of thunderbolts [excommunications] in the sentences
 pronounced by the Church.”[581]

 According to him, the prelates and the Church have a perfect right
 to condemn false teachers however much the latter may “utter their
 foolish cry of ‘we have the truth, we believe, we hear, we call
 upon God.’” “Just as though they must be of God because they seem
 to themselves to be of God. No, we have an authority which has been
 implanted in the Church, and the Roman Church has this authority in
 her hands. Therefore the preachers of the Church, unless they fall
 into error, preach with assurance [on account of their commission].
 But false teachers are pleased with their own words, because they
 are according to their own ideas. They appear to demand the greatest
 piety, but are themselves governed by their own opinion, and their
 self-will.”[582] “Whoever declares that he is sent by God must either
 give proof of his mission by wonders and heavenly testimony, as
 the Apostles did, or he must be recognised and commissioned by an
 authority confirmed by Heaven. In the latter case, he must stand and
 teach in humble subjection to such authority, ever ready to submit to
 its judgment; he must speak what he is commissioned to speak and not
 what his own taste leads him to invent.... Anathema is the weapon,”
 he exclaims—unconscious of his own future—“which lays low the

Whenever he gets the chance he magnifies the corruption of the Church
so much that his expressions might lead one to suppose that the saving
institution founded by Christ was either completely decayed and fallen
away or was at least on the road to forsaking its vocation as teacher
and as the guardian of morals. His complaints may, it is true, be in
part accounted for by the impetuosity which carries him away and by his
rhetorical turn. He probably did not at that time really think that
a healthy reformation from within was absolutely impossible. Still,
had anyone attempted to carry out his immature and excessive demands
for reform, they would hardly have achieved much in the way of a real
regeneration. His ideas of a radical change were deeply ingrained in
his mind; this we naturally gather from his bringing them forward so
frequently and under such varied forms. In his mystical moods he sees
the errors and abuses opposed to the “Word” swollen into a veritable
“deluge”; his professorial chair is only just above the waves. Hence he
will cry out as loudly as he can. In his voice we can, however, detect
a false note, and his exaggerations and all his stormings do not avail
to inspire us with confidence. He is too full of his own subjectivity,
too impetuous and passionate to be a reformer, though his other gifts
might have fitted him for the office. His very sensitiveness to neglect
of duty in others, had it been purified and disciplined, aided by his
eloquence, might have been able to inaugurate a movement of reform. In
many of his sayings he comes nigh the position of a Catholic reformer,
and even, at times, makes exaggerated demands on obedience and the need
of feeling with the Church.[584]

We may add the following to the complaints above mentioned, as
occurring in the Commentary on Romans with regard to the state of the

 “The Pope and the chief pastors of the Church,” so runs Luther’s
 general and bitter charge, “have become corrupt and their works are
 deserving of malediction; they stand forth at the present day as
 seducers of the Christian people” (“_seducti et seducentes populum
 Christi a vera cultura Dei_”).[585] He waxes eloquent not only against
 their too frequent granting of indulgences—from which in their
 avarice they derived worldly profit for the Church—but also against
 their luxurious lives which fill the whole world with the vices of
 Sodom, and others too; under their wicked stewardship the faithful
 throughout the Church have altogether forgotten what good works,
 faith and humility are, and make their eternal salvation depend upon
 external observances and foolish legends. Even those who have more
 insight and are better men, are all self-righteous and more like
 idolaters than Christians.

 The Apostle Paul, he says, expounds in the Epistle to the Romans, the
 command of loving our neighbour (xii. 6 _seq._), but is this followed
 by the Church? Instead of fulfilling it “we busy ourselves with
 trivialities, build churches, increase the possessions of the Church,
 heap money together, multiply the ornaments and vessels of silver and
 gold in the churches, erect organs and other pomps which please the
 eye. We make piety to consist in this. But where is the man who sets
 himself to carry out the Apostle’s exhortations, not to speak of the
 great prevailing vices of pride, arrogance, avarice, immorality and
 ambition.”[586] Not long after this outburst, speaking in a milder
 strain, he says: “We exalt ourselves so as to instruct the whole
 world, and hardly understand ourselves what we are teaching.” “People
 without training or knowledge of the world, sent by their bishops and
 religious superiors, undertake to instruct men, but really only add to
 the number of chatterers and windbags.”[587]

 On another occasion he declares, people think bustle in the church,
 loud organ playing and pompous solemnities at Mass are all that is
 needed; for such things collections are made, whereas alms-giving for
 the relief of our neighbour is not accounted anything. Nothing is
 thought of swearing, lying or backbiting, even on Feast Days, but if
 anyone eats flesh-meat or eggs on a Friday, he gives great scandal, so
 unreasonable are all people nowadays (“_adeo nunc omnes desipiunt_”).
 What is needed to-day is to do away with the Fast Days and to abrogate
 many of the Festivals ... the whole Christian Code ought to be
 purified and changed, and the solemnities, ceremonies, devotions and
 the adorning of the churches reduced. But all this is on the increase
 daily, so that faith and charity are stifled, and avarice, arrogance
 and worldliness grow apace. What is worse, the faithful hope to find
 in this their eternal salvation and do not trouble about the inner

 The lawyers, he says, speaking in a mystical vein, act quite wrongly
 when, as soon as they see that anyone has the law on his side, they
 encourage him to assert his rights (“_qui statim quod secundum iura
 iustum sciunt, prosequendum suadent_”). “On the contrary, every
 Christian should rejoice in suffering injustice, even in matters of
 the greatest moment (‘_quoad maximas iustitias nostras_’).... But
 almost the whole world runs after the contrary error [i.e. sternly
 asserts its rights]. Cardinals, bishops, princes act like the Jews did
 to the King of Babylon (2 Kings xxiv. 20; xxv. 1 ff.); they cling to
 their petty privileges, lose sight of morality and so perish.” Someone
 should have told Duke George (of Saxony) when he fought against the
 Duke of Frisia: “Your own and your people’s deserts are not so great
 that you should not rather have patiently allowed yourself to be
 chastised by that rebel, who, though unrighteous, was the executor of
 God’s righteous judgment. Calm yourself therefore and acknowledge the
 Will of God.”[589]

 He says something similar to his own bishop, Hieronymus Schulz
 (Scultetus) of Brandenburg,[590] and to another bishop, probably
 Wilhelm von Honstein, Bishop of Strasburg. The latter had put in force
 the ecclesiastical statutes against the infringers of the sanctity
 of the church. Luther says: “Why trouble a town with this wretched
 matter? It is merely a question of human regulations; but if the
 bishop desired to enforce God’s laws, he would not need to leave his
 own house; he is not indeed acting wrongly, but he is swallowing a
 camel and straining at gnats (Matt. xxiii. 24).... But the bishops
 thirst for vengeance, they brand the criminals and themselves deserve
 to be worse branded. Would to God that the time may come when rights
 and privileges and all who worship them are consigned to perdition!
 Ambition and unbelief should not be allowed to triumph over those
 condemned for transgressing the statutes.”[591]

 “I say this with pain, but I am obliged to because I have an Apostolic
 commission to teach. My duty is to point out to all the wrong they are
 committing, even to those in high places.”[592]

 In accordance with this, the young Professor loudly blames Pope Julius
 II. In his quarrel with the Republic of Venice “this advice should
 have been given him: ‘Holy Father, Venice is doing you a wrong,
 but the Roman Church deserves it on account of her faults, yea,
 she deserves even worse. Therefore do nothing, such is the Will of
 God.’ But the Pope replied: ‘No, no, let us vindicate our rights by
 force.’”[593] “He chastised them [the Venetians] with great bloodshed
 because they had sinned grievously and seized upon the possessions of
 the Church; he brought them back to the Church and so gained great
 merit. But the horrible corruption of the Papal Curia and the mountain
 of the most terrible immorality, pomp, avarice, ambition and sacrilege
 is accounted no sin.”[594]

 On another occasion, after a no less forcible outburst against Rome,
 he demands the abolition of “false piety”: This so-called piety must
 no longer be permitted, as though it were merely a weakness; but in
 Rome they do not trouble about doing away with it, there is there
 nothing but the freedom of the flesh; “almost all are wanting in
 charity.” “I fear that in these days we are all on the road to utter

We must listen, he says—alluding to the formalism which he thinks is
apparent everywhere—to the “inward word,” which often speaks to us
quite differently from the injunctions to which we are accustomed.
“The wisdom of fools always looks more to the work than to the word;
it thinks itself able to gauge the meaning and value of the word from
the value or worthlessness of the deeds”; what we should do is the
contrary; the precious, inestimable word must always resound in our
hearts and direct all our outward actions.[596] The “spirit of the
believer is subject to no one,” “the spirit is free as regards all
things”; “all exterior things are free to those who are in the spirit.”
“The bondage [of charity] is the highest liberty.”[597]

Such words form a quite obvious preliminary to the “Evangelical
freedom” which he was afterwards to vindicate. He thus gives a much
wider application to the ideas he had met with in Tauler than was in
the mind of that pious mystic. Tauler writes: “I tell you that you
must not submit your inner man to anyone, but to God only. But your
exterior man you must submit in a true and real humility to God and
to all creatures.”[598] Luther says what on the surface seems quite
similar: the Christian is free and master of all things and is subject
to no one (by faith), and yet at the same time a willing servant of
all and subject to all (by charity).[599] Yet, both in the Commentary
on Romans and in the works which were soon to follow, “the willing
servant” is more and more ousted by false ideas of independence, so
that a danger arises of only the “free master of all things” remaining.
In the Commentary on Romans all exterior submission to the Church is,
in principle, menaced by a liberty which, appealing to the inward
experience of the Word and a deeper conception of religion, seeks to
overstep all barriers.

The confused ideas for which he was beholden to his pseudo-mysticism
were in great part the cause of this and of other errors.

9. The Mystic in the Commentary on Romans

Since the appearance in print of Luther’s Commentary on Romans it has
been possible to perceive more clearly the ominous power which false
mysticism had gained over the young author.

His misapprehension of some of the principal elements of Tauler’s
sermons and of the “Theologia Deutsch” stands out in sharp relief in
these lectures on the Pauline Epistle, and we see more plainly how the
obscure ideas he finds in the mystics at once amalgamate with his own.
The connection between the pseudo-mysticism which he has built up on
the basis of true mysticism, and the method of theology which he is
already pursuing, appears here so great, and he follows so closely the
rather elastic figures and thoughts provided by the mystical science
of the soul, that we are almost tempted, after reading his exposition
of the Epistle to the Romans, to ask whether all his intellectual
mistakes were not an outcome of his mysticism. The fact is, however,
that he began his study of mysticism only after having commenced
formulating the principles of his new world of thought. It was only
after the ferment had gone on working for a considerable time that he
chanced upon certain mystic works. Yet, strange to say, the mysticism
with which he then became acquainted was not that German variety which
had already been infected with the errors of Master Eckhart, but the
sounder mysticism which had avoided the pitfalls. It is a tragic
coincidence that mysticism, the most delicate blossom of the theology
of the Middle Ages and of true Catholicism, should have served to
confirm him in so many errors. True mysticism has in all ages been a
protest against all moral cowardice and inertia, against tepidity and
self-complacent mediocrity; false mysticism, on the other hand, debases
itself to Quietism and even to Antinomianism; the world has lived to
see pseudo-mysticism deny evil the better to permit it.[600] Even
true mysticism is constantly open to the danger not only of conscious
and intentional exaggeration of its theses, but of unintentional

Misapprehension is a misfortune to which mysticism was ever exposed,
owing mainly to the inadequacy of human language to express the
mystic’s thoughts,[601] whereas Scholasticism, thanks to its clear-cut
terminology, has been spared such a fate, and for the same reason
has never been in favour with confused and cloudy minds. Tauler had
originally been trained in the Scholasticism of St. Thomas of Aquin,
and in the teaching of the Frankfort author of the “Theologia Deutsch”
the true principles of the old school still shine out. This, however,
did not save these writers from having formerly been considered, by
Protestants, precursors of Luther’s doctrines. Denifle, by his studies
on these and the later mystics, threw such valuable light on the
subject that the Protestant theologian Wilhelm Braun, in the work he
recently devoted to tracing the development of Luther, says: “it is
wrong for Protestants to claim mysticism as a pre-Reformation reforming
movement; this Denifle has proved in his epoch-making researches.”[602]

_False Passivity_

As regards the important new data furnished by the Commentary on
Romans on Luther’s mysticism, the editor himself admits in the preface
that “the ideal of resignation [preached by the Catholic mystics] was
raised by Luther to an unconditional passivity and to a real system
of Quietism, which he completely identified with the theme of the
Epistle to the Romans and with the piety of St. Augustine. In this he
found the bond of union combining all his experiences. Mysticism it
is which lends its deep and fiery hue to his thoughts; where Luther
is describing the most intimate processes and gives their highest
expression to the thoughts which inspire him, it is mysticism which is
speaking through him ... the complete and unconditional surrender of
man to God.”[603]

 Luther gives in a peculiar fashion his reasons for taking such a
 standpoint: “The Nature of God demands that He should first destroy
 and annihilate everything there is in us before He imparts His gifts.
 For it is written: ‘The Lord maketh poor and maketh rich, He bringeth
 down to hell and bringeth back again.’ By this most gracious plan He
 renders us fit for the reception of His gifts and His works. We are
 then receptive to His works and plans when our own plans and our own
 works have ceased, and we become quite passive towards God (‘_quando
 nostra consilia cessant et opera quiescunt et efficimur pure passivi
 respectu Dei_’) both as regards exterior and interior activity....
 Then the ‘utterable sighs’ commence, then ‘the Spirit comes and helps
 our infirmity.’”[604] It is in the description of this “suffering
 and bearing of God” that he expressly quotes Tauler as the teacher
 of the higher form of prayer, adding: “Yes, yes, ‘we know not how
 we should pray,’ therefore the Spirit is necessary to assist us in
 our weakness.” “As a woman remains passive in conception, so we must
 remain passive to the first grace and eternal salvation. For our soul
 is Christ’s bride. Before grace, it is true, we pray and implore, but
 when grace comes and the soul is to be impregnated by the Spirit,
 then it must neither pray nor act, but only endure. To the soul this
 seems hard and it is downcast, for that the soul should be without
 act of the understanding and the will, that is much like sinking
 into darkness, destruction and annihilation (‘_in perditionem et
 annihilationem_’); from this prospect she shrinks back in horror, but
 in so doing she often deprives herself of the most precious gifts of

 It was just on this point that Luther most completely misapprehended
 Tauler. It is true that this mediæval mystic speaks strongly against
 any too great esteem of human activity, and that he also recommends
 the spiritual man, in certain circumstances, to “refuse all exterior
 works the better to devote himself with the necessary submission and
 in entire peace” to interior communication with his Maker and Highest
 Good, and, as he says, “to suffer God.”[606] But he does not thereby
 recommend man to long after a state without thought or will, or after
 mere nothingness—in order to magnify God and His powers alone;
 according to Tauler, grace does not work in the soul “without the
 co-operation of the understanding and the will.”

_The Quenching of the “Good Spark in the Soul”_

Luther in the above recommendation to passivity falsely assumes that
the soul is entirely corrupted by original sin and only offends God
with its acts. This also appears clearly in the Commentary on Romans.
Protestants themselves now admit that Luther deviated from the
standpoint of the orthodox mystics, particularly from that of Tauler,
and that “in the view of the mystics of the Middle Ages there is no
doubt that the natural good in man outweighs the natural evil. The
central point in which all the lines of mystic theology converge is
this indestructible goodness.” So speaks a Protestant theologian.[607]

 In Gerson, the mystic whom Luther had studied in his early days at
 Erfurt, he must have met with the beautiful teaching, that the soul
 had received from God a natural tendency towards what is good, that
 this is “the virginal portion of the soul,” which is the “source and
 seat of mystical theology.”[608] Tauler is fond of treating of this
 “noble spark of fire in the soul,” of “this interior nobility which
 lies hidden in the depths.”[609] The Scholastics, too, unanimously
 teach this disposition to good which remains after original sin.

 Luther, when opposing the good tendency, attacks only the Scholastics,
 not the mystics; he declares that all the errors on grace and
 nature which he has to withstand entered through the hole which the
 Scholastics made with their “syntheresis.”[610] One thing is certain,
 viz. that he was wrong in foisting his view of the absolute corruption
 of the human race on the mystics; “he could not,” the Protestant
 theologian above referred to admits, “quite truthfully invoke the
 support of the mystics for his assertions.”[611] The doctrines
 which Tauler advances in the very context in which his blame of the
 self-righteous occurs, viz. that there is no righteousness without
 personal acts, that even the sinner can do what is good, that he, more
 especially, must prepare himself for the grace of justification, pass
 unheeded in Luther’s exposition of the Epistle to the Romans. “Luther
 overlooked this series [of testimonies given by Tauler]; only the
 statements regarding the righteous by works made any impression on
 him; his polemics are directed against those who serve two masters,
 who wish to please God and the world and to do great things for
 God’s sake; these are the people who are at heart satisfied with

 Tauler repeatedly uses the word “spirit” for man’s native good
 tendency and activity. This expression Luther simply takes to mean
 the Divine Spirit, which must be infused into man on account of his
 natural helplessness. The theologian mentioned above hero also admits:
 “Much that Tauler intended to refer to the human syntheresis, or the
 created spirit, Luther has ascribed to the uncreated Divine Spirit,
 who imparts grace and faith”;[613] on the other hand we may allow with
 the same author that Luther was probably misled by the “hermaphrodism
 of Tauler’s teaching, according to which the spirit longs for a
 metamorphosis”; Tauler’s lively description of the supernatural
 being and life of the soul sometimes throws into the background
 the independence of its action in the natural sphere, though the
 outcome is not really an “hermaphrodite” in the strict sense of
 the word. It is also true that “Luther overlooked the other side,
 namely, the Divine immanence which all those mystics teach with equal
 distinctness,[614] or at least he did not make sufficient account of

_Selfishness and the “Theology of the Cross”_

Another important point on which Luther deviated from true mysticism
has now been brought to light by the Commentary on Romans. According
to the Strasburg mystic, and according to all good mystics generally,
selfishness must be looked on as the greatest interior enemy of man. It
is a leaven which readily infects the actions, even of the best, and
therefore must be expelled by struggling against it and by prayer.

 Selfishness, says the “Theologia Deutsch,” “makes the creature turn
 away from the unchangeable good to that which is changeable.” Even in
 the case of the devil, it tells us, the reason of his fall was “his I
 and my, his mine and me”; he fancied he was something, that something
 belonged to him and that he had a right to something.[615]

 In the Commentary on Romans Luther also speaks in impressive words
 against selfishness and its malice.[616] He makes use of every
 note at his command in order to warn us against this serpent. In
 these passages we might fancy we hear the voices of the mystic
 leaders of the faithful in the Middle Ages, even of a Bernard of
 Clairvaux. Nor is practical advice wanting; we are exhorted to
 earnest, humble prayer, to a watchful resistance—to be strengthened
 by practice—against the desires of self-love, even in small things,
 to mortify and to tame our flesh. We must go out of ourselves even
 in spiritual matters; everything, he says, depends in the spiritual
 life on self-abnegation: “God’s righteousness fills those only who
 seek to empty themselves of their own righteousness, He fills the
 hungry and the thirsty ... let us then tell God, so he says with all
 the enthusiasm his idea of grace gives him: “how glad are we to be
 empty, that Thou mayest be our fulness; how glad to be weak, that
 Thy strength may dwell within us; how glad to be sinners, that Thou
 mayest be justified in us; how glad to be fools, that Thou mayest
 be our wisdom; how glad to be unrighteous, that Thou mayest be our
 righteousness.”[617] Suffering sent by God, so the author frequently
 repeats almost in Tauler’s words, is to be accepted as a remedy
 against the disease of self-love not only with patience, but with joy.
 Pain, particularly inward pain, should be honoured like the cross of
 Christ (“_tribulatio velut crux Christi adoranda_”);[618] we must bear
 it bravely like true children of God and not take to flight like the
 servant, or the hireling.[619]

In connection with selfishness Luther exposes his so-called “_theologia
crucis_,” which, with the adjuncts he gives it, is quite in keeping
with his ideas. He was also to advocate the theology of the cross in
his disputations, endeavouring to show that it alone teaches us how to
make a right use of earthly things.

 “He is not a Christian, but a Turk, and an enemy of Christ, who does
 not desire afflictions.” “Our theologians and popes are in fact
 enemies of the cross of Christ ... for no one hates pain and trouble
 more than the popes and the lawyers [i.e. those who insist upon laws
 and observances]. No one is more greedy than they for riches, comfort,
 idleness, honour and pomp.” “They honour the relics of the Holy Cross
 and yet abhor and fly from what they dislike.” “We consider Christ
 our helper and our support in time of trouble, but whoever does not
 suffer gladly, cheats Him of these titles; to such a one God even is
 no longer the Creator because he will not return to the nothingness
 from which God created all. Whoever will not suffer God in weakness,
 foolishness and punishment, for him God is not powerful, not wise,
 not merciful.”[620] “The cross puts to death everything that is in
 us. Nature, it is true, desires to make itself and everything alive,
 but God in His love takes care, by the infliction of crosses and
 suffering, that even spiritual gifts shall not taste too sweet to the
 righteous; he must not throw himself upon them in a natural, godless
 impetuosity in order to enjoy them, even though they be attractive
 and tempt him to savour them ... he may not even love God on account
 of His grace and His gifts, but only for His own sake, otherwise
 this would be a forbidden [!] indulgence in the grace received, and
 he would insult the Father even more than he did before [i.e. when
 as yet unrighteous!]. In the Commentary on Romans Luther refuses to
 recognise any love save that which springs from the most perfect
 motive. He stigmatises the love which arises from the joy in the
 benefits bestowed by a gracious God,—and which the orthodox mystics
 allowed,—as presumption, and as an enjoyment of the creature rather
 than of the Creator, and goes so far as to say that if a man were to
 remain in this love “he would be lost eternally.”[621]

 To these assertions we may add the following theses, defended under
 Luther’s auspices in 1518, which explain the new “_theologia crucis_.”
 “Whoever is not destroyed (‘_destructus_’) and brought back by the
 cross and suffering to the state of nothingness, attributes to
 himself works and wisdom, but not to his God, and so he abuses and
 dishonours the gifts of God. But whoever is annihilated by suffering
 (‘_exinanitus_’) ceases to do anything, knowing that God is working
 in him and doing all. Therefore, whether he himself does anything
 or not, he remains the same, and neither vaunts himself for doing
 something nor is ashamed of doing nothing, because God works in him.
 For himself, this he knows, it is enough that he should suffer and be
 destroyed by the cross, so that he may advance more and more towards
 annihilation. This is what Christ teaches in John iii. 3: ‘Ye must
 be born again.’ If we are to be born again, we must first die and be
 raised with the Son of God [on the cross]; I say die, i.e. taste death
 as though it were present.”[622] “We may not fly from human wisdom and
 the law, but whoever is without the theology of the cross is making
 the worst use of the best things. The true theologian is not he who
 understands the ‘invisible things of God by the things that are made,’
 but he who by suffering and the cross recognises in God the visible
 and the obscure.”[623]

_The Night of the Soul and Resignation to Hell_

The better to fight against selfishness Tauler had proposed that
everyone should look upon himself and his own works as evil, imitating
a certain holy brother who used to say: “Know that I am the basest
of sinners.”[624] In this innocent recommendation nothing is implied
of the complete corruption of nature, of a desire for hell, or of
resignation to eternal separation from God. It was only as an exercise
in humility and penitent love that Tauler and the other mystics
wished the devout man to cultivate the habit of looking on himself
as absolutely unworthy of heaven and as better fitted for a place in
hell. He is urged to descend in spirit to the place of torment and
acknowledge, against his egotism and arrogance, that, on account of his
sins, he has deserved a place there among the damned, and not in the
happy vicinity of God.

They also depict in gloomy, mystical colours the condition of the
unhappy soul who, by the consent of God and in order to try it, sees
itself deprived of all comfort, and, as it were, torn away from its
highest good and relegated to hell. Such pains, they teach, are
intended as a way of purgation for the soul, which, after such a night,
can raise itself again with all the more confidence and love to God,
who has, so far, preserved it from so great a misfortune.

The doctrine of the dark, mystical night appealed very strongly to
Luther’s mind. In his theology he is fond of picturing the soul as
utterly sinful and deserving of hell, meaning by this something very
different from what orthodox mystics taught. He also suffered greatly
at times from inward commotion and darkening of the soul, due to
fears regarding predestination, to a troubled conscience or to morbid
depression, of which the cause was perhaps bodily rather than mental.
These, however, bore no resemblance to the pains—“mystical exercises”
as they have been called by Protestants—of which the mystics speak. In
his “temptations in the monastery” he did not experience what Tauler
and the “Theologia Deutsch” narrate of the consuming inner fire of
Purgatory. Luther, however, erroneously applied their descriptions to
his own condition.[625] Thus his idea of the night of the soul is
quite different from that of the mystics, though he describes it in
almost the same words, and, thanks to his imagination and eloquence,
possibly in even more striking colours.

Several times in his Commentary on Romans he represents resignation
to, indeed even an actual desire for, damnation—should that be the
will of God—as something grand and sublime. Thereby he thinks he is
teaching the highest degree of resignation to God’s inscrutable will;
thereby the highest step on the ladder of self-abnegation has been
attained. In reality it is an ideal of a frightful character, far worse
even than a return to nothingness. He lets us see here, as he does so
often in other matters, how greatly his turbulent spirit inclined to

 “If men willed what God wills,” he writes, “even though He should
 will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the
 predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what
 God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God
 in them.” Does he mean by this that they should resign themselves
 to hating God for all eternity? Luther does not seem to notice that
 hatred of God is an essential part of the condition of those who are
 damned (“_damnari et reprobari ad infernum_”). Has he perhaps come to
 conceive of a hatred of God proceeding from love? He seems almost to
 credit those who think of hell, with a resolve to bear everything,
 even hatred of God, with loving submission to the will of Him Who by
 His predestination has willed it.

 He even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to
 hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise,
 a source of “ineffable joy” (“_ineffabili iucunditate in ista materia
 delectantur_”);[627] for the perfect this is “the best purgation from
 their own will,” i.e. the way of the greatest bitterness, “because
 under charity the cross and suffering is always understood.” But all,
 he says, even the half-imperfect, see that here we have a splendid
 remedy for destroying “the presumptuous building upon merit; let
 everyone rejoice in his fear and thank God,”[628] the more so that
 those who are so much afraid will certainly not go to hell; “as
 they make themselves entirely conformable to the will of God it is
 impossible that they should be delivered over to eternal punishment,
 as he who resigns himself entirely to God’s holy Will cannot remain
 separated from Him.”[629]

 This doctrine of a wholesome fear of hell, of a saving, heroic
 abandonment to God, and of an exalted and pure love to be exercised
 by all as a “remedy” against damnation, invalidates Luther’s doctrine
 of absolute and undeserved predestination to hell; salvation is again
 made to depend upon both God and man, whose co-operation becomes
 necessary; it is only because “man will not will what God wills”
 that he is damned. Yet, according to Luther, the saving fear and
 resignation is only possible to the elect, and these must in the end
 be in doubt as to whether they are pleasing to God, just as they must
 be uncertain regarding all their actions.

 In confirmation of his theory of readiness for hell Luther even
 refers to St. Paul, who says in his Epistle to the Romans, that
 he had offered himself to the everlasting pains of hell for the
 salvation of the Jews; that, in order to save them, he had been
 ready to be “an anathema from Christ.”[630] But the example does
 not apply. According to a more correct explanation, the Apostle,
 who was always in spiritual communion with Christ, speaks only of
 an outward separation.[631] Luther himself says in this connection:
 Paul did not desire to hate Christ, but was ready to be separated
 from Him; in this he displayed the “most sublime degree of charity,
 a truly apostolic love”; “this seems, of course, incomprehensible
 and foolish to those who think themselves holy and love God with the
 ‘_amor concupiscentiæ_,’ i.e. on account of their salvation and for
 the sake of eternal rest, or in order to escape from hell, in other
 words, not for God’s sake but their own.... What they really desire
 is salvation according to their own fancy, instead of desiring their
 own nothingness both here and hereafter (‘_suum nihil optare_’), and
 only the will and glory of God,” whereas “all perfect saints, out of
 their overflowing affection, are ready to accept everything, even hell
 itself. By reason of this readiness, it is true, they at once escape
 all punishment.”

 According to Luther, even Christ offered Himself for hell whole and
 entire. Luther does not make the slightest distinction in the agony
 in the Garden between mere exterior and real interior separation
 from God. Christ was ever united hypostatically with God, and His
 human nature never ceased to enjoy the vision of God. Luther,
 however, merely says: “He found Himself in a state of condemnation
 and abandonment which was greater than that of all the saints. His
 sufferings were not easy to Him, as some have imagined, because He
 actually and in truth offered Himself to the eternal Father to be
 consigned to eternal damnation for us (‘_quod realiter et vere se
 in æternam damnationem obtulit Deo patri pro nobis_’). His human
 nature did not behave differently from that of a man who is to be
 condemned eternally to hell. On account of this love of God, God at
 once raised Him from death and hell, and so He overcame hell (‘_eum
 suscitavit a morte et inferno et sic momordit infernum_’; cp. Osee
 xiii. 14). All His saints must follow this example, some more, some
 less; and according to the degree of their perfection in love they
 find this harder or easier. But Christ bore the most severe form of
 it (‘_durissime hoc fecit_’), and for this reason He laments in many
 passages (in the Messianic Psalms) the pains of hell.”[632]

In the light of passages such as these we can understand to some extent
the lurid, fanciful, mystic description which he gives early in 1518,
clearly on the strength of his own states of mind. He tells how a man
fancies himself at certain moments plunged into hell, and feels his
breast pierced by all the pangs of everlasting despair, because he
apprehends God’s “frightful ire” and the impossibility of ever being
delivered. This grotesque picture of a soul, with which we shall deal
more fully later, although it is partly taken almost word for word from
the earlier descriptions of the mystics, reveals its morbid character
more especially by the fact, that the hope, which, in the case of
the devout, remains in the depths of the soul even throughout the
most severe interior trials, seems entirely absent. God is seen as He
appeared to Luther, i.e. as an inexorable, arbitrary punisher of His

Luther’s mysticism is veritably a mysticism of despair and the
“_humilitas_,” with its love ready even for hell, which he belauds
as the anchor of safety, is a forced expedient really excluded by
his system, and which he himself discarded as soon as he was able
to replace it by the (God-given) _fides_, in the shape of faith in
personal justification and salvation.

10. The Commentary on Romans as a Work of Religion and Learning

The Commentary purports to be as much a religious as a learned work.
Its religious value can be shortly summed up from the above.

The author is as much occupied in putting forth religious ideas which
appeal to him as in expounding exegetically St. Paul’s Epistle, and
these ideas he supports on the text of the Epistle to the Romans or on
other passages from Holy Scripture which he incessantly adduces. His
intention also was to make the considerations of practical use from the
religious point of view to his hearers, who were probably most of them
Augustinians. He wished to give them a practical introduction to the
doctrines of St. Paul, as he understood them, and at the same time to
his own mysticism.

We must, if we wish to do justice to the Commentary on Romans, admit
without reserve that it does not show us the picture of a man who is
morally bankrupt. The author does not make the impression of one bent
on sensuality, and seeking the means of gratifying it. The work, on the
contrary, breathes a spiritual tendency, even to the point of excess,
though not, indeed, without a strong admixture of the earthly element.

The author is, however, far from having arrived at any clear religious
views; after wrestling with the secrets of the Pauline Epistle with
feeling and eloquence, he is unable even at the end to extricate
himself from a condition of spiritual restlessness. The work testifies
to an enduring state of religious ferment.

The vivacity and fertility of thought which the author displays is
noteworthy; the personal colouring in which he depicts his religious
ideas, and, frequently, too, rabidly defends them against scholars and
religious who think differently, is unique, and of priceless value to
the biographer. Such a strong personal tone is not, it is true, quite
in place in a learned work.

The religious “experience,” so often supposed to stand in the forefront
of his development, is not to be found there.

If the so-called spiritual “experience” had actually taken place
Luther would certainly have alluded to it, for he has much to say of
his own state and observations. Why does he say nothing here of the
experiences he afterwards relates in such detail? Of the excessive,
almost suicidal, monastic practices to which, as a Catholic-minded
monk, he surrendered himself, seeking God’s grace, until through Divine
intervention he recognised that the path of works and strictness of
life, in fact the Catholic road generally, was incapable of leading one
to peace with God here below and to union with God in eternity? There
is nothing here of that sudden leap from weary, self-righteous seeking
after God—ostensibly a delusion cherished by all Catholics—to the
joyous consciousness of a gracious God, based on the recognition of
justification. Luther, on the other hand, gives a seemingly accurate
description of his own spiritual development, though without mentioning
himself, at the end of his exposition of Romans iii., a passage to
which we shall return later.

The author frequently allows his fancied religious interests to spoil
his exegesis.

Often enough he does not even make an attempt to follow up the
thoughts of the Apostle and arrive at their sense. His character is
too impatient of restraint and too predisposed to rhetoric. Thus he
descends to the religious and political questions then being debated
at Wittenberg and says by way of excuse: “I will explain the meaning
of the Apostle to you in its practical sense, in order that you may
understand the matter better by the help of some comparisons.”[634]
These words occur in the passage in which he admonishes Duke George
of Saxony regarding his quarrels with Edgard, Count of East Frisia
(1514-15), telling him he ought to have recognised the Will of God in
the Count’s “malicious revolt” and have patiently suffered himself to
be vanquished by his foe—as though it were the duty of princes to
become mystics like himself.[635]

If we now examine the actual value of the Commentary, we find much that
is excellent and calculated to elucidate the Pauline text.

It is especially praiseworthy in Luther that he should have made
the Greek text edited by Erasmus the basis of his work as soon as
it was published during the course of his lectures. He also makes
frequent, diligent and intelligent use of the “exegetical ability” of
Nicholas of Lyra,[636] following him for the text as well as for the
interpretation and division of the subject; this was the author whose
assistance he had formerly declined with far too much contempt. Other
authorities whom he also consults are Paul of Burgos, Peter Lombard,
for his explanations of the Epistle to the Romans, and, for the
division of the matter, particularly the Schemata of Faber Stapulensis.
His own linguistic training and his knowledge of ancient literature
were of great service to him, as also was his natural quickness of
judgment combined with sagacity. He frequently quotes passages from
St. Augustine, and through him, i.e. at secondhand, from Cyprian and
Chrysostom; in his interpretations the mediæval authorities of whom he
makes most use are the Master of the Sentences and St. Bernard.[637]
The way in which Aristotle and the Scholastics are handled is already
plain from what we have said. Reminiscences of the works of his own
professors, Paltz, Trutfetter and Usingen, are merely general, and
he freely differs from them. As an Occamist he feels himself in
contradiction to the Thomists and to some extent also to the Scotists;
in addition to Occam, d’Ailly, Gerson and Biel have a great influence
on him, even in his interpretation of the Bible. Tauler, who has so
frequently been mentioned, also left deep traces of his influence not
only in the matter of the Commentary, but also in the language, which
is often obscure, rich in imagery and full of feeling, while here and
there we seem to find reminiscences of the “Theologia Deutsch” which
Luther was to publish at the close of his lectures. The latter was, “to
his thinking, the most exact expression of the great thoughts of the
Epistle to the Romans.”[638]

From a learned point of view his exegesis would probably have been
different and far more reliable had he consulted the famous Commentary
of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Epistle to the Romans, not merely for
the division of his subject, but also for the matter. This Commentary
held the first place, as regards clearness and depth of thought, among
previous expositions, yet not once does Luther quote it, and, probably,
he had never opened the work for the purpose of study. “It is most
remarkable,” Wilhelm Braun says, speaking of Luther’s Commentary and
of his whole development, “that Luther never came to understand Thomas
of Aquin. We meet with some disparaging remarks [elsewhere than in
the Commentary on Romans]; he is doubtful as to whether St. Thomas
was really saved, because he wrote some heretical stuff and brought
Aristotle, the corrupter of pious doctrine, into prominence in the
Church; but he never understood him from the theological point of
view.”[639] We might well go further and say, that he did not even do
what must certainly precede any “understanding”—study his writings
with the intention of carefully examining them.[640]

How greatly does Luther in his method, his manner of delivery and his
spirit differ from St. Thomas, from the latter’s quiet precision and
trustworthiness in following the great traditions of learning and
theology. Luther so often speaks without due thought, so often in his
impetuosity sees but one side of things, he contradicts himself without
remarking it, falls into grotesque exaggeration, and, in many passages,
is not merely impulsive in his manner of speech, but even destructive.
The rashness with which he lays hands on the generally accepted
teaching of the best tried minds, his assumption of supremacy in the
intellectual domain, the boundless self-confidence which peeps out of
so many of his assertions, gave cause for fearing the worst from this
professor, to whose words the University was even then attentive.

He knew well how to hold his listeners by the versatility of his spirit
and his ability to handle words. His language comprises, now weighty
sentences, now popular and taking comparisons. He speaks, when he is
so inclined, in the popular and forcible style he employs at a later
date; he borrows from the lips of the populace sayings of unexampled
coarseness with which he spices his harangues, more especially with a
view to emphasising his attitude to his opponents. We may be permitted
to quote one such passage in which he is speaking against those who
hold themselves to be pure: “I look on them as the biggest fools, who
want to forget how deeply they stick in the mire.... Did you never
... in your mother’s lap, and was not the smell evil? Is your perfume
always so sweet? Is there nothing about your whole person which has
an unpleasant odour? If you are so clean, I am surprised that the
apothecaries have not long ago got hold of you to use you in making
their balsams, for surely you must reek of balm. Yet had your mother
left you as you are and were, you would have perished in your own

Immediately after this he proceeds with a more pleasing thought: “Truly
to please oneself, one must be utterly displeased with self. No one can
please himself and others at the same time.”

He is fond of startling antitheses and frequently loses himself in
paradoxes. “God has concealed righteousness under sin, goodness
under severity, mercy under anger.”[642] “He who does not think
he is righteous, is for that very reason righteous before God.”
“To be sinners does not harm us, if we only strive earnestly for

It may serve to give a better idea of the exegetical value of the whole
work, and thereby increase our knowledge of its author, if we consider
some of the other peculiarities which permeate it.

Luther frequently engages with great zest in philosophical argument
and has skirmishes in dialectics with his adversaries, after the
custom of the school of Occam. In such cases he often becomes scarcely
intelligible owing to his utter neglect of the rules of logic. The
answer he gives to the proofs alleged by “modern philosophers” for
the possibility of a natural love of God is very characteristic. They
had urged: The will is able to grasp all that reason proposes to it
as right and necessary; but reason proposes that we must love God,
the cause of all things, and the Highest Good above all. Against this
Luther philosophises as follows: “That is decidedly a bad conclusion.
The conclusion should be: If the will is able to will everything that
reason prescribes shall be willed and performed, then the will may will
that God is to be loved above all, as reason says. But it does not
follow that the will can love God above all, but merely that it can
feebly will that this be done, i.e. the will has just that tiny little
bit of will (‘_voluntatulam voluntatis habere_’) which reason orders
it to have.” To this Luther adds: “Were that proof correct, then the
common teaching would be erroneous that the law [of God in Revelation]
has been given in order to humble the proud who presumptuously build
on their own powers.” And immediately, with supposedly scriptural
proofs, he proceeds to show that no power for doing what is good can be
ascribed to the will.[644]

In what he says of the position of philosophy to saving grace—a point
we mentioned above—we have another example of his faulty method.

It is well known that the old Scholastics, far from drawing their
profound teaching concerning sanctifying grace from the “mouldy” stores
of Aristotle, advocated, with regard to justification, regeneration and
bestowal of sanctifying grace (“_gratia sanctificans_”) by the infusion
of the Holy Spirit, simply the views contained in Holy Scripture and
in the Fathers; but, in order to make her teaching more comprehensible
and to insure it against aberrations, the Church clothed it as far as
necessary in the language of the generally accepted philosophy. The
element which Scholasticism therewith borrowed from Aristotle—or to
be accurate not from him only, but, through the Fathers, from ancient
philosophy generally—was of service for the comprehension of revealed
truth. Luther, however, was opposed to anything which tended to greater
definition because he was more successful in expressing his diverging
opinions in vague and misapprehended biblical language than in the
stricter and more exact language of the philosophical schools.

The Church, on the other hand, has given Scholasticism its due. In the
definitions of the Council of Trent on the points of faith which had
been called into question, the Church to a certain degree made her
own the old traditional expressions of the schools on the doctrine
of grace, teaching, for instance, that the “only formal cause of our
righteousness lies in the righteousness of God, not in that by which
He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just.” She declared
that, with justifying grace, the “love of God becomes inherent in
us,” and that with this grace man “receives the infusion (‘_infusa
accipit_’) of faith, hope and charity”; she also speaks of the various
causes of justification, of the final, efficient, meritorious,
instrumental and formal cause.[645] All these learned terms were
admirably fitted to express the ancient views vouched for by the Bible
or tradition, and the same may be said, for instance, of the formula
sanctioned by the Council of Trent, that “by the sacraments grace is
bestowed ‘_ex opere operato_,’” and that the sacraments of Baptism,
Confirmation and Order impart “a ‘character,’ i.e. a spiritual and
ineradicable mark on account of which they cannot be repeated.”[646]
When the Church expresses herself in such terms with regard to
sanctifying grace, she implies thereby no more than what is stated in
the various biblical excerpts quoted in detail by the Council of Trent
to which Luther had paid too little heed. Her teaching is that man is
signed and anointed with the spirit of promise which is the pledge of
our inheritance; that he is renewed through the Spirit, and that by the
Spirit the love of God is poured forth in his heart; that he becomes a
living member of Christ; that because he is made the heir and child of
God he has a right to heaven; that he is born again by the Holy Ghost
to a new life, and thus is translated into the Kingdom of the Love of
His Son where he has redemption and forgiveness of sins; as such he is
a friend and companion of God; yet he must go on from virtue to virtue
and, as the Apostle says, be renewed from day to day by constantly
mortifying the members of his flesh and offering them as the weapons of
righteousness for sanctification.

In his Commentary on Romans Luther already breaks away from tradition,
i.e. from the whole growth of the past, even on matters of the utmost
moment, and this not at all to the advantage of theology; not merely
the method and mode of expression does he oppose, but even the very
substance of doctrine.

Protestant theology, following in his footsteps, went further. Many
of its representatives, as we shall see, honestly expressed their
serious doubts as to whether the Bible teaching of sanctification by
grace—that process which, according to the scriptural descriptions
just quoted, takes place in the very innermost being of man—is really
expressed correctly by the Lutheran doctrine of the imputation of a
purely extraneous righteousness. But even to-day there are others who
still support Luther’s views in a slightly modified form, and who
will have it that the scholastic and later teaching of the Church
is a doctrine of mere “magic,” as though she made of saving grace a
magical power, of which the agency is baptism or absolution. It is
true that the process of sanctification as apprehended by faith is to
a large extent involved in impenetrable mystery, but in Christianity
there is much else which is mysterious. It is perhaps this mysterious
element which gives offence and accounts for Catholic doctrine being
described by so opprobrious a word as “magic.” Some Protestants of
the same school are also given to praising Luther—in terms which are
also, though in another sense, mysterious and obscure—for having
from the very outset arrived at the great idea of grace peculiar to
the Reformed theology, viz. at the “exaltation of religion above
morality.” He was the first to ask: “How do I stand with regard to my
God?” and who made the discovery, of which his Commentary on Romans
is a forcible proof, that it is “man’s relation to God through faith
which creates the purer atmosphere in which alone it is possible for
morality to thrive.” He arrived, so we are told, at an apprehension of
grace as “a merciful consideration of the abiding sinner,” and a true
“consolation of conscience”; he at the same time recognised grace as
an “educative and moulding energy,” which, as such, imparts “strength
for sanctification.”[647]

       *       *       *       *       *

To return to the exegetical side of the Commentary on Romans, the
confusion in which the ideas are presented lends to much of it a stamp
of great imperfection. There is a general lack of cautious, intelligent
comprehension of the material, which sometimes is concerned with the
tenderest questions of faith, sometimes with vital points of morals.
The impartial observer sees so many traces of passion, irritation,
storm and stress that he begins to ask himself whether the work has any
real theological value.

 The passage, Romans vii. 17, regarding the indwelling of sin in man
 (“_habitat in me peccatum_”) Luther, in the interests of his system,
 makes use of for an attack upon the Scholastics (“_nostri theologi_”).
 He attributes to them an interpretation of the passage which was
 certainly not theirs, and, from his own interpretation, draws strange
 and quite unfounded inferences. According to the interpretation
 commonly admitted by almost all exegetists, whether Catholic or
 Protestant, St. Paul is here speaking of the unregenerate man in
 whom sin dwells, preventing him from fulfilling the law. Luther, on
 the contrary, asserts that the Apostle is alluding to himself and
 to the regenerate generally, and he quotes from the context no less
 than twelve proofs that this is the correct interpretation.[648]
 Scholastics either referred the passage, like St. Augustine, to the
 righteous—in whom on account of the survival of the “_fomes peccati_”
 sin in some sense dwells, even the righteous being easily led away by
 the same to sin—or they left the question open and allowed the verse
 to refer to those who are not justified.

 Luther, delighted by his discovery of the survival of original sin
 in man after baptism, could not allow the opportunity to slip of
 dealing a blow at the older theologians: “Is it not a fact that the
 fallacious metaphysics of Aristotle—the philosophy which is built up
 on human tradition—has blinded our theologians? They fancy that sin
 is destroyed in Baptism and in the sacrament of Penance, and they
 declare it absurd that the Apostle should speak of sin dwelling within
 him [as a matter of fact the Schoolmen did nothing of the sort]. The
 words ‘_habitat in me peccatum_’ were a fearful scandal to them. They
 fled to the false and pernicious assertion that Paul is speaking
 merely in the person of the carnal man [unregenerate], whereas he is,
 in truth, speaking of his own person [and of the righteous]. They
 say foolishly that in the righteous there is no sin, and yet the
 Apostle obviously teaches the contrary in the plainest and most open

 Of this passionate reversal of the old exegesis, Denifle, after
 having pointed out the real state of the question by quoting the
 commentators, says: “Luther merely exhibits his ignorance, prejudice
 and prepossession ... he was not acting in the interests of learning
 at all.”[650] Of Luther’s twelve arguments in favour of his
 interpretation he remarks: “in order to convince oneself that the
 [opposite] view, now almost universally held, is the correct one,
 it is only necessary to glance at Luther’s twelve proofs. They are
 utterly fallacious, beg the question and take for granted what is not
 conceded.”[651] This judgment is amply justified. Yet Luther, at the
 end of his long demonstration, exclaims: “It is really surprising
 that anyone could have imagined that the Apostle was speaking in the
 person of the old and carnal man.” “No, the Apostle teaches regarding
 the justified that they are at the same time righteous and sinners,
 righteous because Christ’s righteousness covers them and is imputed
 to them, sinners because they do not fulfil the law and are not
 without concupiscence.”[652] We can only say of Luther’s remarks on
 the Scholastics that, without really being acquainted with them, he
 here again blindly abuses them because they were opposed to his new
 theological views.

 It was merely his prejudice against the Scholastics which led him to
 continue: “Their stupid doctrine has deceived the world and caused
 untold mischief, for the consequence was, that whoever was baptised
 and absolved at once looked upon himself as free from sin, became sure
 of his righteousness, folded his arms, and, because he was unconscious
 of any sin, considered it superfluous to trouble to struggle or to
 purify himself by sighs and tears, by sorrow for sin and efforts
 to conquer it. No, sin remains even in the spiritual man,” etc. He
 appeals to St. Augustine, indeed to the very passage to which the
 Scholastics were indebted for their interpretation of St. Paul’s words
 concerning the righteous. As remarked before (p. 98), Augustine is,
 however, very far from teaching that there is in the righteous real
 guilt and sin, when, following St. Paul, he speaks of the sinful
 concupiscence which dwells in the regenerate.

 Luther would have avoided a great number of mistakes in his
 interpretation of the Epistle to the Romans had he conscientiously
 studied the older expositors instead of blindly opposing them.

 The passage in Hebrews xi. 1, which was of the greatest importance
 for his views (“_Est fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum
 non apparentium_”), he interprets in a false sense, whereas St.
 Thomas takes it correctly. He takes “_substantia_,” etc. (ἑλπιζομένων
 ὑπόστασις πραγμάτων) as “_possessio et facultas futurarum rerum_,”
 and the word “_argumentum_” (ἔλεγχος) as “_signum_.”[653] It was only
 in 1519 that he learnt from Melanchthon that this interpretation
 could not be made to agree with the Greek text. Even when making
 known his mistake he gives a side hit at the _Sententiarii_, i.e. the
 Scholastics. And yet he would have found the correct interpretation
 in St. Thomas’s “_Summa Theologica_,” and also in his Commentary on
 Romans, viz. that “_substantia_” here means foundation, or first
 beginning (“_fides est prima pars iustitiæ_”), while “_argumentum_”
 has the sense of firm assent, i.e. to the truth that “is not

To sum up briefly here some of the fundamental theological confusions
of which the author of the Commentary on Romans is guilty, either
from carelessness or in the excitement of controversy, we may mention
that he confuses freedom with willingness or joyousness, the works
of the Mosaic law with the works of natural or Christian morality,
true humility with self-annihilation and despair, confidence with
presumption; to him true contrition is grief sensibly manifested, all
charity other than perfect is mere perverse self-seeking, and holy fear
of the Divine judgment and penalties is a slavish, selfish service.

The freedom of the Christian spirit, bestowed by the gospel
in contradistinction to Judaism, Luther, owing to persistent
misapprehension, makes out to be freedom regarding outward things of
the law. Appealing to St. Paul’s teaching concerning the liberty of the
gospel, he says: “we must not be subject to the burden of any law to
such an extent as to consider the outward works of the law necessary
for salvation.”[655] Those who do so are, according to him, attached
to “a spiritual, but exceedingly reprehensible” view, which we must
oppose with all our might. Away with those whose aim it is to “fulfil
the law by means of many observances.” “The law is to be observed not
because we must keep it, but because we choose to do so, not because
it is necessary, but because it is permitted.” Instead of this, he
continues, we bow to-day under the yoke of servitude, fancy it is
necessary and yet wish secretly that it did not exist (“_Hæc servitus
hodie late grassatur_,” etc.). The effect of such distorted principles
on his views regarding the commandments of the Church is very obvious.
“Concerning the outward service of God,” as Denifle has already pointed
out, “Luther went to great lengths in his defence of ‘_libertas_....’
The believer is free as regards all things; ‘_sufficit charitas de
corde puro_’ he frequently repeated at the very time when he was
vindicating himself against the errors of the Picards.”[656] Though as
yet still far from the revulsion which was to come later he was already
cherishing the principles which were to lead up to it.

What he says on obedience and personality in dealing with Romans x. and
the word of faith which calls for submission, exhibits a strange medley
of excessive mystical severity combined with a free handling of his
own views, and also some good examples of his stormy dialectics. It is
worth our while to dwell a little on these passages because the train
of thought furnishes a curious picture of the direction of the young
Monk’s mind.

 “The faith [which justifies] allows itself to be led in any
 direction,”[657] he says, “and is ready to hear and to yield; for God
 does not require great works, but the putting to death of the old man,
 but to this we cannot attain without submitting our own ideas and
 judgment to the authority of another....” He then continues, vaguely
 confusing faith and humility: “The old man is to be put to death by
 faith in the Word of God. But God’s Word is not only that which sounds
 from heaven, but everything that comes from the mouth of a good man,
 more particularly from our ecclesiastical superiors. That is why the
 quarrelsome will hear nothing of this faith and take offence at the
 word of faith. Instead of believing they demand proofs and always
 think their own ideas right, and those of others false. But whoever
 does not know how to submit himself and always fancies he is not in
 the wrong, exhibits the plainest signs that the old Adam still lives
 in him and that Christ has not yet risen in him.”[658] Then follows a
 long and tedious description of how “man must surrender his mind to
 the bondage of the word of the Cross and renounce himself and all that
 is his until he dies to self.”[659]

 It is surprising to find in the mouth of Luther such an utterance
 as that we must receive with submission every word of a godly man in
 order to possess “faith” in its true meaning, but it reappears on
 another occasion in the Commentary under quite peculiar circumstances.
 The passage is a still more glaring instance of confusion and is worth
 quoting in its entirety on account of its mistaken train of thought
 and of its self-contradiction and jumping from one point to another,
 so characteristic of Luther.

 The explanation of Romans iii.[660] begins with a general assault
 on the “proud ‘spirituals’ in the Church, with their great and many
 works,” the heading chosen being that “Justification does not require
 works of the law, but true faith which performs works of faith.” The
 works of these “spirituals” are not works of faith, but works of the
 law, for as they are proud and stiff-necked they “do not believe in
 the precepts and counsels of those who speak to them of salvation.”
 Christ Himself speaks in the latter, and to refuse to believe them
 in any one particular is to deny faith in Him altogether (“_fides
 consistit in indivisibili_”); for the same reason the heretics, if
 they deny only one article of the faith, really deny the faith as
 a whole. In a word, these proud folk “lose the whole faith, thanks
 merely to their stiffness” (“_periit tota fides propter unius sensus
 pertinaciam_”); so important is it to give way to truth whenever it
 approaches us in humility! Justification must therefore necessarily
 take place without the works which those people have in their mind. If
 a man cannot readily bear contradiction “he certainly cannot be saved;
 for there is no surer sign that our ideas, words and works are of God
 than contradiction [!]; everything that is of God must be rejected by
 man, as we see from the example of our Saviour, and, even if it be not
 of God, contradiction brings us still greater profit and preserves us
 from shipwreck.”

 In support of this perplexing doctrine there follow examples and
 quotations from the Bible, and finally this conclusion: “it is a safe
 path when we are reproved, cursed and blamed.” He does not seem to
 notice that this assertion provides a ground of excuse and defence for
 the so-called “proud ‘spirituals,’” for they, too, might argue that
 his contradiction gave a sanction to their conduct.

 Luther seems to have had only himself and his own interests in view
 when he brought forward these ideas, beginning with the extreme
 assertion that we must believe every word that a good man speaks;
 he apparently wished to insist on himself and his followers being
 given credence, and on their views—which were the views of faithful
 counsellors—being approved by the defenders of works, whether in
 his Order or outside of it. As he encountered contradiction, he
 immediately applied to his own case the very elastic principle, that
 opposition in religious matters is a guarantee of truth. This was a
 principle, we may mention, which he had made his own ever since his
 mystical days, and which at a later date and indeed till the end of
 his life, he repeatedly employed in the service of his cause during
 his struggle with the Church.

 Continuing his harangue against the “spirituals” and the heretics with
 whom he classes them he goes on to say: “they buoy themselves up in
 their idle self-complacency on account of their faith in Christ, but
 in vain, as they will not believe in that which is Christ’s. The faith
 of Christ by which we are justified is not merely faith in Christ,
 or in the person of Christ, but in all that is Christ’s.” “Christ is
 not divided” (1 Cor. i. 13). Faith is something indivisible, Christ
 and whatever is Christ’s is one and the same.[661] Therefore we must
 believe both in Christ and in the Church, and in “every word that
 comes from the mouth of an ecclesiastical superior, or of a good,
 pious man.” “But those who withdraw themselves from their superiors
 will not listen to their words, but follow their own ideas,” he again
 repeats: “how do these, I ask, believe in Christ? They believe in His
 birth and His sufferings, but not in His whole word, consequently
 they deny Him altogether. See how necessary is the very greatest
 humility, as we who believe in Christ can never be sure whether we
 believe in all that is His, and therefore must remain uncertain as
 to whether we believe in Him Himself! Justification can only proceed
 from such a fear and humility. But the proud “do not understand the
 exalted subtilties of this faith; they think they are in possession
 of the whole of faith, yet cannot hear the Lord’s voice, but rather
 resist it as though it were false; why? because it is opposed to
 their own ideas.”[662] After a dialectical digression of doubtful
 character the hot-blooded exegetist continues: All the Prophets rise
 up against such men, for they always commence their holy message with
 the words: “Thus saith the Lord” and, “whosoever it be whom the Lord
 chooses as His mouthpiece, the demand is for faith, resignation,
 humble subjection of our own ideas; for it is only thus that we
 are justified, and not otherwise.” With incredible tenacity he is
 ever harping on the assertion that the “self-righteous” only deck
 themselves out with works of the law, but find no grace with God. And
 finally, as though he had not yet said a word against those rebels
 against faith and the Word of God, he cries: “Let those open their
 ears who believe indeed in Christ, but not in the word of Christ, who
 do not listen to their superiors and who wish to be justified without
 this obedience, i.e. without this faith in God and merely by their
 works.” In another outburst he shows them—this time adopting a more
 mystical tone—that Christ speaks “almost always when, where and as we
 do not expect.”[663] “Who can discover all the wily attacks of Satan
 by which he deceives us?” Some wish to be justified by a “slavish
 fear,” in spite of their disinclination and “by their own strength
 alone”;[664] those whom he deceives more artfully feel a desire for
 what is good, “but in their self-complacency they affect superstitious
 singularity (‘_singularitatis et superstitionis affectatores_’),
 they become rebels [like the Observantines, see p. 69], and under a
 show of obedience and love of God they throw off their submission to
 the men of God, i.e. to the Vicars and messengers of Christ.”[665]
 “It is presumption and pride which changes works of grace into works
 of the law, and the righteousness of God into human righteousness;
 for,” etc.[666] “How then can you be proud as though you were more
 righteous than another, how can you despise him who sins, when you
 yourself [at least, by your evil inclinations] are sunk in the same
 mire?”[667] etc. “But they receive honour of men on account of their
 righteousness,”[668] a subject on which Luther proceeds to enlarge.

 We have said enough. The torrent of words flows on aimlessly in this
 way, ever labouring the same subject; all this is given us in lieu
 of real exegesis as corollaries to two verses of the Epistle to the

In order to gauge the real value of the Commentary on Romans we must
now consider the treatment, abounding in inconsistencies, accorded by
Luther to man’s efforts for obtaining salvation.

 In Luther’s mind the idea of that God does all, stands side by side
 with the traditional view of the Church, that man must prepare
 himself; he has, indeed, a curious knack of remaining quite
 unconscious of his inconsistencies. On the one hand, according to what
 he says, we must seek for justification by the exertion of the fullest
 human effort, and this labour must be so strenuous as to render God
 propitious to us (“_Deum sibi propitium faciunt_”).[669] That is,
 at least, what we are told at the end of the Commentary, but at the
 beginning we read: “The faith which is to justify must manifest its
 works, works of the law are not sufficient, it must be ‘a living faith
 which performs its own works.’”[670] “When James and Paul say that man
 is justified by works, they are opposing the false opinion that faith
 without its works is sufficient, whereas such a faith is not faith at
 all.”[671] According to this, it is plain, that, at that time, the
 idea of man’s co-operation in the work of salvation by the use of his
 liberty still hovered in Luther’s mind. But any idea of this kind is
 elsewhere confronted and peremptorily dismissed by another chain of
 ideas. How are we to make efforts by our own free will when we do not
 possess free will for doing what is good? “As though,” he says, “we
 had free will at our disposal whenever we want! Such an idea of free
 will can only serve to lull us into a false security.” (“_Securi
 stertimus, freti libero arbitrio quod ad manum habentes, quando
 volumus, possumus pie intendere._”)[672]

 Here he will only admit that man has freedom to pray for the right
 use of his freedom. But, as a matter of fact, even this liberty
 which might incite us to prayer, is non-existent. For in respect of
 anything that is good [whether natural or supernatural, he makes no
 distinction] we are only like raw metal or a wooden stick. Because
 God’s grace is the hand which works in us for good and which performs
 our vital acts within us, while we ourselves are quiescent and
 absolutely powerless, Luther says in Romans iii.: “I have frequently
 insisted before upon the fact, that it is impossible for us to have
 of ourselves the will or the heart to fulfil the law.” Why? “Because
 the law is spiritual.” Meditation on man’s enslaved condition as the
 result of concupiscence, he declares in another passage, proves my
 contention, no less than the terrible truth of predestination.

 “Luther felt in himself that belief in the eternal predestination by
 God [absolute election to grace] was the most powerful support of his
 experience of the complete inadequacy of human works and the efficacy
 of grace alone.” The Protestant theologian[673] who says this, to
 instance Luther’s faith in the action of grace, here quotes from the
 passages from the Commentary on Romans, according to which God on the
 one hand bestows His grace only on those He chooses, but on the other
 hand infallibly saves those He elects to save. “The Spirit,” Luther
 has it, “supports the latter by His presence in all their weaknesses,
 so that they prevail in circumstances where they would otherwise
 despair a thousand times.”[674] It is, however, remarkable that just
 after this explanation the cry bursts from Luther’s lips: “Where
 are now the good works, where the freedom of the will?” Here the
 irresistible “action of grace alone” appears as a direct consequence
 of Luther’s then views, though he refrains from expressing himself
 more clearly as to the nature of actual grace.

Thus in his mind are combined two widely divergent ideas, viz. that God
does everything in man who is devoid of freedom—and that man must draw
nigh to God by prayer and works of faith. It is a strange psychological
phenomenon to see how, instead of endeavouring to solve the
contradiction and examine the question in the light of calm reason, he
gives free play to feeling and imagination, now passionately proving to
the infamous Observants that man is absolutely unable to do anything,
now insisting on the need of preparation for grace, i.e. unconsciously
becoming the defender of the Church’s doctrine of free will and human
co-operation. The fact is, he still, to some extent, thinks with the
Church. It was no easy task for him to break away from a view, which is
so natural to man and so much in accordance with faith, viz. that there
must be some preparation on man’s part for justification, in which
however, actual grace, which comes to the assistance of his will and
becomes part of it, also has its share.

Luther’s peculiar mysticism with its preponderance of feeling was, in
part, the cause of his overlooking his task, which was to propound
from his professorial chair the teaching of the Church in definite and
exact terms—so far as this was possible to him with his insufficient
theological training. To this may be added the fact that the wealth of
biblical quotations, whether to the point or not, which he is wont to
adduce, tends to distract and confuse him as soon as he attempts to
draw any clear inferences.

       *       *       *       *       *

According to Denifle a certain progress is apparent in the Commentary
on Romans inasmuch as the first three chapters show Luther’s new
doctrines still in an inchoate form. Luther, there, is seeking for
something he has not yet fully grasped, and the confusion of his
language is a proof that he has not as yet made up his mind. There
is, however, one point, according to Denifle, on which he is quite
definite, viz. concupiscence, though he does not yet know how to
combine it with his other ideas; but, by the end of chapter iii.,
this doubt has been set aside, he has identified concupiscence with
original sin and reached other conclusions besides. Still he avoids the
principal question as to how far human co-operation is necessary in the
act of justification.[675]

It is difficult to determine exactly this progress owing to Luther’s
want of clearness and precision of expression, and to his contradictory
treatment of certain capital points. The Commentary on Romans as
it proceeds hardly shows any improvement in this respect. With
extraordinary elasticity of mind, if we may so speak, the author
without the slightest compunction advocates concerning the most
profound theological questions, especially grace, ideas which differ
from and contradict each other. As at the very commencement we meet
some of the most incisive new theses of Lutheranism—the imputation of
the righteousness of Christ, the sinfulness of the natural man and
his inability to do what is good, and likewise predestination to hell
in its most outrageous form—it is natural to infer that Luther had
already forsaken the Catholic doctrine on these points at the time he
was preparing his lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, i.e. about the
summer of 1515. His misapprehension of this Epistle must have had its
influence on his whole trend, and the elements already at work in his
mind helped to decide him to commit to writing in his Commentary his
supposed new and important doctrinal discoveries.

We might expect to find in the Commentary the most noticeable progress
where he deals with preparation for grace, for this was surely the
point on which he was bound to come into conflict with other doctrines.
It is, however, hard to tell whether he realised the difficulty. It is
true that much less stress is laid upon preparation for justification
as the work proceeds, whereas at the commencement the author speaks
unhesitatingly of the cultivation of the will which must be undertaken
in order to bring down grace. (See above, p. 214.) This, however, might
merely be accidental and due to the fact that, in the last chapters,
St. Paul is dealing mainly with the virtues of the justified. Towards
the end of the Epistle, in connection with what the Apostle says on
charity and faith in the righteous, the nature of that “_humilitas_”
which Luther so eulogises as a preliminary and accompaniment of the
appropriation of the righteousness of Christ undergoes a change and
appears more as faith with charity, or charity with faith. Luther’s
manner of speaking thus varies according to the subject with which Paul
is dealing.

If we take the middle of the year 1515 as the starting-point of
Luther’s new theology, then many of the statements in his Commentary on
the Psalms, especially in its latter part, become more significant as
precursors of Luther’s errors. The favourable view we expressed above
of his work on the Psalms, as regards its agreement with the theology
of the Church, was only meant to convey that a Catholic interpretation
of the questionable passages was possible; this, however, cannot be
said of the theses in the Commentary on Romans which we have just
been considering. We now understand why unwillingness to allow any
ability in man to do what is good is the point in which Luther’s work
on the Psalms goes furthest. There the doctrine of his “_profundior
theologia_” is: “We must account ourselves as nothing, as sinful,
liars, as dead in God’s sight; we must not trust in any merits of our
own.” There, too, we find paradoxes such as the following: “God is
wonderful in His saints, the most beautiful is to Him the most hideous,
the most infamous the most excellent; whoever thinks himself upright,
with him God is not pleased.... In the recognition of this lie the
pith of the Scripture and the kernel of the heavenly grain.”[676] Such
expressions are, it is true, not unlike what we sometimes hear from the
Church’s theologians and saints, but in the light of the Commentary on
Romans they become more important as signs of transition.

       *       *       *       *       *

We must not forget, in view of the numerous enigmas which the
boldness of the Commentary on Romans presents, that it bears merely
a semi-public character and was not intended for publication. In
this work, destined only for the lecture-room, Luther did not stop
to weigh or fine down his words, but gave the reins to his impulse,
thus offering us a so much the more interesting picture of his inmost

Some important particulars, in which this work differs from other
public utterances made by Luther about the same time, are to be
explained by the familiarity with which he is speaking to his pupils.

 In the sermons on the Ten Commandments, published in 1518 but
 preached in the two preceding years and consequently intended for
 general consumption, he speaks differently of concupiscence than in
 the Commentary. In the sermons he declares that desires so long as
 they are involuntary are certainly not sinful. He even says to a man
 who is troubled on account of his involuntary temptations against
 purity: “No, no, you have not lost your chastity by such thoughts; on
 the contrary, you have never been more chaste if you are only sure
 they came to you against your will.... It is a true sign of a lively
 sense of chastity when a man feels displeasure, and it need not even
 be absolute displeasure, otherwise there would be no attraction; he
 is in an uncertain state, now willing, now unwilling.... In the
 struggle for chastity the little bark is tossed hither and thither on
 the waters, while [according to the gospel] Christ is asleep within.
 Rouse Christ so that He may command the sea, i.e. the flesh, and the
 wind, i.e. the devil.”[677] In the public Indulgence theses of 1517,
 he is also careful not to express his erroneous views on grace and
 the nature of man. It is characteristic of him how he changes even
 the form of expression when repeating an assertion which is also made
 in the Commentary on Romans. In the Commentary he had written, that
 too great esteem of outward works led to a too frequent granting of
 Indulgences, and that the Pope and the Bishops were more cruel than
 cruelty itself if they did not freely grant the same, or even greater
 Indulgences, for God’s sake and the good of souls, seeing that they
 themselves had received all they had for nothing.[678] This violent
 utterance here appears as the expression of his own opinion. In the
 theses, however, he presents the same view to the public with much
 greater caution; he says, these and similar objections brought forward
 by scrupulous laymen, were caused, contrary to the wishes of the
 Pope, by dissolute Indulgence preachers; one might hear “such-like
 calumnious charges and subtle questions from seculars,” and they must
 “be taken into account and answered.”[679]

The ideas contained in the Commentary on Romans are also to be met
with in the other lectures which followed. Of this the present
writer convinced himself by glancing through the Vatican copies. The
approaching publication of the copies in the “Anfänge reformatorischer
Bibelauslegung,” of Johann Ficker, a work which commenced with the
Commentary on Romans, will supply further details. The character of
the Wittenberg Professor is, however, such that we may expect some
surprising revelations. Generally speaking, a movement in the direction
of the doctrine of “faith alone” is noticeable throughout his work.

In view of Ficker’s forthcoming edition it will suffice to quote a few
excerpts from the Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews of 1517,
according to the Vatican MS. (Pal. lat. 1825).[680] They show that
the author in his exegesis of this Epistle is imbued with the same
idea as in the Commentary on Romans, namely, that Paul exalts (in
Luther’s sense) the redemption in Christ, and Grace, in opposition
to righteousness by works. They also betray how he becomes gradually
familiar with the doctrine that faith alone justifies, without any
longer placing humility in the foreground as the intermediary of
justification as he once had done.

 On folio 46 of the MS. he says: “We should notice how Paul in this
 Epistle extols grace as against the pride of the law and of human
 righteousness (‘_extollit adversus superbiam_’ etc.). He proves that
 without Christ neither the law, nor the priesthood, nor prophecy, nor
 the service of angels sufficed, but that all these were established
 with a view to the coming Christ. It is therefore his intention to
 teach Christ only.”

 On folio 117 Luther sets forth the difference between “purity in the
 New and in the Old Testament.” In the New Law the Blood of Christ
 brings inward purification. “As conscience cannot alter sin that has
 been committed and is utterly unable to escape the future wrath, it
 is necessarily terrified and oppressed wherever it turns. From this
 state of distress it can be released only by the Blood of Christ. If
 it looks in faith upon this Blood, it believes and knows that by the
 same its sins are washed away and removed. Thus it is purified by
 faith and at the same time quieted, so that, in joy over the remission
 of its sins, it no longer fears punishment. No law can assist in this
 purification, no works, in fact nothing but the Blood of Christ alone
 (‘_ad hanc munditiam ... nihil nisi unicus hic sanguis Christi facere
 potest_’), and even this cannot accomplish it unless man believes in
 his heart that it has been shed for the remission of sin. For it is
 necessary to believe the testator when He says: ‘This Blood which
 shall be shed for you and for many unto the remission of sins.’”

 From Paul’s words he goes on to infer that “good works done outside
 of grace are sins, in the sense that they may be called dead works.
 For if, without the Blood of Christ, conscience is morally impure, it
 can only perform what corresponds with its nature, namely, what is
 impure....” Folio 117´: “It follows that a good, pure, quiet, happy
 conscience can only be the result of faith in the forgiveness of sins.
 But this is founded only on the Word of God, which assures us that
 Christ’s Blood was shed unto the remission of sins.”

 Folio 118: “It follows that those who contemplate the sufferings
 of Christ only from compassion, or from some other reason than in
 order to attain to faith, contemplate them to little purpose, and in
 a heathenish manner.... The more frequently we look upon the Blood
 of Christ the more firmly must we believe that it was shed for our
 own sins; for this is ‘to drink and eat spiritually,’ to grow strong
 through this faith in Christ and to become incorporated in Him.”



1. Luther as Superior of eleven Augustinian Houses

HIS election as Rural Vicar, which took place at the convocation of the
Order at Gotha (on April 29, 1515), had raised Luther to a position of
great importance in his Congregation.

He had, within a short time, risen from being Sub-Prior and Regent
of the Wittenberg House of Studies to be the chief dignitary in
the Congregation after Staupitz, the Vicar-General. The office was
conferred on him, as was customary, for a period of three years, i.e.
till May, 1518. Of the eleven monasteries which formed the District
the two most important and influential were Erfurt and Wittenberg.
The others were Dresden, Herzberg, Gotha, Langensalza, Nordhausen,
Sangershausen, Magdeburg and Neustadt on the Orla, to which Eisleben
was added, when, in July, 1515, Staupitz and Luther presided at the
opening of a new monastery there. As Staupitz was frequently absent
from the District, the demands made on the activity of the new Superior
were all the greater.

At this time too his professorial Bible studies and his efforts to
clear up the confusion and difficulties existing in his mind must
have kept him fully occupied. In addition to this there was the
dissension within the Order itself on the question of observance and
of the constitution, a dispute which required for its settlement a man
filled with zeal for the spiritual welfare of the monasteries, and one
thoroughly devoted to the exalted traditional aims of the Congregation.

The mordant discourse on the “Little Saints” which the fiery Monk
delivered on May 1 at the Gotha meeting showed in what direction the
influence of the new Rural Vicar would be exerted. Johann Lang, his
friend who was present at the time, had a good reason for sending
this discourse to Mutian, the head of the Humanists at Gotha; the
bitter critic of the “uncharitable self-righteous” gave promise of the
establishing of a freer ideal of life in the Order, and so original and
powerful a speaker was certain to be strong enough to draw others with

What has been preserved of Luther’s correspondence with the priories
and the monks of his District is unfortunately very meagre; the
remarkable rapidity with which the Lutheran innovations spread among
the Augustinians speaks, however, at a later date very plainly of the
powerful influence which he had exerted on his brother monks during the
years that he held the office of Rural Vicar. The first result of his
influence was to bring into the ascendant a conception of the aims of
the Order differing from that of the Observantines. Hand in hand with
this went the recruiting of followers for his new theological ideas
and for the so-called Augustinian or Pauline movement, of which the
Wittenberg Faculty was the headquarters.

Johann Lang prepared the ground for Luther at the Erfurt monastery,
whither he went in 1515 and where he became Prior in 1516. The
Augustinian, George Spenlein, Luther’s Wittenberg friend, to whom
he addressed the curious, mystical letter on Christ’s righteousness
(above, p. 88 f.), became, later on, a Lutheran preacher and parson
at Arnstadt. Luther, during his Vicariate, had as Prior at Wittenberg
his friend Wenceslaus Link, who was also Doctor and Professor in the
Theological Faculty. He was, however, relieved of his office of Prior
in 1516, left Wittenberg and went to Munich as preacher, whence he
removed to Nuremberg at the beginning of 1517; in that town he became
later a zealous promoter of the Reformation. The friendship which
Luther had formed at Wittenberg with George Spalatin, the astute
courtier in priest’s dress, was, however, of still greater importance
to him in his work both within the Order and outside. Spalatin, who
had received a humanist training under Marschalk and Mutian at Erfurt,
came in 1511 to Wittenberg, where he entered the family of the Elector
as tutor to his two nephews, and, in 1513, was promoted to the office
of Court Chaplain and private secretary to the Elector. He readily
undertook the management at Court of the business in connection with
the priories under Luther’s supervision, and, later on, contrived by
his influence in high quarters to promote the spread of the religious

The letters which Luther wrote as Vicar he signed, as a rule, “Frater
Martinus Luther,” though sometimes “Luder, Augustinensis,” usually with
the addition “Vicarius,” and on one occasion “Vicarius Districtus,”
which, needless to say, does not mean “the strict vicar” as it has been
mistranslated, but refers to his office as Rural Vicar of the District.

In these letters, chiefly in Latin, which Luther addressed to his
monasteries, we meet with some pages containing beautiful and inspiring
thoughts. There can be no question that he knew how to intervene with
energy where abuses called for it, just as he also could speak words of
consolation, encouragement and kindly admonition to those in fault. The
letters also contain some exhortations, well-worded and full of piety,
tending to the moral advancement of zealous members of the Order.
The allusions to faith in Christ, our only help, and the absolute
inadequacy of human effort, are, however, very frequent, though he does
not here express his new theological opinions so definitely as he does
in expounding St. Paul.

 To Johann Lang, who, as Prior of the Erfurt house, met with many
 difficulties from his subordinates, he writes comforting and consoling
 him: “Be strong and the Lord will be with you; call to mind that you
 are set up for a sign which shall be contradicted (Luke ii. 34), to
 the one, indeed, a good odour unto life, to another an odour of death
 (2 Cor. ii. 16).”[681] At Erfurt, as the same letter shows, he had to
 intervene in the interests of discipline. In order that no complaints
 might be brought against the Prior by the brethren on account of the
 expenses for food and drink in entertaining guests and for the keep of
 those who collected the alms (_terminarii_) he orders an exact account
 to be kept of such expenses; the hostel for guests might, he says,
 become a real danger to the monastery if not properly regulated; the
 monastery must not be turned into a beer-house or tavern, but must
 remain a religious house. To uphold “the honour of the Reverend Father
 Vicar,” Staupitz, he directed that three contumacious monks should
 be removed, by way of punishment, from Erfurt to a less important
 convent. On the occasion of some unpleasantness which Lang experienced
 from his brother monks, Luther impressed on him that, after receiving
 this blow on the one cheek, he should bravely present the other also;
 “and this is not the last and worst slap you will have to endure, for
 God’s wisdom is as yet playing with you and preparing you for greater

 “Be mild and friendly to the Prior of Nuremberg,” he says to him at a
 later date; “it is necessary to be so, just because he is harsh and
 unfriendly. One who is severe cannot get the better of a hard man, but
 he who is mild can, just as one devil cannot overcome another, but the
 finger of God must do this.”[683]

 And again, “As regards the brother who has fallen away, take pity on
 him in the Lord. He has forsaken you, led astray by impiety, but you
 must not on that account be wanting in charity and turn your back upon
 him. Do not take the scandal too much to heart. We have been called,
 baptised and ordained in order to bear the burdens of others, for this
 reason the office clothes our own wretchedness with honour. We must,
 according to the proverb, ourselves cover our neighbour’s shame, as
 Christ was, still is, and for all eternity will be our covering, as it
 is written: ‘Thou art a priest for ever’ (Heb. v. 6). Therefore beware
 of desiring to be so clean that you will not allow yourself to be
 touched by what is unclean, or of refusing to put up with uncleanness,
 to cover it over and to wipe it away. You have been raised to a post
 of honour, but the task it involves is to bear dishonour. It is on the
 cross and on affronts that we must pride ourselves.”[684]

 At the commencement of the autumn term in 1516, he complained that
 Lang was sending him too many brothers to study at Wittenberg, more
 in fact than he was able to provide for,[685] and later, as the
 reason for his concern, he mentions that the Wittenberg house already
 numbered 41 inmates, of whom 22 were priests and 12 students, “who
 all have to live on our more than scanty means; but the Lord will

 At that time it was feared that Wittenberg might suffer from an attack
 of the plague which was raging in the vicinity, and which actually
 did break out there in October. Luther reassures the troubled Prior
 of Erfurt, who had besought him to depart: “It is possible that the
 plague may interfere with the lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians
 which I have just commenced. But, so far, it only snatches away two or
 three victims daily at most, and sometimes even fewer.... And whither
 should I flee? I trust the heavens will not fall even should brother
 Martin be stricken. I shall send the brothers away and distribute
 them should the mischief increase; I have been appointed here and
 obedience does not allow of my taking flight, unless a new order be
 imposed on me to obey. Not as though I do not fear death, I am not a
 Paul but merely an expounder of Paul; but I trust that the Lord will
 deliver me from my fear.”[687]

 When a member of the Teutonic Order sought for admission into
 the Augustinian house at Neustadt, Luther instructed the Prior
 there, Michael Dressel (Tornator) to observe very carefully the
 ecclesiastical and conventual regulations provided for such a case.
 “We must, it is true, work with God in the execution of this pious
 project,” he writes, “but we shall do this not by allowing the ideas
 of the individual, however pious his intentions may be, to decide the
 matter, but by carrying out the prescribed law, the regulations of our
 predecessors, and the decrees of the Fathers: whoever sets these aside
 need not hope to advance or find salvation, however good his will may

 This Prior also had complained of the numerous contrarieties which he
 experienced from his subordinates, and that he was unable to enjoy
 any peace of soul. Luther says to him among other things:[689] “The
 man whom no one troubles is not at peace, that is rather the peace of
 this world, but the man to whom people bring all their troubles and
 who nevertheless remains calm and bears everything that happens with
 joy. You say with Israel: ‘Peace, peace, and there is no peace!’ Say
 rather with Christ: the cross, the cross, there is no cross.[690] The
 cross will at once cease to be a cross when a man accepts it joyfully
 and says: Blessed cross, sacred wood, so holy and venerable!... He
 who with readiness embraces the cross in everything that he feels,
 thinks and understands will in time find the fruit of his suffering
 to be sweet peace. That is God’s peace, under which our thoughts and
 desires must be hidden in order that they may be nailed to the cross,
 i.e. to the cross of contradiction and oppression. Thus is peace truly
 established above all our thinking and desiring, and becomes the most
 precious jewel. Therefore take up all these disturbances of your peace
 with joy and clasp them to you as holy relics, instead of endeavouring
 to seek peace according to your own ideas.”

 When Luther afterwards visited the monastery of this same Prior,
 on the occasion of an official visitation, he found the community
 estranged from its head. He did not at that time take any steps, but
 after a few weeks he suddenly removed Michael Dressel from his office.
 In confidence he informed Johann Lang, rather cryptically, that: “I
 did this because I hoped to rule there myself for the half-year.”[691]
 Do the words perhaps mean that he was anxious to secure a victory for
 that party in the Order which was devoted to himself and opposed to
 Dressel, who on this hypothesis was an Observantine? His action was
 peculiar from the fact that his letter addressed to the community at
 Neustadt and to Dressel himself gave no reason for the measure against
 the Prior other than that the brothers were unable to live with
 him in peace and agreement; the Prior, he says, had always had the
 best intentions, but it is not enough for a Superior to be good and
 pious, “it is also necessary that the others should be at peace and
 in agreement with him”; when a Superior’s measures fail to establish
 concord, then he should revoke them.[692] Still more unusual than such
 advice was the circumstance that Luther would not allow the Prior to
 make any defence, and cut short any excuses by his sudden action. In
 another letter to the monks he justified his measure simply by stating
 that there was no peace. In short, the rebellious monks speedily got
 the better of the Superior whom they disliked. The ex-Prior, Luther
 tells him, must on no account murmur because he has been judged
 without a hearing (“_quia te non auditum iudicaverim_”); he himself
 (Luther) was convinced of his good will and also hoped that all the
 inmates of the convent were grateful to him for the good intentions
 which he had displayed. In the new election ordered by the Rural
 Vicar, Heinrich Zwetze was chosen as Prior. Of the latter or how the
 matter ended nothing more is known.

The office of Rural Vicar required above all, that, when making his
regular visitation of the religious houses, the Vicar should have a
personal interview with each brother, hear what he had to say, and
give him any spiritual direction of which he might stand in need. We
learn the following of a visitation of this kind which Luther made in
1516: At the Gotha monastery the whole of the visitation occupied only
one hour; at Langensalza two hours. He informs Lang: “In these places
the Lord will work without us and direct the spiritual and temporal
affairs in spite of the devil.”[693] He at once proceeded on the same
journey to the house at Nordhausen and then on to those at Eisleben
and Magdeburg. In two days the Rural Vicar was back in his beloved
Wittenberg. There is no doubt that such summary treatment of his most
important duties was not favourable to discipline.

At Leitzkau the Augustinians possessed rights over the large fisheries
and Luther was intimate with the local Cistercian Provost. When the
Provost, George Maskov, asked him how he should behave towards a
brother monk who had sinned grievously, seeing that he himself was a
still greater offender, Luther replied, saying, among other things,
that he ought certainly to punish him, for, as a rule, it was necessary
to exercise discipline towards those who are better than ourselves.
“We are all children of Adam, therefore we do the works of Adam.” But
“our authority is not ours, but God’s.” Perhaps God desired to help
that brother on the road of sin, namely, through shame. “It is God Who
does all this.”[694] And in another letter he says to the Provost:[695]
“If many of your subjects are on the way to moral ruin, yet you must
not for that reason disquiet them all. It is better quietly to save
a few.... Let the cockel grow together with the wheat ... for it is
better to bear with the many for the sake of the few than to ruin the
few on account of the many.” In a mystical vein he says: “Pray for me,
for my life is daily drawing nearer to hell (i.e. the lower world,
‘_inferno appropinquavit_,’ Ps. lxxxvii. 4), as I also become worse and
more wretched day by day.”[696]

Bodily infirmities were then pressing hard upon him in consequence
of his many labours and spiritual trials, while much of his time was
swallowed up by his lectures which were still in progress.

2. The Monk of Liberal Views and Independent Action

With regard to his own life as a religious and his conception of his
calling Luther was, at the time of the crisis, still far removed from
the position which he took up later, though we find already in the
Commentary on Romans views which eventually could not fail to place him
in opposition to the religious state.

What still bound him to the religious life was, above all, the ideal of
humility, which his mystical ideas had developed. He also recognised
fully the binding nature of his vows. According to him man cannot steep
himself sufficiently in his essential nothingness before the Eternal
God, and vows are an expression of such submission to the Supreme Being.

 “To love is to hate and condemn oneself, yea even to wish evil to
 oneself.” “Our good is hidden so deeply that it is concealed under
 its opposite; thus life is hidden under death, real egotism under
 hatred of self, honour under shame, salvation under destruction, a
 kingdom under exile, heaven under hell, wisdom under foolishness,
 righteousness under sin, strength under weakness; indeed all our
 affirmation of any good is concealed under its negation in order that
 faith in God, Who is the negation of all, may remain supreme ...
 thus ‘our life is hidden with Christ in God’ (Col. iii. 3), i.e. in
 the negation of all that can be felt, possessed and apprehended....
 That is the good which we must desire for ourselves,” he says to his
 brother monks, “then only are we good when we recognise the good God
 and our evil self.”[697]

 He says elsewhere regarding vows: “All things are, it is true, free
 to us, but by means of vows we can offer them all up out of love;
 when this has once taken place, then they are necessary, not by their
 nature but on account of the vow which has been taken voluntarily.
 Then we must be careful to keep the vows with the same love with
 which we took them upon us, otherwise they are not kept at all.”[698]
 In many points he goes further than the Rule itself in the mystical
 demands he makes upon the members of the Order.

In other respects Luther’s requirements not only fall far short of
what is necessary, but even the ordinary monastic duties fare badly at
his hands. If it is the interior word which is to guide the various
actions, and if without the “spirit” they are nothing, indeed would be
better left undone, then what place is left to the common observance of
the monastic Rule and the numerous pious practices, prayers and acts of
virtue to which a regular time and place are assigned?

From the standpoint of his pseudo-mystical perfection he criticises
with acerbity the recitation of the Office in Choir; also the
“unreasonableness and superstition of pious founders of benefices,”
who, as it were, “desired to purchase prayers” at certain fixed times.
Founders of a monastery ought not to have prescribed the recitation of
the Office in Choir on their behalf; by so doing they wished to secure
their own salvation and well-being before God, instead of making their
offerings purely for God’s sake.[699] Such remarks plainly show that
he was already far removed in spirit from a right appreciation of his
Order. He had also expressed himself against the mendicancy practised
by the Augustinians, and yet the Order was a Mendicant Order and the
collecting of alms one of its essential statutes.[700]

Nevertheless, again and again he speaks in lofty language of the
value of the lowliness of the religious life. Now especially, he
writes in the Commentary on Romans under the influence of his mystical
“_theologia crucis_,” it is a good thing to be a religious, better
than during the last two centuries. Why? Because now monks are no
longer so highly esteemed as formerly, they are hated by the world and
looked upon as fools, and are “persecuted by the bishops and clergy”;
therefore the religious ought to rejoice in their cross and in their
state of humiliation.[701]

 Whoever takes vows imposes upon himself “a new law” out of love for
 God; he voluntarily renounces his own freedom in order to obey his
 superiors, who stand in God’s place. The vows are for him indissoluble
 bonds, but bonds of love.[702] “Whoever wishes to enter the cloister,”
 he says,[703] “because he thinks he cannot otherwise be saved, ought
 not to enter. We must beware of exemplifying the proverb: ‘despair
 makes a monk’; despair never made a monk, but only a devil.[704] We
 must enter from the motive of love, namely, because we perceive the
 weight of our sins and are desirous of offering our Lord something
 great out of love; for this reason we sacrifice to Him our freedom,
 assume the dress of a fool, and submit to the performance of lowly

 His complaints are very serious and certainly somewhat prejudiced,
 owing partly to his new theology, partly to his wrong perception of
 the facts.

 “Whoever keeps his vows with repugnance is behaving
 sacrilegiously.”[705] Even he who is animated by the best of motives
 scarcely acts from perfect love, but when this is entirely absent,
 he says, “we sin even in our good works.”[706] Many who fulfil their
 religious duties merely from routine and with indolence “are apostates
 though they do not appear to be such,” and in his excessive zeal he
 continues: “the religious in the Church to-day are held captive under
 a Mosaic bondage, and together with them the clergy and the laity
 because they cling to the doctrines of men (‘_doctrinæ hominum_’);
 we all believe that without these there is no salvation, but that
 with these salvation is assured without any further effort on our

 On the same occasion he allows himself to be carried away from the
 subject of monasticism to the complaints regarding the too frequent
 Feasts and Fasts and the formalism pervading the whole life of the
 Church, to which we referred on page 227. Returning to the monks, he
 declares that he finds the interior man so greatly lacking in them
 that (without considering the many exceptions) they were the cause of
 the hostile attitude which the world assumed towards them. “Instead
 of rejoicing in shame, they are only monks in appearance; but I know
 that if they possessed love they would be the happiest of men, happier
 than the old hermits, because they are daily exposed to the cross and
 contempt. But to-day there is no class of men more presumptuous than

 At the same time, however, he blames the religious who are too zealous
 for his liking, saying: “they are desirous of imitating the works
 of the Saints and are proud of their Founders and Fathers; but this
 is merely trumpery, because they wish to do the same great works
 themselves and yet neglect the spirit; they are like the Thomists
 and Scotists and the other sects, who defend the writings and words
 of their pet authors without cultivating the spirit, yea rather
 stifling it ... but they are hypocrites, as Saints they are not holy,
 as righteous they are anything but righteous, and, while ostensibly
 performing good works, they, in fact, do nothing.”[709]

 And what sort of works do the religious perform? “In the same way
 that nowadays all workmen are as lazy as though they were asleep all
 day, so religious and priests sleep at their prayer from laziness,
 both spiritually and corporally; they do everything with the utmost
 indolence ... this fault is so widespread that there is hardly one
 who is free from it.”[710] “Now,” he exclaims passionately, speaking
 of the monks and clergy, “almost all follow their vocation against
 their will and without any love for it.” “How many there are who would
 gladly let everything go, ceremonies, prayers, rules and all, if the
 Pope would only dispense from them, as indeed he could.” “We ought to
 perform these things willingly and gladly, not from fear of remorse of
 conscience, or of punishment, or from the hope of reward and honour.
 But supposing it were left free to each one to fast, pray, obey, go
 to church, etc., I believe that in one year everything would be at an
 end, all the churches empty and the altars forsaken.”[711] He does
 not remember that shortly before he had been complaining that outward
 observances were taken too seriously so that they were looked upon as
 necessary means of salvation (“_sine his non esse salutem_”), that
 “the whole of religion was made to consist in their fulfilment to the
 neglect of the actual commandments of God, of faith and love,” and
 that the “lower classes observe them under the impression that their
 eternal salvation depends upon them.”[712] These complaints, too, he
 had redoubled when speaking of the religious.

 According to the testimony of the religious and theological literature
 of that day, the monastic Orders were better instructed in the
 meaning and importance of outward observances than Luther here
 assumes. Expounders of the Rules and ascetical writers speak an
 altogether different language. In the monasteries the distinction
 between the observances which were enjoined under pain of grievous
 sin and were, therefore, under no circumstances to be omitted, and
 such as were binding under the Rule but not under pain of sin, was
 well understood, and a third category was allowed, viz. such as were
 undertaken voluntarily, for instance, the construction of churches,
 or their adornment. It was also known, and that not only in religious
 houses—for the popular manuals of that day set it forth clearly—that
 for an action to be good the motive of perfect love, which Luther
 represented as indispensable,[713] was not requisite, but that other
 religious motives, such as the fear of punishment of sin, were
 sufficient though it was, indeed, desirable to rise to a higher level.
 Above all, it was well known that the disinclination towards what is
 good, which springs from man’s sensual nature like the temptation to
 indolence which still held sway even in religious, are not sin but may
 be made the subject of a meritorious struggle.

 The formalism which it is true was widely prevalent in the religious
 life at that time was due not so much to a faulty conception of the
 religious state as to the inadequate fulfilment of its obligations
 and its ideals. This deterioration was not likely to be remedied by
 the application of the mistaken idea which Luther advocated, namely,
 that not the slightest trace of human weakness must be allowed to
 enter into the performance of good works, otherwise they became
 utterly worthless. His stipulation that everything must be done
 from the highest “_spiritus internus_,” could only be the result
 of his extravagant mysticism. The Rules of no Order, not even that
 of the Augustinians, went so far as this. Yet the Rule of Luther’s
 Augustinian Congregation did not seek a merely outward, Pharisaical
 carrying out of its regulations, but a life where the duties of the
 religious state were performed in accordance with the inward spirit of
 the Order.

 Luther’s master, the Augustinian Johann Paltz, emphasises this spirit
 very strongly in the instructions which he issued for the preservation
 of the true ideals of the Order.

 “Love,” he there says, “pays more heed to the inward than to the
 outward, but the spirit of the world mocks at what is inward and
 sets great value on what is outward.” He opposed the principles
 tending to formalism and the deterioration of the religious life
 and shows himself to be imbued with a true and deep appreciation of
 his profession. He entitles that portion of his treatise directed
 against deviations from the Rule: “Concerning the wild beasts who
 lay waste the religious life.” He writes with so much feeling and in
 so vivid a manner that the reader of to-day almost fancies that he
 must have foreseen the approaching storm and the destruction of his
 Congregation. He scourges those who allow themselves to be led away by
 the appearance of what is good (“_sub specie boni_”), who introduce
 new roads to perfection according to their own ideas and require men
 to do what lies beyond them; they thus endanger the carrying out of
 the ordinary good works and practices of the religious life which all
 were able to perform. This, he says, was a temptation of the enemy
 from the beginning, who seduced such innovators to rely upon their own
 ideas and to consider themselves alone as good, wise and enlightened.
 “If the Babylonians [this is the name he gives to the instigators of
 such disturbances] force their way into the Order and if they obtain
 the upper hand, that will be the end of discipline, or at least it
 will be undermined; but if the spirits of Jerusalem [the city of
 Peace] retain the mastery, then the religious life will flourish and
 its development will not be hindered by certain defects which are, as
 a matter of fact, unavoidable in this life.” These words are found
 in a book written by the clear-sighted and zealous Augustinian and
 published at Erfurt the year before Luther begged for admittance at
 the gate of the Augustinian monastery of that town.[714] The monk of
 liberal views was already on the point of becoming to his Order one of
 the “Babylonians” above referred to.

 Luther wished to introduce into the religious life the confused ideas
 begotten of his mysticism, at the expense of the observances which all
 were bound to fulfil. In this connection it should not be forgotten
 that Tauler, the teacher whom Luther so much admired, had shown that
 religious obedience if exercised in the right spirit was capable, by
 the observance of the Rule in small matters, of leading to greater
 perfection than could be arrived at by the performance of great works
 or by contemplation when these were self-chosen. Luther must have been
 acquainted with the instructive story which Tauler relates and which
 was often told in conventual houses, of the Child Jesus and the nun.
 The Divine Child appears to her during her meditation, but, on being
 suddenly called away to perform some allotted task and obeying the
 summons, as a reward she finds on her return the Divine Child wearing
 a still more benign and friendly countenance, and her visitor is also
 at pains to point out to her that the humble task for which she had
 left Him, pleases Him better than the meditation in which she had been
 engaged when He first appeared to her.[715]

 Teachers of Tauler’s stamp inculcated on monks and laymen alike the
 highest esteem for small and insignificant tasks when performed in
 compliance with obedience to the duties of one’s state, whatever it
 might be. It was unfair to the religious life and at the same time
 to true Christian mysticism when Luther at a later date, after his
 estrangement from the Order, in emphasising the works which please God
 in the secular life, saw fit to speak as though this view had hitherto
 been unknown.

 Tauler had summed up the doctrine already well known in earlier ages
 in the beautiful words: “When the most trivial work is performed in
 real and simple obedience, such a work of an obedient man is nobler
 and better and more pleasing to God and is more profitable and
 meritorious than all the great works which he may do here below of
 his own choice.”[716] Every artisan and peasant is able, according to
 Tauler, to serve God in perfect love in his humble calling; he need
 not neglect his work to tread the paths of sublime charity and lofty
 prayer. The mystic illustrates this also by a little anecdote: “I know
 one who is a very great friend of God and who has been all his days a
 farm-labourer, for more than two score years. He once asked our Lord
 whether he should leave his calling and go and sit in the churches.
 But the Lord said No, and that he was to earn his bread with the sweat
 of his brow and thus honour His true and noble Blood. Every man must
 choose some suitable time by day or by night during which he may go to
 the root of things, each one as best he can.”[717]

Luther, during the time of his crisis, was not only a monk of
dangerously wide views, but he was also inclined to take liberties in

There is a great dearth of information with regard to the way in which
Luther practised at that time the virtues of the religious life, and
from his own statements we do not learn much. He complains, in 1516,
to his friend Leiffer, the Erfurt Augustinian: “I am sure and know
from my own experience, from yours too, and, in fact, from the general
experience of all whom I have seen troubled, that it is merely the
false wisdom of our own ideas which is the origin and root of our
disquietude. For our eye is evil, and, to speak only of myself, into
what painful misery has it brought me and still continues to bring

Luther, whose capacity for work was enormous, flung himself into
the employments which pressed upon him. He reserved little time for
self-examination and for cultivating his spiritual life. In addition
to his lectures, his studies, the direction of the younger monks, his
sermons, whether at the monastery or in the parish church, and the
heavy correspondence which devolved on him as Vicar, he also undertook
various other voluntary labours. Frequently he had several sermons to
preach on the same day, and with his correspondence he was scarcely
able to cope. This was merely a prelude to what was to come. During the
first years after his public apostasy he himself kept four printing
presses at work, and besides this had a vast amount of other business
to attend to. His powers of work were indeed amazing.

In 1516 in a letter he tells his friend Lang of his engagements. “I
really ought to have two secretaries or chancellors. I do hardly
anything all day but write letters.... I am at the same time preacher
to the monastery, have to preach in the refectory and am even expected
to preach daily in the parish church. I am Regent of the Studium [i.e.
of the younger monks] and Vicar, that is to say Prior eleven times
over [i.e. of the eleven houses under his supervision]; I have to
provide for the delivery of fish from the Leitzkau pond and to manage
the litigation of the Herzberg fellows [the monks] at Torgau; I am
lecturing on Paul, compiling an exposition of the Psalter and, as I
said before, writing letters most of the time.”

“It is seldom,” he adds, “that I have time for the recitation of the
Divine Office or to celebrate [Mass], and then, too, I have my peculiar
temptations from the flesh, the world and the devil.”[719]

Thus at the time he was constantly omitting Office in Choir, the
Breviary and the celebration of Mass, or performing these sacred duties
in the greatest haste in order to get back to his business. We must
dwell a little on this confession, as it represents the only definite
information we have with regard to his spiritual life. If, as he says,
he had strong temptations to bewail, it should have been his first
care to strengthen his soul by spiritual exercises and to implore
God’s assistance in the Holy Mass and by diligence in Choir. Daily
celebration of Mass had been earnestly recommended by teachers of the
spiritual life to all priests, more particularly to those belonging to
religious Orders. The punctual recitation of the canonical Hours, i.e.
of the Breviary, was enjoined as a most serious duty not merely by
the laws of the Church, but also by the constitutions of the Augustine
Congregation. The latter declared that no excuse could be alleged for
the omission, and that whoever neglected the canonical Hours was to be
considered as a schismatic. It is incomprehensible how Luther could
dispense himself from both these obligations by alleging his want of
time, as, according to his Rule, spiritual exercises especially in the
case of a Superior, took precedence of all other duties, and it was for
him to give an example to others in the punctual performance of the

There was probably another reason for his omitting to celebrate Mass.

He felt a repugnance for the Holy Sacrifice, perhaps on account of his
frequent fits of anxiety. He says, at a later date, that he never took
pleasure in saying Mass when a monk; this statement, however, cannot be
taken to include the very earliest period of his priestly life, when
the good effects of his novitiate were still apparent, for one reason
because this would not agree with the enthusiasm of his letter of
invitation to his first Mass.

 Religious services generally, he says in 1515-16 to the young monks,
 with a boldness which he takes little pains to conceal, “are in fact
 to-day more a hindrance than a help” to true piety. Speaking of the
 manner of their performance he says with manifest exaggeration, that
 it is such as to be no longer prayer. “We only insult God more when we
 recite them.... We acquire a false security of conscience as though
 we had really prayed, and that is a terrible danger!”[720] Then he
 goes on to explain “Almost all follow their calling at the present
 day with distaste and without love, and those who are zealous place
 their trust in it and merely crucify their conscience.” He speaks
 of the “superstitious exercises of piety” which are performed from
 gross ignorance, and sets up as the ideal, that each one should be at
 liberty to decide what he will undertake in the way of priestly or
 monastic observances, among which he enumerates expressly “celibacy,
 the tonsure, the habit and the recitation of the Breviary.”[721]
 We see from this that he was not much attached even to the actual
 obligations of his profession, and we may fairly surmise that such
 a disposition had not come upon him suddenly; these were rather the
 moral accompaniments of the change in his theological views and
 really date from an earlier period. We can also recognise in them the
 practical results of his strong opposition to the Observantines of the
 Order, which grew into an antagonism to all zeal in the religious
 life and in the service of God, and even to the observance of the
 duties, great or small, of one’s state of life.

 With his mystical idealism he demands, on the other hand, what is
 contrary to reason and impossible of attainment. Prayer, according
 to him, if rightly performed, is the “most strenuous work and calls
 for the greatest energy”; “the spirit must be raised to God by the
 employment of constant violence”; this must be done “with fear
 and trembling,” because the biblical precept says: “work out your
 salvation with fear and trembling”; in short, it is, he declares,
 “the most difficult and most tedious affair” (“_difficillima et
 tædiosissima_”).[722] Only then is it not so “when the Spirit of God
 takes us beneath His wings and carries us, or when misfortune forces
 us to pray from our hearts.”

 He can describe graphically the lukewarmness and distractions which
 accompany the recitation of the Divine Office, and can do so from
 experience if we may trust what he says in 1535 of himself: “I have in
 my day spent much time in the recitation of the canonical Hours, and
 often the Psalm or Hour was ended before I knew whether I was at the
 beginning or in the middle of it.”[723]

 The ironical description which he gives in 1516 of those who pray
 with a good intention runs as follows:[724] “They form their good
 intention and make a virtue of necessity. But the devil laughs at them
 behind their backs and says: ‘put on your best clothes, Kitty, we are
 going to have company.’[725] They get up and go into the choir and
 say to themselves [under the impression that they are doing something
 praiseworthy]: ‘See, little owl, how fine you are, surely you are
 growing peacock’s feathers!’[726] But I know you are like the ass
 in the fable, otherwise I should have taken you for lions, you roar
 so; but though you have got into a lion’s skin, I know you by your
 ears! Soon, whilst they are praying, weariness comes over them, they
 count up the pages still to be gone through, and look at the number
 of verses to see if they are nearly at the end. Then they console
 themselves [for their tepidity] with their Scotus, who teaches that
 a virtual intention suffices and an actual intention is unnecessary.
 But the devil says to them: ‘excellent, quite right, be at peace and
 secure!’ Thus we become,” so the amusing description concludes, “a
 laughing-stock to our enemy.”

 He thinks he has found a way out of the dualism which formerly
 tormented him, and has become more independent. But what has he found
 to replace it? Merely fallacies, the inadequacy and inconsistency
 of which are hidden from him by his egotism and self-deception.
 “This good intention,” he says of the teaching of Scotus—which was
 perfectly correct, though liable to be misunderstood, as it certainly
 was by Luther—“is not so easy and under our own control, as Scotus
 would have it to our undoing; as though we possessed free will to
 make good intentions whenever we wish! That is a very dangerous and
 widespread fallacy, which leads us to carelessness and to snore in
 false security.” We must, on the contrary, he continues, prostrate in
 our cell, implore this intention of God’s mercy with all our might
 and wait for it, instead of presumptuously producing it from within
 ourselves; and in the same way after doing any good works we must not
 examine whether we have acted wickedly by deed or omission (“_neque
 quid mali fecimus aut omisimus_”), but with what interior fervour and
 gladness of heart we have performed the action.[727]

 As the recitation of the Hours in the monastery was one of the duties
 of the day in the same way as the recitation of the Breviary and
 Office in Choir is to-day, i.e. an obligation which expired when the
 day was over, it is rather surprising to hear it said of Luther that,
 at a later period, “after the rise of the Evangel [i.e. actually
 during his conflict with the Church], he frequently shut himself up in
 his cell at the end of the week and recited, fasting, all the prayers
 he had omitted, until his head swam and he became for weeks incapable
 of working or hearing.” This strange tale about Luther reads rather
 differently in Melanchthon’s version which he reports having had
 from Luther himself: “At the commencement it was Luther’s custom on
 the days on which he was not obliged to preach to spend a whole day
 in repeating the Hours seven times over [i.e. for the whole week],
 getting up at 2 a.m. for that purpose. But then Amsdorf said to him:
 ‘If it is a sin to omit the Breviary, then you sinned when you omitted
 it. But if it is not a sin, then why torment yourself now?’ Then when
 his work increased still more he threw away the Breviary.”[728] The
 latter statement may indeed be true, as Luther himself says in his
 Table-Talk: “Our Lord God tore me away by force ‘_ab horis canonicis
 an. 1520_’ [?] when I was already writing much.” In this same passage
 he again mentions how he recited the whole of the Office for the
 seven days of the week on the Saturday and adds the historic comment,
 that, owing to his fatigue from the Saturday fast and consequent
 sleeplessness, they had been obliged to dose him with “Dr. Esch’s
 haustum soporiferum.”[729] It is therefore quite possible that his
 statements as to the circumstances under which he dispensed himself
 from the Breviary may contain some truth; all the facts point to the
 violent though confused struggle going on in the young Monk’s mind.

 Yet Luther speaks ably enough in 1517 of the urgent necessity of
 spiritual exercises, more particularly meditation on the Scriptures,
 to which the recitation of the Office in Choir was an introduction:
 “As we are attacked by countless distractions from without, impeded by
 cares and engrossed by business, and as all this leads us away from
 purity of heart, only one remedy remains for us, viz. with great zeal
 to ‘exhort each other’ (Heb. iii. 13), rouse our slumbering spirit
 by the Word of God, reading the same continually, and hearing it as
 the Apostle exhorts.” Not long after he is, however, compelled to
 write: “I know right well that I do not live in accordance with my

The exertions which his feverish activity entailed avenged themselves
on his health. He became so thin that one could count his ribs, as
the saying is. His incessant inward anxieties also did their part in
undermining his constitution.

The outward appearance of the Monk was specially remarkable on account
of the brilliancy of his deep-set eyes, to which Pollich, his professor
at the University of Wittenberg, had already drawn attention (p. 86).
The impression which this remarkable look, which always remained with
him, made on others, was very varied. His subsequent friends and
followers found in his eyes something grand and noble, something of the
eagle, while, on the other hand, some remarks made by his opponents on
the uncanny effect of his magic glance will be mentioned later. Anger
intensified this look, and the strange power which Luther exerted over
those who opposed him, drew many under the spell of his influence and
worked upon them like a kind of suggestion.[731]

Many remarked with concern on the youthful Luther’s too great

His then pupil Johann Oldecop describes him as “a man of sense,”
but “proud by nature.” “He began to be still more haughty,” Oldecop
observes, when speaking of the incipient schism.[732] He will have it
that at the University. Luther had always shown himself quarrelsome and
disputatious. Oldecop could never forget that Luther, his professor,
never held a disputation which did not end in strife and quarrels.[733]
Luther’s close connection with Johann Lang, the Augustinian and rather
freethinking Humanist, was also remarked upon, he says. We know from
other sources that Lang encouraged Luther in his peculiar ideas,
especially in his mysticism and in his contempt for the theology of the

3. Luther’s Ultra-Spiritualism and calls for Reform. Is
Self-improvement possible? Penance

It is clear from the above, that the passionate zeal for reform which
inspired the Augustinian proceeded chiefly from his pseudo-mysticism.
It would, however, be incorrect to attribute all this zeal simply to
mysticism, but neither would it be in accordance with the facts of
history were we to deny the connection between his repeated complaints
and calls for reform and his spiritualistic ideas.

It may be worth while to listen here to what the youthful Luther had to
say of the reforming notions which already inspired him, for it opens
up a wide horizon against which his psychology stands out in clear
relief. Plans so far-reaching can only have been the result of the
exaggerated and one-sided spiritualistic point of view, from which he
regarded the perversity of the world at large. The following passages
show what were the motives which urged him on. He declared it to be the
duty of ecclesiastical superiors to show more indulgence to those who
scorn their position and “the rights and privileges of the Church,”
and this from the motive of mystical resignation; theologians ought to
teach, in place of their traditional science, how we are “humbly to
sigh after grace”; philosophy must for the future be silent because it
is nothing but “the wisdom of the flesh”; lay authorities, moreover,
who now begin to see through our wickedness, ought to seize upon the
temporalities of the Church in order that she may be set free to devote
herself entirely to the interior Christian life. Luther’s view of the
position and actual character of the worldly powers at that time was
absolutely untrue to life, and one that could have been cherished only
by a mystic looking out on the world from the narrow walls of his cell.
A strange self-sufficiency, of which he himself appears to have been
utterly unaware, and which is therefore all the more curious, was at
the root of these ideas.

Such a tone unmistakably pervades the projects of reform expressed not
only in the Commentary on Romans, but also in his exposition of the
Psalms; but a comparison of these two works shows the increased stress
which Luther lays upon his own opinion in the later work, and the still
greater inconsideration with which he rejects everything which clashes
with his views, a fact which proves that Luther was progressing. In his
Commentary on Romans he appeals formally to the “apostolic authority”
of his Doctor’s degree, when giving vent to the most unheard-of
vituperation of the highest powers, ecclesiastical and lay. He declares
it to be his duty to reprove what he finds amiss in all, and almost
at the same moment denounces the bishops who defend the rights of the
Church as “_Pharaonici_, _Sathanici_, _Behemotici_”; so convinced is he
that their supposed abuse of power entitles him to reprove them.[734]

The language in which the mystic unhesitatingly passes the severest
possible judgments could scarcely be stronger.

 “We have fallen under a Jewish bondage ... our preachers have
 concealed from the people the truth regarding the right way of
 worshipping God, and the Apostles must needs come again to preach to

 “When shall we at last listen to reason,” he cries,[736] “and
 understand that we must spend our valuable time more profitably [than
 in the study of philosophy]? ‘We are ignorant of what is necessary,’
 thus we should complain with Seneca, ‘because we merely learn what
 is superfluous.’ We remain ignorant of what might be of use to us
 while we busy ourselves with what is worse than worthless.”[737] He
 speaks thus because others were not alive to the state of things, or
 had not the courage to open their mouths: “Perhaps they would not be
 believed, but I have spent years in these studies, have seen and heard
 much and know that they are vain and perverse” (“_studium vanitatis
 et perditionis_”). Therefore let us rise and destroy them! “We must
 learn to know Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified.... Is it not a strange
 madness to praise and belaud philosophy, a doctrine which is merely
 the perverse wisdom of the flesh advocated by so-called wise men and

 “Those fools” who do not even know what grace is.... “Who can
 bear with their blasphemous ideas?” “They do not know what sin or
 remission of sin is.” “Our theologians see sins only in works, and do
 not teach us how to change our minds and how to implore grace with
 humble sighing.... They make proud men, men who after due performance
 of their works look on themselves as righteous, and seek not to
 fight against their passions. That is the reason why Confession
 is of so little use in the Church and why backsliding occurs so

 His hatred for theology leads him to make the following false and
 bitter charges: “The Scholastics teach that it is only necessary to
 fulfil the law outwardly, in deed, not with the heart; they do not
 even show how this is to be done, and thus the faithful are left in
 the impossibility of doing good, because they will never be able
 to fulfil the commandments unless they do so with the heart. These
 teachers do not even stretch out a finger towards the fulfilment of
 the law, I mean, they do not make its fulfilment depend even in the
 slightest on the heart, but merely on outward acts. Hence they become
 vain and proud.”[739] An esteemed Protestant historian of dogma, in a
 recent work, speaks of Luther’s knowledge of Scholasticism as follows:

 “Luther does not appear to have been acquainted with the Schoolmen
 of the Middle Ages, more especially Thomas of Aquin. About this
 statement, which Denifle constantly repeats, there seems to me to be
 no doubt.”[740]

 The Wittenberg Professor makes use of scathing reproofs such as had
 never before been heard. A good deal of his criticism was justifiable,
 and he was certainly not wrong in applying it judiciously in his own
 special domain to much that had hitherto been accepted as true. It
 is refreshing to those engaged in historical research to note how he
 cuts himself adrift from the legends of mediæval hagiography, and
 how he writes on one occasion requesting Spalatin to copy out some
 particulars for him from Jerome’s book which he might use for a sermon
 on St. Bartholomew, “for the fables and lies of the ‘_Catalogus_’
 and ‘_Legenda aurea_’ make my gorge rise.”[741] Criticism of
 ecclesiastical conditions was also quite permissible when made in the
 right way and in the proper quarters; examples of such criticism were
 not wanting among the saintly mediæval reformers, and they might have
 been acceptable to the authorities of the Church, or, at any rate,
 could not have been repudiated by them.

 But when Luther is dealing with the faults of the clergy, secular
 or regular, he looks at everything with a jaundiced eye as being
 saturated with arrogance, avarice and every vice, and seems to fancy
 all have become traitors to God’s cause. His love of exaggeration and
 his want of charity override everything, nor do these faults disappear
 with advancing years, but become still more marked. Never was there
 an eye more keen to detect the faults of others, never a tongue more
 ready to amplify them. And yet he, who does not scruple to support his
 fierce and passionate denunciations by the coarsest and most unfair
 generalisations, is himself the first to admit in his Commentary on
 Romans that: “There are fools who put the fault they have to find
 with a priest or religious to the account of all and then abuse them
 all with bitterness, forgetting that they themselves are full of

 He announces to his hearers in 1516 that, “to-day the clergy are
 enveloped in thick darkness”; “it troubles no one that all the vices
 prevail among the faithful, pride, impurity, avarice, quarrelling,
 anger, ingratitude” and every other vice; “these things you may do as
 much as you like so long as you respect the rights and liberties of
 the Church! but if you but touch these, then you are no longer a true
 son and friend of the Church.” The clergy, he continues, have received
 many possessions and liberties from the secular princes, but now they
 are quarrelling with their patrons and insisting on their exemptions:
 “Bad, godless men strut about with the gifts of their benefactors and
 think they are doing enough when they mutter a few prayers on their
 behalf,” “and yet Paul when describing the priest and his duties
 never even mentioned prayer[!]. But what he did mention, that no one
 complies with to-day.... They are priests only in appearance....
 Where do you find one who carries out the intention of the Founders?
 Therefore they deserve that what they have received [from the princes]
 should be taken away from them again.”[743]

 “As a matter of fact,” the mystic continues, quite manifestly
 conveying a hint to the secular authorities, “it were better, and
 assuredly safer, if the temporalities of the clergy were placed under
 the control of the worldly authorities ... then they would at least be
 obliged to stand in awe of others and would be more cautious in all

 “Up to now the laity have been too unlettered, and from ignorance have
 allowed themselves to be led, though full of complaints and bitterness
 against the clergy. But now they are beginning to be aware of the
 secret of our iniquity (‘_nosse mysteria iniquitatis nostræ_’) and
 to examine into our duties.... In addition to this, it seems to me
 that the secular authorities fulfil their obligations better than our
 ecclesiastical rulers. They rigorously punish theft and murder, at
 least when the lawyers do not intervene with their artfulness. The
 Church authorities, on the other hand, only proceed against those
 who infringe their liberties, possessions and rights, and are filled
 with nothing but pomp, avarice, immorality and disputatiousness.” In
 the course of this strong outburst, which gives us an insight into
 the working of his mind, he goes on to brand the higher clergy as
 “whited sepulchres” and as the “most godless breakers of the law,”
 who purposely promote only stupid fellows to the priesthood, or even
 to the most exalted offices. Here the intemperance of his language is
 already that of his later days, though a year was yet to elapse before
 he published his Indulgence theses.

 Strictures on the use of Indulgences occur, however, among his
 criticisms dating from this time. He attacks the “unlearned preachers”
 whose promises of Indulgences in return for donations for the building
 of churches, or similar pious objects, attract the people, though the
 latter are “altogether careless about fulfilling the duties of their
 calling.” He lays to the charge of the Pope and the Bishops not merely
 the real abuses in the preaching of Indulgences—as though they had
 been aware of them all—but also the making of Indulgences to depend
 on offerings; all the Bishops are, however, on the path to hell, and
 intent on seducing the people from the true service of God.[744]

 He had, as we have seen, praised the worldly authorities at the
 expense of the ecclesiastical dignitaries, and now we find him
 introducing into his theological lectures a strange eulogy of
 Frederick, his Elector: “You, Prince Frederick, are yet to be guided
 by a good angel, therefore be on the watch. How greatly have you
 already been tried by injustice, and how rightly might you have
 taken up arms! You have suffered, you remained peaceable. I wonder,
 were you calling to mind your sins, and wishing thereby to confess
 them and do penance?” To this the mystic himself prudently replies:
 “I know not,” and adds: “Perhaps it was merely the fear of possibly
 getting the worse.”[745] The exhortations he sees fit to address
 to his sovereign are directed not so much against selfishness or
 other faults, but rather against his supposed excessive piety; he is
 blamed for frequently postponing audiences on the plea that he must
 be present at prayers or Divine Service, and yet, Luther thinks, “we
 ought to be resigned and indifferent to go wherever the Lord calls
 us and not attach ourselves obstinately to anything”;[746] another
 complaint was that the Elector was too much given to imitating the
 Bishop in the collecting of relics. The Elector’s love for rare relics
 was indeed notorious, and, as a matter of fact, Luther himself was of
 service to the Elector in this very matter at the time when Staupitz
 was negotiating for him at St. Ursula’s in Cologne. We hear of this
 in a letter, in which Luther also sends his thanks to the Elector for
 his present of a new cowl (_cucullus_) “of really princely cloth.”[747]

 When, after his second course of lectures on the Psalms, Luther
 commenced the publishing of an amended edition he dedicated this, his
 first effort in biblical exegesis, to the Elector, with a preface in
 the form of a panegyric couched in the most fulsome language.[748]
 The Elector, Luther tells him, possessed all the qualities of a good
 ruler in no common degree; his love of learning not only rendered him
 immortal himself, but conferred this quality on all those who were
 permitted to belaud him. Under his rule “pure theology triumphed”;
 secular rulers had, by promoting learning, taken precedence of
 spiritual dignitaries, “for the Church’s exuberant riches and her
 powerful influence did not avail her much.”[749] Would that there were
 other such temporal princes as Frederick, who, as Staupitz had said,
 was able to discourse on Holy Scripture as learnedly and acutely as
 the Pope himself (“_vel sanctissimum et summum pontificem deceret_”);
 whose utterance bore witness to the “sagacity of his judgment,” filled
 Luther with love for such a sovereign and made him strong in the
 defence of Holy Scripture against all Scotists, Thomists, Albertists
 and Moderns (Nominalists). It was only on account of his opponents,
 who scoffed at the Bible and wished to replace God’s Word by their
 own, that he had been induced to quit his beloved solitude and
 retirement; indeed, he felt quite unworthy to wear the Doctor’s cap
 which the Prince had so kindly bought for him,[750] and merely did so
 from obedience; the Prince had been more careful for him than he was
 for himself, had upheld him in his professorship and not allowed him
 to suffer expulsion, however much he (Luther) had desired to suffer
 this at the hands of his enemies.

 The clever eulogist appears soon to have gained for himself great
 favour at Court. Barely two months after the letter spoken of, he
 requests of the sovereign, in the name of his priory, permission “for
 the monks to build a chamber outside the walls in the moat.” The
 intention was to erect a privy in the town moat for the use of the
 monastery, which was situated close to the walls. At the same time he
 begs that a black _cappa_ (habit) which had been promised him in 1516
 or 1517 might now be bestowed upon him, and refers to his dedication
 of the Psalter as perhaps deserving some such reward; he also asks
 the Prince to include in his gift a white cloak, which he might
 perchance have merited by the “Apostle,” i.e. by his Commentary on
 the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, upon which he was at that
 time engaged.[751]

 Such little touches often reveal the spiritual atmosphere in which
 a man moves, and by which he is influenced, quite as well as more
 important matters.

The frightful accusations which Luther brings forward in his Commentary
on Romans against the state of morals in Rome belong to a somewhat
earlier period; their tone is such as to lead one to fear the worst for
the author’s submission to the highest authorities in the Church. The
language St. Bernard employed, though he too reproved the immorality of
the Papal residence, is quite different in tone from the arrogant words
of the Wittenberg Doctor; in the former the most grievous reproofs
are mitigated by the warm esteem the saint displays for authority as
such, and by filial affection for the Church; in the latter there is
nothing but bitterness. Such outbursts of spite confirm our previous
observations concerning the results of Luther’s journey to Rome. His
indignation with what he had seen or heard during his visit to Rome of
the moral conditions under Alexander VI and Julius II became gradually
more apparent.

“At Rome,” he exclaims, “they no longer recognise any restrictions
on their liberty, everything is set aside by means of dispensations.
They have arrogated to themselves freedom of the flesh in every

“Rome to-day has sunk back to its old heathen state,” where, as Paul
says, licentiousness prevailed.[753]

“To-day Rome drags the whole world with her into the puddle; she far
exceeds in unbridled luxury even ancient Rome, and stands in even
greater need of apostolic messengers from God than she did at the
beginning. My only hope is that these may come to her in friendly guise
and not to execute stern justice.”[754]

“We may well be amazed at the thick darkness of these times.” “It
matters nothing to the Church authorities though you be steeped in
all the vices on the list drawn up by Paul (2 Tim. iii. 2 ff.); the
sins may cry to Heaven for vengeance, but that does not matter, you
are still looked upon as the most devout of Christians so long as
you respect the rights and liberties of the Church.”[755] “We have
mere phantom priests, who are well supported by phantom revenues. The
priests are such only in name.”[756] “Those who ought to keep order are
themselves the most godless transgressors,”[757] etc.

Pride, everywhere, is, he thinks, the main cause of the corruption of
the times. The humility of Christ is forgotten, and each one wants to
exalt himself and amend others instead of himself.

The worst kind of pride, he constantly declares, is that which exalts
its own good works in the sight of God. This spiritual overbearing is
the reason why the world is filled with the heresy of the Pelagians;
the sovereign efficacy of grace is not recognised.[758] Almost the
whole Church is overturned because men have put their trust in the
deceptive doctrines of the Schoolmen, which are opposed to grace, “for
owing to this, all commit sin with impunity ... and have lost all sense
of fear.”[759]

In 1514 we hear Luther asserting, that of the three vices, sensuality,
anger and pride, pride was the most difficult to overcome, a warning
which his own experience had confirmed all too surely. “This vice,” he
complains, “arises even from victory over the other vices.”[760] One
wonders whether he is speaking here from personal experience.

We may ask a similar question with regard to the two other faults
mentioned by him, anger and sensuality. Putting aside anger, the
effects of which upon himself he frequently admits, we find that he
also gives an answer concerning the third temptation. He writes in 1519
of the experiences of his earlier years with regard to sensuality: “It
is a shameful temptation, I have had experience of it. You yourselves
are, I fancy, not ignorant of it. Oh, I know it well, when the devil
comes and tempts us and excites the flesh. Therefore let a man consider
well and prove himself whether he is able to live in chastity, for when
one is on heat, I know well what it is, and when temptation then comes
upon a man he is already blind,” etc.[761]

In his later years he also refers to the “very numerous temptations”
which he underwent at the monastery, and of which he complained to
his confessor; the more he fought against them, the stronger they

What he says of falling into sin is very instructive from the
psychological point of view. It serves as a stepping-stone to his views
on penance.

 “Even to-day,” he writes in his Commentary on Romans where he deals
 with hardened sinners, “God allows men to be tempted by the devil,
 the world and the flesh until they are in despair, choosing thus to
 humble His elect and lead them to put their trust in Him alone without
 presuming upon their own will and works. Yet He often, especially in
 our day, incites the devil to plunge His elect into dreadful sins
 beneath which they languish, or at least allows the devil ever to
 hinder their good resolutions, making them do the contrary of what
 they wish to do, so that it becomes plain to them that it is not they
 who will or perform what is good. And yet by means of all this God
 leads them against their expectations [to His grace] and sets them
 free while they are sighing because they desire and do so much that is
 evil, and are unable to desire and do the good they would. Yea, it is
 thus that God manifests His strength and that His name is magnified
 over the whole earth.”[763] This passage is scored in the margin of
 the original MS. Was it his intention to include himself among those
 who are always hindered by the devil from doing what is good, or
 even among those whom he plunges into dreadful sins, who despair and
 are then at last led by God to His grace and become promoters of the
 glory of His name? A certain resemblance which this description bears
 to other passages in which he recounts his temptations, despair and
 supposed deliverance and election makes this seem possible, though it
 is by no means certain.

 We are more inclined to apply to him a remarkable description, which
 he gives in another passage of the Commentary on Romans, of the
 devil’s action on a man whom he wishes to lead astray. Man’s fall
 under the bondage of sin and his resuscitation by grace engage his
 attention often and with a singular intensity, but generally speaking
 he makes no mention of contrition or satisfaction, but only of a
 covering over with the righteousness of Christ. The description in
 question, given in eloquent language, is based on the well-known
 passage in Romans iii. 28: “We account a man to be justified by
 faith without the works of the law.” This is the verse in which
 Luther later, in his translation, interpolated the word “alone” (“by
 faith alone”), but on which he does not as yet bestow any particular
 attention. On the contrary, he commences his exposition of this text
 with the statement: “Righteousness must, indeed, be sought by works,
 but these are not the works of the law because they are performed by
 grace and in faith.”[764]

 He goes on to mention four classes of men who are led away by the
 devil in their esteem and practice of works.[765] The first he draws
 away from all good works and entangles in manifest sin. The second,
 who think themselves righteous, he makes tepid and careless. The
 third, also righteous in their own eyes, he renders over-zealous
 and superstitious, so that they set themselves up as a class apart
 and despise others; they have been mentioned over and over again in
 the above pages, in recounting his warfare with the Observants, the
 “Spirituals,” the proud self-righteous, etc.

 The fourth and last class might possibly include himself.

 “The fourth class consists of those who, at the instigation of
 the devil, desire to be free from any sin, pure and holy. But as
 they, nevertheless, feel that they commit sin and that all they do
 is tainted with evil, the devil terrifies them to such an extent
 with fear of the judgments of God and scruples of conscience that
 they almost despair. He is acquainted with each one’s disposition
 and tempts him accordingly. As they are zealous in the pursuit of
 righteousness the devil is unable to turn them aside from it so
 readily. Therefore he sets himself to fill them with enthusiasm,
 so that they wish to free themselves too speedily from all trace
 of concupiscence. This they are unable to do, and consequently he
 succeeds in making them sad, downcast and faint-hearted, yea, even in
 causing them unendurable anxiety of conscience and despair.”

 When prescribing the remedy, he begins to use the first person plural.
 “Therefore there is nothing for us to do but to make the best of
 things and to remain in sin. We must sigh to be set free, hoping in
 God’s mercy. When a man desires to be cured he may, if in too great a
 hurry, have a worse relapse. His cure can only take place slowly and
 many weaknesses must be borne with during convalescence. It is enough
 that sin be displeasing, though it cannot be altogether expelled. For
 Christ bears everything, if only it is displeasing to us; His are the
 sins not ours, and, here below, His righteousness is our property.”

We may take that portion of the description where the first person is
used as an account of his own state. Here he is describing his own
practice. This passage, which in itself admits of a good interpretation
and might be made use of by a Catholic ascetic, must be read in
connection with Luther’s doctrine that concupiscence is sin. Looking
at it in this light, the sense in which he understands displeasure
with sin becomes clear, also why, in view of the ineradicable nature
of concupiscence, he is willing to console himself with the idea
that “Christ bears it all.” His dislike of concupiscence is entirely
different from contrition for sin. The young Monk frequently felt
himself oppressed by an aversion for concupiscence, but of contrition
for sin he scarcely ever speaks, or only in such a way as to raise
serious doubts with regard to his idea of it and the manner in which
he personally manifested it, as the passages about to be quoted will
show. The practice of making Christ’s righteousness our own, saying,
“His are the sins,” etc., he does not recommend merely in the case of
concupiscence, but also in that of actual sins; it should, however, be
noted that the latter may quite well be displeasing to us without there
being any contrition in the theological sense, particularly without
there being perfect contrition.

Luther is here describing the remedy which he himself applies in place
of real penance, wholesome contrition and compunction. It is to replace
all the good resolutions which strengthen and fortify the will, and all
penitential works done in satisfaction for the guilt of sin, and this
remedy he begins to recommend to others.

His contempt for good works, for zeal in the religious life and for any
efforts at overcoming self encourage him in these views. His new ideas
as to man’s inability to do anything that is good, as to his want of
free will to fight against concupiscence and the sovereign efficacy of
grace and absolute predestination, all incline him to the easy road of
imputation; finally, he caps his system by persuading himself that only
by his new discoveries, which, moreover, are borne out by St. Paul’s
Epistle to the Romans, can Christ receive the honour which is His due
and His Gospel come into its rights. Such was Luther’s train of thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

The characteristic position which Luther assumed in his early days with
regard to penance and the motive of fear, must be more closely examined
in order to complete the above account.

The Monk frankly admits, not once but often, that inward contrition
for sin was something foreign, almost unknown, to him. The statements
he makes concerning his confessions weigh heavily in the scale when we
come to consider the question of his spiritual life.

 In a passage of his Commentary on the Psalms where he would in the
 ordinary course have been obliged to speak of contrition he refrains
 from doing so on the plea that he has had no experience of it, and
 refers his hearers to the Confessions of St. Augustine.[766]

 He admits in his Commentary on Romans that he had struggled with
 himself (“_ita mecum pugnavi_”) because he could not believe that
 contrition and confession really cleansed him from sin, as he had
 always been conscious of sin, viz. concupiscence, still continuing
 within him.[767]

 In 1518 he writes: because the evil inclination to sin always remains
 in man “there are none, or at least very few, in the whole world
 who have perfect contrition, and I certainly admit this in my own

 According to the statements he made in later years concerning his
 fruitless attempts to awaken contrition within himself, and concerning
 his relations with his confessor, he must have taken the wrong road at
 an early period in his religious life; the more earnestly he sought
 to conceive contrition, he says, the greater was his trouble of mind
 and remorse of conscience. “I was unable to accept (‘_non poteram
 admittere_’) the absolutions and consolations of my confessors, for I
 thought to myself, who knows whether I can put faith in these words
 of comfort?”[769] This sentence occurs in the passage mentioned
 above, where he states how he had been tranquilised by the repeated
 exhortations of his preceptor to recall God’s command and cultivate
 the virtue of hope.[770] It is true he here ascribes the original
 cause of his trouble of mind to the teaching he had received “in the
 schools, which had such a bad effect on him that he could not endure
 to hear the word joy mentioned.” It is clear that he is here speaking
 with an ulterior purpose, namely, with a view to supporting his
 polemic against the Catholic Church (“_meo exemplo et periculo moniti
 discite!_”). But it is highly probable that his idea of concupiscence
 as sin tended to confuse his conception of contrition, and made
 confession and contrition painful to him.

At a later date he opposed the Catholic doctrine of contrition on
account of his aversion to the motive of fear of the judgments of God.

The Church had always taught that perfect contrition was that which
proceeded from a real love of God, but that contrition from a holy
fear of God was salutary because it involved a turning away from sin
and a beginning of love. Luther, however, at the very commencement of
his new teaching, was at pains to exclude fear as an inspiring motive.
He was determined to weed it out of the religious life as unworthy of
the service of God, quite unmindful of the fact that it was expressly
recommended by reason, by the Fathers of the Church and by the very
words of the Bible.

 He says, for instance, in 1518 in his sermon on the Ten Commandments,
 that in contrition for sin no place is to be assigned to fear.
 The contrition which must be aroused is, he says, to proceed from
 love alone, because that which is based on fear is always outward,
 hypocritical and not lasting.[771]

 In an earlier sermon he mentions the two kinds of contrition, namely,
 that which, according to him, is the only true one, “out of love of
 justice and of punishment,” or which, in other words, hates sin from
 the love of God, and that which springs from fear, which he says is
 artificial and not real, and to which he gives the nickname “gallows
 grief.” The latter, he says, does not make us abhor sin, but merely
 the punishment of sin, and were there no punishment for sin it would
 at once cease.[772] Hence he misapprehends the nature of imperfect
 contrition, for this in reality does not desire a return to sin.

 He begins his tract on Penance in 1518 with the assertion, that
 contrition from the motive of fear makes a man a still greater
 sinner, because it does not detach the will from sin, and because
 the will would return to sin so soon as there was no punishment to
 be feared.[773] This contrition, he says, his opponents among the
 theologians defend; they could not understand that penance is sweet
 and that this sweetness leads to an abhorrence and hatred of sin.[774]

 As he had banished contrition from a motive of fear, he should have
 laid all the more stress upon that which springs from love. But here
 he was met by a difficulty, namely, that concupiscence still exists
 in man and draws him towards sin, or rather, according to Luther’s
 ideas, of itself makes him a real sinner, so that no actual turning
 away from sin can take place in the heart. What then was to be done?
 “You must,” he says, “cast yourself by prayer into God’s hands so that
 He may account your contrition as real and true.” “Christ will supply
 from His own what is wanting in yours.”[775] Thus we again arrive at
 imputation, at a mere outward covering over of the defect of inward

If he looked upon penance and confession in this light, then, indeed,
they were not of a nature to satisfy and tranquilise him.[776] We may,
however, remark that in the time of his great crisis an earnest and
devout fear of God the Judge would have availed him more than all his
extravagant mysticism with its tendency to cast off the bonds of fear
and abolish the keeping of the law.

We shall not be wrong if we assume that the frequent states of
terror—of which the cause lay in his temperament rather than in his
will—had their part in his aversion to fear and to the idea of God’s
judgment. He felt himself impelled to escape at any cost from their

Other passages which Luther wrote at a later date on fear and
contrition read rather differently and seem to advocate fear as a
motive. We see thereby how hard he found it to cut himself adrift from
the natural and correct view taught by theology. He declares, for
instance, later, with great emphasis, that “true penance begins with
the fear and the judgment of God.”[777]

He betrays in this, as in other points, his confusion and

He is utterly unfair to the Church and to her theology when he falsely
asserts that she had admitted contrition from fear alone, i.e. to the
utter exclusion of love; every kind of fear, he says maliciously, was
recognised as sufficient for receiving absolution, even that “gallows
grief” which abhorred sin solely from fear of punishment and with
the intention of returning to it if no punishment existed (_timor
serviliter servilis_, as it was subsequently termed by theologians).
This reproach did not strike home to the theologians or to the Church.
Theological and moral treatises there were in plenty, which, like the
Fathers of the Church and the mediæval Doctors, taught in express terms
the advantage of perfect contrition and exhorted the faithful to it.
Indeed, most of the popular manuals merely taught that sin must be
repented of for God’s sake, from love of God, without even mentioning
simple attrition. It was not only generally recognised and taken for
granted that the lower, imperfect contrition, i.e. that which arises
from fear, in order to be a means of forgiveness in the Sacrament of
Penance, must include a firm resolution of not returning to sin, but it
was set down as requisite that this so-called “servile” fear (_timor
servilis_) must be coupled with a commencement of love of God, or else
be of such a nature as to lead up to it. It is sufficient to open the
works in circulation in the theological schools at the turn of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to see at what length and with what
care these questions were discussed. It cannot, however, be denied that
some few of the later scholastic theologians—among them, significantly
enough, Johann Paltz, preceptor in the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt
at the time Luther entered—did not express themselves clearly, and
that some other theologians defended views which were not correct.[779]

But whether such theologians exerted a positive or negative influence
on Luther we do not know. One thing is certain, however, namely, that
he was influenced chiefly by his own desire to free himself from what
he looked upon as an oppressive yoke and that his self-sufficiency
and ignorance speedily led him to fancy it his duty to confront the
theology of previous ages with his epoch-making discovery regarding the
doctrine of fear and penance.

This process is confirmed by a letter of his addressed to Staupitz,
his esteemed Superior, at a time when the commotion caused by his
Indulgence theses was in full swing, which gives us a picture of his
mental state.[780] In it he says:

 “The word which I hated most in all the Scriptures was the word
 penance. Nevertheless [when performing penance and going to
 confession], I played the hypocrite bravely before God, attempting
 to wring out of myself an imaginary and artificial love.” He
 also grumbles here about the “works of penance and the insipid
 satisfactions and the wearisome confession”; such a prominent position
 ought not to be assigned to them; the ordinary instructions and
 the _modus confitendi_ contained nothing but the most oppressive
 tyranny of conscience. He had always felt this, and in his trouble
 it had been to him like a ray from heaven when Staupitz once told
 him: “True penance is that only which begins with the love of God
 and of justice, and what the instructions represent as the last and
 crown of all is rather the commencement and the starting-point of
 penance, namely, love.” This precious truth he had, on examination,
 found to be absolutely confirmed by Holy Scripture (“_s. scripturæ
 verba undique mihi colludebant_”)—Luther had a curious knack of
 finding in Scripture everything he wanted—even the Greek term for
 penance, metanoia, led up to the same conclusion, whereas the Latin
 “_pœnitentiam agere_” implied effort and was therefore misleading.
 Thus Staupitz’s words had turned the bitter taste of the word penance
 into sweetness for him. “God’s commandments always become sweet to us
 when we do not merely content ourselves with reading them in books; we
 must learn to understand them in the wounds of our Sweetest Saviour.”

The Monk was well aware that such mystical utterances were sure
of finding a welcome echo with the influential Vicar of the whole
Augustinian Congregation, himself a mystic. He sends him with
the same letter his long Latin defence of his Indulgence theses
(_Resolutiones_), which Staupitz was to forward to the Pope.

He at the same time expresses some of his thoughts concerning the
connection between his doctrine of penance and the controversy on
Indulgences which had just commenced, probably hoping that Staupitz
would also acquaint Rome with them. These we cannot pass over without
remark in concluding our consideration of Luther’s doctrine on penance.
The Indulgence-preachers, he says, must be withstood because they
are overturning the whole system of penance; not only do they set up
penitential works and satisfaction as the principal thing, but they
extol them, solely with a view to inducing the faithful to secure
the remission of satisfaction by their rich offerings in return for
Indulgences. Therefore he has been obliged, though unwillingly, to
emerge from his retirement in order to defend the doctrine that it is
better to make real satisfaction than merely to have it remitted by
securing an Indulgence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Staupitz, a shortsighted man, was not to be convinced that, by Luther’s
teaching and the commotion which it was arousing, the very existence
of the Augustinian Congregation was endangered and the Catholic Church
herself menaced in her dogma and discipline.

Instead of watching over the communities committed to his care he
spent his days in travelling from place to place, a welcome and witty
guest at the tables of great men, devoting his spare time to writing
pious and learned books. The sad instances of disobedience, dissension
and want of discipline which became more and more prevalent in his
monasteries did not induce him to lay a restraining hand upon them.
Too many exemptions from regular observance and the common life had
already been permitted in the Congregation in the past, and of this the
effect was highly pernicious.[781] Luther himself had scarcely ever had
the opportunity of acquiring any practical experience of the monastic
life at its best during his conventual days; it offered no splendid
picture which might have roused his admiration and enthusiasm. This
circumstance must be taken into account in considering his growing
coldness in his profession and his gradually increasing animosity
towards the religious life. He and Staupitz helped to destroy the fine
foundation of Andreas Proles at a time when it already showed signs of

On one occasion, when referring to his administration, Staupitz told
Luther, that at first he had sought to carry out his plans for the good
of the Order, later he had followed the advice of the Fathers of the
Order, and, then, entrusted the matter to God, but, now, he was letting
things take their course. Luther himself adds when recounting this:
“Then I came on the scene and started something new.”[782] It is a
proof of the weakness which was coming upon the institution, that a man
holding principles such as Luther was advocating in his lectures and
sermons should have been allowed to retain for three years the position
of Vicar with jurisdiction over eleven monasteries. When he laid down
his office in the Chapter at Heidelberg in 1518 we do not even learn
that the Chapter carried out the measures which had meanwhile been
decreed against Luther by the General of the Augustinians at Rome.
The election of the Prior of Erfurt, Johann Lang, Luther’s friend and
sympathiser, as his successor, and the Heidelberg disputation in the
Augustinian monastery of that town, of which the result was a victory
for the new teaching, show sufficiently the feelings of the Chapter.
This election was the final triumph of the non-Observantine party.

A later hand has added against Lang’s name in the Register of the
University of Erfurt the words “_Hussita apostata_,”[783] intended to
stigmatise his falling away to the Lutheran heresy comparable only with
that of Hus. On leaving the Order he wrote an insulting vindication
of his conduct, in which among other things he says all the Priors
are donkeys. While he was Prior at Erfurt, a Prior was appointed at
Wittenberg whom Luther, as Rural Vicar, raised to this dignity almost
before he had finished his year of noviceship. Only Luther’s strange
power over men can account for the fact that so many of the monks were
convinced that he was animated by the true Spirit of God in his new
ideas with regard to conventual life and religion generally, and even
in his overhauling of theology. Later, when the Catholic Church had
spoken, they did not see their way to retract and submit, but preferred
to marry. Staupitz himself, the inexperienced theologian, deceived
by his protégé’s talents, often said to him: “Christ speaks through
you.” It is true, that, at a later date, he sternly represented to
Luther that he was going too far. After most of the monks had ranged
themselves under the new standard, their apathetic and disappointed
Superior withdrew to a Catholic monastery at Salzburg, where he expired
in peace in 1524 as a Benedictine Abbot.

       *       *       *       *       *

At that period Church discipline in Germany was already ruined. The
man who was responsible for the downfall reveals a mental state
capable of going to any extreme when in 1518 he writes to his fatherly
friend Staupitz in almost fanatical language: “Let Christ see to it
whether the words I have hitherto spoken are mine or His. Without His
permission no Pope or Prince can give a decision (Cp. Prov. xxi. 1)....
I have no temporal possessions to lose, I have only my weak body,
tried by many labours. Should they desire to take my life by treachery
or violence they will but shorten my existence by a few hours. I am
content with my sweetest Saviour and Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Him I will praise as long as life lasts (Ps. ciii. 33). Should others
refuse to sing with me, what matters it? Let them howl alone if it
pleases them. May our Lord Jesus Christ ever preserve you, my sweetest

The ultra-spiritualism which had cast its spell over Luther
was compounded, as we may see from what has gone before, of
pseudo-mysticism, bad theology, a distaste for practical works of
piety, a tendency to polemics and a misguided zeal for reform, not to
speak of other elements. This it was which animated him during the
years which preceded his public apostasy. On the other hand, in the
subsequent struggle against the Church it is rather less apparent,
being, to a certain extent, kept within bounds by the conflict he was
obliged to wage in his own camp against dangerous fanatics such as
Münzer and Carlstadt. Nevertheless, his spirit had not been entirely
tamed, and, when occasion arose, as we shall see later, was still
capable of all its former violence.

The Monk, at the time he was at work on the Epistle to the Romans, by
dint of studying the Bible and Tauler, had, as he thought, attained
to the mystical light of a higher knowledge, and begins accordingly
to speak of hearing the inward voice. He tries to persuade himself
that he hears this voice speaking in his soul; he looks upon it as so
imperative that he is obliged, so he says, to do what it commands,
“whether it be foolish or evil or great or small.”[785] Thus the way
is already paved for his mysterious comprehension of the Scriptures
through the inner word, as his letter to Spalatin shows;[786] we have
also here the beginning of what he supposed was the ratification of his
Divine mission as proclaimer of the new teaching.

Even before much was known of the data furnished by the Commentary on
Romans regarding Luther’s development, Fr. Loofs, on the strength of
the fragments which Denifle had made public, ventured to predict that,
on the publication of the whole work, it would be seen, “that Luther
was at that time following a road which might justly be described as a
peculiar form of quietistic mysticism.”[787] To-day we must go further
and say that Luther’s whole character was steeped in ultra-spiritualism.

Johann Adam Möhler says of Luther’s public work as a teacher: “In his
theological views he showed himself a one-sided mystic.”[788] He adds,
“had he lived in the second century Luther would have been a gnostic
like Marcion, with some of whose peculiarities he is in singular
agreement,” a statement which is borne out by what we have seen of
Luther’s work so far. Neander, the Protestant historian, also compares
the growth and development of Luther’s mind with that of Marcion.[789]
Neander looks upon Marcion as Luther’s spiritual comrade, in fact as a
Protestant, because he, like the founder of Protestantism, emphasised
the evil in man everywhere, set up an antagonism between righteousness
and grace, between the law and the gospel, and preached freedom from
the works of the law. This Marcion did by appealing to the gnosis,
or deeper knowledge. Luther likewise bases his very first utterances
on this teaching and appeals to the more profound theology; he
possesses that seductive enthusiasm which Marcion also displayed at the
commencement of his career. Soon we shall see that Luther, again like
Marcion, brushed aside such books of the Bible as stood in his way; the
canon of Holy Scripture must be brought into agreement with his special
conception of doctrine, and he and his pupils amplified and altered
this doctrine, even in its fundamentals, to such a degree, that the
words which Tertullian applied to Marcion might quite fit Luther too:
“_nam et quotidie reformant illud_,” i.e. their gospel.[790] Luther
at the very outset obscured the conception of God by his doctrine
of absolute predestination to hell. Marcion, it is true, went much
further than Luther in obfuscating the Christian teaching with regard
to God by setting up an eternal twofold principle, of good and evil.
The Wittenberg Professor never dreamt of so radical a change in the
doctrine respecting God, and in comparison with that of Marcion this
part of his system is quite conservative.

We find in Luther, from the beginning of his career, together with his
rather gloomy ultra-spiritualism, another characteristic embracing
a number of heterogeneous qualities, and which we can only describe
as grotesque. Side by side with his love of extremes, we find an
ultra-conservative regard for the text of Holy Scripture as he
understood it, no matter how allegorical his pet interpretation might
be. Again, the pious mysticism of his language scarcely agrees with
the practical disregard he manifested for his profession. To this must
be added, on the one hand, his tendency to spring from one subject
to another, and the restlessness which permeates his theological
statements, and on the other, his ponderous Scholasticism. Again we
have the digressions in which he declaims on public events, and,
besides, his incorrect and uncharitable criticisms; here he displays
his utter want of consideration, his ignorance of the world and finally
a tempestuous passion for freedom in all things, which renders him
altogether callous to the vindication of their rights by others and
makes him sigh over the countless “fetters of men.”[791] All this,
taken in connection with his unusual talent, shows that Luther, though
a real genius and a man of originality, was inclined to be hysterical.
How curiously paradoxical his character was is revealed in his
exaggerated manner of speech and his incessant recourse to antithesis.

With an unbounded confidence in himself and all too well aware of the
seduction exercised by his splendid talents, he yet does not scruple to
warn others with the utmost seriousness against their “inclinations
to arrogance, avarice and ambition,” and to represent pride as the
cardinal sin.[792] He is keen to notice defects in earlier theologians,
but an unhappy trait of his own blinds him to the fact that the Church,
as the invincible guardian of truth, must soon rise up against him.

He has already discovered a new way of salvation which is to
tranquilise all, and yet he will be counted, not among those who feel
sure of their salvation, but among the pious who are anxious and
troubled about their state of grace, “who are still in fear lest they
fall into wickedness, and, therefore, through fear, become more and
more deeply steeped in humility in doing which they render God gracious
to them.”[793] The assurance of salvation by faith alone, the _sola
fides_ of a later date, he still protests against so vigorously, that,
when he fancies he espies it in his opponents in any shape or form, he
attacks them as “a pestilential crew,” who speak of the signs of grace
and thereby, as he imagines, lull men into security.

The last words show that the process of development is not yet ended.
What we have considered above was merely the first of the two stages
which he traversed before finally arriving at the conception of his
chief doctrine.[794]



1. “The Commencement of the Gospel Business.” Exposition of the Epistle
to the Galatians (1516-17)

LUTHER’S friends and admirers were at a later date loud in their
praise of the lectures on the Epistle to the Romans and on that to the
Galatians which he commenced immediately after, and looked upon these
as marking the dawn of a new epoch in theology. Luther himself, with
more accuracy, designated the first disputations, of which we shall
come to speak presently, as the “commencement of the gospel business.”

 Melanchthon in his short sketch of Luther’s life speaks pompously of
 these lectures and manifests his entire unacquaintance with the old
 Church and the truths for which she stood.

 “In the opinion of the wise and pious the light of the new teaching
 first broke forth, after a long and dark night, in the Commentary on
 these Epistles. There Luther pointed out the true distinction between
 the law and the gospel; there he refuted the Pharisaical errors which
 then ruled in the schools and in the pulpits, namely, that man was
 able to obtain forgiveness of sin by his own efforts and could be
 justified before God by the performance of outward works. He brought
 back souls to the Son of God, he pointed to the Lamb, Who bore the
 guilt of our sins. He demonstrated that sin was forgiven for the sake
 of the Son of God and that such a favour ought to be accepted in
 faith. He also shed a great light on the other articles of faith.”[795]

 Mathesius, Luther’s pupil and eulogist, in his sermons on Luther,
 points out, in the following passionate words, the importance of the
 lectures and disputations held by his master: “Dr. Luther in all
 his lectures and disputations chiefly treats of this question and
 article, whether the true faith by which we are to live a Christian
 life and die a happy death is to be learned from Holy Scripture or
 from the godless heathen Aristotle, on whom the Doctors of the Schools
 attempted to base the doctrine of the Romish Church and of the monks.”
 “This is the chief issue between Dr. Luther and the Sophists....
 Young Dr. Luther has solemnly sworn, in due form, a true, public and
 godly oath that he will hold fast by the holy and certain Scriptures;
 that it was more reasonable that we should rely in matters of faith
 and conscience on the godly Scriptures rather than stake our souls
 and consciences on the teaching of darksome Scotus, foolish Albertus,
 questionable Thomas of Aquin, or of the Moderns or Occamists.... He
 insisted upon this in his writings and disputations before ever he
 began his controversy on Indulgences. For this reason he was at the
 time scolded as a heretic and condemned by many because he scorned all
 the High Schools and the learned men.... Although both his brethren
 and other monks questioned all this, yet they were unable to bring
 forward anything effective against him and his weighty reasoning.”[796]

Luther’s sermons and letters of the years 1516 to 1518 bear witness to
the commotion caused by his theological opinions.

The “new theology” which was being proclaimed at Wittenberg was
discussed with dismay, particularly at Erfurt and in the more
conservative monasteries. Andreas Carlstadt, Luther’s colleague at the
University, and Peter Lupinus, a former professor at Wittenberg, were
at first among his opponents, but were speedily won over. Carlstadt
indeed, as his 152 theses of April, 1517 show, even went further on
the new lines than Luther himself.[797] Another of his colleagues at
the University, who at a later date proved a more trustworthy ally,
was Nicholas Amsdorf. Schurf, the lawyer, was one of his most able
patrons among the lay professors. Spalatin, Court Chaplain, vigorously
but prudently advocated his cause with the Elector. At Wittenberg
Luther’s party speedily gained the ascendant. The students were full of
enthusiasm for the bold, ready and combative teacher, whose frequent
use of German in his lectures—at that time an unheard-of thing—also
pleased them.[798] The disputations, particularly, could thus be
conducted with less constraint and far more forcibly.

It is hard to say how far Luther realised the danger of the path he was

He wrote to Dr. Christopher Scheurl, a Nuremberg lawyer, who was also
one of his early patrons and protectors, thanking him in the humble
words of exaggerated humanistic courtesy for the praise he had bestowed
upon him: he (Luther) recognized that the favour and applause of the
world were dangerous for us, that self-complacency and pride were man’s
greatest enemies. He, nevertheless, tells him in the same letter that
Staupitz, at one time his Superior and Director, had repeatedly said
to him much to his terror: “I praise Christ in you, and I am forced to
believe Him in you.”[799]

In his exultation at the great success which he had achieved at
Wittenberg he says joyfully in the spring of 1517 in a letter to a
friend: “Our theology and St. Augustine are progressing happily and
prevail at our University (‘_procedunt et regnant_’, cp. Ps. xliv. 5).
Aristotle is at a discount and is hurrying to everlasting destruction.
People are quite disgusted with the lectures on the Sentences [of Peter
Lombard], and no one can be sure of an audience unless he expounds this
theology, i.e. the Bible or St. Augustine, or some other teacher of
note in the Church.”[800]

He continued to rifle St. Augustine’s writings for passages which
were apparently favourable to his views. He says, later, that he ran
through the writings of this Father of the Church with such eagerness
that he devoured rather than read them.[801] He certainly did not allow
himself sufficient time to appreciate properly the profound teachings
of this, the greatest Father of the Church, and best authority on
grace and justification. Even Protestant theologians now admit that he
quoted Augustine where the latter by no means agrees with him.[802]
His own friends and contemporaries, such as Melanchthon, for instance,
admitted the contradiction existing between Luther’s ideas and those
of St. Augustine on the most vital points; it was, however, essential
that this Father of the Church, so Melanchthon writes to one of his
confidants, should be cited as in “entire agreement” on account of the
high esteem in which he was generally held.[803] Luther himself was,
consciously or unconsciously, in favour of these tactics; he tampered
audaciously with the text of the Doctor of the Church in order to
extract from his writings proofs favourable to his own doctrine; or at
the very least, trusting to his memory, he made erroneous citations,
when it would have been easy for him to verify the quotations at their
source; the only excuse to be alleged on his behalf in so grave a
matter of faith and conscience is his excessive precipitation and his

Luther’s lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians commenced on October
27, 1516.

These he published in 1519 in an amended form,[804] whereas those on
the Epistle to the Romans never appeared to him fit for publication.
Notes of the original lectures on Galatians are said to be in the
possession of Dr. Krafft of Elberfeld, and will in all probability
appear in the Weimar edition of Luther’s works.[805]

The lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews and on that to Titus
followed in 1517. Notes of the former, as stated above, exist at Rome,
and their approaching publication will throw a clearer light on the
change in the theological views of their author.

In the printed Commentary on Galatians Luther’s teaching appears
in a more advanced form. His development had not only progressed
during the course of the lectures, but the time which elapsed before
their publication brought him fresh material which he introduced
into the Commentary. It would be essential to have them in the form
in which they were delivered in order to be able to follow up the
process which went forward in his mind. It is nevertheless worth
while to dwell on the work and at the same time to compare parallel
passages from Luther’s other Commentary on Galatians—to be referred
to immediately—were it only on account of the delight he takes in
referring to this Epistle, or of the fact that his exposition of it
runs counter to the whole of tradition.

Luther ever had the highest opinion of the Epistle to the Galatians
and of his own Commentaries on it. At a later date he says jokingly:
“_Epistola ad Galatas_ is my Epistle to which I have plighted my troth;
my own Katey von Bora.”[806] Melanchthon praises Luther’s Commentary on
Galatians in a more serious fashion and says, it was in truth “the coil
of Theseus by the aid of which we are enabled to wander through the
labyrinth of biblical learning.”[807]

Besides the shorter Commentary on Galatians published in 1519 there is
also a much longer one compiled from notes of Luther’s later lectures,
made public in 1535 by his pupil Rörer, together with a Preface by
Luther himself.[808] Protestants consider it as “the most important
literary product of his academic career” and, in fact, as “the most
important of his theological works.”[809] In what follows we shall
rely, as we said before, on the sources which afford the most accurate
picture of his views, i.e. on both the shorter and the longer redaction
of his Commentary on Galatians, especially where the latter repeats in
still more forcible language views already contained in the former.

It is well to know that, in his expositions of the Epistle to the
Galatians, Luther’s antagonism to the Catholic doctrine of Works,
Justification and Original Sin is carried further than in any other of
his exegetical writings, until, indeed, it verges on the paradoxical.
Nowhere else does the author so unhesitatingly read his own ideas into
Holy Scripture, or turn his back so completely on the most venerable
traditions of the Church.

 For instance, he shows how God by His grace was obliged to renew,
 from the root upwards, the tree of human nature, which had fallen and
 become rotten to the core, in order that it might bear fruit which
 was not mere poison and sin and such as to render it worthy to be
 cast into hell fire. Everything is made to depend upon that terrible
 doctrine of Divine Predestination, which inexorably condemns a portion
 of mankind to hell. It never occurred to him that this doctrine of a
 Predestination to hell was in conflict with God’s goodness and mercy,
 at least, he never had the least hesitation in advocating it. The only
 preparation for salvation is the predestination to heaven of the man
 upon whom God chooses to have mercy, seeing that man, on his part,
 is utterly unable to do anything (“_unica dispositio ad gratiam est
 æterna Dei electio_”). Man is justified by the faith, which is wrought
 by God’s gracious Word and Spirit, but this faith is really confidence
 in God’s pardoning grace through Christ (“_Sufficit Christus per
 fidem, ut sis iustus_”). In the printed Commentary on Galatians we
 already have Luther’s new doctrine of the absolute assurance of
 salvation by faith alone.

 This later discovery he insists upon, with wearisome reiteration, in
 the Commentary on Galatians as the only means of bringing relief to
 the conscience. We shall have occasion later (ch. x., 1, 2) to speak
 of the origin of this new element in his theology, which he made his
 own before the publication of the first Commentary on Galatians.

 He entirely excludes love from this faith, even the slightest
 commencement of it, in more forcible terms than ever. “That faith
 alone justifies,” he writes, “which apprehends Christ by means of
 the Word, and is beautified and adorned by it, not that faith which
 includes love.... How does this take place, and how is the Christian
 made so righteous?” he asks. “By means of the noble treasure and
 pearl, which is called Christ, and which he makes his own by faith.”
 “Therefore it is mere idle, extravagant talk when those fools, the
 Sophists [the scholastic theologians] chatter about the _fides
 formata_, i.e. a faith which is to take its true form and shape
 from love.”[810] The relation which exists between this view of a
 mechanically operating faith (which moreover God alone produces in us)
 and the Lutheran doctrine of the exclusive action of God in the “dead
 tree” of human nature, cannot fail to be perceived. How could, indeed,
 such a view of God’s action admit of any real, organic co-operation on
 the part of man, even when exalted and strengthened by grace, in the
 work of his own eternal salvation by virtue of faith working through

 God’s mercy, Luther says, is made known to man by a whisper from above
 (the “secret voice”): Thy sins are forgiven thee; the perception of
 this is not, however, essential; probably, Luther recognised that this
 was altogether too problematical. Hence there is no escape from the
 fact that justification must always remain uncertain. The author of
 this doctrine demands, however, that man should induce in himself a
 kind of certainty, in the same way that he demands certainty in the
 acceptance of all facts of faith. “You must assume it as certain that
 your service is pleasing to God. But this you can never do unless you
 have the Holy Ghost.”[811] How are we to know whether we have the Holy
 Ghost? Again he answers: “We must accept as certain and acknowledge
 that we are the temple of God.”[812] “We must be assured that not our
 service only but also our person is pleasing to God.”[813] He goes
 on in this tone without in the least solving the difficulty.[814]
 He declares that we must risk, try, and exercise assurance. This,
 however, merely depends upon a self-acquired dexterity,[815] upon
 human ability, which, moreover, frequently leaves even the strongest
 in the lurch, as we shall see later from Luther’s own example and that
 of his followers.

 He goes so far in speaking of faith and grace in the larger Commentary
 on Galatians, as to brand the most sublime and holy works, namely,
 prayer and meditation, as “idolatry” unless performed in accordance
 with the only true principle of faith, viz. with his doctrine
 regarding justification by faith alone. This can be more readily
 understood when we consider that according to him, man, in spite of
 his resistance to concupiscence, is, nevertheless, on account of the
 same, guilty of the sins of avarice, anger, impurity, a list to which
 he significantly adds “_et cetera_,”[816]

 He had expressed himself in a similar way in the shorter Commentary,
 but did not think his expressions in that book strong enough
 adequately to represent his ideas.[817]

 As he constantly connects his statements with what he looks upon as
 the main contentions of St. Paul in the Epistles to the Romans and the
 Galatians, we may briefly remind our readers of the interpretation
 which the older theology had ever placed upon them.

 The Apostle Paul teaches, according to the Fathers and the greatest
 theologians of the Middle Ages, that both Jews and heathen might
 attain to salvation and life by faith. He proves this by showing that
 the heathen were not saved by the works of nature, nor the Jews by the
 works of the Mosaic Law; but he does not by any means exclude works
 altogether as unnecessary for justification. In the important passage
 of the Epistle to the Romans (Rom. i. 17) where Paul quotes the words
 of Habacuc: “The just man liveth by faith,” there was no call to
 define more clearly the nature of justifying faith, or to explain
 to what extent it must be a living faith showing itself in works in
 charity and in hope. To exclude works from faith, as Luther assumes
 him to do, was very far from his intention in that passage. Nor is
 this idea involved in the saying which Luther so frequently quotes
 (Rom. iii. 28): “We account a man to be justified by faith without
 the works of the law,” for here he merely excludes the works “of the
 law,” i.e. according to the context such works as do not rest on faith
 but precede faith, whether the purely outward works of the Mosaic
 ceremonial law, or other natural works done apart from, or before,
 Christ. We shall speak later of Luther’s interpolation in this passage
 of the word “alone” after “faith” in his translation of the Bible (see
 vol. v., xxxiv. 3).

 When St. Paul elsewhere describes more narrowly the nature of
 justifying faith (a fact to which both the Fathers and the theologians
 draw attention), he is quite emphatic in asserting that the sinner
 is not admitted by God to grace and made partaker of the heavenly
 promises merely by virtue of a dead faith, but by a real, supernatural
 faith which works by charity (Gal. v. 6). This in previous ages had
 been rightly understood to mean not merely an acceptance of the Word
 of God and the intimate persuasion of the remission of one’s sins,
 but a faith enlivened by grace with charity. In confirmation of this,
 other well-known passages of the New Testament were always quoted:
 “Wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” “Do
 you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?” “For
 even as the body without the spirit is dead: so also faith without
 works is dead.” “Labour the more that by good works you may make sure
 your calling and election.”[818]

Some important disputations which the youthful University Professor
held on theses and “paradoxa” formulated by himself prove how his
teaching was taking ever deeper root at Wittenberg and elsewhere. The
story of these disputations casts light on his peculiar tactics, viz.
to meet every kind of opposition by still more forcibly and defiantly
advancing his own propositions.

2. Disputations on man’s powers and against Scholasticism (1516-17)

In September, 1516, Luther arranged for a remarkable Disputation to
be held at Wittenberg by Bartholomew Bernhardi of Feldkirchen, in
Swabia, on the occasion of the latter’s promotion to be Lecturer on the
Sentences. From a confidential letter of Luther’s to Johann Lang, Prior
at Erfurt, we learn some particulars as to the motive which determined
the choice of the theses, which latter are still extant. From this we
see that the Disputation was held on account of those who “barked” at
Luther’s lectures. “In order to shut the mouths of yelping curs, and
at the same time to let the opinion of others be heard,” the theses on
man’s absolute inability to do what is good were purposely worded in a
most offensive form. This Disputation brought over Amsdorf, hitherto
an opponent, to Luther’s side. Amsdorf sent a copy of the theses to
Erfurt in order to elicit the opinion of the professors there. But,
fearing lest the storm he foresaw might be directed against Luther, he
deleted the superscription bearing his name (“_Sub eximio viro Martino
Luthero Augustiniano_,” etc.). At the Disputation Luther presided, a
fact which is all the more significant when we remember that he was not
at that time Dean.

Among the theses to be debated one runs as follows: Man is absolutely
unable by his own unaided efforts to keep the commandments of God; he
merely seeks his own, and what is of the flesh; he himself is “vanity
of vanities” and makes creatures, who in themselves are good, also to
be vain; he is necessarily under the dominion of sin, “he sins even
when doing the best he can; for of himself he is unable either to will
or to think.”[819]

It is not surprising that theses such as this again roused the
antagonism of the followers of the old theology. Some of Luther’s
former colleagues among the Erfurt monks considered themselves directly
challenged. Trutfetter and Usingen, two esteemed professors at Erfurt,
having dared to point out the difference between these theses and the
Catholic teaching as expressed in the works of Gabriel Biel, Luther
wrote to their Superior, Johann Lang: “Let them alone, let your
Gabrielists marvel at my ‘position’ (i.e. at the theses), for mine too
(i.e. Biel’s Catholic-minded supporters at Wittenberg) still continue
to be astonished.” “Master Amsdorf formerly belonged to them, but is
now half converted.” “But I won’t have them disputing with me as to
whether Gabriel said this, or Raphael or Michael said that. I know
what Gabriel teaches; it is commendable so long as he does not begin
speaking of Grace, Charity, Hope, Faith and Virtue, for then he becomes
a Pelagian, like Scotus, his master. But it is not necessary for me to
speak further on this matter here.”[820]

In the same letter he deals some vigorous blows at Gratian and the
highly esteemed Peter Lombard; according to him they have made of the
doctrine of penance a torment rather than a remedy; they took their
matter from the treatise “On True and False Penance,” attributed to
St. Augustine; but he had been compelled to deny that this “stupid
and foolish” work was by St. Augustine. It is, however, quite certain
that this spurious work did not constitute “the chief authority for
the mediæval doctrine of Penance,”[821] neither were its contents so
untheological as we are expected to believe.

Bernhardi, Luther’s very devoted pupil, who held the Disputation
mentioned above, has been considered by some to have been the first
priest of the evangelical faith to contract matrimony.[822] This,
however, is not quite correct as others preceded him. But Bernhardi,
as Provost of Kemberg, was one of the first to draw this practical
inference from the freedom of the gospel.

A second pupil, Franz Günther of Nordhausen, who was chosen by Luther
to conduct in the following year a Disputation which partook still
more of the nature of a challenge, became later a prominent partisan
of Lutheranism. His Disputation was held at Wittenberg, September 4,
1517, under his master’s presidency, with the object of obtaining the
degree of Baccalaureus Biblicus. His 97 theses faithfully echo Luther’s
teaching, particularly his antagonism to Aristotle and Scholasticism.
The theses were scattered abroad with the object of making converts.
At Erfurt and elsewhere the friends of the new opinions to whom Luther
despatched the theses were to work for the spread of the theological
revolution. As a result of this Disputation his Erfurt opponents again
complained that Luther was too audacious, that he was overbearing
in his assertions and was flinging broadcast wicked censures of the
Catholic doctors and their teaching. With these complaints, however,
the matter ended, no one daring to do more.

 At the end of Günther’s theses the following words occur in print:
 “In all these propositions our intention was to say nothing, and
 we believe we have said nothing, which is not in accordance with
 Catholic doctrine and with ecclesiastical writers.”[823] Yet in these
 propositions we read: “Man, who has become a rotten tree, can will and
 do only what is evil.... Man’s will is not free but captive” (thesis
 5). “The only predisposition to grace is the eternal election by God
 and predestination” (29). “From beginning to end we are not masters of
 our actions but servants” (39). “We do not become righteous by doing
 what is right, but only after we have become righteous do we perform
 what is right” (40). “The Jewish ceremonial law is not a good law,
 neither are the Ten Commandments, and whatever is taught and commanded
 with regard to outward observances” (82, 83). “The only good law is
 the love of God which is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost”

 The following will suffice to give an idea of Günther’s theses on
 the relation of Aristotle to Christian philosophy and theology;
 “Aristotle’s Ethics almost in its entirety is the worst enemy of
 grace” (41). “It is not merely incorrect to say that without Aristotle
 no man can become a theologian; on the contrary, we must say: he is no
 theologian who does not become one without Aristotle” (43, 44).

At Wittenberg the Disputation called forth enthusiastic applause among
both professors and students, and the defender was unanimously (“_uno
consensu dominorum_”) proclaimed a Bachelor. So deeply was Luther
concerned in this manifesto, that he expressed to Lang his readiness
to go to Erfurt and there personally to conduct the defence of all the
theses. He scoffs at those who had called them not merely paradoxical
but kakodoxical and even kakistodoxical (execrable).[824] “To us,” he
says, “they can only be orthodox.” He was very zealous in distributing
them far and wide, and asked Christoph Scheurl, the Humanist of
Nuremberg, to whom he sent some, to forward a copy to “our Eck ...
who is so learned and intellectual”; such was then his opinion of his
future adversary.[825]

Scheurl, and no doubt Luther’s other friends also, took care to spread
the bold theses. This Humanist, who was prejudiced in favour of Luther,
ventured to prophesy a great revolution in the domain of Divinity. At
the commencement of his reply to Luther’s letter he greets him with the
wish, that “the theology of Christ may be reinstated, and that we may
walk in His Law!”[826]

This Disputation at Wittenberg has been described by Protestants as a
“decisive blow struck at mediæval doctrine.”[827] That it was an open
challenge admits of no doubt. Reticence and humility were not among
Luther’s qualities. It would be to misrepresent him completely were we
to assign to him, as special characteristics, bashfulness, timidity and
love of retirement; however much he himself occasionally claims such
virtues as his. On the other hand, he also assures us that no one can
say of him that he wished the theses of this Disputation to be merely
“whispered in a corner.”

With this impulse to bring his new doctrines boldly before the world
may be connected his taking, about this time, in one of his letters the
name Eleutherius, or Free-spirited. This was his way of rendering into
Greek his name Luther, agreeably with the customs of the time.

Only a few weeks after the second Disputation which we have been
considering, he came forward with his Indulgence theses against Tetzel,
of which the result was to be another great Disputation. Disputations
seemed to him a very desirable method of arousing sympathy for his
ideas; these learned encounters with his opponents gave him a good
opportunity for displaying his fiery temper, his quick-wittedness,
his talent as an orator, his general knowledge, and particularly his
familiarity with the Bible.

But this is not yet the place to discuss the Indulgence theses against

The better to appreciate the state of Luther’s mind at the time when
he was becoming settled in his new theological principles, we may be
permitted to consider here, by anticipation, another great Disputation
on faith and grace, that, namely, of Heidelberg, which took place after
the outbreak of Luther’s hostilities with Tetzel. In comparison with
these questions, the Indulgence controversy was of less importance,
as we shall have occasion to see; it was in reality an accidental
occurrence, though one pregnant with consequences, and, as it turned
out, the most decisive of all. The common idea that the quarrel with
Tetzel was the real starting-point of Luther’s whole conflict with the
Church is utterly untenable.

3. Disputation at Heidelberg on Faith and Grace. Other Public Utterances

The Disputation at Heidelberg took place on April 25, 1518, about six
months after the nailing up of the theses against Tetzel. A Chapter of
the Augustinian Congregation held in that town afforded the opportunity
for this Disputation.

To make use of the Chapters for such learned celebrations was nothing
unusual, but the selection of Luther to conduct the theological
discussion, at a time when his teaching on Grace and his Indulgence
theses had aroused widespread comment and excitement, and when
an examination of his conduct was pending in the Order, was very
significant. Among the delegates of the priories present at the
Chapter, all of them chosen from the older and more respected monks,
there was clearly a majority in favour of Luther. Another proof of
this fact is, that at the Chapter, Johann Lang, who was entirely of
Luther’s way of thinking, was chosen to succeed him as Rural Vicar on
the expiry of Luther’s term of service. Staupitz was confirmed in his
dignity, though his own attitude and his persistent blind prejudice in
favour of Luther must have been known to all. It appears that Luther’s
controversy with Tetzel was not even discussed in the Chapter;[828] at
any rate, we hear nothing whatever of it, nor even of any difficulties
being raised as to Luther’s position in the much more important
question of justification, although strict injunctions had already been
sent to the Order by the Holy See to place a check on him, and dissuade
him from the course he was pursuing.[829]

If, moreover, we bear in mind the character of the theses at this
Disputation, which went far beyond anything that had yet appeared, but
were nevertheless advocated before all the members assembled, we cannot
but look upon this unhappy Chapter as the shipwreck of the German
Augustinian Congregation. At the next Chapter, which was held after
an interval of two years, i.e. sooner than was customary, Staupitz
received a severe reprimand from the General of the Order and at last
laid down his office as Superior of the Congregation.[830] His weakness
and vacillation had, however, by that time already borne fruit.

Leonard Beyer, an Augustinian, another of Luther’s youthful pupils,
was chosen by him to defend the theses at Heidelberg under his own
supervision. The Disputation was held in the Lecture-room of the
Augustinian monastery in the town. Among the numerous guests present
were the professors of the University of Heidelberg. They were not of
Luther’s way of thinking, and rather inclined to join issue in the
discussion, though in general their demeanour was peaceable; one of the
younger professors, however, in the course of the dispute voiced his
disagreement in an interruption: “If the peasants hear that, they will
certainly stone you.”

Among those present, four young theologians, who at a later date went
over to the new faith and became its active promoters, followed with
lively interest the course of the discussion, in which Luther himself
frequently took part; these were Martin Bucer, an eloquent Dominican,
afterwards preacher at Strasburg and a close friend of Luther; Johann
Brenz, a Master of Philosophy, who subsequently worked for the new
teaching in Swabia; Erhard Schnepf, who became eventually a preacher
in Württemberg, and Theobald Billicanus, whom the theologians at
Heidelberg who remained faithful to the Church summoned to be examined
before them on account of his lectures, and who then was responsible
for the apostasy of the town of Nördlingen. The Disputation at
Heidelberg had a great influence on all these, and rendered them
favourable to Luther.

The first named, Martin Bucer, full of enthusiasm for Luther, informed
a friend, that at the end of the Disputation he had completely
triumphed over all his opponents and roused in almost all his hearers
admiration of his learning, eloquence, and fearlessness.[831]

If, however, we consider the theses from the theological standpoint,
we are able to understand better the impression which Bucer in the same
letter states they made on others, namely, that this new theology of
Wittenberg, which exalted itself above Scholasticism and the learning
of previous ages, and even above the teaching of the whole Church
from the time of her Divine institution, justified the most serious
apprehensions and indictments.

 Twenty-eight theses had been selected from theology and twelve from
 philosophy. The very first theological proposition declared in
 Luther’s bold, paradoxical style, that the law of God was unable to
 assist a man to righteousness, but, on the contrary, was a hindrance
 to him in this respect.[832] Some of the other propositions were
 hardly less strong: Man’s works, however good they may be, are
 probably never anything but mortal sins (3); after sin free will is
 will only in name, and when a man has done the best he is capable of,
 he commits a mortal sin (13). If these assertions recall some which
 we have heard before, they are followed by others expressing, in the
 most startling manner, his theory on grace. “He is not righteous who
 performs many works, but he who, without works, believes firmly in
 Christ” (25). “The law says, ‘do this’ and it is never done; Grace
 says ‘believe in Him (Christ)’ and everything is already done” (26).
 “Man must altogether despair of himself in order to be fit to receive
 the grace of Christ” (18).

 In the proofs, the text of which is still extant and was probably
 printed together with the theses, we read other statements which
 remove all doubt as to the seriousness of the propositions put forth:
 “Righteousness is infused by faith, for we read: ‘the just man liveth
 by faith’ (Rom. i. 17) ... not as though the just man did not perform
 any works, but because his works are not the cause of righteousness,
 but righteousness is the cause of the works. Grace and faith are
 infused without any work on our part, and then the works follow.”[833]

 Luther in one passage of these “proofs” addresses to himself the only
 too-well-founded objection: “Therefore we will be content without
 virtue as we on our part are able only to sin!”[834] But instead of
 solving this objection in a proper form, he answers rhetorically: “No,
 fall on your knees and implore grace, put your hope in Christ in Whom
 is salvation, life and resurrection. Fear and wrath are wrought by the
 law, but hope and mercy by grace.”[835]

 Underlying the whole Disputation, we perceive that antagonism to the
 fear of God as the Judge of transgressions against the law, which
 the reader has before remarked in Luther; that fear which Catholic
 teaching had hitherto represented as the beginning of conversion and

 Utterances drawn from that mysticism into which he had plunged and
 the language of which he had at that time made his own, are also
 noticeable. He speaks at the Disputation of the annihilation through
 which a man must pass in order to arrive at the certainty of salvation
 (a road which is assuredly only for the few, whereas all stand in
 need of certainty): “Whoever is not destroyed and brought back to
 nothingness by the cross and suffering, attributes to himself works
 and wisdom. But whoever has passed through this annihilation does
 not pursue works, but leaves God to work and to do all in him; it is
 the same to him whether he performs works or not; he is not proud of
 himself when he does anything, nor despondent when God does not work
 in him.”[836] He then proceeds, describing the absolute passivity of
 his mysticism as the foundation of the process of salvation: “He [who
 is to be justified] knows that it is enough for him to suffer and be
 destroyed by the cross in order to be yet more annihilated. This is
 what Christ meant when He said (John iii. 7): ‘Ye must be born again.’
 If Christ speaks of ‘being born again,’ it necessarily follows that we
 must first die, i.e. feel death as though it were present.”

Besides the antagonism to true and well-grounded fear, and the mystical
veneer, there is a third psychological element which must be pointed
out in the Heidelberg Theses, viz. the uncalled-for emphasis laid on
the strength of concupiscence and man’s inclination to what is evil,
and the insufficient appreciation of the means of grace which lead to
victory. This view of the domination of evil, which must ultimately be
favourable to libertinism, accompanies the theoretical expression and
the practical realisation of his system.

 In the Heidelberg Disputation we find in the proof of thesis 13,
 already referred to: “It is clear as day that free will in man, after
 Adam’s Fall, is merely a name and therefore no free will at all, at
 least as regards the choice of good; for it is a captive, and the
 servant of sin; not as though it did not exist, but because it is not
 free except for what is evil.”[837] This Luther pretends to find in
 Holy Scripture (John viii. 34, 36), in two passages of St. Augustine
 “and in countless other places.” He undertakes to prove this in a
 special note, by the fact that, according to the teaching of the
 Fathers of the Church, man is unable during life to avoid all faults,
 that he must fall without the assistance of grace, and that, according
 to 2 Timothy ii. 26, he is held captive by the “snares of the devil.”
 “The wicked man sins,” he says, “when he does what is good.” “The
 righteous man also sins in his good works,” according to the words of
 the Apostle: “But I see another law in my members fighting against the
 law of my mind” (Rom. vii. 23). God works everything in us; but just
 as the carpenter, however capable he may be, cannot work properly with
 a jagged axe, so, in spite of God’s work, sin still remains, owing to
 the imperfection of the tool He makes use of, i.e. on account of the
 sinfulness which permeates us.[838]

 “The mercy of God consists in this, that He has patience with us
 in spite of our sins and graciously accepts our works and our life
 notwithstanding their complete worthlessness.... We escape His
 Judgment through His mercy [to which we cling through faith alone],
 not by our own righteousness.... God excuses our works and makes them
 pardonable; He supplies what is wanting in us, and thus He is our

 “How is it possible that a ‘servant of sin’ should do anything else
 but sin? How can a man perform a work of light when he is in darkness,
 a work of wisdom when he is a fool, the work of a whole man when he is
 lying there sick, etc.? Therefore all that a man does is the work of
 the devil, of sin, of darkness and foolishness.” “Why do we say that
 concupiscence is irresistible? Well, just try to do what you can, but
 without concupiscence! Of course, this is impossible. Thus your nature
 does not keep the law. If you do not keep this, then still less can
 you keep the law of charity.”[840]

The crown of all this is found in certain propositions from another of
Luther’s Disputations (the fourth) held at Wittenberg in 1518, of which
the eminently characteristic title is: “For the ascertaining of the
Truth and for the Quieting of anxious Consciences.” Here we find this
exhortation: “Cast yourself with a certain despair of your own self,
more particularly on account of the sins of which you are ignorant,
with confidence into the abyss of the mercy of God, Who is true to His
promises. The sum total is this: The Just man shall live by faith,
not, however, by works or by the law.”[841] Such is the theology which
he calls the “Theology of the Cross.”[842] The Church, with a past of
fifteen centuries behind her, also taught that the just man must live
by faith, but by this she meant a real faith which leads to the love
of the cross, which expresses itself in submission, in salutary fear,
in a striving after what is good and which bears in itself the seeds
of charity. She thus exhorted the faithful to penance, the practice
of good works and a practical embracing of the cross. That was her
“Theology of the Cross.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The three more important Disputations considered above were designated
by Luther himself as the “beginning of the evangelical business.”
He gave the title _Initium negocii evangelici_ to a collection of
the theses debated at these Disputations which appeared in print at
Wittenberg in 1538.[843] It is significant that the theses against
Tetzel and on Indulgences have no place in this collection of the
earliest “evangelical” documents.

While Luther was on his way back from Heidelberg, in a letter to
Trutfetter his former professor, he submitted certain thoughts on his
own theological position, which may well be deemed his programme for
the future. To this worthy man, who failed to share his views and had
given him timely warning of his errors, he says: “To speak plainly,
my firm belief is that the reform of the Church is impossible unless
the ecclesiastical laws, the Papal regulations, scholastic theology,
philosophy and logic as they at present exist, are thoroughly uprooted
and replaced by other studies. I am so convinced of this that I daily
ask the Lord that the really pure study of the Bible and the Fathers
may speedily regain its true position.”[844]

In this remarkable letter, which is a curious mixture of respect and
disputatious audacity, Luther admits that, on account of his teaching
on grace, he is already being scolded in public sermons as a “heretic,
a madman, a seducer and one possessed by many devils”; at Wittenberg,
however, he says, at the University all, with the exception of one
licentiate, declare that “they had hitherto been in ignorance of Christ
and His gospel.” Too many charges were brought against him. Let them
“speak, hear, believe all things of him in all places,” he would,
nevertheless, go forward and not be afraid. Here he does not pass over
his theses against Tetzel in silence; they had, he says, been spread in
a quite unexpected manner, whereas with his other theses this had not
been the case; this he regretted as otherwise he would have “expressed
them more clearly.” When publishing his Indulgence theses he had had
the truth concerning “the grace of Christ”—which he also defended at
Heidelberg—much at heart, for the result of the abuse of the system
of Indulgences was, that there was scarcely anyone who did not hope
to obtain the great gift of the “grace of God” by means of a paltry
Indulgence, a disgraceful reversal of the true order of things.

4. Attitude to the Church

The foundations of the principal erroneous doctrines of the new
theology were already laid at a time when Luther was still unmistakably
asserting the authority of the Church and the Papacy and the duty of
submission incumbent on all who desired to be true Christians.

Neither before his deviation from the Church’s doctrine nor whilst
the new views were growing and becoming fixed, did he go astray with
respect to the binding nature of the Church’s teaching office, or seek
to undermine the Divine pre-eminence of the Holy See. Such a course
would, it is true, have been logical, as not one of the doctrines which
the Church proposes for belief can be assailed without the whole of her
doctrinal edifice being affected, and without calling in question both
her infallibility and her rightful authority. Only subsequent to the
Leipzig Disputation, at which Luther unreservedly denied the doctrinal
authority of General Councils, do we find him prepared to abandon the
traditional view with regard to the Church and her teaching office.

The formal principle of Lutheranism dates only from this denial.
The determining factor is no longer ecclesiastical authority, but
the private judgment of the individual, i.e. the understanding of
Holy Scripture—now considered as the only source of religious
knowledge—acquired under the guidance of Divine enlightenment. Even
then Luther was in no hurry to formulate any clear theory of the
Church, of the Communion of the Faithful, of the oneness of Faith, and
of its mouthpiece. On the contrary, he frequently returns then and even
later, as will be seen below, to his earlier conception of the Church,
so natural was it to him and to his time, so indispensable did her
claims appear to him, and so logically did they result from the whole
connection between Divine Revelation and the scheme of salvation.

How are we to explain this contradiction so long present in Luther’s
mind, viz. his abandonment of the principal dogmas of the Church and,
at the same time, his emphatic assertion of the Church’s authority?
Chiefly by his lack of theological training, also by his confusion of
mind and deficiency in real Church feeling; then again by his excess
of imagination, by his pseudo-mysticism, and above all by his devotion
to his own ideas. Moreover, as we know, the two conflicting tendencies
did not dwell at peace within him but were responsible for great
restlessness and trouble of mind. Had he been more in living touch with
the faith and spirit of the Church, he would doubtless have recognised
the urgent necessity of choosing between an absolute abandonment of
his new theological views and a definite breach with the Church of his
fathers. In explanation of the confusion of his attitude to the Church
we must call to mind what has already been said, how, owing to the
evils rampant in the Church, he had not had the opportunity of seeing
that Divine institution at its best, a fact which may have helped
to weaken in his mind the conception of her sublime mission and the
binding nature of her ancient faith. He remained in the Church, just as
he remained in the religious state, though its ideals had become sadly
obscured in his eyes.

In its place he built up for himself an imaginary world, quite
mistaking the true state of affairs with regard to his own position.
He fancied that the representatives of the Church would gradually come
round to his point of view, seeing that it was so well founded. He
thought that the Papacy, when better informed, would never be able to
condemn the inferences he had made from the clear Word of God, and his
precious discovery for the solacing of every sinner.

Perhaps he also sought to shelter himself behind the divergent
opinions entertained by the theologians of that day with regard to
justification. Several details, as yet undefined, of this dogma,
were then diversely explained, though no doubt existed regarding the
essentials. The views propounded by members of the Council of Trent
show how many side questions in this department called for definition
and learned research before the Council could arrive at the classical
formulation of the whole matter.[845] No true theologian, however,
owing to want of distinctness in the minor details of the dogma was,
like Luther, prepared to cast it overboard, or to demand its entire

In the case of this strangely constituted man inward discernment alone
counted for anything.

With him this outweighed far too easily all the claims of external
authority, and how could it be otherwise when, already at an early
stage of his career, while perusing the Holy Scriptures he had felt
the Spirit of God in his new ideas? We have a picture of his feelings
in his letter to Spalatin of January 18, 1518, in which he says, the
principal thing when studying the Book of Books is to “despair of our
own learning and our own sagacity.” “Be confident that the Spirit
will instil the sense into your mind. Believe this on my experience.
Therefore begin, starting with a humble despair, to read the Bible
from the very commencement.”[846] There is here no reference to the
traditional interpretation handed down from the first centuries through
the Fathers and the theologians; in place of this each one is invited
to seek for enlightenment under the guidance of that light which he
assumes to be the “Spirit.”

 And yet Luther’s teaching with regard to the authority of the
 Universal Church is, according to a sermon preached in 1516, as
 follows: “The Church cannot err in proclaiming the faith; only the
 individual within her is liable to error. But let him beware of
 differing from the Church; for the Church’s leaders are the walls of
 the Church and our fathers; they are the eye of the body, and in them
 we must seek the light.”[847] As the idea has not yet dawned upon him
 that the whole body of the bishops had strayed from the path of truth,
 he does not consider it necessary first to seek where the true Church
 is; he simply finds it there where Peter presides in his successors.
 No private illumination, no works however great, justify a separation
 from the Papacy.[848] In accordance with this principle, even in 1518,
 amidst the storm of excitement and not long before the printing of his
 sermon on excommunication, he assures Staupitz, his Superior, with
 the utmost confidence: “I shall hold the Church’s authority in all
 honour”; it is true, he goes on to say: “I have no scruple, Reverend
 Father, about going forward with my exploration and interpretation
 of the Word of God. The summons [to Rome] and the menaces which have
 been uttered do not move me. I am suffering, as you know, incomparably
 worse things which allow me to pay but little heed to such as are
 temporal and transitory.”[849]

 The woes which he repeatedly utters against heretics, and of which
 we have already given a striking example (above, p. 225), are very
 startling, coming from his lips. In his exposition of the Psalms he
 points a warning finger at pride, the source of all heresies: “Out
 upon our madness, how often and how greatly, do we fall into this
 fault! All the heretics fell through inordinate love of their own
 ideas. Hence it was not possible but that what was false should appear
 to them true, and, what was true, false.... Wisdom, in its original
 purity, can exist only in the humble and meek.”[850]

It would be easy to multiply the passages in which Luther, in his early
days, asserts with absolute conviction the various doctrines of the
Church which at a later date he was to attack.

It may suffice to take as an example the doctrine of Indulgences
which was soon to become the centre of the controversy started by his
theses on this subject. Luther presents the doctrine quite clearly and
correctly in a sermon on Indulgences preached in 1516.[851] Here he
makes his own the general Catholic teaching, notwithstanding that it
clashes with his ideas on grace and justification, a fact of which he
assuredly was aware.

 “An Indulgence,” he says, “is the remission of the temporal punishment
 which the penitent would have to undergo, whether imposed by the
 priest or endured in Purgatory; formerly, for instance, seven years
 [of penance] were imposed in this way for certain sins.” “Therefore
 we must not imagine that our salvation is straightway secured when
 we have gained an Indulgence,” as it merely remits the temporal
 punishment. “Those alone obtain complete remission of the punishment
 who, by real contrition and confession, are reconciled with God.”
 “The souls in Purgatory, as the Bull expressly states, profit by
 the Indulgence only so far as the power of the Keys of Holy Church
 extend”; “_per applicationem intercessions_,” as he says, i.e. to
 use the common theological expression, “_per modum suffragii_.”[852]
 “Hence the immediate and complete liberation of souls from Purgatory
 is not to be assumed.” “The Indulgences are [i.e. are based on] the
 merits of Christ and His saints and are therefore to be accepted with
 due veneration.” “However the case may stand with regard to the abuses
 to be apprehended in the use of indulgences,” so he ends his lengthy
 and important explanation, “the offer and acceptance of Indulgences
 is of the greatest utility, and perhaps in our times when God’s
 mercy is so greatly despised, it is His Will to bestow His favours
 upon us by means of these Indulgences.... Indulgences must, however,
 never lead us, of the Church militant, to a false sense of security
 and to spiritual indolence.” The speaker goes much more fully into
 detail on many difficult questions than could be done in a sermon
 to-day. On certain subtle points of theological controversy regarding
 Indulgences, which had as yet not been definitely settled among the
 learned, he admits his ignorance and his doubts. One thing, however,
 is certain, namely, that he had no right to assert, as he did later,
 that the age was steeped in the deepest ignorance with regard to the
 nature of Indulgences, merely because some of these more recondite
 questions had not been fully solved. His own sermon just quoted is a
 refutation of the charge.

 In this sermon he also attacks the abuses which in those days were
 connected with the system of Indulgences, particularly the disorders
 which prevailed at the sermons and collections made for Indulgences
 granted in support of various pious works and usually undertaken by
 certain noted popular preachers. In one of his strong generalisations
 he thus addressed his hearers at the very commencement: “Indulgences
 have become the dirty tool of avarice! Who is there who seeks the
 salvation of souls by their means and not rather the profit of his
 purse? The behaviour of the Indulgence-preachers makes this plain; for
 these commissaries and their delegates do nothing in their sermons but
 praise the Indulgences and urge the people to give donations, without
 instructing them as to what an Indulgence is.”[853]

At that time John Tetzel was making a great stir with the preaching of
the Indulgence granted by Pope Leo X for the church of St. Peter in

Luther’s inward falling away from the teaching of the Church and his
whole state of mind had made him ripe for a great public struggle.
His action with regard to Tetzel was merely the result of what had
gone before, and the consequences of the controversy were vastly more
important than the actual point in dispute.

Many years later, when the circumstances appeared to him very different
from what they really were, Luther related that he had lived in humble
retirement in his monastery, studying Holy Scripture and following his
calling as Doctor of the Word of God until he was drawn by force into
the controversy, and called forth into the arena of public life. “I
was completely dead to the world till God deemed the time had come;
then Squire Tetzel excited me with the Indulgence and Doctor Staupitius
spurred me on against the Pope.”[854]

Then gradually, so he says, his “other preaching followed,” i.e. that
against “holiness by works,” and set free those who had become “quite
weary” of Popery with its self-righteousness; this “other preaching”
was as follows: “Christ says: Be at rest; thou art not pious, I have
done all for thee, thy sins are forgiven thee.”[855] Nevertheless, for
some years, so he assures us, he continued to practise “in ignorance”
the works of idolatry and unbelief in the monastery, those works to
which “everyone clung”;[856] then at last he cut himself adrift and
laid aside the monk’s habit “to honour God and shame the devil.”[857]



1. Tetzel’s preaching of the Indulgence; the 95 theses

A MEMBER of the Dominican Order who would otherwise have remained but
little known in history obtained through Luther a world-wide name.

Everyone has heard of the Indulgence-preacher, John Tetzel, the active
and able popular speaker, to whom Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop
and Elector of Mayence, entrusted the proclamation of the Indulgence
granted by Leo X for the building of the new Church of St. Peter. In
1516 and 1517 he made the Indulgence known throughout the dioceses of
Magdeburg and Halberstadt, appealing everywhere for funds to carry out
the great enterprise in Rome. What he taught was, in the main, the
same as Luther had previously taught regarding Indulgences (see above,
p. 324); he, like all theologians, was careful to point out that an
Indulgence was to be considered merely as a remission of the temporal
punishment due to sin, but not of the actual guilt of sin.[858] He
declared, quite rightly, that the erection of the Church of St. Peter
was a matter of common interest to the whole Christian world, and that
the donations towards it were to be looked upon as part of the pious
undertakings and good works which were always required by the Church
as one of the conditions for gaining an Indulgence. At the same time,
in accordance with the teaching and practice of the Church, he demanded
of all, as an essential preparation for the Indulgence, conversion and
change of heart together with a good confession.[859]

The proclamation of this Indulgence on behalf of St. Peter’s—which was
preached throughout almost the whole of the Christian world—in the
great dioceses of Mayence and Magdeburg, had been entrusted by Leo X,
in 1514, to Archbishop Albert of Brandenburg, who held both these sees.

This respected but worldly minded Elector had made the customary
payment, in this instance a very heavy one, to the Roman Court
for his confirmation in the see of Mayence and in return for the
pallium. He had also, in compliance with an appeal made by the Papal
Dataria, presented to the Holy See ten thousand ducats, which he had
raised through the Fuggers of Augsburg, in order to secure the above
Indulgence for his dioceses; in return for this the Pope had made over
to him, once for all, one-half of the total proceeds of the Indulgence.
With this he hoped to repay his creditors, the Fuggers.[860] The
details of this affair will be dealt with later, but we may here remark
that it was a transaction which certainly was unworthy of so sacred a
cause as that of an Indulgence, and which can only be explained by the
evil customs of that day, the pressure applied by Albert’s agents, and
the influence of the avaricious Florentine party at the Papal Court.
Though perhaps not actually simoniacal it certainly cannot be approved.

We cannot here refrain from drawing attention to a fact which stands
for all time as a solemn warning to the pastors of the Church. Just as
the sight of the corruption, both ecclesiastical and moral, in Rome
under Julius II, and the remembrance of an Alexander VI, had filled
Luther with bitter prejudice on his journey to Italy, so the extremely
worldly and regrettable action of the Curia, and episcopal toleration
of actual abuses in the promulgation of the Indulgence, supplied him
with welcome matter for his charges and with a deceitful pretext for
the seducing of countless souls.

Luther learned many discreditable particulars concerning the
arrangement arrived at between Rome and Mayence for the preaching
of the Indulgence and the use to which half of the spoils was to be
applied. What provoked Luther and many others was not only the abuses
which prevailed in the use of Indulgences, about which there was much
grumbling, and the constantly recurring collections which were a
burden both to the rulers and their people, but also the tales current
regarding the behaviour of the monk acting as Indulgence-preacher.
Tetzel did not exactly shine as an example of virtue, although the
charges against his earlier life are as baseless as the reproach of
gross ignorance. He was, as impartial historians have established,
forward and audacious and given to exaggeration. In his sermons, mainly
owing to his popular style of address, he erred by using expressions
only to be styled as strained and ill-considered. He even employed
phrases of a repulsive nature in his attempts to extol the power of
the Indulgence preached by him. In addition to this, in explaining how
the Indulgence might be applied to the departed, he made his own the
wrong, exaggerated and quite unauthorised opinions of certain isolated
theologians, putting them on an equal footing with the real teaching
of the Church. Such private opinions, it is true, had also found their
way into some of the official instructions on Indulgences. At any rate,
Tetzel, with misplaced zeal, mingled what was true with what was false
or uncertain. The great concourse of people who gathered to hear the
celebrated preacher also led to many disorders, more particularly when,
as was the case at Annaberg, the occasion of the yearly fair was turned
to account in order to publish the Indulgence.

Shortly after the sermon already spoken of Luther preached again at
Wittenberg on the Indulgence and its abuses, but without expressly
referring to Tetzel. Another sermon on the same subject was delivered
at the Castle in the presence of the Elector on the occasion of the
exposition of the rich collection of relics belonging to the Castle
Church. He still openly admitted the value of Indulgences, but more
and more he was disposed to find fault with the formalism into which
the system had degenerated. Later he declared that he had begun,
already in 1516, “to dispute about Indulgences and to write against
the Pope”; only the first part of this clause is, however, true, and
that only in a certain sense. He had as yet written nothing against the
Primacy or against Indulgences as such. There is also no foundation for
the statement that, as soon as he heard from Staupitz (at Grimma) of
Tetzel’s behaviour, he exclaimed: “Please God, I will knock a hole in
his drum.”

It was on the question of Indulgences that the wider controversy
around his new doctrines, which were now complete, was to commence.
In October, 1517, he decided to make a public attack on Tetzel. This
he did when, on the Eve of All Saints, October 31, 1517, he nailed
up his 95 theses on Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church at
Wittenberg. As All Saints was the Titular Feast of the Church[861] and
as, on that day, numbers would be flocking thither to celebrate the
festival, he counted on securing wide publicity for his theses. As a
matter of fact, by this means, and thanks to the efforts of Luther and
his friends, the printed theses were soon known everywhere. Their very
boldness and impudence also contributed to their popularity. They were
soon being read throughout Germany, exciting general surprise and even
admiration of the Monk’s language. The number of those who sincerely
applauded the theses, or who, at any rate, approved of the greater part
of their contents, was much greater than has been generally believed.

The theses, of course, contained things which were incomprehensible to
non-theologians, but the very tone in which they were written showed
all the stupendous importance of the step which had been taken. The
more timid were pacified by an introductory explanation of the author
embodied in the paper containing the theses, which stated that the
propositions did not determine anything definite, but that “out of love
and zeal for the ascertaining of the truth” a public Disputation on
these questions would be held by Luther at Wittenberg, and that those
who were precluded from taking a personal part in the debate might
state their objections in writing.[862]

If we examine the theses more closely and watch the behaviour of their
author after they were made public, there appears to be no doubt that
they were considered by him as settled beforehand and not merely as
tentative propositions. Many of them, from the theological point of
view, go far beyond a mere opposition of the abuse of Indulgences.
Luther, stimulated by contradiction, had to some extent altered his
previous views on the nature of Indulgences, and brought them more into
touch with the fundamental principles of his erroneous theology.

A practical renunciation of the doctrine of Indulgences, as it had
been held up to that time, is to be found in the theses, where Luther
states that Indulgences have no value in God’s sight, but are merely to
be regarded as the remission by the Church of the canonical punishment
(theses 5, 20, 21, etc.). This destroys the theological meaning of
Indulgences, for they had always been considered as a remission of the
temporal punishment of sin, but as a remission which held good before
the Divine Judgment-seat.[863] In some of the theses (58, 60) Luther
likewise attacks the generally accepted teaching with regard to the
Church’s treasury of grace, on which Indulgences are based. Erroneous
views concerning the state of purgation of the departed occur in some
of the propositions (18, 19, 29). Others appear to contain what is
theologically incorrect, and connected with his opinion regarding grace
and justification; this opinion is not, however, clearly set forth in
the list of theses.

Many of the statements are mere irritating, insulting and cynical
observations on Indulgences in general, no distinction being made
between what was good and what was perverted. Thus, for instance,
thesis 66 declares the “treasures of Indulgences” to be simply nets “in
which the wealth of mankind is caught.” Others again scoff and mock at
the authority of the Church, as, for example, thesis 86. “Why does not
the Pope build the Basilica of St. Peter with his own money and not
with that of the poverty-stricken faithful, seeing that he possesses
to-day greater riches than the most wealthy Crœsus?”

In order that a certain echo of the author’s mystical Theologia Crucis
may not be wanting even in this public document, the last two theses
contain a protest against the formalism of the system of Indulgences:
“Let Christians be exhorted to follow Christ, their Head, through
suffering and through the pains of death and hell,” “in order the
better to reach heaven they should put their trust in much tribulation
rather than in the certainty of peace.”

The 95 theses spread rapidly through Germany, adding dangerously to the
already widespread dissatisfaction with the Church and the Pope.

To Scultetus, Bishop of Brandenburg, within whose jurisdiction
Wittenberg lay, and to others, too, Luther continued to explain the
matter as though the theses were merely intended to serve as the basis
for a useful Disputation,[864] which, however, as a matter of fact,
never took place. He assured the chief pastor of Brandenburg of his
absolute submission and his readiness to follow the Catholic Church in
everything. At the same time, however, he stated quite clearly that, in
his opinion, nothing could be advanced against his theses either from
Holy Scripture, Catholic doctrine or canon law, with the exception of
the utterances “of some few canonists, who spoke without proofs, and
of some of the scholastic Doctors who cherished similar views, but who
also were unable to demonstrate anything”; it was not, of course, for
him to give any decision, but he might surely be permitted to open a
discussion by means of the Disputation.

Relying on his skill at debate, he looked forward to a victory over
Tetzel and to an opening for commencing the struggle against the abuses
connected with the preaching of the Indulgence. Here we may recall
the words of his pupil Oldecop, already quoted before: “He spoke in
unmeasured terms against it [i.e. Indulgence-preaching], with great
impetuosity and audacity.” He started the controversy, being, says
Oldecop, “by nature proud and audacious.”[865]

Carried away by the astounding and ever-growing applause of those
who were otherwise loyal to the Church, and deaf to the warnings and
admonitions given him, Luther launched among the people a German
work entitled “A Sermon on Indulgences and Grace,” which contains
statements yet more vehement and seditious. Almost at the same time,
and in the greatest haste, he put on paper the weighty “Resolutions” on
his theses, written in Latin for the benefit of the more learned. The
latter appeared in print in the spring of 1518.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of 1518, the Archbishop of Mayence had
forwarded to Rome an account of the movement which had been started
and of the Monk’s theses. As a result of this step the Pope, Leo X, on
February 3, instructed P. Gabriele della Volta, Vicar to the General
of the Augustinians, to seek to turn Luther aside from his erroneous
views by letter and by the admonitions of honest and learned men;
delay might fan the spark into a flame which it might be impossible to

There is no doubt that instructions to this effect were despatched
by Volta to Staupitz, and probably other measures were contemplated
at the approaching Chapter of the German Augustinian Congregation at
Heidelberg; the calming of the storm was a duty incumbent primarily
on the Order itself, and the Holy See accordingly decided to act
through Luther’s immediate superiors. Unfortunately, nothing whatever
is known of any steps taken by the Order at this early stage. At the
Heidelberg Chapter, which was held towards the end of April (above, p.
315) the election of a new Vicar-General of the Congregation to which
Luther belonged had to take place; a new Rural Vicar had also to be
elected in place of Luther, as the latter had now completed his term of
office. It seems plain that Staupitz and the large party who favoured
Luther wished to act as gently as possible and not to interfere in the
movement beyond making the necessary change in the person of the Rural

After Luther had received the summons to Heidelberg, the Elector wrote
to Staupitz a letter dated Friday in Easter week, with a request to
see that Luther, on account of his lectures, “shall return here at the
very earliest and not be delayed or detained.”[867] We cannot infer
from this or from the Elector’s letter of safe conduct for Luther
himself, that measures against him were anticipated at the Chapter.
These documents merely prove the exceptional favour which Luther
enjoyed with the reigning Prince.

Luther started from Wittenberg on April 11. Being a monk he had to make
the journey on foot as far as Würzburg; after having been hospitably
entertained by the Bishop, Lorenz von Bibra, who was very well disposed
towards him, he proceeded to Heidelberg by coach, together with Johann
Lang and some other monks. The Chapter re-elected Staupitz and made
Johann Lang Rural Vicar in Luther’s stead, a choice which, as already
hinted, expressed approval rather than disapproval of what Luther had
done. It was also very significant of the position adopted by the
Augustinian Congregation, that Luther should have been permitted to
preside at the Heidelberg Disputation. He advanced the theses, which
have already been discussed (above, p. 317), containing the denial of
free will, i.e. the most important element of his new teaching, and
entrusted their defence to Master Leonard Beyer, an Augustinian of
Wittenberg, who conducted the debate in the presence of the assembled
Chapter and professors of Heidelberg University, who had also been
invited. It is remarkable that the question of Indulgences, which was
so greatly agitating the minds of all, was not touched upon in the
Disputation. Perhaps it was thought better, from motives of prudence,
to avoid this subject altogether at Heidelberg.

At the beginning of May Luther returned to Wittenberg by way of
Würzburg and Erfurt. He took advantage of his stay at Dresden to
preach a sermon before Duke George and his Court on July 25, 1518. In
this sermon he spoke in such a way of “the true understanding of the
Word of God,” of the “Grace of Christ and eternal Predestination,”
and of the overcoming of the “Fear of God,” that the Duke, who was a
staunch adherent of the Church, was much displeased, and often declared
afterwards that such teaching only made men presumptuous. The account
of the sermon and of Duke George’s opinion is first found in the
“_Origines Saxonicæ_”[868] of George Fabricius, who died in 1571. But
Luther himself refers to the opposition excited in several quarters by
a controversial sermon he preached there, and remarks, cynically: such
fault-finders only speak from an idle desire for praise; these gossips
want everything and are able to do nothing, they are a “serpent’s
brood,” “masked faces” whom I despise.[869]

On his return to Wittenberg he devoted himself to finishing the
Resolutions on the Indulgence theses. On August 21 he sent the first
printed copy to Spalatin.

These Latin _Resolutiones disputationis de virtute indulgentiarum_,
which dealt exclusively with the defence of the 95 theses, were more
hostile in tone towards the whole system of Indulgences than any of his
previous utterances. They show Luther’s fiery temper and his state of
irritation even more plainly than the theses themselves. In them his
new teaching on faith and grace was for the first time launched on the
public in unmistakable outline. Even abroad the learned were drawn into
the movement by the Latin publication which brought the matter within
their range.

Together with his Resolutions, Luther published two letters, very
submissive in tone, addressed, one to the Bishop of Brandenburg, as
Ordinary of Wittenberg, and the other to Pope Leo X. To the Pope he
said that he had ventured to address himself to him because he had
learned that some persons at Rome were attempting to blacken his
reputation, as though he were infringing the power of the Keys of the
successor of St. Peter. He explained the reason of the controversy from
his own point of view and declared: “I cannot recant.” In the same
letter, however, he asserts his readiness to listen to Leo’s voice “as
to the Voice of Christ, who presides in him and speaks through him”;
one thing only he asks, viz. that the Pope will deal with him just as
he pleases. “Enliven me, kill me, call me back, confirm me, reject me,
just as it pleases you!”[870] In the Resolutions, on the other hand,
we read: “It makes no impression on me what pleases or does not please
the Pope. He is a man like other men. There have been many Popes to
whom not only errors and vices, but even enormities (_monstra_) were
pleasing. I attend to the Pope as Pope, i.e. as he speaks in the laws
of the Church, or when he decides in accordance with them, or with a
Council, but not when he speaks out of his own head.”[871]

At a later date he did not make any secret of the weakness of so
ambiguous a position. On one occasion in later years when looking
back upon the commencement of the struggle, he said he had begun the
controversy “as an unreflecting and stupid Papist,” that he had been
drawn into the business by “his own foolishness,” that his “weakness
and inconsequence” had been deplorably exhibited, seeing that he then
still worshipped the Pope; before this Lord of Heaven and Earth, he
writes, everything still trembled, and he, the little monk, more
like a corpse than a man, had only dared to advance with lamentable
uncertainty and fear.[872]

In the same passage, he says: “I was certainly not glad and confident
at the outset.” “What my heart suffered in the first and second years,
how I lay on the ground, yea, almost despaired, of that they [my
rivals, the fanatics] know nothing, though they were happy to fall
upon the Pope after he had been severely wounded [by me]. They have
sought to take this honour to themselves, and, for all I care, they
are welcome to it.” “They are ignorant of the Cross and of Satan”;
but I only attained “to strength and wisdom through death agonies and

While Luther was superintending the printing of the Resolutions at
Wittenberg he was at the same time engaged on other works.

Johann Eck had replied to his Indulgence theses by the so-called
“Obelisci,” which Luther met with the “Asterisci,” and as Tetzel, for
his part, had issued a refutation of the sermon on Indulgence and
Grace, Luther brought out a work in reply, entitled “Freedom of the
Sermon on Indulgence and Grace.”

Fearing that the Pope would excommunicate him, Luther preached a
sermon to the inhabitants of Wittenberg in the early summer of 1518,
possibly on May 16, on the power of excommunication; what he there
put forth excited widespread comment and irritation. This sermon he
issued in print in August, but in an amended form. In it he says
excommunication is invalid in the case of one who honestly asserts the
truth; nevertheless, it must be obeyed. He blames the all too frequent
use of excommunication, as many good Churchmen had done before him.
It had been recognised and taught from Patristic times that unjust
excommunication did not deprive the excommunicate of a part in the
inward life of the Church (_anima ecclesiæ_). This Luther emphasises
for his own party purposes, but without as yet setting up “a new view
of the nature of the Church.”

He says, in a letter to his elderly friend Staupitz, that, owing to the
action of his adversaries, “a new flame” would surely be kindled by
this sermon, though he had extolled the power of the Pope in it, as was
fitting; he declares that he is the persecuted party; “but Christ still
lives and reigns yesterday, to-day and for ever. My conscience tells me
I have taught the truth; but it is just this which is hated whenever
its name is mentioned. Pray for me that I may not rejoice overmuch nor
be over-confident in myself in this trouble.” He trusts to triumph, by
printing the sermon referred to, over all those who had listened to it
with jealousy, and maliciously misrepresented it. Yet his mood is by no
means one of unmixed joy; he hints in the same letter to Staupitz at
mysterious interior sufferings which weigh upon him “incomparably more
heavily,” so he says, than the fear of any measures Rome may take. At
the same time he is quite carried away by the idea that he must, at any
cost, fight against the contempt which the Romanists are heaping upon
the Kingdom of Christ.[873]

Meanwhile, in March, 1518, complaints had again been carried to
Rome by some Dominicans. Towards the middle of June fresh official
steps were taken by Rome against Luther’s person, this time without
the intervention of the Order. The course of these proceedings has
been made plain by recent research. The Papal Procurator Fiscal,
Mario de Perusco, raised a formal charge against the monk on the
suspicion of spreading heresy. By order of the Pope, the preliminary
examination was conducted by the Bishop of Ascoli, Girolamo Ghinucci,
as Auditor-General for suits in the Apostolic Camera, while Silvester
Mazzolini of Prierio (Prierias), the Magister S. Palatii, who, like all
Mayors of the Apostolic Palace, belonged to the Dominican Order, was
entrusted with the task of penning a learned opinion on the questions

As Prierias had already made a study of the Indulgence theses, he,
as he himself says, took only three days to draw up the opinion,
which, moreover, he did not intend to stand as an actual theological
refutation. It was at once printed, being entitled “_In præsumptuosas
M. Lutheri conclusiones de potestate papæ dialogus_.” The work was not
free from exaggerations and gratuitous insults.

At the beginning of July, 1518, Luther was summoned to appear within
sixty days at Rome to stand his trial. Ghinucci and Prierias sent the
summons to Cardinal Cajetan, who was then stopping at Augsburg, in
order that he might forward it to the Wittenberg Professor. Prierias’s
pamphlet accompanied it, and Luther received both together on August 7.
He said at a later date in his Table-Talk, alluding to the work of the
Mayor of the Apostolic Palace, that the despatch from Rome had stirred
his blood to the utmost, as he had then realised that the matter was
deadly earnest, since Rome was inexorable.

The very next day, with many contemptuous and disaffected remarks on
the citation, he set about inducing the Elector to use his influence
with the Holy See in order that judges might be appointed to try
the case in Germany; he hoped to be thereby spared the dreaded
journey to Rome. It was at that time that he published the sermon on
excommunication referred to above. On the day following the receipt of
the summons he set to work on a pamphlet in reply to the _Dialogus_
of Prierias, which appeared at the end of August.[874] This Latin
_Responsio_ he finished in two days, thus beating Prierias, as he
triumphantly informs him. It is arrogant and insulting in tone,
vindicates all the theses one by one, and asserts some of the errors
contained in them in still stronger terms than before. He does not
as yet deny the infallibility of the Councils, on the contrary, he
explicitly admits it;[875] neither does he in set words state that
the Pope may emit false opinions when teaching on faith and morals,
although in recent times both these errors have been said to be
embodied in his reply.

 The obscure passage regarding the possibility of the Councils and
 Popes erring refers to their action in ecclesiastico-political
 matters, as the cases instanced by Luther show more clearly, e.g. the
 wars of Pope Julius II and the “tyrannical acts” which he attributes
 to Boniface VIII.

 It is true that the want of any clear admission in his reply of the
 doctrinal authority of the Church, his violent insistence on the Bible
 as interpreted by himself, and his arbitrary handling of the older
 theology and practice, gave cause for apprehending the worst.

 Against Prierias he defends the opinion, that our Saviour commanded
 what was impossible because we are always subject to concupiscence;
 that the sons of God are forced to do what is good rather than left
 to perform it of their own accord, and, for this reason, the higher
 theology teaches that those actions are the best which Christ works
 in us without our co-operation, and those the worst “which—according
 to the absolutely false teaching of Aristotle—we perform by our own
 so-called free will.”

 From the latter circumstance the pseudo-mystic infers that fasting,
 for instance, is excellent when the person who fasts is absolutely
 unconscious of what he is doing and thinking of something higher;
 at such a moment he is furthest removed from any craving for food.
 Sacramental Penance, he says, is merely the commencement of penance,
 and zeal in its use could only be maintained by a miracle.[876]

 All these ideas, which, as we know from what has gone before, give
 a true picture of the direction of his mind, are to be found at the
 beginning of the work, of which the confusion is matched only by its

 Because Prierias was a Dominican and Thomist, Luther here displays
 the bitterest animosity against the Thomistic school, an animosity
 which was henceforth never to cease, and likewise summons his national
 feeling as a German to help him against the Italian. In one of his
 letters Luther declared that he would let him see there were men in
 Germany well versed in the arts and wily tricks of the Romans; if he
 continued to incense him, he would make free use of his wit and pen
 against him.[877]

In his reply to Prierias, Luther had referred his opponent to the
Resolutions to his Indulgence theses, which were then already in print.
Staupitz forwarded to Rome the copy destined for the Pope. The letters
to Staupitz and Leo X, which were incorporated in the work, were dated
May 30, 1518, though the printing was not finished before August 21.
As the Resolutions, Luther’s most important work on the question of
Indulgences, obstinately confirmed the errors already expressed, more
severe measures were anticipated on the part of the Curia.

In his efforts to procure the appointment of judges to try his cause
in Germany, Luther sought, through the Elector, to make use of the
mediation of the Emperor Maximilian. But the Emperor, who was earnestly
solicitous for the welfare of religion, and at the same time was
anxious to secure the Pope’s favour on behalf of the election of his
grandson Charles as King of Rome, wrote to Leo X, August 5, 1518, from
Augsburg, that out of love for the unity of the faith he would support
any measures the Pope might take against Luther.

More severe proceedings against Luther were accordingly set on foot in
Rome, even before the sixty days were over. These measures are outlined
in the Brief of August 23, 1518, sent to Cardinal Cajetan, the Papal
Legate at the Diet of Augsburg.

In view of the notoriety of Luther’s acts and teaching, with the
assistance of the spiritual and secular power, Cajetan was to have him
brought to Augsburg; should force have to be used, or should Luther
not recant, then Cajetan was to hand him over to Rome for trial and
punishment; he himself therefore was not to be the actual judge, but
only to receive Luther’s recantation. In the event of his presenting
himself voluntarily at Augsburg and recanting, so ran the instructions,
Luther was to find pardon and mercy. Should it be impossible to procure
his appearance at Augsburg, then the measures provided by law and
custom for such cases were to be enforced; he and his followers were
to be publicly excommunicated, and the authorities in Church and State
were to be forced, if necessary under pain of interdict, to seize and
deliver up the excommunicate.

The Elector, Frederick the Wise, however, demanded a trial before
Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg; this was to be carried out with “paternal
gentleness.” He would not consent to sanction any other measures.
Cajetan met his wishes without being untrue either to the Pope or to
himself. “A man entirely devoted to study, without much practical
knowledge of the world, he was no match for such an expert politician
as Frederick of Saxony.”[878] On September 11 he obtained from Leo X a
Brief placing in his own hands the trial and decision on Luther’s case.

Thus the way was paved for Luther’s historic trial at Augsburg.

_Fables regarding Luther and Tetzel_

Before passing on to the trial at Augsburg, we must first deal with the
legends which cluster round the name of Tetzel and which were mostly
started by Luther and the Papal Chamberlain, Carl von Miltitz.

 We have a detailed critical monograph on Tetzel by Dr. N. Paulus:
 “Johann Tetzel, der Ablassprediger,” Mayence, 1899, which the same
 author[879] has since supplemented by other publications. Paulus by
 his impartial research has sealed the fate of the principal legends
 connected with Tetzel’s name.

 A statement made by Luther in 1541, i.e. at the time of his most
 bitter polemics, has been repeated countless times since, viz. that,
 in 1512, at Innsbruck, Tetzel the monk was condemned by the Emperor
 Maximilian to be drowned in the River Inn for the crime of adultery,
 and that only the intervention of the Elector, Frederick the Wise, had
 saved him from this fate. This is an untruth which Luther first made
 use of in his violent pamphlet “Wider Hans Worst.”[880] Before that
 time he had never mentioned anything of the kind. A. Berger says of
 the supposed condemnation at Innsbruck: “Paulus has finally disposed
 of the infamous tale of adultery and no one will ever venture to
 bring it forward again.”[881] Before this Th. Brieger had declared:
 “It is high time that this story which has been questioned even by
 Protestants should disappear.”[882] No authority whatever can be
 quoted for representing in an unfavourable light the private life of
 this man, who stood so prominently before the public. Concerning the
 supposed Innsbruck incident, Fr. Dibelius, Superintendent at Dresden,
 says: “among the imperfections and crimes alleged against Tetzel by
 his enemies the charge of immorality cannot be sustained.”[883]

 The shortsighted Papal Chamberlain Miltitz, in his eagerness to secure
 peace on any terms, in the first years of the Indulgence controversy
 made common cause with those opponents of Tetzel who brought forward
 baseless charges of immorality against him after he had withdrawn, at
 the end of 1518, to the pious seclusion of his Dominican priory at
 Leipzig. In mid-January, 1519, Tetzel had to endure the most bitter
 reproaches from the ill-informed Papal agent. But, as Oscar Michael
 remarks, “all attempts to set up Miltitz as a reliable witness will be
 in vain.”[884] “What Miltitz relates of Tetzel is altogether unworthy
 of credence.” Another Protestant writer had already before that
 expressed himself likewise.[885]

With regard to the matter of Tetzel’s sermons above referred to, it is
chiefly to Luther that we owe the charge of flagrant errors and gross
abuses in his proclamation of the Indulgence. “He wrote,” so Luther
explained to his friends, “that an Indulgence is a reconciliation
between God and man and takes effect even though a man performs no
penance, and manifests neither contrition nor sorrow.”[886] “Tetzel put
it so crudely that no one could fail to understand his meaning.”[887]

In his pamphlet of 1541 Luther says: “He sold grace for money at the
highest price he could.” He then instances six “horrible, dreadful
articles” which the avaricious monk had preached.

 One of these which extols his Indulgence contains an offensive
 statement respecting Our Lady; another declares that, according to
 Tetzel, “it was not necessary to feel sorrow or pain or contrition for
 sin, but whoever bought the Indulgence, or the Indulgence-letters,”
 had also bought an Indulgence for “future sins”; three of the articles
 say he had magnified the effects of the Indulgence by the use of
 unseemly comparisons, and finally, one states that his teaching was
 that embodied in the ribald rhyme: “As soon as money in the coffer
 rings, the soul from purgatory’s fire springs.”

 As a matter of fact, the accusations brought against Tetzel, of having
 sold forgiveness of sins for money without requiring contrition, and
 of having even been ready to absolve from future sins in return for
 a money payment, are, as N. Paulus, and others before him, pointed
 out, utterly unjust.[888] Even Carlstadt, after he had gone over to
 the hostile camp of the new teaching, admitted that the Indulgence
 sermons, including those of Tetzel, were in agreement with the
 generally accepted teaching of the Church; of the enormities just
 referred to he knows nothing. Above all, Tetzel’s own writings,
 likewise his instructions and also the testimony of strangers,
 all speak in his favour. “The Indulgence,” Tetzel says in his
 “Vorlegung,” “remits only the pain [i.e. the penalty] of sins which
 have been repented of and confessed.” “No one merits an Indulgence
 unless he is in a truly contrite state.”[889] Those who procured
 a Confession-letter received, according to an ancient usage, with
 the same letter permission to select a suitable confessor; for this
 an alms was given. The confessor was able to absolve, after a good
 confession, from all sins, even in reserved cases, and to impart a
 Plenary Indulgence by virtue of the Papal authorisation.

 Tetzel was able with the help of official witnesses to refute the
 calumny with regard to Mary in his eulogy of the Indulgence. There
 can, however, be no doubt that he brought the pecuniary side of
 the Indulgence too much into the foreground. Another Dominican, a
 contemporary of his, Johann Lindner, criticises his behaviour as
 follows: Dr. Johann Tetzel of Pirna, of the Order of Preachers,
 from the Leipzig priory, a world-renowned preacher, proclaimed the
 Jubilee Year [Jubilee Indulgence] at Naumburg, Leipzig, Magdeburg,
 Zwickau, Bautzen, Görlitz, Cologne, Halle and many other places....
 His teaching found favour with many; but he devised unheard-of ways
 of raising money, was far too liberal in conferring offices, put up
 far too many public crosses [as a sign of the Indulgence-preaching] in
 towns and villages, which caused scandal and bred complaints among the
 people and brought the spiritual treasury into disrepute.”[890]

 Finally the last of the “horrible articles” mentioned above does to
 some extent approach the truth. The saying about the money in the
 coffer cannot, indeed, be traced to Tetzel’s own lips, yet in his
 sermons he advocated a certain opinion held by some Schoolmen (though
 in no sense a doctrine of the Church), viz. that an indulgence gained
 for the departed was at once and infallibly applied to this or that
 soul for whom it was destined. This view was not supported by the
 Papal Bulls of Indulgence, and Luther was not justified in asserting
 at a later date that the Pope had actually taught this.[891] Great
 theologians, such as Cardinal Cajetan, for instance, even then
 expressed themselves against such a view, which now is universally
 recognised as untenable. It was the wish of Cajetan that no faith
 should be given those preachers who taught such extravagances.
 “Preachers speak in the name of the Church,”[892] he wrote, “only
 so long as they proclaim the teaching of Christ and the Church;
 but if for purposes of their own, they teach that about which they
 know nothing and which is only their own imagination, they cannot
 be regarded as mouthpieces of the Church; no one must be surprised
 if such as these fall into error.” It is true, however, that even
 the more highly placed Indulgence Commissaries did not scruple, in
 their official proclamations, to set forth as certain this doubtful
 scholastic opinion. It is no wonder that Tetzel in his popular appeals
 seized upon it with avidity, for, in spite of certain gifts, he was
 no great theologian. He not only taught the certain and immediate
 liberation of the soul in the above sense but also the erroneous
 proposition that a Plenary Indulgence for the departed could be
 obtained without contrition and penance on the part of the living,
 simply by means of a money payment.

 Some of Tetzel’s more recent champions have insinuated that the
 unfavourable opinion concerning his teaching rests merely on witnesses
 who reported on his sermons from hearsay without having themselves
 been present. As a matter of fact, however, the accusations do not
 rest merely on such testimony, but more especially on Tetzel’s own
 theses, or “Anti-theses,” as he called them, on his “Vorlegung”
 against Luther and on his second set of theses. This is reinforced
 by the official instructions on the Indulgence to which he was bound
 to conform. That a money payment alone is necessary for obtaining an
 Indulgence for the departed is indeed stated—though wrongly—in the
 instructions of Bomhauer and also in those of Arcimboldi and Albert of
 Brandenburg. The Anti-theses above mentioned were publicly defended
 by Tetzel on January 20, 1518, at the University of Frankfort on
 the Oder; they thus belong to Tetzel, though in reality they were
 drawn up by Conrad Wimpina. a Professor of Theology in that town.
 Paulus published a new edition of the Anti-theses, which were already
 known, from the original broadsheet which he discovered in the Court
 Library at Munich.[893] Four witnesses to the inaccuracy of Tetzel’s
 sermons must be mentioned: firstly, the Town Clerk of Görlitz, Johann
 Hass; then Bertold Pirstinger, Bishop of Chiemsee and author of the
 “Tewtsche Theologey”; thirdly, the Saxon Franciscan Franz Polygranus;
 and lastly, Duke George of Saxony. They confirm the statements taken
 from the above sources, and though their assertions do not rest on
 what they themselves heard, yet they may be considered as the echo of
 actual hearers.

In connection with the above “horrible, terrible articles” taken from
Tetzel’s teaching, Luther makes a statement with regard to his own
position and knowledge at that time, which, notwithstanding the sacred
affirmation with which he introduces it, is of very doubtful veracity.

“So truly as I have been saved by my Lord Christ,” he says of the
beginning of the Indulgence controversy in 1517, “I knew nothing of
what an Indulgence was, and no more did anyone else.”[894]

 It is possible that in 1541, when, as an elderly man, he wrote these
 words, they may have appeared to him to be true, but the sources from
 which history is taken demand that he himself as well as his Catholic
 contemporaries should be protected against such a charge of ignorance.
 His assertion has been defended by some Protestants on the assumption
 that his ignorance was only concerning the recipients of the revenues
 proceeding from the Indulgence. But why force his words? They refer,
 as the whole context shows, to the theological doctrine of Indulgences.

 We need hardly remind our readers that the conviction that Luther was
 thoroughly well acquainted with the Catholic doctrine on Indulgences
 can be demonstrated by his own sermon on Indulgences of the year
 1516.[895] He there shows himself perfectly capable of distinguishing
 between the essentials of the Church’s doctrine and the obscure and
 difficult questions which the theologians were wont to propound in
 their discussions. With regard to these latter, and these only, he
 admitted his uncertainty, as did other theologians too. This was as
 little a disgrace to him as the obscurity surrounding certain points
 was to the theology of the Church. But it is quite another matter
 when he says he did not even know what an Indulgence was. That no
 one else knew either, is a statement disposed of by his own sermon
 of 1516 and the various theological tracts on this subject. We need
 only recall the explanations of Cardinal Cajetan, of the Augustinian
 theologian and preacher Johann Paltz and of the continuator of the
 work of Gabriel Biel—so much studied among the Augustinians—Wendelin
 Steinbach, who succeeded Biel as professor at Tübingen. Biel himself
 had written on the question of Indulgences for the departed, and, in
 his appendices on this subject, had expressed himself quite correctly.

 Of the older theologians who preceded those we have mentioned in a
 right appreciation of this subject, we may enumerate the Franciscans
 Richard of Middletown, Petrus de Palude and Franciscus Mayron;
 the Dominicans Heinrich Kalteisen of Coblentz, whose writings on
 Indulgences have been re-edited by Dr. N. Paulus. All these treated
 the subject in accordance with the doctrine of St. Thomas of Aquin and
 St. Bonaventure. Kalteisen in his work, written in 1448 while he was
 Magister S. Palatii, refers expressly to St. Thomas, whose opinion
 on questions not yet definitively settled was ever considered the
 best. To mention only one point, all agree in interpreting the old
 expression (_remissio peccatorum_) usual in Indulgence-formulæ, as
 meaning a remission of the temporal punishment. Suarez, at a later
 date, could well refer not only to “all theologians,” but also to “all
 ‘Summists,’” i.e. to all those who had compiled moral Sums from the
 thirteenth to the sixteenth century.[896]

Thus, in 1517, the theological side of the question of Indulgences was
quite clear, and the statements made by Luther at a later date are not
deserving of credit. It was Luther’s false ideas on other points of
theology and his determination to put an immediate end to the abuses
connected with Indulgences, which led him in 1517 to make a general
attack, even though partly veiled, on the whole ecclesiastical system
of Indulgences.

If we keep this in view, a statement of Luther’s to which a false
interpretation has been frequently given, becomes clear. According to
an account given by Hieronymus Emser, he wrote to Tetzel at a time when
the latter was suffering keenly under the reproaches heaped upon him:
Not to worry, for it was not he who had begun the business, but that
the child had quite another father.[897]

 This sentence has repeatedly been taken as a testimony against
 himself on Luther’s part, as though by it he had intended to say: My
 new opinions and the desire to change the ecclesiastical order of
 things were the cause of my coming forward, the Indulgence was only
 an idle pretext. Luther’s defenders, on the other hand, took it to
 mean: “The child has, it is true, another father, viz. God Himself
 Who took pity on His Church, and forced Luther to come forward.”
 Both interpretations are wrong, and the following is the meaning as
 determined by the context: The attack which Luther made upon Tetzel
 was really directed against the authorities of the Church, against
 the Pope and Archbishop Albert of Brandenburg; these, not Tetzel,
 were the “father of the child,” and responsible for what afterwards

Tetzel died August 11, 1519, broken down by the weight of the
accusations brought against him and by the sight of the mischief which
had been wrought, and was buried before the High Altar of the Dominican
Church at Leipzig.

To describe the unfortunate monk as the “cause” of the whole movement
which began 1517 is, in view of what has been stated in the preceding
chapters, the merest legend. Notwithstanding the efforts which Luther
made to represent the matter in this or a similar light, it has
been clearly[899] proved that his own spiritual development was the
“cause,” or at least the principal cause, though other factors may have
co-operated more or less.

If we turn our attention to the external circumstances and the reasons
which led to Tetzel’s Indulgence-preaching, we shall find that recent
research has brought to light numerous facts to supplement those
already known, and also various elements which dispose of the legends
hitherto current.

2. The Collections for St. Peter’s in History and Legend.

The scholarly, well-documented work of Aloysius Schulte has thrown a
clearer light upon the question of the St. Peter’s Indulgence and the
part which the Archbishop of Mayence and Magdeburg played in the same
(cp. above, p. 327).[900]

In his later days Luther spread the following version of the origin of
Tetzel’s Indulgence-preaching: Albert of Mayence selected the “great
clamourer” Tetzel as preacher of the Indulgence in order, with one
half of the proceeds of the business, which was the part of the spoils
to be allotted to the Archbishop, to pay for the pallium which Rome had
sent him; the cost of the pallium was said to have amounted to 26,000
or even 30,000 gulden; the Fuggers advanced this money to Archbishop
Albert and then he, with Tetzel, “sent forth the Fugger cut-purses
throughout the land.” “The Pope, too, had his finger in the pie, and
had seen that the [other] half went towards the building of St. Peter’s
in Rome.”[901]

At a later date some of the Protestants even averred that Tetzel
“collected in the first and only year [of his preaching] one hundred
thousand gulden.”

 In the above statements there is a mixture of truth and falsehood.
 Various particulars, discreditable to both Rome and Mayence, had
 reached Luther by a sure hand; for others he drew on his own

 As early as 1519 he says in his memoranda for the negotiations
 with Miltitz: “The Pope, as his office required, should either
 have forbidden and hindered the Bishop of Magdeburg [Albert] from
 seeking so many bishoprics for himself, or have bestowed them upon
 him freely as he had himself received them from the Lord. But as the
 Pope encouraged the Bishop’s ambition and gratified his own greed for
 gold by taking so many thousand gulden for the palliums, i.e. for
 the Bishops’ mantles, and for the dispensation, he had, I said [this
 is Luther], forced and instigated the Bishop of Magdeburg to coin
 money out of the Indulgence.... Then I became impatient with such a
 lamentable business, and also, more especially, with the greed of the
 Florentines, who persuaded the good, simple Pope to do as they wished,
 and drove him into the greatest danger and misfortune.”[903] Luther
 was well-informed regarding what was going on in Rome, probably owing
 to his having friends at the Court of Albert. He refers in 1518 to an
 “_epistola satis erudita_” from Rome which had come into his hands,
 and which inveighed in the strongest terms against the Florentines who
 surrounded the Pope, as the “most avaricious of men”; “they abuse,” so
 he writes, “the Pope’s good nature in order to fill the bottomless pit
 of their passionate love of money.”[904]

 With regard to the statement, that Archbishop Albert had petitioned
 the Pope for the Indulgence in order to pay off the debt he had
 incurred by receiving the See of Mayence in addition to that of
 Magdeburg and also the expenses of the pallium, it has now been
 ascertained (the fact is certainly no less to Rome’s discredit) that,
 in reality, it was the Roman authorities, who, for financial reasons,
 offered the Indulgence to the Archbishop; Albert was to receive from
 the proceeds a compensation of 10,000 ducats, which sum, in addition
 to the ordinary fees, had been demanded of him on the occasion of his
 confirmation as Archbishop of Mayence on account of the dispensation
 necessary for combining the two Archiepiscopal Sees; one half of the
 proceeds of the Indulgence was to be made over to him for the needs
 of the Archdiocese of Mayence, the other half was to go towards the
 rebuilding of St. Peter’s, for which object a collection had already
 commenced in other countries and was being promoted by the preaching
 of the Indulgence.

 Regarding the whole matter we learn the following details.

 When Bishop Albert of Brandenburg, the brother of the Brandenburg
 Elector, Joachim I, was chosen Archbishop in 1514 by the Cathedral
 Chapter of Mayence he was faced by great difficulties, financial
 as well as ecclesiastical. Was it likely that he would obtain from
 Rome his confirmation as Archbishop of Mayence, seeing that he was
 already Archbishop of Magdeburg and at the same time administrator
 of the diocese of Halberstadt? Would it be possible for him to raise
 the customary large sum to be paid for his confirmation and for the
 pallium, seeing that the Archdiocese of Mayence, owing to two previous
 vacancies in rapid succession, had already been obliged to pay this
 sum twice within ten years, and was thus practically bankrupt? The
 sum necessary, which was the same in the case of Treves and Cologne,
 amounted on each occasion to about 14,000 ducats. With regard to
 the confirmation-fees for the See of Mayence and the expenses of
 the pallium, the Elector Joachim, who, for political reasons, was
 extremely anxious to see his brother in possession of the electoral
 dignity of Mayence, promised to defray the same, and thus the Mayence
 election took place on March 9. The Archbishop-elect borrowed, on
 May 15 of the same year, 21,000 ducats from the Fuggers, the great
 Augsburg bankers—no doubt with his brother’s concurrence—in order to
 be able to meet at Rome the necessary outlay for his confirmation and

 Grave doubts, however, were entertained in the Papal Curia as to
 whether, according to canon law, the above bishoprics might be held by
 the same person. Two of the offices in question were archbishoprics,
 and, hitherto, in spite of the prevalence of the abuse of placing
 several croziers in one hand, two archbishoprics had never been held
 by one man. Besides, the candidate was only in his twenty-fourth year.

 An undesirable way out of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary
 dispensation for holding the three ecclesiastical dignities presented
 itself. An official of the Papal Dataria informed the ambassador
 from Brandenburg, that if Albert could be induced to pay 10,000
 ducats beyond the customary fees “this should not be looked upon
 as a composition [tax], as His Holiness, in return for the same,
 would grant a ten-year Plenary Indulgence in the shape of a Jubilee
 in the diocese of Mayence.”[905] This proposal emanated from the
 Papal officials, Leo X himself as yet refusing to hear anything
 about the money question. After lengthy negotiations the proposed
 plan was accepted by the principals on both sides in the following
 amended shape: The Indulgence, one half of the proceeds of which was
 to be devoted to the building of St. Peter’s, and the other to the
 Archbishop of Mayence, was to be proclaimed for eight years, not only
 in the diocese of Mayence, but throughout the ecclesiastical provinces
 of Mayence and Magdeburg as well as in the domains of the house of
 Brandenburg (i.e. throughout almost the half of Germany, owing to the
 vastness of the province of Mayence); the proceeds were to be divided
 into two parts in the manner mentioned above, as alms for the erection
 of St. Peter’s and as an income for the Archbishop of Mayence. The
 Pope, in his simple goodness of heart, was gradually induced, by
 political considerations, to agree to the proposal. On July 19 the
 matter was finally decided in Consistory. Thus no actual indemnity was
 paid for the dispensation (as Luther asserted) beyond the Indulgence
 money and the alms for building. Pope Leo X confirmed the _supplica_
 in question on August 1, 1514. The public Indulgence Bull, however,
 _Sacrosancti Salvatoris_, is dated March 31, 1515.

 The branch house of the Fuggers at Rome at once paid the sum of 10,000
 ducats to the Pope. As the other fees for confirmation and the pallium
 had already been paid, the induction of Albert as Archbishop of
 Mayence took place on August 18, 1514, no difficulty being raised as
 to his retaining the two other Sees.

 Every Catholic at the present day will agree with H. Schrörs that
 “this manner of acquiring benefices with the assistance of an
 Indulgence was unworthy and reprehensible.”[906] It brings before
 our eyes an instance of the ecclesiastical abuses prevalent just
 before the Reformation, and which cannot be sufficiently deplored.
 “Although Albert’s confirmation may not have been, strictly speaking,
 simoniacal,” says a learned Catholic reviewer of Schulte’s works,[907]
 “yet there is a strong suspicion of simony about it; at any rate, it
 was an extremely discreditable business, and we may well look upon
 it as a Divine Judgment that the Mayence Indulgence should have been
 the immediate occasion of the great religious upheaval for which many
 other factors had been paving the way.” “The greater part of the blame
 rests with the Hohenzollern brothers, who approached the Curia with
 such an exorbitant demand for the cumulation of benefices.”[908]

 “Looked at in itself, the allocation of Indulgences, like that for
 St. Peter’s, is to some extent justified by the fact, that it was
 customary in the Middle Ages to make the granting of privileges an
 opportunity for the giving of special alms, and that the position of
 the Papacy, as head of the Church, gave it the right to share in the
 privileges of its members. On this was based the whole system of taxes
 levied by the Curia on the bestowal of any office, inasmuch as the
 tax was really a part of the income of the Curial officials; whereas,
 however, Rome had hitherto been content with one-third of the proceeds
 of an Indulgence, this was now increased to one-half.”[909] “Nor
 was it right if, as was probably the case, the Indulgence-preachers
 did not explain to the people how one part of their alms was to be
 disposed of, but left them in the belief that it was all to be devoted
 to the object announced [i.e. the rebuilding of St. Peter’s].”[910]

 Finally, the too frequent tendering of Indulgences towards the
 close of the Middle Ages must be noted as a regrettable abuse.
 The collections made for Indulgences granted for all sorts of
 ecclesiastical purposes were so numerous, that loud complaints were
 raised by the Rulers about the heavy burden thus imposed upon their

 The Indulgence for St. Peter’s followed many others and was first
 started under Pope Julius II. In this case the importance to the
 whole of Christendom of the erection of a new church over the tomb
 of the Prince of the Apostles may have afforded some justification.
 Originally intended to last only for twelve months, the Indulgence was
 extended from year to year.

 As regards its administration, Papal commissaries had been appointed
 for the proclamation of the Indulgence and for making the collections.
 Thus the Franciscan Observantines under the Vicar-General of the
 Order were entrusted with the so-called Cismontane provinces,
 comprising Italy and the Slavonian regions to the east of Europe,
 including Hungary, the German portions of Moravia, Bohemia, Silesia
 and Prussia and likewise Switzerland. In Switzerland the preacher
 was the celebrated Franciscan Bernardin Samson. Other special
 commissaries were distributed throughout the west of Europe, according
 to the political divisions; thus we find them established by Papal
 appointment in Spain, Brittany, the British Isles, Savoy, Burgundy,
 Scandinavia, and in the Spanish colonies in America.

 There had been some delay in introducing this arrangement into Germany
 as the country was already exhausted by large collections made
 for the Teutonic Order and the armies which it had been compelled
 to raise for the defence of the Catholic countries and Christian
 civilisation, and also by other taxes. In 1514 the time seemed,
 however, to have arrived. In this year, the same in which the bargain
 was struck with Albert of Brandenburg, a Chief Commissary, in the
 person of a cleric at the Papal Court, Gianangelo Arcimboldi, was
 appointed for the provinces of Cologne, Treves, Salzburg, Bremen,
 Besançon and other dioceses; Mayence, on the other hand, with the
 other portions of Germany before mentioned, was reserved for Albert as

 The Chief Commissary appointed sub-commissaries and preachers.
 Tetzel was chosen by Albert of Mayence as sub-Commissary. He had,
 before this, acted as sub-Commissary (1505-6) for the preaching of
 the Indulgence on behalf of the Teutonic Order in the dioceses of
 Merseburg and Naumburg, and later had worked in many other parts of
 Germany for the same Indulgence. In 1516 he had been appointed by
 Arcimboldi as sub-Commissary and preacher in the diocese of Meissen.
 It was in the beginning of 1517 that Archbishop Albert took him
 into his service as sub-Commissary and preacher for the dioceses
 of Halberstadt and Magdeburg.[911] In this capacity he came in the
 spring, 1517, to Jüterbog, in the neighbourhood of Wittenberg. While
 subordinate to Archbishop Albert he was at the same time, like his
 employer, under the orders of a Roman Commission; all the Chief
 Commissaries, Albert as well as Arcimboldi, were subordinate to a
 Papal Commission, at the head of which was the Pope’s Master of the

 The appointment of Albert as Chief Commissary had been made under
 the impression that the standing of this powerful German Prince
 of the Church would contribute to the success of the undertaking,
 and influence even those who were not in favour of the scheme. Yet
 Albert’s own envoys, when the handing over the Indulgence was first
 mooted, openly declared that they were not inclined to agree to
 accepting the Indulgence as “discontent, and perhaps something worse,
 might be the result,”[912] a fear which events were sadly to justify.

 In the end the yield did not reach expectations; this is plain from
 the accounts now available. The “hundred thousand gulden” which
 Tetzel was said to have collected in one year are a mere fiction.
 This tale was spread abroad in 1721 by J. E. Kapp, and before that by
 J. Wolfius (1600), and would appear to date from a chance word let
 fall by Paul Lang, the Benedictine (1520).[913] We are, however, in
 possession of more authentic details since an exact account was kept.

 This account of the collections was made in the following manner:
 the money-boxes were opened and the contents counted in the presence
 of witnesses, and the statement of the amount certified by a notary.
 Representatives of both parties—Archbishop Albert and the Fugger
 bank—were present, and kept an account, half of the proceeds being
 paid by the Fuggers to the Curia at Rome for St. Peter’s, and the
 other half to the Archbishop of Mayence. It was a good thing and a
 guarantee against mismanagement, that, at any rate in the case of the
 Mayence Indulgence and that for St. Peter’s, a reliable banking-house
 of world-wide fame and conducted on business principles (even though
 Luther styles the Fuggers cut-purses), should have thus undertaken the
 supervision of the accounts, however distasteful it may seem to have
 left to bank officials the distribution of the Indulgence-letters from
 the very commencement of the preaching.

 How much did the proceeds amount to? The Mayence Indulgence was
 preached only from the beginning of 1517 to 1518, the rise of the
 religious conflict interfering with its continuance. Schulte has,
 however, put us in possession of two considerable statements of
 accounts concerning this period, taken from the archives of the
 Vatican. That of May 5, 1519, deals with the Papal half of the
 Indulgence money which flowed in from the various dioceses of the
 ecclesiastical province of Mayence during 1517 and 1518, and was
 handed over by the house of Fugger. This half amounted to 1643 gulden
 45 kreuzer. A like sum was handed over to Albert, as has been proved
 by Schulte from a document in the State archives at Magdeburg. The
 other statement of account is dated June 16 of the same year and
 places the sum total of the money received from the ecclesiastical
 province of Magdeburg at 5149 gulden, according to which each half
 amounted to 2574½ gulden. If we assume these sums, viz. 8436 gulden,
 to have been the gross proceeds of the Indulgence enterprise, and if
 we take into consideration the charges, comparatively high, for those
 engaged in the work, then the amount cannot be described as large.
 Nor would the Archbishop of Mayence have received entire the 4218
 gulden constituting his share, as, according to an arrangement made
 with the Emperor, he had been obliged to make him a yearly payment of
 1000 gulden from the net profits. Thus only 3218 gulden would have
 remained to him. This would have compensated him but poorly for the
 enormous payments he had made to Rome. As regards the sums mentioned
 we must bear in mind the vast difference between the value of money
 then and now; the buying value of money, at a moderate estimate, was
 then three times greater than to-day. Since the researches undertaken
 by Schulte, other accounts, not included in the above, concerning the
 revenues produced by the Indulgence have been discovered, “a proof
 that an exact estimate of the whole proceeds of the Mayence-Magdeburg
 Indulgence is as yet out of the question.”[914]

 Another fable which owes its origin to the anti-Catholic inventions
 of the sixteenth century has it that Leo X did not devote the results
 of the Mayence Indulgence to the building of St. Peter’s, but poured
 them into the already well-filled coffers of his sister Maddalena,
 who had married a Cibo. There is no proof for this assertion. Felice
 Cortelori, the well-known keeper of the Vatican archives, declared,
 even in his day, that he was unable to find any confirmation of this
 story, which should therefore be rejected as fabulous, and Schulte, as
 a result of his own investigations, agrees with him.[915]

 Owing to the abuses and the change in public opinion, the amalgamation
 of spiritual and temporal interests, as it appeared in the Indulgence
 collections, became untenable in the course of the sixteenth century.
 The Council of Trent did well, though rather late in the day, in
 relegating, as far as possible, the system of Indulgences to the
 spiritual domain, its original and special sphere, that of benefiting
 souls. But one who knows how to view the movement of the times and the
 development of the Church’s life from the standpoint of history, will
 be able to put its true value upon this apparently strange union of
 the temporal and spiritual in the Indulgence system of the Late Middle
 Ages, and will give due consideration to the fact, that in those days
 the spiritual and temporal domains were more closely connected than
 at any other period. They were thrown into mutual dependence, each
 supporting the other; that disadvantages as well as benefits resulted,
 was of course inevitable.

 The preaching of Indulgences in accordance with the spirit of the
 Church, when rightly carried out, might be compared with popular
 missions of the present day. Besides the less desirable preachers
 many able and zealous men came forward wherever the cross, or the
 so-called Vesper-Bild, was erected as a sign of the preaching of
 the Indulgence. The crowds who streamed together, listened to the
 admonitions of speakers previously unknown to them and usually
 belonging to some Order, with more attention than at the ordinary
 religious services; many were led to a sense of their sins and to
 amend their life, as they could not receive the Indulgence without
 an inward change of heart; they were also glad to take advantage of
 the presence of strange confessors provided with ample faculties,
 to unburden their consciences by a good confession. The alms seemed
 little to them in comparison with the spiritual gain. And as hundreds
 came and experienced a similar spiritual renewal, their very multitude
 fired them with a common impulse to persevere in what was good. The
 researches of historians have hitherto been directed too much towards
 the abuses and outward disorders which accompanied these popular
 practices, which were for so long a great help to religion. It would
 be no loss if in future, so far as the special accounts which have
 been handed down admit, historians were to dwell more on the ordinary
 and little-noticed good results effected by Indulgences since they
 were first started.[916]

3. The Trial at Augsburg (1518)

In the course of September, 1518, Luther received the citation to
appear before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, as had been agreed with
the Elector Frederick; already, on August 25, the General of the
Augustinians had, in accordance with the earlier and more stringent
instructions from Rome to Cajetan, forwarded an order to the Saxon
Provincial Gerard Hecker, to seize Luther and keep him in custody. At
the end of September Luther set out for Augsburg, where he arrived,
with a recommendation from the Elector and an Imperial safe conduct, on
October 7.

He had started on the journey with great inward tremors and was a
prey to the same violent agitation at Augsburg. At a later date he
attributes the evil thoughts which plagued him to the influence of a
demon.[917] He seems from the first to have been determined to carry
his cause with a high hand, as ostensibly that of Jesus Christ. He
becomes more and more convinced of his mission from above, a persuasion
which takes possession of his soul with suggestive force.

 In the fragment of a lost letter from Nuremberg we find him writing
 of his journey on October 3-4, 1518, to his Wittenberg friends whom
 he wishes to encourage to remain steadfast. Faint-hearted people, so
 he says, had tried to dissuade him from continuing his journey, “but
 I stand fast; let the Will of the Lord be done; even at Augsburg,
 even in the midst of His enemies, Christ still reigns ... Christ
 shall live though Martin and every other sinner perish; the God of my
 Salvation shall be exalted. Farewell and be steadfast, stand upright
 because it is necessary either to be rejected by man or by God, but
 God is true and every man a liar.”[918] He certainly did not treat
 the matter lightly. To attribute hypocrisy to him, as though he merely
 played a part, would be to do him an injustice. It is true there are
 recent writers who look upon him as a mere comedian, but it would
 be nearer the mark to compare him to John Hus on his journey to the
 Council of Constance. Like him, he looked forward to death without any
 inclination to recant. The thought passed through him, he once said
 later: “Now I must die,” and he pictured to himself “what a shame that
 would be for his parents.”[919]

 The two letters he addressed to Spalatin and Melanchthon a few days
 after his arrival in Augsburg and before his first examination, gave
 proof of the strange mystical tendency which also appears in the
 fragment mentioned above; they show how he overcomes the inward voice
 which urges him to submit, and also the importunities of his anxious
 friends; they also show how, even then, he was prepared to take a
 certain step, should the demands appear to him too great: “I shall
 assuredly appeal to a General Council.”[920] He admits that he was
 “wavering between hope and fear” and, in order to stimulate his own
 courage, he draws a picture in these letters of two of the terrifying
 qualities of these “Italians” before whose representative (i.e.
 Cajetan) he is to defend himself.

 We must try to place ourselves in his position and to appreciate his

 In the first place, he relentlessly accuses his adversaries of avarice
 and greed in everything; unfortunately his knowledge of the Indulgence
 business had furnished sufficient cause for reproaches and complaints
 against the Church authorities in that respect.[921] Secondly, he
 finds fault with the “ignorance” of his opponents, and here he
 undoubtedly excites himself quite wrongly and unnecessarily over their
 supposed senseless and one-sided Scholasticism. In his letter to
 Melanchthon he exclaims, as though to reassure himself: “Italy lies in
 Egyptian darkness, her animosity to learning and culture is unbounded.
 So greatly do they misapprehend Christ and all that is Christ’s. And
 yet these are our teachers and masters in faith and morals. The anger
 of God is thus fulfilled in us where He says: ‘I will give children to
 be their princes, and the effeminate shall rule over them.’ Good-bye,
 my Philip, and turn aside God’s anger by holy prayers.” The supposed
 want of sympathy with learning and culture of which Luther accuses the
 Italians in this letter to Philip Melanchthon is surely most untrue,
 and was no doubt intended to strengthen Melanchthon, the weak and
 wavering Humanist, in his allegiance to Luther’s party, for Luther,
 notwithstanding his anxieties, had not lost his cunning. The reproach
 against Italy and Rome, where at that time Humanism was flourishing
 as nowhere else, can at most only apply to the stiffness of the old
 debased Scholasticism, and perhaps to a certain backwardness in
 biblical studies. Such blemishes afforded him a welcome handle. “I
 will rather perish,” he assures Melanchthon, the enthusiastic scholar,
 “than withdraw my true theses and help to destroy learning.” “I go,
 should it please the Lord, to be sacrificed for you and your young

 He still clings to the idea of being one with the Church in his
 theological views. “If they can prove to me that I have spoken
 differently from what the Holy Roman Church teaches, I will at once
 pronounce sentence against myself and beat a retreat, but,” he adds,
 “there lies the knot.”[922] A knot tied by himself. Strange, indeed,
 is the method he proposes for cutting it: “If that Cardinal [Cajetan]
 insists on the private opinions of St. Thomas more strongly than is
 compatible with the doctrine and authority of the Church, I shall not
 yield to him until the Church withdraws from her earlier standpoint
 upon which I have taken up my position.”

 How greatly the applause with which he was meeting everywhere worked
 upon him psychologically, confirming him in his resistance, came out
 clearly at Augsburg.

 It was only on this journey and at Augsburg itself that he became
 aware what a celebrity his action had made him. He alludes to this in
 the above-mentioned letter to Melanchthon, where he also reveals a
 flattering self-complacency: “The only thing that is new and wonderful
 here is, that the town rings with my name. All want to see the man
 who, like a new Herostratus, has kindled such a big blaze.”

Cardinal Cajetan, after making vain representations to Luther, finally
demanded the withdrawal of two propositions which he had plainly taught
and acknowledged as his. The first was his denial that the treasure of
the merits of Christ and the saints was the foundation of Indulgences;
the second was the statement which appeared in the “Resolutions,” that
the sacraments of the Church owed their efficacy only to faith. These
were points in which he had manifestly deviated from the Catholic
teaching and, to boot, matters of supreme doctrinal importance; as a
professor of theology Luther, moreover, had bound himself to submit to
the teaching authority of the Church.

His final answer to the Papal legate was, that he could not recant
unless he were convinced that he had said something against Holy
Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, the Papal definitions, or sound

Then followed his famous secret flight from Augsburg to Wittenberg.
Staupitz, who had stood by him at Augsburg, dispensed him for the
journey from any part of the Rule which might have proved to his
disadvantage, even from the wearing of the Augustinian habit. This
Superior had again shown himself at Augsburg as a man of half-measures
who allowed his prejudice for Luther to outweigh the demands of the
Church and of his Order.

Luther caused his Appeal to the Pope “better instructed” to be
presented to the Cardinal at Augsburg. He intended, as almost at the
same time he confided to Spalatin, to make an appeal to the future
Council only after the Pope, “in the plenitude of his power, or rather
of his tyranny,” had rejected his first appeal.[923] Meanwhile he does
not know, and this makes him waver between hope and fear, whether
he will be able to remain at the University of Wittenberg. Will the
Elector have power to retain him in his office? Will it be possible
for him to continue to lead a safe existence under his sovereign, and,
above all, find protection in the present danger from imprisonment and
the violent measures threatened? At this, the turning-point of his
life, these were the most pressing questions.

The duty of providing for his safety and furthering his cause devolved
principally on the Court Chaplain, Spalatin. Luther, in his letters to
Spalatin, which duly reached the Elector either as they were written or
in extracts, wisely avoids any unseasonable demands which could only
have been prejudicial to his interests; on the contrary, he declares in
well-chosen language, which was certain to please the Elector, that he
is ready to take up the pilgrim’s staff should it be necessary for the
good of the cause; the verbal commentary on his letters was undertaken
at Court by his able clerical friend.

“I am filled with joy and peace,” he writes to the courtier in the
letter above mentioned, “so that I can only wonder how my skirmish [the
trial at Augsburg] appears as something great to many esteemed men.”
If, however, joy and contentment reigned in him at that time, this was
principally owing to his natural relief at his escape from the dreaded
town of Augsburg.

In feverish haste, without awaiting the result of his first appeal, he
published, November 28, 1518, a new appeal to a future General Council.

An appeal to an Œcumenical Council was prohibited by old laws of the
Church, because, at the commencement of any movement directed against
the authority of the Church, it appeared likely to render all efforts
for the composing of differences illusory. It was rightly felt that
whoever came in conflict with the Church would make every effort
to reserve the decision of his cause to some future Council, more
especially when he is able meanwhile to devote himself freely to the
furtherance of his ideas, and when the speedy summoning of a Council
is very doubtful. The claim that an Œcumenical Council should be
called to pronounce upon every new opinion was so extravagant that the
prohibition found general approval.

At the time of Luther’s advent on the scene the prospect of a General
Council, owing to the dissensions among the Christian Powers, had
retreated into the far distance, and even though it had been possible
for the bishops throughout the whole world to assemble, the meeting,
according to ancient custom and the regulations of canon law, would
have taken place under the Pope’s presidency. Even in this event Luther
can, accordingly, have cherished but small hope of winning the day.

His deep distrust of Rome we find expressed in the letter, written
almost simultaneously, to his trusted friend Wencelaus Link, the
Nuremberg Augustinian, to whom he was forwarding his account of what
had taken place at Augsburg (_Acta Augustana_): “My pen is giving birth
to much greater things than these _Acta_. I know not whence these
thoughts come to me; the cause [i.e. the conflict], to my thinking, has
not yet commenced in earnest and much less can these gentlemen from
Rome look to see the end. I shall send my little works to you so that
you may see if I am right in surmising that the real Anti-Christ whom
Paul describes (2 Thess. ii. 3 ff.) rules at the Roman Court. I think I
can prove that to-day he is worse than the Turks.”[924] Whoever could
speak in this way had already cut himself adrift or was on the point of
so doing.

The powerful forces within the fiery and vivacious Monk seethed like
the crater of a volcano. The Lecture-hall at Wittenberg again resounded
with his eloquent and vehement outbursts. The number of students at the
University increased to an unexpected extent. “They surround my desk
like busy ants,” Luther declares in a letter.[925]

He does not know whence the ideas he pours forth come to him, but he
sees daily more clearly that they are from Christ. “I see,” so he wrote
to Staupitz, his Superior, “they are determined [at Rome] to condemn
me; but Christ on His part is resolved not to yield in me. May His holy
and blessed will be done, yea, may it be done. Pray for me.”[926] In
the same way, though in stronger terms, he informs his friend Johann
Lang soon afterwards: “Our Eck is again preparing to assail me; it will
come to this, that, with the help of Christ, I shall carry out what I
have long since planned, namely, to strike a deadly blow at the Roman
vipers by means of a powerful book. Hitherto I have merely played and
jested with Rome, albeit she has smarted as keenly under it as though
it had been meant in deadly earnest.”[927] “So God carries me away,” we
shall soon after hear him say. “God draws me. I cannot control myself.”
“God must see to it, what He is working through me.... Why has He not
instructed me otherwise?” He fancies he feels “the mighty breathing of
the Spirit,” and little by little he is carried away by the conviction
that he is God’s messenger and the leader of a cause which “is not of
man’s invention.”[928]

       *       *       *       *       *

During the exciting years of 1517 and 1518 Luther, in addition to his
polemical works, published several popular, practical handbooks on
religion. They consisted chiefly of collections and enlargements of the
sermons which he still continued to preach from time to time. Their
publication strengthened in many the impression, that the man whom some
denounced as a theological rebel was, on the contrary, simply zealous
for the salvation of souls and only seeking the spiritual profit of his

In the spring of 1517 he published, for instance, the German
exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms, already referred to, a
book which, as he wrote to Christopher Scheurl, was intended for the
rough Saxon “to whom the Christian teaching cannot be presented too
fully.”[929] If the work pleases no one, he says, then it will please
him all the more.[930] In this work he speaks in heartfelt tones,
especially when enlarging upon the “Word of Grace” and describing
the riches of Christ.[931] Another book, his: “Exposition of the Our
Father for the simple laity,”[932] first appeared in 1517 through
Agricola, then again in 1518 after having been amended by the author.
In the preface he says amicably: “I should like, if it were possible,
to render a service even to my adversaries; for my desire is to
be profitable to all men and harmful to none.” The object of such
assurances is, however, too evident, and they are, moreover, flatly
contradicted by his actual behaviour towards his opponents.

To pass over other pious instructions which his amazing power for
work created, he also published in 1518 the detailed Latin notes
of the sermons on the Ten Commandments, which he had delivered in
1516-17.[933] Many portions of this book are really useful and hardly
to be distinguished from what a true spiritual guide of souls would
write, but they also contain other matter which necessarily challenged
dispute. In most of his explanations he gives a very clever, popular
and perfectly correct presentment of the contents of the commandments
and the motives for keeping them; he goes, however, too far, for
instance, in his ruthless, and occasionally even contemptuous
opposition to the abuses connected with the veneration of the saints.
The tone which he here adopts in his strictures could not have
favourable results, and he would have done better had he devoted
himself to the criticism of the superstitious practices to which he
had alluded shortly before in connection with the errors of the Middle
Ages.[934] Oldecop, who was not unkindly disposed, complains that “in
the matter of the veneration of the saints, Luther was not in agreement
with the Catholic Church.”[935]

In the book in question, where he treats of the Sixth Commandment, he
is very severe and exact, indeed, rather too exact and detailed in
his enumeration and denunciation of the various kinds of sins of the
flesh. He speaks with rhetorical emphasis and, it must be admitted,
with a wealth of earnest thought, against the habit of filthy talking
which was gaining ground at that time.[936] Here, for example, after
the most solemn warnings against giving scandal to the little ones, he
lets fall these golden words with regard to reform: “If the Church is
to blossom again, the beginning must be made by a careful training of
the young.”[937] Among other things, Luther treats of the temptations
which the devout man abhors and must abhor, although he can never
escape them, and gives vent to the paradox: “True chastity is therefore
to be found in sensuality, and the more filthy the sensuality, the
more beautiful the chastity,”[938] surely a delightful instance of our
author’s propensity to unusual language. Somewhat obscurely, indeed,
he also speaks against the freedom of the will to do what is good;
Paul invokes the mercy of God against the temptation “in the body of
this death” (Rom. vii. 24 f.), and he, Luther, would lament over the
“poison of death within him.” “Where then are those who vaunt their
free will? Why do they not set themselves free from concupiscence as
soon as they please? Why will they not, yea, why are they unable even
to will?... Because their will is already elsewhere, dragged away as a

4. The Disputation of Leipzig (1519). Miltitz. Questionable Reports

The Leipzig Disputation, which commenced on June 27, 1519, and the
origin and theological course of which has been often enough depicted,
as was to be expected, merely induced Luther to proceed yet further
with his revolutionary theology.

The Pleissenburg of Leipzig has become since the Disputation between
Luther and Carlstadt on the one side and Eck on the other, a memorable
monument of German history. The great hall of this castle belonging
to Duke George was hung with splendid tapestries; a guard of the
citizens kept watch before the walls of the castle, for the Court, as
well as the city, wished to insure the safety of those conducting the
wordy tournament which was to be held in the public name. In addition
to the professors of the University of Leipzig and the guests from
Wittenberg, students as well as masters, many others were present,
brought together partly by curiosity, partly by interest in one or
other of the religious parties. The Duke, the guests of distinction,
and the sworn stenographers had special places assigned to them. Two
professorial chairs stood facing each other. On that belonging to the
Wittenberg party Carlstadt, who had arranged the affair, took his seat
and disputed with Eck for four whole days on man’s free will and its
efficacy with, and under, grace.

Then, on July 4, Luther succeeded him and at once launched into the
theological controversy on the question of the Primacy of the Pope. As
in the case of Carlstadt, Eck stood his ground without assistance until
the Disputation closed on July 14.

The Acts of the debate were to have been submitted to the Universities
of Erfurt and Paris for decision as to the winner, but this was never
done. The final impression made on the minds of the audience was that
Eck had borne away the palm. He had repelled the often virulent attacks
of two adversaries with untiring mental and physical energy, and had
displayed throughout a more extensive and ready acquaintance with the
theologians, the decisions of the Church, the Fathers and the Bible
than either of the representatives of the new opinions. Of a powerful
and imposing exterior, with a strong sonorous voice, he dominated
the course of the Disputation by his clear-headedness, his composure
and deliberation, whereas Carlstadt was too hurried and confused and
unable to produce the necessary positive proofs, and Luther, by his
over-confidence, his rhetoric and the habitual violence of his attacks
on his enemies gave umbrage to many. The greatest stumbling-block to
Luther’s success lay in the fact that the principal point, which was
to be decisive for his standpoint towards the Church, was still, even
to himself, as Protestant writers express it, “in process of inward
development,” whereas “Eck could take his stand on a sound and solid

This principal point was the question of the recognition of the Church
and her teaching office. Eck succeeded in forcing public statements
from his opponent which he would perhaps have still preferred to keep
in the background, but which were, as a matter of fact, the outcome of
his position. On the second day of the controversy between Luther and
Eck, on July 5, the question of the exercise of the Church’s power and
doctrinal authority in the condemnation of Hus’s erroneous teaching
came under discussion. Luther was now obliged to express his views on
the condemnation of the “Bohemian heretics.” Driven into a corner he
declared, that among the Husite doctrines condemned by the Council of
Constance there were some very Christian and evangelical propositions;
that the Council was wrong in asserting that everyone who wished to
be a member of the Church must believe in the Primacy of the Papacy;
that we must learn for ourselves from Holy Scripture what is of Divine
Right; that the opinion of an individual Christian must carry greater
weight than that of either Pope or Council if established on better
grounds; that Councils not only might err in matters of faith, but that
they actually had erred, as in the case of that of Constance.

Such unheard-of admissions caused the greatest sensation. Bluff Duke
George, on hearing Luther’s assertion that the Christian doctrines of
Hus had been unfairly condemned, exclaimed in a voice loud enough to be
heard throughout the great hall: “A plague on it!” shaking his head at
the same time and planting his hands on his hips.

It was an easy task for Eck to disprove on theological grounds the
statements of Luther.

The Disputation had at least the effect of clearing up the position,
and arousing misgivings in many of those who hitherto had been
partisans of the Wittenberg Doctor.

Luther himself wrote in a very discontented frame of mind to Spalatin
regarding the Disputation, saying that time had been wasted in the
useless affair, and that Eck and the theologians of Leipzig only
sought worldly honour and on this everything had suffered shipwreck.
Only the discussion on the Primacy (i.e. that very one at which the
momentous admissions were made) had been fruitful and productive. This
is his own impudent way of describing his position as the only right
one. “Hardly anything else,” he continues, “was treated worthily.
Eck was applauded, he triumphs and reigns, but an end shall be put to
this by my publication; for as the Disputation was badly conducted I
shall have the Resolutions to the Disputation theses reprinted. These
people of Leipzig neither greeted us nor visited us, but treated us
as deadly enemies [and yet every consideration had been shown him
that circumstances permitted]. Eck they supplied with an escort, they
surrounded him constantly, honoured him with feasts and invitations,
presented him with a coat and a costly mantle, rode out with him on
pleasant excursions, in fact did everything imaginable—to disgrace
us.” “There you have the whole tragedy ... it began ill and ended
worse.... As a rule, I control my ill-humour, but here I cannot help
pouring out my grudge, because after all I am human and see how the
shamelessness of our adversaries and their poisonous hatred of so holy
a cause have grown beyond measure.”[941]

Obstinately adhering to his standpoint and embittered as he was by
the Leipzig “tragedy,” Luther would lend no ear to the proposals for
reconciliation and settlement suggested by the Papal Chamberlain Carl
von Miltitz.

His attempts in this direction had commenced even before the
Disputation. Their continuance revealed on the one hand Luther’s
obstinacy, and on the other the inability of this lay Papal
official—whose motives were merely political—to see the real
seriousness of the matter. The latter, in order to secure apparent
victories, went beyond his instructions and the intentions of those
who had entrusted him with his mission. Luther on his part did not
shrink from diplomatic concessions which could not injure him, but
which anyone conversant with the conditions must have seen to be
impracticable. The easy triumphs of which Miltitz’s shortsighted love
of peace was productive were thus of very doubtful value.[942]

Luther’s edition of the Latin Commentary on the Epistle to the
Galatians, which appeared in September, 1519, assumed all the more
importance in his eyes. In this work, written in the language of the
learned (above, p. 306), he undertook to defend on the widest basis and
before cultured men of every clime his doctrines concerning grace and
salvation, faith and righteousness.

Here we have a public manifestation not merely of the doctrines which
lay at the back of the schism he had stirred up by his controversy with
Tetzel, but also of his wrong new view concerning Holy Scripture.

In the matter of style, Luther was more successful in his shorter
works, particularly in his German controversial pamphlets. Writers who
opposed him, such as Eck, Emser, Dungersheim, Alveld, Hoogstraaten,
Prierias he readily withstood in words full of fire and imagination,
although his arguments, as a rule, left much to be desired and were not
atoned for by his passionate invective. His main contention, voiced
in a more or less coarse form, is, however, always the following: the
proofs which you adduce from the teaching of the Church and the Fathers
do not move me because Holy Scripture, upon which I take my stand, is
above both Church and Fathers.

By the Holy Scripture he, moreover, persists in understanding his
own interpretation of the Bible. By a tragic mistake he has come to
confound his own personal and altogether subjective interpretation with
the objective “Word of God” in the Bible. In the same way he makes not
the slightest distinction between the meaning of the “gospel,” which he
fancies he has discovered, and the actual Gospel itself.

 Catholics urged against Luther that the Church had been entrusted with
 the safeguarding of the Holy Books, with the handing down of the canon
 of Scripture and the correct interpretation of the same, and that,
 from the earliest Christian times, the Faithful had always left to the
 living Tradition, the General Councils and the Supreme Teacher of the
 Church—the Vicar of Christ and inheritor of the powers of Peter—the
 final decision in doctrinal questions and the correct and binding
 interpretation of Holy Scripture.

 What Luther asserted, for instance, in his final letter to
 Dungersheim, brought the central dogma, namely, that of the teaching
 office of the Church, into still clearer light: “You have nothing
 else on your lips,” he says to Dungersheim and to all Catholics
 generally, “but the words Church, Church, heretic, heretic, and you
 will not admit that the injunction: ‘Prove all things, hold fast that
 which is good’ (1 Thess. v. 21), applies to any. But when we ask
 for the Church, you show us one man, the Pope, to whom you entrust
 everything [i.e. all decisions on matters of faith], and yet you do
 not prove by one word that his faith is unchangeable. Yet we have
 discovered in the Pope’s Decretals more heresies than any heretic ever
 invented. You ought to prove your standpoint and instead of this you
 always start from the same premiss.”[943] Theologians, as a matter
 of fact, had never claimed for all the contents of the Decretals a
 rank among the solemn pronouncements on faith. What is, however, more
 important is that Luther places the individual above the Church and
 the Primacy appointed by God; he puts the Scriptures in his hand, to
 interpret as he will. He continues as follows: “You ought to prove
 that the Church of God is with you and nowhere else in the world. We
 want the Scriptures for our judge, but you wish to be judges of the

 In this connection, seeking to justify the bitterness of his
 polemics, he unwittingly gives an excellent portrait of himself: “You
 misinterpret the words I speak, just as the ass in your midst [Alveld]
 is doing at the present moment. This seems to be the way with you
 people of Leipzig, you read without attention, judge presumptuously,
 and are too stupid to understand the writings of others. Maybe my
 patience will come to an end and make room for anger, for I am after
 all as human as you; you sit there calmly and nag at me while I am
 oppressed with work and everyone shows me his teeth, and, forsooth,
 humility is expected of me while I am being attacked by ravening
 wolves. The weight of the globe presses upon me (‘_orbis me premit_’),
 and if I do so much as nod, you cannot endure it; if at last I turn
 round upon you, I am accused and found fault with on all sides. I
 write this to show my zeal for peace and concord; why, in God’s name,
 am I not allowed to enjoy them?”

 He himself shows us later in what way he was desirous of “peace and
 concord.” From the words we have just quoted he seems, strange to say,
 to think that the Roman party had no right to fight for the great and
 sacred interests of Mother Church, nor to repel the attacks he was
 making upon so much which had hitherto been believed.

It is exceedingly sad to see how Luther, the once zealous religious,
has become alienated more and more from the heart of the Church,
from her life, ways of thought and feeling. Passion for his cause,
precipitation, overstrain, both mental and bodily, the delusion that
the whole world was watching the brave monk’s daring move, all this
cuts him off, more even than his previous conduct, from practical
association with the Church. His growing lukewarmness in religion is
paving the way for his complete apostasy.

He confesses that he lived in a worldly turmoil of work and
distractions, of parties and feastings which led him away “to
immoderation, impropriety and negligence.” Recollection, penance and
humility become more and more strangers to him, though he can still
speak words of piety; everything is overcovered by the great struggle
he has called into being; the less attention he devotes to the duties
of the religious life, the more he gravitates to the Electoral Court,
where Spalatin is ever busy seeking to provide him with a safe shelter.
This is the talented man, so the Catholic sadly reminds himself, whose
words might have assisted in calling forth a real reform within the
Church, if, agreeably with the spirit and rules of the Church, he had
only appealed to the Faithful and their pastors with earnestness and
deliberation, with persistence and confidence in God. Instead of this,
he pushed forward heedlessly in the slippery path to lay sacrilegious
hands on the doctrine and the whole structure of the Church as existing
up to that time.

At the close of this chapter some remarks may perhaps be permitted on
certain mistaken or misunderstood tales concerning Luther, which belong
to this period.

The history of the sermon referred to above (p. 334), delivered by
Luther at Dresden in July, 1518, in the presence of Duke George of
Saxony has recently been presented to Protestant readers in the
traditional legendary form as “portraying the whole history of the
following centuries.” If it were really so supremely important, then
we ought, indeed, in our narrative to have put this sermon in a better
light and assigned it a very different position. As a matter of fact,
however, its contents are by no means of any great moment and do
not even justify its description as “the trial sermon of the pale
Augustinian monk.”

 Duke George of Saxony, so we are told in this new and adorned
 version of the incident, “had applied to the Vicar-General of the
 Augustinians, Staupitz, requesting that he would procure for him an
 honest and learned preacher,” and Staupitz thereupon sent him Luther
 “with a letter of recommendation in which he described him as a highly
 gifted young man of proved excellence, both as regards his studies and
 his moral character.” As a matter of fact, however, it is only known
 that Luther happened to be in Dresden on July 25, 1518, on his way
 back from the Heidelberg Chapter. As he usually did, he took advantage
 of the opportunity afforded him of preaching. Of the letters of Duke
 George or of Staupitz history knows nothing.

 The sermon was delivered in the castle (“_in castro_”) in the presence
 of the Court on the aforesaid day, which was a Sunday, and also the
 Feast of James the Greater.[945] The text was taken from the Gospel
 for the Feast in which our Saviour says to James and his brother: “Ye
 know not what ye ask” (Matt. xx. 22). On this text Luther, doubtless
 in his customary burning words, described “the foolishness of people
 in their prayers, and what the true object of prayer should be.”
 This is what he himself tells us.[946] He introduced among other
 things into the sermon a story about three virgins, which, he says,
 was “quite theological.” According to another account, he did not
 lose the opportunity of expressing the ideas which dominated him,
 namely, that those who listen to the Word of God with an attentive
 mind are true disciples of Christ, chosen, and predestinated for life
 everlasting, and that we must overcome “the fear of God”; he no doubt
 laid particular stress on faith and depreciated good works. It does
 not seem necessary to assume that there were two different sermons.
 “The evangelical certainty of Salvation, as against the traditional
 righteousness by works,” so runs the latest legendary account, “shone
 forth from his words more plainly than was agreeable to the Duke.”

 Duke George was, and remained, a good Catholic. His opinion of
 Luther’s sermon is characteristic: “I would have given much money
 not to have heard it,” so he says, “because such discourses make men
 presumptuous.” This he repeated several times at table with great
 displeasure. The occasion which gave rise to this remark was that
 Barbara von Sala, a lady of the Court who was present, praised the
 sermon as most reassuring, and added that if she could hear such a
 sermon again she would die with a quiet mind.

 At the Court much was said in disparagement of the sermon and the
 preacher, certain conversations of Luther in the town seeming to have
 contributed to this. The Prior of the Augustinian monastery at Dresden
 wrote afterwards to Luther telling him that many found fault with him
 as unlearned and arrogant, etc., that the sermon in the castle was
 made the ground for all sorts of reproaches; that it was also said
 that his story of the three virgins had been directed against three
 particular ladies at the Court, which surely was not the case. Shortly
 after, when preparing for the Disputation at Leipzig, Luther must
 evidently have feared that the Duke was not favourably disposed, for
 he wrote begging that, if he had displeased him, he would “graciously
 pardon everything.” The Duke replied that he was not aware of “any
 displeasure ever conceived by us against you.” Duke George, who was
 zealous for reform, was much in favour of Luther’s Indulgence theses
 and, after having come to an understanding with Eck, he sanctioned the
 Disputation at Leipzig notwithstanding the objections of the Bishop
 and the theological faculty.[947]

 We know some details concerning Luther’s behaviour in the town, and
 the violent attacks on Thomas of Aquin and Aristotle, to which he
 gave vent, in the presence of some of the Leipzig theologians, at a
 dinner in Emser’s house. Luther, as he himself says, there defended
 the proposition, that “neither Thomas nor all the Thomists put
 together had understood a single chapter of Aristotle,” undoubtedly
 an extraordinary statement, yet one which, stripped of its cloak
 of hyperbole, is quite in Luther’s style. Not a single Thomist, he
 said on the same occasion, knew what was meant by keeping God’s
 Commandments.[948] A young Leipzig Master in the ensuing Disputation
 attacked him fiercely on this score, and declared later that he had
 stopped his mouth so completely that he was unable to say a word.
 A Dominican who was standing at the door listening angrily to the
 attacks upon the great Doctor of his Order, afterwards admitted that
 he had hardly been able to restrain himself from rushing into the room
 and spitting in Luther’s face.

 This is all that the sources contain regarding Luther’s stay at
 Dresden. There is no justification for the proceeding of certain
 Protestant narrators who magnify the so-called “trial sermon,” and
 utilise Luther’s sojourn to make him utter unique predictions of the
 future. Other events of those years might with much greater truth be
 represented as momentous, particularly the Heidelberg Disputation from
 which Luther was then returning.

In private conversations at Dresden Luther showed clearly how far
he had already separated himself from the older Church. Emser made
representations to him on this score: “I told you of it plainly at
Dresden,” he writes in the following year, “and again at Leipzig,
warning you in a friendly manner and begging you to place some
restraint upon your zeal and to avoid giving offence, and not to speak
of the superstitious malpractices amongst us Catholics in such a way as
at the same time to root out all belief, and to rob the German people
of their faith.”[949] Elsewhere Emser explains: “A year before the
Disputation at Leipzig [i.e. in 1518, and without doubt at Dresden]
Luther declared that he cared nothing for the Pope’s excommunication
and had already determined to die under it. And this, should he deny
it, I am ready to prove.”[950] We may take it that Emser is here
alluding to Luther’s rude answers to his adversaries, who, according
to his own story, reproached him at Dresden with the sermon he had
preached at Wittenberg on the “Power of Indulgences”; some portions of
this sermon had already found their way to Dresden, though as yet it
had not been printed. There is no doubt that Emser himself was among
these adversaries. His statement about what Luther said is absolutely
trustworthy, and shows how untrue the fable was that Luther was
animated by the most peaceful of intentions and only against his will
was dragged into a struggle which led eventually to his excommunication.

Luther’s stay at Dresden and Leipzig affords an opportunity for
discussing two of his famous and oft-quoted utterances, which, in
the sense they are generally employed against him, are historically
doubtful. Emser, it is usually stated, with his own cars heard Luther
declare that he was only waiting for an assurance of protection from
the secular power in order to declare war on the Pope, and that Luther
himself had admitted that his cause had not been begun for God’s sake.

 The first utterance, so well revealing his low and cowardly standard,
 Luther is said to have given vent to at Dresden in 1518, telling Emser
 that if only a Prince would shield him, he would do his worst against
 the Church. But is Emser here really referring to words spoken by
 Luther himself? What he actually says is this: “Many people know that
 one of his Order had often and in divers places been heard to say
 that if he [Luther] only knew of a Prince who would have backed him,
 he would give Pope, Bishop and Parsons a fine time of it.”[951] In
 these words we have accordingly not an utterance of Luther’s own, but
 merely one of a brother monk. Neither is Dresden given as the place
 where this was said; on the contrary, the Augustinian referred to was
 heard to say these words in many different places. What he repeatedly
 said certainly does not redound to Luther’s credit, neither does it
 agree with the high-spirited defence of the truth which is generally
 attributed to him by Protestants. Whether the Augustinian spoke from a
 thorough knowledge of Luther, and whether what he said really renders
 words which Luther had spoken, cannot be determined. At any rate,
 the manner in which Luther acted in order to gain and retain the
 protection of the Elector, through the intermediary of Spalatin, gives
 some weight to the words.

 The other statement said to have been made by Luther was as follows:
 “Let the devil do his utmost, the business was not begun for God’s
 sake and, for His sake, shall not be ended.” This Emser says he
 actually heard from Luther himself;[952] he tells Luther: “I warned
 you three times in a fraternal spirit and begged you for God’s sake to
 spare the poor people to whom you were certainly giving great scandal
 by this matter, and you at last answered me: ‘Let the devil, etc.’”

 It is, however, very doubtful whether Luther would have said so
 plainly that his cause in the controversy had not been begun, and
 should not cease, for God’s sake (which is what Emser takes him as
 meaning). In his reply to Emser Luther declares he had meant something
 quite different by what he said and we have no right to set aside
 his explanation. He relates that the words were said to Emser in the
 Chancery of the castle at Leipzig on the occasion of the Disputation
 of 1519, but really of the opposite party who wished to do him “harm”
 by the proposed Disputation; Eck, who had “begun the Disputation,”
 Emser and the Leipzig theologians had a mind to injure thereby his
 teaching; “my words applied to them,” “not to myself,” those of “ours
 who were standing by” are my witnesses;[953] besides, he writes,
 he would have been “possessed” had he said: “I did not begin this
 in God’s name”; but, because in saying this he regretted “that the
 opposite party sought honour rather than the truth,” he said it “with
 sorrowful words and a sad mind.” Emser nevertheless stood to his
 version[954] and declared that Luther, far from speaking sadly, had
 said the words with eyes sparkling with anger; besides, Luther had
 had no right to say anything of the kind about Emser and the Leipzig
 theologians, as they had not then set on foot any measures against him.

 It is quite likely that Emser gave Luther the threefold warning
 he speaks of above. But that Luther should have replied to the
 exhortation “to spare the poor people,” etc., by the strange statement
 that “the matter had not been begun for God’s sake” is so utterly
 unlikely that he was probably right in denying it in his reply to
 Emser.[955] We may safely assume that Emser was a little confused in
 his recollection of the interview; in his conversation in the castle
 at Leipzig he may have spoken of Luther’s action generally and of the
 Disputation in particular, whereupon Luther, thinking only of the
 Disputation, may well have said: “Let the devil,” etc.; which Emser,
 in the excitement of the dispute, took to refer to Luther’s action as
 a whole.

 At any rate, Luther’s fear of giving scandal, according to his own
 letters, was not nearly so great as he makes out in his reply to
 Emser. Here, in the very passage under discussion, he overwhelms Emser
 with abuse, a fact which does not awaken confidence in his statements:
 “That man would indeed be a monster, even worse than Emser himself,
 who did not heartily grieve to cause annoyance to the poor people.”
 He calls his opponent a “poisonous, shameless liar,” a “murderer,”
 who spoke contrary to his own “heart and conscience.” “My great and
 joyful courage cuts you to the quick”; “Ecks, Emsers, Goats, Wolves
 and Serpents and such-like senseless and ferocious beasts” would have
 raved even against Christ Himself. In the same breath he declares,
 that in his behaviour up to that time “he had never once started a
 quarrel”; everything unfavourable that had been said of him was based
 merely on lies, which had been invented about him “these three years”
 and had become a crying scandal.



1. The Second Stage of his development. Assurance of Salvation

TWO elements were still wanting to Luther’s teaching—the very two
which, at a later date and till the end of his life, he regarded as the
corner-stone of the truth which he had discovered—viz. Faith alone as
the means of justification, and the assurance of Divine favour, which
was its outcome. Both these elements are most closely connected, and
go to make up the Lutheran doctrine of the appropriation of salvation,
or personal certainty of faith. In accordance therewith justifying
faith includes not only a belief in Christ as the Saviour; I must not
merely believe that He will save and sanctify me if I turn to Him with
humility and confidence—this the Church had ever taught—but I must
also have entire faith in my justification, and rest assured, that
without any work whatsoever on my part and solely by means of such a
faith, all the demands made upon me are fulfilled, the merits of Christ
appropriated, and my remaining sins not imputed to me; such is personal
assurance of salvation by faith alone.

The teaching of the Catholic Church, we may remind our readers, never
recognised in its exhortation to faith and confidence in God, the
existence of this “faith alone” which justifies without further ado,
nor did it require that of necessity there must be a special faith in
one’s state of salvation. In place of faith alone the Church taught
what the Council of Trent thus sums up: “We are said to be justified by
faith because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation
and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please
God and reach the blessed company of His children.”[956]

And instead of setting up a special faith in our own state of
salvation, her teaching, as expressed by the same Council, had ever
been that “no devout person may doubt the mercy of God, the merit
of Christ and the power and efficacy of the sacraments,” though, on
the other hand, “no one may boast with certainty of the remission of
his sins”; “nor may it be said that those who are truly justified
must convince themselves beyond all doubt that they are justified
and that no one is absolved from sin and justified unless he believe
with certainty that he has been so absolved and justified, as
though absolution and justification were accomplished by this faith
alone”; “but rather everyone, bearing in mind his own weakness and
indisposition, may well be anxious and afraid for his salvation, as no
one can know, with the certainty of faith which excludes all error,
that he has attained to the grace of God.”[957]

Such was the doctrine which Luther had learnt in his early days as a
monk; it animated his youthful zeal for the religious life and did not
interfere with his contented and happy frame of mind, as expressed in
the letter of invitation to his first Mass and his conversations with
Usingen.[958] The writings of St. Bernard had taught him, that in the
religious life this happiness is the portion of all those who seek God.
Luther knew that thousands like himself rejoiced from their hearts in
the “anointed cross” of the service of God, as Bernard calls it. On
the by-path he chose to follow he lost, however, his happiness and
increased his doubts and inward unrest.

Luther, after forsaking the Catholic standpoint, had hitherto been
tormented by anxiety as to how we can be assured of the Grace of God.
Having left the secure footing of the Church’s views on nature, grace
and predestination, he was now in search of a certainty even more
absolute. His Commentary on Romans had concluded with the anxious
question: “Who will give me the assurance that I am pleasing God by
my works?” As yet he can give no other answer than that, “we must
call upon God’s grace with fear and trembling and seek to render Him
gracious to us by humility and self-annihilation, because all depends
upon His arbitrary Will (above, p. 217 ff.). In these lectures, in the
course of his gloomy and abstruse treatment of predestination, he had
instructed his hearers how they must be resigned to this uncertainty
concerning eternity (p. 236 ff.).

 In the act of resignation he perceived various signs of
 predestination. He says in the Commentary on Romans: “There are three
 degrees in the signs of predestination. Some are content with God’s
 Will, but are confident they are among the elect and do not wish to
 be damned. Others, who stand on a higher level, are resigned and
 contented with God’s Will, or at least wish to be so, even though God
 should not choose to save them but to place them amongst the lost.
 The third, i.e. the last and highest degree, is to be resigned in
 very deed to hell if such be the Will of God, which is perhaps the
 case with many at the hour of death. In this way we become altogether
 purified from self-will and the wisdom of the flesh.”[959]

 “Terrible pride prevails among the hypocrites and men of the law, who,
 because they believe in Christ, think themselves already saved and
 sufficiently righteous,” these claim to attain to grace and the Divine
 Sonship “by faith alone” (“_ex fide tantum_”), “as though we were
 saved by Christ without the performance of any works or acts of our
 own” (“_sic ut ipsi nihil operentur, nihil exhibeant de fide_”). Such
 men possess too much faith, or rather none at all.[960]

 While he was thus wavering between reminiscences of the Catholic
 teaching and his own pseudo-mystical ideas on justification and
 imputation, his mind must indeed have been in a state of incessant
 agitation, so that uneasiness and fear became his natural element.
 “As we are unable to keep God’s commandments and are therefore always
 unrighteous, there remains nothing for us but to be in constant fear
 of the Judgment (‘_ut iudicium semper timeamus_’), and to pray for
 pardon, or rather for the non-imputing of our unrighteousness.” “We
 are to rejoice, according to the Psalmist (ii. 11), before God on
 account of His Mercy, but with trembling on account of the sin which
 deserves His Judgment.”[961]

 In 1525 he wrote: To leave man no free will for what is good and to
 make him altogether dependent on God’s predestination “seems, it
 is true, cruel and intolerable; countless of the greatest minds of
 previous ages have taken offence at this. And who, indeed, is there
 whom the idea does not offend? I myself have more than once been
 greatly scandalised at it and plunged into an abyss of despair so that
 I wished I had never been created. But then I learned how wholesome
 despair is and how close it lies to grace.”[962]

This he “learned,” or thought he learned, through his doctrine of
assurance of salvation through faith.

“The forgiveness offered us by God in His Word” (if we may here
anticipate his later teaching), became for him a definite object of
sanctifying and saving faith, to the extent that faith came to be
identical in his eyes with _fiducia_.

 Faith is, as he says, “a real heartfelt confidence in Christ.”[963]
 “He strongly emphasises at the same time the relation between what is
 here proposed for belief and the individual believer; I believe that
 God is gracious to me and forgives me. That, says Luther [later],
 makes the Article of the Forgiveness of Sins particularly difficult,
 for though the other Articles of Faith may be more difficult if
 once we begin to speak of them and try to understand them, yet in
 the Article of the Forgiveness of Sins what presents the greatest
 difficulty is, that ‘each one must accept this for himself in
 particular.’ This was hard to a man because he must stand greatly in
 awe of the anger of God and His Judgment; but when the Article of the
 Forgiveness of Sins comes home to us and we really experience its
 meaning, then the other Articles concerning God, the Creator, the Son
 of God, etc., ‘also come home to us and enter into our experience.’
 And, according to Luther, true faith consists in this, that I believe
 and am assured that God is my God because He speaks to me and forgives
 my sins.”[964] While taking the acceptance of the whole of revelation
 for granted, he magnifies fiducial faith to such an extent, that many
 Protestant theologians have come to consider a trusting faith in
 Christ to be his only essential requirement, in fact to imagine that
 in this alone faith consists; claiming to be merely following Luther,
 they deny that the acceptance of individual points of faith, i.e.
 Articles of Faith, can be a necessary condition for salvation.

Fiducial faith, with its assurance of salvation was the way which
Luther discovered out of all his troubles about two years after the
termination of his Commentary on Romans, in 1518, or the beginning of
1519. This discovery is a remarkable event, which stands alone, and
with which we must concern ourselves after first examining what led up
to it. From the place where it was made, viz. the tower belonging to
the monastery, it might be styled the Tower Experience.

The incident remained imbedded in Luther’s mind till his old age; he
frequently alludes to it, and though in some of its details his memory
did not serve him aright and his apprehension of it may have been
somewhat modified by party prejudice, yet the main elements of the
story appear to be historically quite credible. He fixes not merely
the place, but also the time of the incident, namely, the commencement
of his second course of lectures on the Psalms (1518-19), i.e. two
matters which ever serve as the most reliable framework for the picture
of an event long past. From what he relates between 1532 and 1545, one
thing is directly certain regarding this purely spiritual, and for that
reason rather less tangible incident, viz. that it was an experience
arrived at only after the acutest mental anguish and which Luther ever
after regarded as a special illumination vouchsafed to him by God. It
is connected with Romans i. 17: “For the justice of God is revealed
therein [in the Gospel] from faith unto faith as it is written [Hab.
ii. 4]: ‘The just man liveth by faith.’”

What is indirectly no less certain, from the unanimity of the
testimonies, and from the course of his development as vouched for by
his writings, is that the discovery in question was really that of the
assurance of salvation.

       *       *       *       *       *

The various opinions which have been expressed on the account of the
event given by Luther (see below, p. 388 ff.) in 1545, and the numerous
attempts which have been made to fix a date for the same, render it
necessary to trace chronologically the development of the doctrine of
faith and salvation in Luther’s mind till the year 1519. We shall see
that his statement as to the time when the event took place (1518-19)
not only presents no difficulty, but that such a termination to his
experiences was naturally to be expected.

 Prior to 1518-19 the absolute assurance of salvation which appears
 afterwards is nowhere distinctly expressed in Luther’s doctrine on
 faith and salvation.

 Passages to the contrary, which have been quoted from the imprinted
 lectures on Hebrews delivered previous to the autumn of 1517, need
 not be interpreted in the sense of fiducial faith and assurance of
 salvation. They refer rather indistinctly to the effects of faith
 without the works which Luther had now come to detest, and attack
 “self-righteousness,” as in the Commentary on Romans (“_sola fides ...
 quæ non nititur operibus illis_ [_orationibus et præparatoriis_”]).
 They only hint vaguely at the road he will follow later.[965]

 Again, in the Indulgence theses of October 31, 1517, directed against
 Tetzel, the assurance of salvation is not expressed, and we find a
 recommendation “to trust rather to enter heaven by much tribulation
 than by security and peace.” In place of _pax, pax!_ he, as a mystic,
 would prefer to exhort the people with the cry: _crux, crux!_ (thesis

 Neither do the theses of the Heidelberg Disputation in April, 1518,
 contain the assurance of salvation, although theses 25-8 touch upon
 justification and, as against the law, extol the great effects of the
 faith which Christ works in us.[966]

 On the other hand, the Resolutions to the Indulgence theses which
 appeared shortly after (1518) treat to a certain extent of the subject
 and attempt to give a solution.[967] There we read: “In the confusion
 [in the mind of the man who is perturbed by thoughts of sin and
 rejection] God works a strange work in order to accomplish His work”;
 grace is infused (“_infunditur gratia_”), while man still fancies he
 “is about to be damned.” In order to rid himself of his “despair,”
 he goes to Confession “so that the priest may declare him absolved
 and give peace to his conscience.” “The man who is to be absolved
 must take great care lest he doubt the remission of his sins.” Faith
 in Christ’s words to Peter: “Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth,”
 etc., does all. The whole passage, which describes justification in
 the fanciful and paradoxical language of the mystic, is worth quoting:
 “When God begins to justify a man, He first damns him; He is about to
 build, but first He pulls down, to heal but first He deals wounds, to
 vivify but first He condemns to death. He crushes a man, humbles him
 by the knowledge of himself and his sins and makes him tremble, so
 that, under a sense of his misery, he cries out [with Holy Scripture]
 ‘there is no peace for my bones because of my sins, there is no health
 in my flesh because of Thy wrath. For the mountains melt away before
 the face of God, He sends out His arrows, He troubles us with His
 anger and with the breath of His wrath. The sinner sinks down into
 hell and shame covers his face. David frequently experienced this
 confusion and tribulation and describes it with sighs in several of
 the Psalms. Salvation has its origin in this confusion, because ‘the
 fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.’” The ways of God are in a
 tempest and a whirlwind, according to Nahum (i. 3); man’s destruction
 is to Him “the most pleasing sacrifice,” the animal sacrificed is torn
 in pieces, the hide is stripped off, and it is slaughtered. Luther in
 three passages from the Prophets, describes the “infusion of grace,”
 which man is apt to mistake for the outpouring of the Divine wrath
 upon him.

 Because the man who is justified is still “without peace and
 consolation,” not trusting his own judgment, he begs the priest
 for comfort in Confession. “He is led to cling to the judgment
 of another not because he is a spiritual superior, or because he
 possesses any power, but on account of the words of Christ Who cannot
 lie: ‘Whatsoever thou shalt loose,’ etc. Faith in these words has
 worked peace of conscience while the priest looses by virtue of the
 same.”[968] “Christ is our peace. Without faith in His word, no one
 will ever be at peace even after more than a thousand absolutions from
 the Pope. Thanks be to God for this sweet power of the priest.”

 Such words of gratitude do not disguise the fact, that the sacrament
 of penance is stripped of its meaning by the assurance, that “the
 remission of guilt takes place by the infusion of grace before the
 priest has given absolution.”

 Above all it is plain we have not yet here that assurance of
 salvation, as Luther held it at a later date:

 “Whoever seeks peace in another way [than through the absolution of
 the priest],” he says in the same passage, “say, by his own inward
 experience, appears to be tempting God, and not seeking peace by
 faith.” With this denial of the validity of personal inward experience
 (“_experientia intus_”) he brushes aside an element which, scarcely a
 year later, he represents as essential. He says still more definitely:
 “The remission of guilt is not assured to us, as a general rule,
 except by the sentence of the priest, and not even by him unless we
 believe Christ’s promise with regard to loosing. But so long as we are
 not certain of the remission it is no remission.” “As the infusion
 of grace is hidden under the appearance of anger, man is still more
 uncertain of grace when it is present than when it is absent.”[969]

 That Luther could rest satisfied with so shadowy and insufficient a
 conception can only be attributed to his state of mind at the time.

 He lays great stress on absolution in the Disputation of the year 1518
 “For the calming of troubled consciences” (above, p. 319).[970] Here
 it is expressly stated, that the strongest assurance regarding the
 state of grace is to be derived from the priest’s absolution and the
 accompanying faith of the penitent Christian: “Whoever is absolved by
 the power of the keys must rather die and renounce all creatures than
 doubt of his absolution” (thesis 16). “Those who declare the remission
 of sins to be doubtful on account of the uncertainty of contrition,
 err to the point of denying the faith” (13), for “the forgiveness of
 sins is based much more upon faith in the word of Christ: ‘Whatsoever
 thou shalt loose,’ etc.” (9). “The power of the keys operates a sure
 and infallible work by the word and the command of Christ, when used
 in earnest.” (24). The concluding words of the Disputation already
 quoted elsewhere accordingly exhort to boundless confidence, while at
 the same time alluding significantly to the text which has risen on
 Luther’s horizon, though as yet he understands it only imperfectly:
 “The just man liveth by faith.”

His state of uncertainty with regard to the appropriation of salvation
caused Luther great disquietude. Other circumstances, particularly
his feverish excitement at the outset of his public struggle, also
contributed towards his inward unrest. The morbid fear of which he had
never rid himself was also powerfully stirred.

The supreme degree of this painful torment of soul may be gathered from
the description he gives in the Resolutions.

In this work, which appeared in August, 1518, in dealing with the 15th
Indulgence thesis, he tries to prove that the punishment of Purgatory
may be made up merely by fear and terror. Many of those living even
now, he says, had experienced how high the flood of such interior
sufferings can rise and how close they bring a man to despair. He would
not quarrel with any who did not believe this, but those who had been
through such trials were in a position to speak of them. Tauler treated
of such pains in his German sermons and brought forward some examples;
of course, to the Scholastics Tauler was unknown; they did not
appreciate him, but he had found more real theology in this theologian
who wrote in German than “among the whole of the Scholastics of all
the universities.” He then proceeds, beginning with the very formula
with which Paul introduces the account of his raptures: “I know a man”
(_Novi hominem_), to describe the mystical interior sufferings which
he had “frequently” experienced; though they had never persisted long,
they were so “hellish,” that whoever had not undergone them himself was
quite unable to speak of them. Had this consuming fire lasted only for
the tenth part of an hour all a man’s bones were reduced to ashes.

“God then appears to be horribly angered and with Him all creation.
There is no possibility of flight, no comfort whether within or
without, only a hollow accusing voice. The soul laments, according
to the words of Scripture: ‘Lord I am cast away from Thy face,’
she dares not even say: ‘Chastise me not in Thy wrath.’ At this
moment—inexplicable as it is—the soul is unable even to believe
in its possible liberation, but only feels that the punishment is
not at an end. It appears everlasting and unceasing. The soul finds
nothing in its whole being but a bare longing for help, nothing but
terrible sighing, though it knows not whence to implore assistance.
Thus the soul, like Christ, is completely extenuated, all its bones
are numbered, there is not a tissue in it which is not penetrated with
the excruciating bitterness, with flight, with mournful anxiety and
pain, and all for ever and ever. When a ball passes over a board every
point of the line along which it travels bears the whole weight of the
ball, though it does not receive the ball into itself. So, too, the
eternal flood of pain passes over the soul and causes it to taste the
whole endless weight of eternal pain in every part, but the pain is not
permanently received into the soul, it does not last, but passes.”[971]

The above so strange and fantastic description incorporated in a Latin
work written for the learned, in the interests of Luther’s psychology,
calls for further consideration.

Particular stress must here be laid on the false mysticism in which
Luther was then entangled, and his free use of the fanciful language
of certain of the mystics. Luther’s states had, however, nothing in
common with those described in somewhat similar words by the healthier
mystics, viz. the sore trial of the Mount of Olives through which
the soul passes owing to the complete withdrawal of consolation.
He, however, imagines he sees himself portrayed not only in such
descriptions of the mystics, but also in mystical passages in the
Psalms over which, at this time of change, he was fond of brooding.
David’s cries ring in his ears; his experience of the hell in which the
soul must dwell, of the life which draws nigh to hell, of the bones
which are banished to the gate of hell, of the sinking into a dark sea,
into the bowels of the earth under the heaped-up weight of endless

It must also be borne in mind that the Monk, with his pseudo-mystical
ideas, cherished a gloomy conception of God, and held the terrible
doctrine of the absolute predestination of the damned. Having wandered
away from the Catholic teaching, with his views on man’s lack of free
will, and the theory of arbitrary imputation by God, he found no answer
in his troubled conscience to the question which weighed him down,
namely, how to arrive at the assurance of a Gracious God. Confusion and
interior pangs of conscience for a while gained the upper hand.

Lastly, his peculiar morbid tendency to fear must also be taken into
account, for it afforded an opportunity to the Tempter to add to his
confusion by raising difficulties regarding the deficiencies of his
new, self-chosen theology.

Adolph Hausrath in his Life of Luther even speaks of periodical mental
disturbances from which he suffered during the time he was a monk; the
disturbing power inherent in the monastic practices, so he says, took
possession of his sensitive nature with its strong feelings; Luther
only escaped the danger of going mad by bravely bursting the fetters of
the monastic Rule and the Popish Faith. In the strong inward combats
which Luther endured at a later date Hausrath recognises a return of
this affliction. In his second edition he has toned down this view
of Luther’s periodical attacks of mental illness out of regard for
the objections which had, not without reason, been urged against his
statement. In Luther’s case, however, there is no reason for assuming
any “monkish mental disease,” nor can he be proved to have suffered
from any disturbance whatever of his mental functions at any time of
his life.[972] But if we take it that the night of the soul which he
passed through, whether in the monastery or during his later struggle,
had at its basis a peculiar physico-psychic disposition revealing a
want of normal inward stability, then we can perhaps easily explain
some other strange and at first blush inexplicable phenomena which his
case presents.

At any rate, the fundamental new dogma of the assurance of salvation
was not the product of a clear, quiet, calm atmosphere of soul. It
was born amidst unbearable inward mental confusion, and was a frantic
attempt at self-pacification on the part of the Wittenberg Doctor
whose active but unstable mind had already left the true course.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is of interest and helps us to reach a right understanding of the
Tower Experience, to follow the change of view regarding assurance of
salvation which is apparent in Luther’s statements and writings in the
latter months of 1518 and beginning of 1519.

At the time when, in October, 1518, Luther, a prey to other anxieties,
stood before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg, he was already making great
strides towards the new and consoling dogma of faith alone, moved
thereto by indignation at the censure which one of his propositions had
called forth. He says to Cardinal Cajetan in his explanation of the
second of the assertions which he was required to withdraw, that it was
incorrect to speak of it as “a new and false theology that no one can
be justified except by faith, and that it is necessary to hold it as
certain in faith that one is justified, and not in any way to doubt the
obtaining of grace, because whoever doubts or is uncertain is no longer
justified, but is rejecting grace.”[973]

 He attempts to prove this first as regards Confession. The principal
 thing is to believe the words of Christ: “Whatsoever thou shalt
 loose,” etc., i.e. by applying the words to oneself; “under pain of
 eternal damnation and to avoid committing a sin of unbelief,” it is
 necessary to believe this; this faith is the only disposition for
 the sacrament and no work whatever serves as a preparation.[974] No
 one could receive grace who doubted of its reception; but, if we
 believed, then we received everything in the sacrament. The belief
 that we receive a personal remission of sin is, according to St.
 Bernard, the testimony of the Holy Ghost in our heart; this, according
 to the same Father, is expressed in Romans iii. 28: “We hold that a
 man is justified by Faith without the works of the law.” Let Cardinal
 Cajetan, he says finally—after quoting a great number of biblical
 passages having no bearing on the matter in hand—show him how he
 is to understand in any other way all these texts from the Divine

 What is remarkable is, however, that, during his trial at Augsburg,
 he allows Confession and Absolution to recede further into the
 background than in the Resolutions; he no longer speaks of the
 above-mentioned magical production of the personal assurance of
 salvation, by the formula of absolution, as by the testimony of
 another; he now holds the absolute certainty of justification to
 be present by faith even before this, whenever a man is willing to
 submit himself, according to his instructions, to the Sacrament of
 Penance.[975] Thus faith alone and the assurance of salvation were
 already present. The principal difficulty, however, as he admits
 below (p. 389 f.), still troubled his mind. This was the Justice of
 God, which haunted his conscience, though it did not hinder his going

The appeal he made to a General Council in November and his
“conjecture” of December, 1518, that the Pope might be Antichrist,[976]
were momentous indications that he was cutting himself adrift from
the authority of the Church. At the same time he stripped the ideas
he had hitherto held on faith of everything that reminded him of the
traditional teaching of the Church; he transformed the faith necessary
for justification into a mere act of confidence in the merits of
Christ without any reference to the Sacraments, to the other truths
of faith, or to the Church, who is the guardian and mouthpiece of
faith. To lay hold upon the righteousness of Christ with a sure trust
is made to suffice for justification and for the fullest assurance of
salvation, without any of the preliminaries and conditions on which
he had formerly insisted. This act, too, God alone operates in man,
who himself is devoid of all free will. Although he incidentally
clothes the act of confidence with love, and even hints at the good
works a man may have performed previous to this act, also requiring
good resolutions for the future, yet these are only additions which
are really inconsistent with his idea. Henceforward fiducial faith
appears to him as really an isolated fact, an act of confidence
inspired by God merely from His good pleasure and with no regard for
any work. A vast change of far-reaching consequence had taken place
in Luther’s conception of the appropriation of the _iustitia Dei_, he
had now reached an interpretation of the words _iustus ex fide vivit_
and of the whole meaning of the gospel, upon which, notwithstanding
the independence of his treatment of doctrine, he had never hitherto

We may well ask what event, what development, had led up to this.

Salvation by faith alone and the absolute assurance of one’s state
of grace, were taught by Luther quite openly in the second course of
lectures on the Psalms, which he had commenced in 1518 (perhaps at the
end of the year), and the beginning of which he published in 1519 with
a preface addressed to the Elector Frederick, dated March 27, 1519
(see above, p. 285). This was the “_Operationes in Psalmos_,” upon the
publication of which he was engaged until 1521, and which was finally
left unfinished.

This work he, even at a later date, described as an entirely true
exposition of his actual teaching on justification.[977]

Other lectures, delivered at an earlier period, received no such praise
from him; on the contrary, he never took the trouble of having them
printed, and does not even mention them. Although the Commentary on
Romans, which we have already studied, had advanced a considerable
distance along the new lines of thought, nevertheless, at a later date
its tone appeared too Catholic to please him; it did not contain the
new creed “_Credo me esse salvum_.” The same is true of the earlier
course on the Psalms, of the lectures on Galatians, on Hebrews and on
the Epistle to Titus. Luther, as a rule, was very ready to have his
writings printed, but these, after he had entered upon the second stage
of his development, he plainly looked upon as unripe and incomplete.

Simultaneously with the printing of the new Commentary on the Psalms he
commenced that of another Commentary, also consisting of lectures. This
is the shorter of the two works on Galatians which he has left us in
print (above, p. 306 f.). This Commentary on Galatians, together with
the “_Operationes in Psalmos_” is the earliest witness to his new and
definitive conception of _sola fides_ as an entire confidence in one’s

To these must be added the almost contemporary “_Sermo de triplici
iustitia_” delivered towards the end of 1518, and the “_Sermo de
duplici iustitia_” dating from the commencement of 1519.

 The righteousness of Christ, he says in the sermon on the threefold
 righteousness[978]—without any reference to the Sacraments, with the
 exception of Baptism, or to the Church’s means of grace—“is our whole
 being” and “becomes by faith our righteousness, according to Romans
 i.: ‘The just man liveth by faith’”; “Whoever has this shall not be
 damned, even though he commit sin,”[979] this being proved by two
 passages from the Psalms; “by this man becomes lord of all things.”
 There is no such thing as merit. “Every Christian must beware of ever
 doubting as to whether his works are pleasing to God; whoever doubts
 this, sins, loses all his works and labours in vain.... He is not
 acting from faith or in faith.” “As you believe in Christ so too you
 must believe that your works are well pleasing to God because they are
 of faith [i.e. done in a state of grace].”

 In the sermon on the twofold righteousness one of the first quotations
 from the Bible on which the same idea is based and yet more strongly
 expressed is again Romans i. 17: “The justice of God is revealed in
 the gospel,” etc.[980] This passage assumes a more prominent position
 in his mind. He pauses in his explanation of Psalm xxx. 1: “_In
 iustitia tua libera me_”; this, he says, signifies “the righteousness
 of Christ which has become ours by faith, grace and the mercy of God.”
 He finds that this righteousness is frequently referred to in the
 Psalms as the “work of God, confession, power of God, mercy, truth
 and justice. These are all names for faith in Christ, or rather names
 for that righteousness which is in Christ.” It is true that “this
 alien righteousness which is only infused by grace is never completely
 infused all at once, but begins, increases and is finally completed
 by death.” It is displayed by works of faith, especially those for
 the good of others, where man, “the lord of all things,” makes
 himself “the servant of all”—words which Luther employs in exactly
 the same sense shortly afterwards as the foundation of his work: “On
 the freedom of a Christian man.” Faith, i.e. confidence in our own
 salvation by Christ, works all this; it imparts a certainty so that we
 are able to say: “Christ’s life, work, sufferings and death are mine,
 just as though I had myself lived, worked, suffered and died; so great
 is the confidence with which you are able to glory in Christ.”[981]

 His teaching, even then, was against the law. According to him, says
 Loofs, “the law, even as ‘explained’ in the New Testament, which
 renders assurance of salvation possible only after the fulfilment of
 demands impossible to the natural man, is, it is true, necessary as
 a negative preparation for faith, though not to be regarded as the
 expression of the relationship desired by God between Himself and
 man. It is the gospel which teaches us the position which God wishes
 us to occupy with regard to Himself; according to its teaching we
 must, before we do anything for our salvation, be certain by faith of
 God’s forgiving grace, in order to be born again by such a faith and
 become capable of fulfilling the Will of God.”[982] The Protestant
 theologian who writes thus in his History of Dogma also points out
 that according to Luther, the law was merely revealed by God as an
 educational measure and as the foundation of a scale of rewards,
 whereas the gospel represents the justice of God in the order of
 grace (Rom. i. 17). “In this conception of the antagonism between
 the law and the gospel,” says Loofs, “and in the possibility and
 necessity of an assurance of salvation which it presupposes lies the
 fundamental difference between the Lutheran and the Catholic view of

At these fundamental views regarding the appropriation of salvation,
or righteousness by faith, Luther had accordingly already arrived in
1518-19 when engaged on his second exposition of the Psalms.

2. The Discovery in the Monastery Tower (1518-19)

Luther describes, in an important passage of the Preface to the Latin
edition of his works in 1545, how he finally arrived at his ideas of
faith and the assurance of salvation.[984] It is the only occasion
on which he expatiates in so detailed and vivid a manner on his own
development. In the light of this passage his other assertions must be

The reader is at once struck by what Luther relates of the gloom
and confusion of his mind previous to the discovery in the tower.
In the preface, he says: “The passage, Romans i., ‘The Justice of
God is revealed in the Gospel,’ had, till then, been an obstacle to
me. For I hated the words ‘justice of God,’ which according to the
use and custom of all teachers I had been taught to interpret in the
philosophical sense, namely, as referring to the formal and active
justice by which God is just and punishes the sinners and the unjust.
Although I was a blameless monk, I felt myself as a sinner before
God, suffered great trouble of conscience and was unable to look with
confidence on God as propitiated by my satisfaction, therefore I
did not love, but on the contrary, hated, the just God Who punishes
sinners; I was angry with Him with furious murmuring, and said: The
unhappy sinners and those who owing to original sin are for all
eternity rejected are already sufficiently oppressed by every kind of
misfortune owing to the Ten Commandments, and as though this were not
enough God wills [according to Rom. i.] by means of the gospel to heap
pain on pain, and threatens us with His Justice and His Anger even in
the gospel.”[985]

In his Table-Talk, as reported by Heydenreich, he says in the winter of
1542-43 in a quite similar way: “These words were always in my mind.
Wherever the ‘Justice of God’ occurs in Scripture I was only able to
understand this to mean the justice by which He Himself is just and
judges according to justice.... I stood there and knocked for someone
to open to me, but no one came to undo the door; I did not know what
to make of it.... Before finding the solution I shuddered with horror,
I hated the Psalms and the Scripture where the justice of God occurs,
which I took to mean that He was just and the Judge of sinners, but
not that He was our Justification and our imputed righteousness.” “The
whole of Scripture stood like a wall in front of me.”[986]

“As often as I read that the Justice of God was revealed in the
Gospel,” he says in his Commentary on Genesis, “I wished that God had
never revealed the Gospel, for who could love an angry God Who judges
and condemns?”[987]

 “This word Justice,” he says in another Commentary in 1532, “cost me
 much sweat (‘_magno sudore mihi constitit_’). To interpret this as
 though it meant the justice according to which God damns the wicked
 is not merely unfounded but very dangerous; it awakens in the heart
 great hatred of God and His Justice; for who can love Him Who treats
 the sinner according to justice? Never forget that God’s justice
 means that justice by which we are justified; it is the gift of the
 remission of sins.”[988]

 That in truth it “cost him much sweat” before he was able to overcome
 the objections suggested by the justice of God itself, is proved by
 other and stronger allusions of Luther to the interior storms he
 underwent at this crisis. We refer to other statements in which, as
 above, he is speaking of Bible passages containing the expression
 Justice of God. Thus for instance: “The words just and Justice
 of God were like a lightning-flash in my conscience (‘_fulmen in
 conscientia_’); when I heard them, they at once filled me with terror.
 I thought God is Just and therefore He punishes.”[989] “That word
 _iustitia_,” he said in September, 1538, “was a thunder-clap to my
 heart. When as a papist I read: ‘Deliver me in Thy Justice’ (Ps. xxx.
 2), and ‘In Thy Truth,’ etc., I immediately represented to myself the
 avenging Justice and the fury of an angry God. In my heart I hated
 Paul when I read: ‘The Justice of God is revealed in the Gospel’ ...
 till at last in my affliction a remedy presented itself.”[990]

 Here we may mention some statements, which, though they belong to
 his later, fictitious portrayal of his spiritual development,[991]
 nevertheless contain an element of truth concerning his inner life
 at the time when he was still a monk, and probably during those
 very months when he was excitedly and confusedly brooding over the
 assurance of salvation. In reality they merely describe in greater
 detail what the above passages relate of his dread of God’s Justice,
 though they also falsely charge all papists and all monks with being
 full of servile fear for the Judge, and forming a school of despair.

 “We fled from Christ,” he says in one of these remarkable passages,
 “as from the devil; for we were taught that everyone must appear
 before the Judgment-seat of Christ with his works and orders....
 The Gospel tells us that Christ does not come as a Judge but as a
 Saviour; but the monks taught the contrary, namely, that He was to
 be our Judge.”[992] Now, he says, elsewhere, the word of God which
 has been rediscovered “depicts Christ as our Justice.” But in the
 monastery he, like all the others, had “fallen away from the faith,”
 and therefore his “heart trembled and palpitated for fear lest God
 should not be gracious” to him. “I often shuddered at the name of
 Jesus and when I looked at Him on the cross, He seemed to me like a

 He had often, he assures us, been forced to say: “I wish there were no
 God,”[994] “and none of them looked upon my unbelief as a sin.”[995]

 It was “simple idolatry, for I did not believe in Christ but looked
 on Him as a stern and terrible Judge.”[996] “I did not know how I
 stood towards God,” “was unable to pray aright,”[997] indeed “no
 one knew anything” about prayer, “for we did not pray in faith in

 It was a “great martyrdom and bondage from which the gospel set us
 free”;[999] I was, as it were, in a privy and in the kingdom of the
 devil.[1000] He felt the terrors of the Divine Judgment, he assures
 us (possibly on account of the inward wrestling with the _iustitia
 Dei_) so that his “hair stood on end” when he thought of it. “At
 the monastery I shuddered when they spoke of death or the other

 “I was the most wretched man on earth; day and night there was nothing
 but howling and despair which no one was able to put an end to for me.
 Thus I was bathed and baptised and properly sweated in my monkery.
 Thanks be to God that I did not sweat myself to death, otherwise
 I should have long ago been in the depths of hell with my monkish
 baptism. For I knew Christ only as a stern Judge from Whom I wished
 to escape and was unable to do so.... Thus have they tortured many a
 worthy soul throughout life and at last thrown him in despair into the
 infernal abyss.”[1002]

“In this way I raged (‘_Ita furebam_’),” Luther continues in the Latin
Preface where he speaks of his sudden discovery, “and my conscience
caused me terror and confusion; I knocked imploringly at the verse of
Paul (Rom. i. 17) with a burning thirst to know what it meant.” He now
describes the actual inward experience.

 “At last, while brooding day and night, by the mercy of God I noticed
 the connection between the words: the Justice of God is revealed
 therein [in the gospel], as it is written, ‘The just man liveth by
 faith.’ Then I began to understand the Justice of God as that by which
 the just man lives by the gift of God, viz. by faith; [I saw that]
 the sense is this: ‘By the gospel, justice, i.e. the passive justice
 of God, is revealed by which the merciful God justifies by faith, as
 it is written: ‘The just man liveth by faith.’ Then I felt myself
 born again and fancied I had passed through the gates of Paradise.
 The whole of Scripture thereupon appeared to me in quite a different
 light. I ran rapidly through the passages in question as they lived
 in my memory and compared them with other expressions, such as: ‘Work
 of God,’ i.e. the work which God carries on in us; ‘Power of God,’ by
 which He makes us strong; ‘Wisdom of God,’ by which He makes us wise;
 likewise the ‘Strength of God,’ ‘Salvation of God,’ and ‘Honour of
 God.’ Then I extolled that sweetest word, Justice, with as much love
 as I had previously hated it, and this passage of Paul’s became to
 me in very truth the gate of Paradise.” He adds that the reading of
 Augustine had strengthened him in his interpretation, and, “provided
 with better weapons by means of this experience, I set about the
 exposition of the Psalms for the second time”; this work was, however,
 interrupted by the Diet of Worms.

Luther, it is true, does not speak here of the monastery tower as
the scene of his experience, but this is described quite plainly in
his other statements given below. In these the privy situated above
the “Hypocaustum” is mentioned as the place where the discovery took
place. They at the same time complete and confirm the account given
in the Preface of the antecedents of this new enlightenment, i.e. the
immediately preceding terrors of God’s avenging justice, the time it
happened, viz. when Luther was engaged on the Psalms, and finally, the
subject-matter of the experience.

The accounts from Luther’s own lips must here be considered

Not only do they correspond exactly with Luther’s condition of mind,
as described above, but also, according to the chronological account
already given of the development of his teaching, with the time he
recommenced his work on the Psalms, 1518-19, which period Luther
expressly mentions in the Preface as the date of the incident.[1003]
It is not necessary, indeed, when we consider the above description
of the course of his development, not possible, to assign an earlier
date to the incident, though some have recently pushed it back to a
time prior to his first exposition on the Psalms. Others, on account of
some minor inexactitudes which occur in the principal account given in
1545 (see below, p. 399), hold it to be a fanciful invention of Luther
in his old age in which he was merely summing up the result of a long
inward process. If every circumstance be calmly weighed the historian
must however, in the main, support Luther’s account; he is not free to
sacrifice the valuable source of knowledge, of such vast importance in
arriving at an estimate of Luther’s personality, presented by these

In what follows Luther’s other testimonies to the same effect as that
contained in the Preface, will be duly brought forward and their
peculiarities noted.

 The first testimony is to be found in Johann Schlaginhaufen’s notes
 and speaks of the fears which the thought of God’s avenging justice
 habitually caused Luther and from which the discovery delivered
 him.[1004] This pupil of Luther’s relates, in an abbreviated Latin
 form, the following communication which he received from Luther
 between June and September, 1532, i.e. thirteen years before the
 Preface: “The words just and Justice were like a flash of lightning
 in my conscience. When I heard them I was filled with terror [and
 thought]: Is He just? Then He will punish; ‘The just man liveth by
 faith,’ ‘the Justice of God is made manifest without the law’ (cp.
 Rom. iii. 21); our life therefore comes of faith; God’s Justice must
 be the salvation of everyone who believes. Then my conscience at once
 comforted itself: Surely it is the Justice of God which justifies
 us and saves us; and this word (_iustitia_) became more pleasing to
 me.” “This art,” Schlaginhaufen proceeds in Luther’s own German, “the
 _Spiritus sanctus_ infused into me in this Cl.” (see p. 396).

 The fear of the Divine Justice also appears in the foreground in the
 account of the incident in Luther’s Table-Talk in September, 1540, as
 preserved by Johann Mathesius.[1005] “At the outset when I read and
 sang in the Psalm [every evening at Compline] the words: ‘_In iustitia
 tua libera me_,’ I was afraid and hated the words: ‘_iustitia Dei_,’
 ‘_iudicium Dei_,’ ‘_opus Dei_.’ For I thought nothing less than that
 ‘_iustitia Dei_’ meant His strict Judgment. And if He was to save
 me according to His strict Judgment I should be lost for ever. But
 ‘_misericordiam Dei_,’ ‘_adiutorium Dei_,’ those words pleased me
 better.” But it was only after the light of a true understanding of
 God’s Justice had risen upon me that “I began to relish the Psalter.”

 The notes on Luther’s Table-Talk made by his friend Master Caspar
 Heydenreich, dating from the winter 1542-43, and edited by Kroker in
 1903 from the collection of Mathesius, must also be considered.[1006]

 Mathesius records them under the descriptive title: “_Evangelii
 occasio renascentis per Doctorem_.” He plainly thought, agreeably with
 Luther’s own opinion and that of his pupils, that the enlightenment
 he had received on the text “The just man liveth by faith” was the
 most important, or at least one of the most important causes of
 “the new birth of the Gospel through the Doctor”—Luther. And, as a
 matter of fact, Luther’s conviction, which was shared by his pupils,
 that this saving interpretation had been infused by the Holy Spirit,
 sufficiently explains why so much stress should be laid on this
 incident, and also why the recipient of the said illumination so
 frequently recurs to it.

 Under the above title we find Heydenreich’s lengthy account, taken
 from Luther’s own lips, which agrees entirely with the statements of
 the Preface and, in particular, dwells on Luther’s ecstasy of joy at
 the discovery (“_Cum hoc invenissem, ita delectabar, in tanta lætitia,
 ut nihil supra_”).

 In several of the accounts the Psalms are represented as the primary
 cause of the struggles that went on in Luther’s soul, and the
 correct comprehension of them as one of the first fruits of his new
 discernment. Then “I first relished the Psalter,” Luther says in
 Mathesius’s account, and in Heydenreich’s notes he declares: “Whereas
 I formerly hated the Psalms and the Scripture where mention was made
 of the Justice of God, the way was now clear to me when I read in the
 Psalms: ‘Deliver me in Thy Justice’ and ‘Deliver me in Thy mercy,’”
 for God’s mercy, by which He justifies us with His grace, had, from
 that time onward, come to mean the same to him as “the righteousness
 of God.”

 In Anton Lauterbach’s Diary of 1538 two passages from the Psalms are
 likewise quoted as the cause of Luther’s trouble of conscience,[1007]
 and in the Halle MS. of the “Colloquia” which Bindseil edited, and
 which is based on Lauterbach’s collection, a similar uneasiness is
 said to have been induced by the Psalms in priests generally: “When,
 in Popery, we read the verses [in question] we immediately thought
 of the avenging Justice ... but when I took into consideration what
 follows ... I became joyful,” the right interpretation of the passage
 concerning the just man who lives by faith “supplied a remedy for all
 who were afflicted” (“_afflictis remedium contigit_”).[1008]

 Another passage in the Psalms which caused him trouble is quoted by
 Luther when referring to the event in his Commentary on Psalm l.
 (li.), which he wrote in 1532: “_Exsultabit lingua mea iustitiam
 tuam_” (verse 16); as the biblical view of Justice had been obscured
 in his mind and in that of all, he had been unable to understand how
 it was possible to praise the avenging Justice in the Psalms.[1009]

 Thus, there is no doubt that the Psalms were the actual occasion of
 his discovery and his statement in the Preface of 1545 with regard to
 the time it occurred is thereby confirmed.[1010]

 Luther’s pupil, Conrad Cordatus, in recording the matter in his
 diary is quite right in emphasising, in Luther’s own words, that the
 knowledge gained by the incident was: “_Ergo ex fide est iustitia et
 ex iustitia vita_”;[1011] this is also done in the German Table-Talk,
 where we find a rather more detailed description of the inference
 drawn by Luther: “Then I became of another mind and from that moment
 thought: We are to live as justified by faith, and the Justice of God,
 which is His attribute, shall save all who believe; these verses will
 no longer affright the poor sinners and those who are troubled in
 conscience, but on the contrary comfort them.”[1012]

 In the reference made to the event in the Commentary on Genesis
 (1540), the fact that the just man lives by faith is also placed
 in the foreground, and in this case we may safely rely on the
 Commentary though it was not printed till after Luther’s death.[1013]
 Here we read that it was the knowledge he had acquired “under the
 enlightenment of the Holy Ghost” that “our life comes from faith”
 that had “opened out the whole of Scripture to him, and heaven
 itself.” This, according to the passage in question, was the result
 of the “anxious work,” which at the outset he had devoted to the
 comprehension of Romans i. 17. By the use of such an expression as
 “at the outset,” “_primum_,” the opening word of the whole passage
 which speaks of his development, he would appear to imply that it
 was then that the foundation was laid of the great evangelical truth
 concerning faith. This agrees with the title Mathesius bestows on
 his notes: “Occasion of the re-birth of the gospel by means of the
 Doctor.” In the passage in question in the Commentary on Genesis the
 consoling faith which he had been commissioned to teach is contrasted
 with the “unbelief” prevalent in Popery, which has lost all experience
 of this security. “They did not know that unbelief was a sin ... and
 yet conscience cannot find any real comfort in works. Let us therefore
 enjoy the blessing of God which is now imparted to us.”

Luther’s utterances so far have referred more to the inward occasion,
to the time and the subject-matter of the experience from which
the dogma of absolute assurance of salvation took its rise. The
statements which follow, on the other hand, refer more to the place
where the incident occurred, but they at the same time emphasise more
particularly an element which was incidentally connected with it,
namely, the inspiration by the Spirit of God.

 In Lauterbach’s “Colloquia” (ed. by Bindseil) the account commences
 with the words: “By the grace of God while thinking on one occasion on
 this tower [he seems to be pointing with his finger to the very spot]
 and hypocaustum, over those words: _Iustus ex fide vivit_ ... the Holy
 Ghost revealed the Scripture to me in this tower.”[1014] In Cordatus’s
 diary both circumstances are mentioned: “On one occasion on this tower
 (where the privy of the monks was situated) when I was speculating
 on the words, etc., the Holy Ghost imparted to me this knowledge on
 this tower,” i.e. to understand that “Justice comes of faith and
 life proceeds from Justice.”[1015] The editor, H. Wrampelmeyer,
 points out the fact that the mention of the “privy” is omitted in
 the later Table-Talk. In the German Table-Talk the inspiration is
 mentioned instead: “This knowledge was given to me by the Holy Ghost
 alone.”[1016] Rebenstock, in his valuable Latin Table-Talk, gives both
 together: “_in hac turri vel hypocausto_,” and later: “_Hæc verba
 per Spiritum sanctum mihi revelata sunt_.”[1017] The Lutheran pastor
 Caspar Khummer, who, in 1554, made a collection of Table-Talk, relates
 both circumstances (in Lauterbach’s edition): “_Cum semel in hac turri
 speculabar_,” and further on: “With this knowledge the Holy Ghost
 inspired me in this cloaca on the tower.”[1018]

 The mention of the cloaca explains the entry of Johann Schlaginhaufen
 in his notes of Luther’s own words in 1532: “This art the _Spiritus
 sanctus_ infused into me in this Cl.”[1019] Cloaca is abbreviated
 into Cl., probably because Schlaginhaufen’s copyist, was reluctant to
 write it out in full alongside of the account of the inspiration which
 Luther had received from the Holy Ghost; the editor suggests we should
 read “Capitel”; but the chapter-house is not to be thought of. Strange
 indeed are the interpretations which have been given, even in recent
 times, by the unlearned to many of the expressions in our texts. The
 “_locus secretus_” was supposed to be “a special place allotted to the
 monks in the tower,” whereas it is clear that the “secret chamber”
 was simply the closet or privy, a word which occurs often enough in
 Luther’s later abuse of the Papists. In olden times it was very usual
 to establish this adjunct on the city wall and its towers, the sewage
 having egress outside the town boundaries. The buildings on the city
 wall, of which we hear in connection with Luther’s monastery, were
 simply this and nothing more.[1020] It has been said that by the word
 “tower” was meant a spiritual prison, namely, Popery, in which Luther
 languished until his enlightenment. In the hypocaustum was seen the
 spiritual sweat-bath in which the Monk was immersed till the time of
 his liberation by the new doctrine. As a matter of fact the allusion
 is to a heating apparatus, or warmed space, either below or in front
 of the privy, some such arrangement being common in monasteries. In
 his cell Luther had no stove.

 We know from Luther’s letters that there was a question in 1519
 of allotting some other place outside the walls to the previously
 existing privy, or of rebuilding it. In the name of the community,
 Luther, in the middle of May, 1519, requested the Elector for
 permission to erect a “necessary building outside the walls on the
 moat,” because the “gentlemen of the Wittenberg Council” delayed
 giving their sanction.[1021] The result of the request is unknown; as,
 however, Cordatus, in the passage referring to the tower, makes use
 of the words: “in which the monks’ privy was,” it would seem at the
 time he wrote to have been no longer in the tower. The tower, however,
 remained, otherwise Luther would not have said, as he did, that the
 event took place on (or in) _this_ tower. An historian of Luther’s
 Augustinian priory stated in 1883, that, on the eastern side of the
 monastery, where the localities in question were probably situated,
 broken drain-pipes were to be seen up to the middle of last (the
 eighteenth) century.[1022]

 We must, therefore, represent the scene of the discovery as the secret
 chamber, which Luther expressly mentions, situated in a tower on the
 walls, probably on the eastern flank of the monastery. Constructed
 against the outer side of the tower, it probably projected over the
 moat, and, below, or in front of it, was the so-called hypocaustum.

As regards the revelation mentioned in the above passages, it is
certain that Luther always traced back the knowledge so acquired to
a special revelation, though not indeed to anything like a vision.
Those verses on faith composed his “evangel,” and he always declared
with regard to this “evangel” that his discovery, made at the cost
of so much labour, had been accompanied by a “revelation of the Holy

 He speaks, for instance, of the time when he began to advocate his
 favourite doctrine as being the time of the “revelation of the
 evangel.”[1024] In answer to the fanatics who disputed his right to
 the first place in the new teaching, he defends himself by saying
 that it was he who “not without the revelation of the Holy Ghost had
 again brought forward the gospel.” The words contained in his letter
 to the Elector on his return from the Wartburg express a consciousness
 of a higher illumination, where he declares that he had received the
 “evangel, not from men, but solely from heaven through our Lord Jesus

 “Such self-reliance almost fills us with anxiety,” says Adolf Harnack,
 of the latter and other writings. “... We seek in vain in the whole
 history of the Church for examples of men who could write such letters
 as that to the Elector, and the writings which Luther composed on the
 Wartburg. I can quite understand how Catholic critics see in these
 letters a ‘delirious pride.’ There is no choice except to judge Luther
 thus or to recognise that his place was an entirely peculiar one in
 the history of the Christian religion.”[1026] Harnack goes on to quote
 another extremely self-confident passage from Luther: “It pleased God
 well to reveal His Son through me,” and then expresses his own opinion
 on the subject: “Luther’s merit consisted in the circumstance that
 he was able to express what he had experienced, namely, the equation
 of the assurance of salvation, and faith”;[1027] his self-reliance,
 Harnack adds, was the “true expression of a religious freedom such
 as Clement of Alexandria had painted as the disposition of a true
 Christian, and such as the mystics of all ages had in their way sought
 to attain to.”[1028]

 Luther’s claim to special illumination must, as hinted before, be
 restricted to the domain of the aforesaid doctrine of assurance of
 salvation; the whole of his doctrine did not come to him from God,
 or at least only by way of the inspiration of the Spirit, which,
 according to his own statements to be afterwards considered, is common
 to all well-disposed Christians who make use of Holy Scripture.
 Döllinger, also, says: This doctrine was the “only one which he
 really believed he had received by a special revelation of the Holy

Here again we perceive the fundamental importance attaching to the
assurance of salvation as the corner-stone of his development.
Unconsciously he had been driven forward to this extremity. Protestants
quite rightly have often pointed out that the decisive question for
him was: “How can I, a mere single individual, be assured of the
forgiveness of sins and thereby of the mercy of God?” “He ventured,”
so it has been said, “to throw overboard all doubts as to the doctrine
of assurance of salvation and to declare frankly and freely: it is
impossible to trust God without being fully assured of redemption and
salvation.” “One thing only was still wanting (in his Commentary on
Romans), namely, the clear perception of the fact, that the believer
not only may be certain of his redemption, but that he must be so.”
The mystics helped him finally to arrive at the “joyous sense of trust
in God” after he had been through “the hell of a troubled conscience”;
thus he was set “free from the last scruples and doubts, and reached
the consciousness that he might, nay, must, rest assured of his

The fact cannot be concealed, that in the above passages concerning
the discovery on the tower, which for the most part date from a later
period of Luther’s life, there is some obscurity and confusion as to
the subject. He says first: the Justice of God, by which God (Christ)
is Just, is taught in the New Law and is also indicated in the Psalms,
and this Justice of God is reckoned to us as our Justice. Secondly,
we lay hold upon it only by faith, and thus our life comes from faith
(fiducial faith with assurance of salvation), of which fact we must
be joyfully confident. Thirdly: The difficulty caused by the idea of
God’s avenging Justice, which weighs down the soul, must therefore
be fought against with determination. Of the first of these three
elements Luther had made personal experience long before this time;
its earliest expression is at the commencement of the Commentary on
Romans, also in the well-known letter to Spenlein of April 7, 1516. He
had therefore no right to speak of it as forming the subject of his
newly acquired knowledge. The second element on the other hand was
really new, and gave him the answer to the anxious question: How is the
imputed Justice of God to become mine? Not by self-annihilation, not
by _humilitas_, not by yearning prayer and other works which hitherto
he had proposed as the means, but by faith only which had assured him
of “regeneration,” of heavenly revelations, etc. Concerning the third
element no more need be said here, however greedily he may have seized
the semblance of comfort which the discovery afforded him, passing
from the storms of his crisis into what he took to be a safe haven of

The illusory talisman of absolute assurance of salvation was the result
of the second stage of his development.

3. Legends. Storm Signals

On looking back in later years upon the course of his spiritual
progress in the monastery, Luther was unable to distinguish clearly
between the various stages of his development. The incident in the
tower, which had left the strongest impression on his memory, drew
the first stage more and more into the foreground in his imagination,
so that in his accounts he assigns to it an undue prominence to the
disadvantage of the two others. Hence the want of clearness noticeable
in his statements with regard to the same.

We find not merely obscurity, but actual error, particularly in his
account of the traditional interpretation and that which he had himself
begun to advocate of the _Iustitia Dei_ (Rom. i. 17). Luther is, in
this matter, the originator of the great legend still current even in
our own day, which represents him as a Columbus discovering therein
the central truth set forth by Paul; no one had been able to find
the key to the passage before his glance penetrated to the truth.
All the learned men of earlier times had said that _iustitia_ there
meant the avenging Justice of an angry God. As a matter of fact, in
Luther’s lectures on Genesis in 1540-41,[1031] it is asserted that
all the doctors of the Church, with the exception of Augustine, had
misunderstood the verses Romans i. 16 f.; Luther’s Preface to his Latin
works to some extent presupposes the same, for he says that he had,
“according to the custom and use of all doctors” (“_usu et consuetudine
omnium doctorum doctus_”), understood the passage as meaning that
justice “by which God is Just and punishes sin,” and only Augustine,
with whom he had made common cause, had found the right interpretation
(“_iustitiam Dei interpretatur, qua nos Deus induit_”), although even
the latter did not teach imputation clearly (see above, p. 392).[1032]

“As a matter of fact, however, the exact opposite is the case: all
the mediæval doctors whom he studied as a monk, Peter Lombard, Lyra
and Paul of Burgos, gave, as can be proved, the same interpretation
as Augustine. Thus Luther was completely at sea as to the handling of
this, to him most important, passage.”[1033] Luther in his Preface
says that contrary to all expectation (“_praeter spem_”) he had,
after his own discovery, found in St. Augustine’s “_De spiritu et
littera_” an interpretation which agreed with his own, and that this
caused him fresh joy, although Augustine expresses himself imperfectly
with regard to the same. Denifle, on the other hand, proves by the
testimony of more than sixty interpreters of antiquity, that all
are unanimous in taking the _iustitia Dei_ in St. Paul in the same
sense as St. Augustine, viz. as the Justice by which God renders men
just.[1034] The demonstration is conducted with “commendable accuracy
and fulness.”[1035]

Luther himself, strange to say, at an earlier date and previous to the
Tower incident, had repeatedly employed the correct interpretation. We
can only suppose that it then made no impression on him, at any rate,
no such impression as the incident on the Tower. He makes use of it
with special reference to its older representatives, in the marginal
notes to the Sentences of Peter Lombard, 1509-10,[1036] then in the
Commentary on the Psalms, and finally even in the Commentary on Romans,
where he twice quotes Augustine and even the “_De spiritu et littera_.”

 It is true that on these occasions he passes over the passage in the
 Epistle without displaying any particular interest, i.e. without
 laying on it the stress he does at a later date. Another difference
 is also noticeable. Luther has introduced since 1518 an entirely
 new idea, which he had not before, into his interpretation of the
 _iustitia Dei_. In it he finds not only that the justice which comes
 from God justifies us, but that it is bestowed upon us solely and
 directly by means of a trusting faith, and that thus a “life” in grace
 is opened up to man of which he must be infallibly certain in his
 innermost consciousness.

 In his accounts, says Loofs, “we have documentary proof of impaired
 memory.” “It is plain that Luther’s memory, in the course of years,
 and owing to his ‘_odium papæ_,’ had, as we can well understand,
 become inaccurate with regard to pre-Reformation conditions.”[1037]
 The “_odium papæ_” would certainly seem to have been concerned in his
 placing in the forefront his supposed re-discovery of an exegesis
 which Popery had forgotten.

 Merely in order to throw light on the sequel of the great legend in
 our own times, we may here remark that it is difficult to understand
 the displeasure expressed by a modern Church historian and admirer of
 Luther, when some Protestants dared to agree with Denifle’s lengthy
 demonstration of the real exegetical history of Romans i. 17. An
 impartial theologian, amongst others, expressed himself as follows
 in a periodical: “Denifle has proved beyond a doubt that Luther was
 wrong when he asserted that the earlier doctors had almost without
 exception taken the _iustitia Dei_, Rom. i. 17, in the sense of the
 Divine anger.”[1038] These words roused the admirer we have in mind to
 reply immediately as follows in the “Theologisches Literaturblatt” of
 Leipzig: “Does then the writer not perceive what the result must be
 for Luther’s character?” Of two things, one, he says, either Luther
 lied, or he acted most unscrupulously and never consulted the earlier

The new discovery not only filled Luther with blind courage and defiant
presumption in the defence of his previous teaching, but also lent a
giant strength to his action as a reformer of ecclesiastical conditions
against Rome’s abuses. He now begins to act as a spokesman of the
nation and to constitute himself the leader of the already existing
anti-Roman movement in Germany.

 He now persuades himself more strongly than ever that he is in
 possession of a truth which is to be suppressed by Italian trickery
 and imperiousness, if not by “poison and the dagger,” as was being
 planned in Italy. Rome had ravaged Scripture and the Church, her name
 should be Babylon: this (Apocalyptic) Beast, this Antichrist, must be
 exposed before the world, otherwise he might as well surrender his
 theology and allow it to perish; “I do not care if even my friends say
 I have lost my reason; it must be so; I have awaited this hour when
 they should be offended in me, as the disciples and friends of Christ
 were in Christ (Matt. xxvi. 31; Mark xiv. 27); truth must stand by its
 divine strength, not by mine or yours or that of any man.”[1040]

 “It is only we Germans on whom the Empire descended, who have
 strengthened the power of the Popes so far as we could. For our
 punishment we have had to endure them as masters in cursing and abuse,
 and now as robbers also by means of pallium-fees and taxes on the

 In the Preface to the Commentary on Galatians he sent forth a call to
 the Germans and their Princes, which anticipates his later pamphlet
 “To the Nobility of the German Nation,” in the same way as the ideas
 contained in his work on the Twofold Justice serve as a prelude to
 the booklet “On the Freedom of a Christian Man.” “Those godless
 windbags, Prierias, Cajetan and their fellows, abuse us as German
 clowns, simpletons, beasts, barbarians, and mock at the incredible
 patience with which we allow ourselves to be deceived and robbed.
 All praise therefore to the German Princes for recently [1518], at
 Augsburg, refusing the tenths, twentieths and fiftieths to the Roman
 Curia, notwithstanding that they knew the cursed Roman Council [5th
 of the Lateran] had sanctioned these taxes. They recognised that the
 Pope and the Council had erred ... that the legates of the Curia are
 only after gold and more gold. The example of these lay theologians is
 especially worthy of imitation.... It is a proof of greater piety when
 the Princes and other folk of any degree oppose the Curia than if they
 were to take up arms against the Turk.”[1042]

As we shall see, it was not Ulrich von Hutten who first roused Luther
to such language against Rome, and to the stirring up of a false
patriotism. Hutten’s letters to him, and those of the other Humanists,
are of later date, as also the congratulations and exhortations of
the Humanist Crotus Rubeanus. It is a legend to attribute the raising
of the standard of the Reformation principally to the Humanists and
revolutionary knights. The fact that its origin may be traced back to
1521 does not make it one whit more credible historically. The air, in
any case, was full of the anti-Roman spirit of revolt breathed by the
Humanists and knights. The Wittenberg Monk had become acquainted with
this spirit and found it sympathetic. How well it suited his purpose
will be shown in the next chapter.

The subversive doctrines which he had now at length fully developed
in the quiet of his monastery held the first place among the factors
which drove him onwards; in so far as these doctrines were in very
truth his own production, born of his own heart and brain amid
incredible anxieties and struggles, we may, nay must, say that it was
a new and independent task which he undertook, and that his was the
labour and his the results. What Luther with his subversive theology
propounded from that time forward, what he, with his chief doctrine
of justification by faith and the appropriation of salvation, began
to set in the place of the old teaching, was “in no way the necessary
product of the various factors which had assisted in his education,
but rather something new, original and never before known, only to be
accounted for by Luther’s own extraordinary genius.”[1043] In this
sense the entire lack of originality with which he has frequently
been reproached must also be relegated to the domain of legend. In
attacking him to-day, the tactics which commended themselves to the
older theologians, who knew little of his history, or at any rate of
the course of his interior development, should no longer be resorted
to. Their plan was to range all his doctrines under some one or other
of the older heresies—even though only the germ of his errors was to
be found in former ages—and then sapiently to declare he had merely
gone about collecting his errors from the various olden heretics. It
is quite a different matter that like errors are so frequently met
with in history even in most unexpected quarters; it is due to their
many-sidedness and to their windings and aberrations. The truth which
is vouched for by the Church pursues its own straight, undeviating
path, from the earliest disciples of Christ down to our own times, and
in its quiet, immutable splendour is infinitely more original than any
error, however new and modern it may claim to be.

                            END OF VOL. I.


[1] _Luther_, VON HARTMANN GRISAR, S.J. (Herdersche Verlagshandlung,
Freiburg im Breisgau, 1911-12).

[2] “Historien,” Bl. 3´.

[3] Account from the mouth of Luther’s friend, Justus Jonas (_anno_
1538), made public by P. Tschackert in “Theolog. Studien und Kritiken,”
Jahrg., 1897, p. 578.

[4] _Ibid._

[5] “Colloquia,” ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 187.

[6] “Colloquia,” ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 187.

[7] Bei K. Jürgens, “Luther von seiner Geburt his zum Ablassstreite,” l
Bd. Leipzig, 1846, p. 522, from the unpublished Cod. chart. bibl. duc.
Goth, 168, p. 26. According to Loesche (“Analecta Lutherana,” p. 24,
n. 8) this MS. (B. 168) was written in 1553, and may be described as a
collection of Luther’s opinions on various persons and things. On page
26 it contains a list entitled “Studia Lutheri.” We shall have occasion
to deal with Luther’s entrance into religion in volume vi., chapter
xxxvii., 2.

[8] Hier. Dungersheim von Ochsenfurt, Professor of Theology in Leipzig,
in a tract published in 1531 in “Aliqua opuscula magistri Hieronymi
Dungersheym ... contra M. Lutherum edita,” written in 1530, “Dadelung
des ... Bekentnus oder untuchtigen Lutherischen Testaments,” Bl. 14a.
(Münchener Universitätsbibliothek, Theol., 3099, n. 552.)

[9] “Hutteni Opp.,” ed. Böcking, 1, p. 309.

[10] “Tischreden,” ed. Förstemann, 4, p. 129; Mathesius,
“Aufzeichnungen,” p. 235.

[11] Mathesius, “Historien,” Bl. 3.

[12] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 744, n. 1, p. 31.

[13] _Ibid._, 1, p. 754, n. 2, p. 166.

[14] N. Paulus, “Bartholomäus Arnoldi von Usingen,” Freiburg im
Breisgau, 1893.

[15] “Hutteni Opp.,” ed. Böcking, 1, p. 309. Cp. 1, p. 307, ep. 1,
“Martino Luthero, amico suo antiquissimo.”

[16] Th. Kolde, “Die deutsche Augustinerkongregation und Johann von
Staupitz,” Gotha, 1879, p. 380.

[17] Luther to Spalatinus, July 3, 1526 (see “Briefwechsel,” 5, p.
366). To the Elector Johann of Saxony, November 15, 1526: Luther’s
“Werke,” Erl. ed. 54, p. 50 (“Briefwechsel,” 5, p. 403). Johann of
Saxony to Luther, November 26, 1526; “Briefwechsel,” 5, p. 409.
Luther to the same, March 1, 1527: “Werke,” Erl. ed. 53, p. 398
(“Briefwechsel,” 6, p. 27). On the three friends mentioned in the text,
see A. Hausrath, “Luthers Bekehrung” (“Neue Heidelberger Jahrbücher,”
6, 1896, pp. 163-66 ff. and _idem._ “Luthers Leben,” 1, 1904, p. 14

[18] Cp. below, p. 16. Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 73.

[19] To Hier. Weller (July?), 1530, “Briefwechsel,” 8, p. 159.

[20] Letter to the Elector (April or June?, 1540), ed. Seidemann,
“Lauterbachs Tagebuch,” p. 197.

[21] In the Preface to Bugenhagen’s (Pomeranus) edition of “Athanasius
contra idolatriam,” etc., Wittenbergæ, 1532. He there recalls having
read the Dialogue of Athanasius and Arius “with zeal and a glow of
faith,” “_primo anno monachatus mei, cum Erfordiæ pædagogus meus
monasticus vir sane optimus et absque dubio sub damnato cucullo verus
christianus mihi eum sua manu descriptum dedisset legendum_” (Cp. “Opp.
Lat. exeg.,” 19, p. 100).

[22] Ph. Melanchthonis Vita Lutheri (“Vitæ quattuor reformatorum,”
Berolini, 1841), p. 5.

[23] “Opp. Lat. exeg.,” 19, p. 100.

[24] To George Leiffer, April 15, 1516, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 31. “Opp.
Lat. exeg.,” _ibid._

[25] To Leiffer, _ibid._

[26] “Lutheri Opp. Lat. exeg.,” 6, p. 296.

[27] On Luther’s teachers and studies, see Oertel, “Vom jungen Luther,”
p. 105 f.; for Paltz, see N. Paulus in the Innsbruck “Zeitschrift f.
kath. Theologie,” 23, 1899, p. 48.

[28] April 22, 1507, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 1.

[29] “Opp. Lat. exeg.,” 6, p. 158. (Cp. “Colloq.” ed. Bindseil, 3,
p. 169: “_ita horrui, ut fugissem de altari_,” etc.) Also Mathesius,
“Tischreden,” p. 405.

[30] “Lutheri Opp. Lat. var.,” 6, p. 239; “Werke,” Weim. ed. 8, p. 574.

[31] From Bavarus’s Collection of Table-Talk; the information is
received from a sermon of Luther’s preached in 1544. Oertel, “Vom
jungen Luther,” p. 93.

[32] F. Falk, “Alte Zeugnisse über Luthers Vater und Mutter und die
Möhraer,” in “Histor-polit. Blätter,” 120, 1897, pp. 415-25.

[33] “Lutherbriefe,” Dresden, 1859, p. 11, n.

[34] “Colloq.,” ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 292. “Tischreden,” ed. Förstemann,
2, p. 164.

[35] Dungersheim, “Erzeigung der Falschheit des unchristlichen
lutherischen Comments usw.,” in “Aliqua opuscula,” p. 15, cited above
on p. 4.

[36] Joh. Cochlæus, “Commentaria de actis et scriptis M. Lutheri,”
Mogunt., 1549, p. 1.

[37] Dungersheim, _ut supra_.

[38] “Vita Lutheri,” p. 5 (see above, p. 10, n. 3.).

[39] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 71.

[40] “Opp. Lat. var.,” 6, p. 364; “Werke,” Weim. ed., 8, p. 660.

[41] “Opp. Lat. exeg.,” p. 19, 100.

[42] _Ibid._

[43] To Hier. Weller (July?), 1530, “Briefwechsel,” 8, p. 160.

[44] “Opp. Lat. var.,” 6, p. 240; “Werke,” Weim. ed., 8, p. 574.

[45] “Coll.,” ed. Bindseil, 2, p. 295, on Hieronymus Weller.

[46] To Hier. Weller, see p. 19, n. 4.

[47] See below, volume vi., cap. xxxvii., where these questions are
treated more fully.

[48] The reference in Dungersheim, “Dadelung,” p. 14 (see above, p. 4,
n. 3) has been discussed by N. Paulus in the “Histor. Jahrbuch,” 1903,
p. 73.

[49] See volume iii., chapter xvii., 6.

[50] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 9, pp. 28-94.

[51] _Ibid._, pp. 2-14.

[52] _Ibid._, p. 12.

[53] “_Audivi crebrius, nunquam satis pacifice vixisse eum._” So
Cochlæus (see above, p. 17, n. 2) in 1524.

[54] J. Oldecop, “Chronik,” ed. K. Euling, 1891, p. 17.

[55] Dungersheim, “Wore Widerlegung des falschen Buchleins M. Lutheri
von beyder Gestald des hochwürdigsten Sacraments” (see above, p. 4, n.
3), p. 31´.

[56] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 77.

[57] Ericeus, “Sylvula sententiarum,” p. 142. Cp. J. K. Seidemann,
“Luthers älteste Vorlesungen über die Psalmen,” 1, Dresden, 1876, p.
xvii. “_Ego adolescens audivi doctos viros et bonos grammaticos_,” etc.

[58] In the tract “Rationis Latomianæ confutatio,” “Opp. Lat. var.,” 5,
p. 400; Weim. ed., 8, p. 45.

[59] The above description of Luther’s life in the monastery, starting
from the strange circumstances of his entrance, has intentionally been
left incomplete. Below, in volume vi., chapter xxxvii., the whole
development of his character and disposition as it appears more clearly
in the course of his history, and at the same time his own later views
and his manner of depicting his life in religion, are reverted to in

[60] “Erzeigung der Falschheit,” p. 6.

[61] “Dadelung des Bekenntnus,” p. 15´, 16.

[62] “A venatione Luteriana Ægocerotis assertio,” s.l.e.a.E, 5´.

[63] “Werke,” Erl. ed., 30, p. 372: “Although I have been a great,
grievous, shameful sinner and have wasted and spent my youth damnably,”
yet his greatest sins were that he had been a monk and had said Mass.

[64] “Commentaria,” etc., p. 1. “_Acer ingenio et ad contradicendum
audax et vehemens._”

[65] Kolde, “Die deutsche Augustinerkongregation,” p. 96 f.

[66] For the date and cause, see N. Paulus in the “Histor. Jahrbuch,”
1891, 68 f., 314 f.; 1901, 110 ff.; 1903, 72 ff. Also “Histor.-polit.
Blätter,” 142, 1908, 738-52. The year 1510-11, as against that given by
Köstlin-Kawerau, viz. 1511-12, is now accepted by Kroker in his edition
of the “Tischreden der Mathesischen Sammlung,” p. 417, and by Kawerau
in his “Lutherkalender,” 1910.

[67] “Werke,” Erl. ed. 62, p. 438. “Coll.,” ed. Bindseil, 1, 165;
“Tischreden,” ed. Förstemann, 4, 687.

[68] “Coll.,” ed. Bindseil, 3, p. 169, and n. 33.

[69] “Werke,” Erl. ed. 40, p. 284.

[70] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 99 f.

[71] “Luthers Romfahrt,” p. 79.

[72] Georgius Mylius, “In Epistolam divi Pauli ad Romanos,” etc., Ienæ,
1595. “Præfatio,” fol. 2´. Cp. Theod. Elze, “Luthers Reise nach Rom,”
Berlin, 1899, pp. 3, 45, 80.

[73] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 749 f.

[74] On his own account Paul was only a boy of eleven when he heard
this statement from his father; it is therefore very doubtful whether
he understood and remembered it correctly. Luther would surely have
returned to the subject more frequently had it really played so great
a part in his development, especially as he speaks so often of his
journey to Rome. O. Scheel in his recent thesis on the development
of Luther down to the time of the conclusion of the lectures on the
Epistle to the Romans (“Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgesch,
Nr. 100, Jubiläumsschrift,” 1910, pp. 61-230), quite correctly says:
“It is possible that his son, knowing of what importance Romans i. 17
had become for Luther, may at a later date have combined these words
with the Roman incident.” In any case, the objections with regard to
this incident are so great that little can be made out of it.

[75] Sermo in Vincula S. Petri, hence on August 1. “Werke,” Weim. ed.,
1 (1883), p. 69.

[76] “Tischreden,” ed. Förstemann, 4, p. 687.

[77] “Chronik,” p. 30.

[78] “Werke,” Erl. ed., 40, p. 284.

[79] This remark only applies to the statement in the text. When
Oldecop says he was told in Rome that Luther had come to Rome without
the authorisation of his Superiors, this was untrue.

[80] Preface to Oldecop’s “Chronik.”

[81] Cp. George, Duke of Saxony, in the pamphlet published under
Arnoldi’s name: “Auf das Schmähbüchlein Luthers wider den Meuchler von
Dresden,” 1531 (“Werke,” Erl. ed., 25, p. 147), where he thus addresses
Luther: “You are hostile to the Pope because, among other reasons, he
would not free you from the frock and give you a whore for your wife.”
The mention of the frock points to a reminiscence of what actually
had taken place. Possibly the Jew is the same Jakob who, in 1520,
accepted Luther’s doctrine in Germany and was baptised. Cp. Luther’s
“Briefwechsel,” 4, pp. 97, 147.

[82] A proof of this may, e.g., be found in certain statements on
marriage made by the jurist Christoph Scheurl, borrowed from his
professor Codro Urceo of Bologna, and brought forward in a speech
held at Wittenberg, November 16, 1508. A Latin dialogue which the
Wittenberg professor Andreas Meinhardi published in 1508 also betrays
the influence of those humanistic groups. J. Haussleitner (“Die
Universität Wittenberg vor dem Eintritt Luthers,” 1903, pp. 46 f., 84
ff.) attributes the manner of expression and the views of both to the
ecclesiasticism of the Middle Ages. Cp. on the other side N. Paulus in
the “Wissenschaftl. Beilage” to “Germania,” 1904, No. 10.

[83] Kolde, “Die deutsche Augustinerkongregation,” p. 263;
“Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 36, n. 5.

[84] Letter of May 29, 1516, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 35.

[85] Lang to Mutian, May 2, 1515, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 36, n. 5.

[86] “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 14.

[87] Letter of August 5, 1514, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 20.

[88] To Johann Lang, October 5, 1516, and to Spalatin about the same
time, “Briefwechsel,” 1, pp. 59, 62.

[89] Letter of March 1, 1517, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 88.

[90] To Spalatin, October 19, 1516, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 64.

[91] Letter of March 1, 1517, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 88.

[92] Kolde, “Die deutsche Augustinerkongregation,” p. 163; cp. p. 96
ff., and Kolde, “Martin Luther,” 1, pp. 47, 50, 59 f.

[93] Janssen-Pastor, “Gesch. des deutschen Volkes,” I^[18], p. 703;
English translation, “Hist. of the German People,” ii., p. 297. See
also Pastor, “Hist. of the Popes” (Engl. trans.), vol. vii., p. 290 ff.

[94] _Ibid._

[95] _Ibid._, p. 700.

[96] _Ibid._, p. 703.

[97] Janssen-Pastor, _ibid._, p. 701.

[98] _Ibid._, p. 721.

[99] Janssen-Pastor, _ibid._, pp. 703, 704. The words in single
inverted commas are from J. E. Jörg, “Deutschland in der
Revolutionsperiode 1522-26,” Freiburg, 1851, p. 191.

[100] Janssen-Pastor, _ibid._, p. 705 f. See below (vol. ii., ch. xiv.
5) what we say regarding the clergy and monasteries at Erfurt.

[101] _Ibid._, p. 712.

[102] _Ibid._, p. 709. On the Synods, see Hefele-Hergenröther,
“Konziliengesch.,” vol. viii. Cp. Janssen-Pastor, as above, p. 680 f.,
and H. Grisar, “Ein Bild aus dem deutschen Synodalleben im Jahrhundert
vor der Glaubensspaltung” (“Hist. Jahrb.,” 1, 1880, pp. 603-40).

[103] Nicolaus de Clemangiis, “_De ruina ecclesiæ_,” c. 22, in
Herm. von der Hardt, “_Magnum œcumenicum Constantiense Concilium_,”
Helmestad., 1700, 1, 3 col., 23 _sq._; Hefele, as above, 7, pp. 385,
416, 422, 594; 8, p. 97. Ioh. de Segovia, “Hist. syn. Basil.”, Vindob.,
1873, 2, p. 774: “_Quia in quibusdam regionibus nonnulli iurisdictionem
ecclesiasticam habentes pecuniarios questus a concubinariis percipere
non erubescunt, patiendo eos in tali fœditate sordescere._”

[104] Cp. on the “courtisans,” Janssen-Pastor, _ibid._, pp. 715-18.

[105] Cp. Janssen-Pastor, _ibid._, p. 743.

[106] Jos. Schmidlin, “Das Luthertum als historische Erscheinung”
(“Wissenschaftl. Beilage” to “Germania,” 1909, Nos. 13-15), p. 99 f.
Cp. Albert Weiss, “Luther und Luthertum” (in Denifle’s 2nd vol.), p. 34

[107] Schmidlin, as above. Also Albert Weiss, as above, p. 108, allows:
“The conditions of things at the commencement of the sixteenth century
were such that their continuance was clearly impossible, and it was
easy to predict a catastrophe.... The abuses were great and had become
in some cases intolerable, so that we can understand how many lost
courage, patience and confidence.... It is true that everything was
not corrupt, but the good there was was too feeble to struggle with
success against the evil.” Nevertheless, in the genesis of the movement
which led to the falling away from the Church, in spite of the more
favourable view of the conditions which Weiss elsewhere takes, the real
abuses in the Church, even in his own account, play a prominent part.
That Luther’s work was not “necessary in view of the moral corruption”
(p. 6), and that it “did not follow as an inevitable result” of
the same (p. 37), but, on the contrary, was merely facilitated by
circumstances, will be granted him by all who review the period with an
unprejudiced mind.

[108] Lib. 1, c. 67, ed. Venet., 1560, fol. 90´, col. 1: “_Heu, Domine
Deus, quia ipsi sunt in tua persecutione primi, qui videntur in
ecclesia tua primatum diligere et regere principatum._”

[109] Cap. 39 _sq._ in Herm. von der Hardt, “_Magnum œcum. Constant.
Concil._,” 1, 3, col. 41 _sq._

[110] The author has thought it necessary to keep within limits in
treating of the state of those times in order not to be led too
far from Luther’s own personality. In the course of the work, the
circumstances of the time and the prevailing social conditions, so
far as they had a determining influence on Luther, will be considered
in their own place. Such a separate treatment may, at the same time,
acquaint one better with the facts than if a long and exhaustive
review of the public conditions were to be given here. With regard to
the history of the preliminaries of the schism there already exist
many works dealing either generally with those times or with various
subjects and districts; these works, however, vary much in merit. While
mentioning these we would merely in passing utter a warning against
generalisations and _a priori_ constructions; especially must we be on
our guard against either looking at things in so dark a light as to
make Luther’s intervention appear absolutely necessary, or judging too
favourably of the conditions previous to the religious struggle. In the
latter case we come into collision on the one hand with numerous data
which reveal with absolute certainty the existence of great corruption
in the Church, and, on the other hand, we lose sight of the causes
which alone offer a satisfactory historical explanation of the great
spread of the schism. Luther himself—and it was this which decided
us to abbreviate our survey—before the public dispute commenced, was
far from possessing, in his quiet cloister, so clear a view of the
conditions of the time as a learned historian is now able to obtain.
The great world of Germany and Europe did not, as we know, reveal
itself so clearly to the Monk and Professor as the little world of
Wittenberg, and his few months of travel did not make him a judge of
the world and of men. The dark and bright elements of ecclesiastical
and popular life were seen by him only superficially and partially. In
laying more stress on some traits than on others, he allowed himself
to be influenced less by any weighing of actual facts than by his
ardent feelings. Certain features of the times appear to have remained
quite strange to him, notwithstanding the fact that in more recent
descriptions of the influences at work in him, they are made to play
a great part: so, for instance, Gallicanism with its anti-monarchical
conception of the Church, or the philosophy of the ultra-realists. With
respect to Nominalism, more particularly in its Occamistic form, and
to mysticism, the case is absolutely different. This will, however, be
discussed below (chaps. iv.-v.).

[111] On June 8, 1516, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 41.

[112] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 444.

[113] “Werke,” _ibid._, 3, p. 170.

[114] “Werke,” _ibid._, 3, p. 216.

[115] “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 17.

[116] “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 23 ff.

[117] Wilhelm Braun (“Die Bedeutung der Concupiscenz in Luthers Leben
und Lehre,” Berlin, 1908) commences chapter ii. (“Luther’s Experience
in the Monastery,” p. 19) as follows: “It is impossible to speak in
the strict sense of any religious experience which Luther had in the
monastery. It was no catastrophe which, with elemental force, brought
about the Reformer’s change. Any dramatic element is entirely wanting.
There was in his case no Damascus. It is a useless task to attempt, as
has been done again and again, to determine the year and the day on
which the actual reforming flame burnt up in Luther’s soul.” The author
puts on one side Köstlin-Kawerau’s long descriptions of the gradual
ripening of the Reformer, his early comprehension of the Pauline
writings, due to his inward struggles, etc. He declares Luther’s life
“cannot be written so long as the beginnings of the Reformer and the
growth of his tenets have not yet been made clear. That we are here
still in the dark is proved, with regard to Luther’s psychology,
by his latest Biographies.” This Protestant theologian, who works
more independently than others, is quite resigned, “in view of the
multitude of open questions raised by Luther’s early development, to
see the fruits and tangible results of Luther research ripen slowly.
Our most pressing duty is,” he says rightly, “to supply the material
while deprecating rash conclusions”; without an acquaintance with the
theology of the Middle Ages there is no possibility of understanding
Luther: “in this respect Denifle’s ‘Luther und Luthertum’ furnished a
wholesome though painful lesson to Protestant theologians” (p. v. f.).

[118] J. K. Seidemann, “Luthers erste und älteste Vorlesungen über
die Psalmen, 1513 bis 1516,” 2 volumes, Dresden, 1876. Cp. Hering in
“Theol. Studien und Kritiken,” 1877, p. 633 ff.; G. Kawerau’s edition
of Luther’s works, Weim. ed., volumes iii. and iv., also volume
ix., pp. 116-21. He gives the title better, viz. “_Dictata super

[119] “Anfänge reformatorischer Bibelauslegung.” Ed. by Joh. Ficker,
1 volume. “Luthers Vorlesung über den Römerbrief, 1515-16,” Leipzig,
1908. See below, chapter vi., 1.

[120] Kawerau’s edition in the Weim. ed., volume iv. According to
the editor Luther commenced the lectures in 1516; Köstlin, “Luthers
Theologie,”¹ prefers the year 1517; in the 2nd ed. the year 1518.
Denifle, “Luther und Luthertum,” 1, p. 47 ff.; 1², p. x. f. Walther
Köhler in “Die Christl. Welt,” 1904, p. 203, says: “Denifles
scharfsinnige Erörterung über die angeblichen Vorlesungen zum
Richterbuch wird, denke ich, im wesentlichen Beifall finden. Es ist ihm
hier die glückliche Entdeckung gelungen, dass ganze Stücke angeblich
Lutherschen Eigentums wörtliche Entlehnungen aus Augustin sind.”

[121] See Ficker, “Luthers Vorlesung über den Römerbrief,” p. 29 ff.

[122] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 1, and “Opp. lat. var.,” 1.

[123] Cp. Th. Brieger, “Die Gliederung der 95 Thesen Luthers” (in the
“Festschrift” in honour of Max Lenz), with “Studien und Versuchen zur
neueren Geschichte,” 1 Abh.

[124] The writings and theses referred to appear in the two first
volumes of the Weim. ed. and of the “Opp. lat.” The “Theologia Deutsch”
has recently been reprinted by Mandel (1908) from Luther’s text.

[125] See below, chapter vi., 2 ff.

[126] See below, chapter x., 1-2.

[127] W. Braun, “Die Bedeutung der Concupiscenz in Luthers Leben
und Lehre,” p. 22: “We learn nothing of the dispute then going on
between the Conventuals and the Observantines, the laxer and stricter
exponents of the monastic Rule; and yet Luther may have experienced
their differences in his own person; his second removal from Erfurt to
Wittenberg in 1511 was perhaps a disciplinary act, because he and Lang
stood on the side of Staupitz and against the Erfurt Council. Probably
Luther went to Rome about this very matter.” Concerning his removal
and journey to Rome, see above, pp. 29, 38. We learn, it is true, no
details about the dispute between the monasteries, and this is perhaps
what Braun means; but its continuance is, to my mind, apparent from
Luther’s statements, as well as from the leading part he took against
the Observantines. Ficker (“Luthers Vorlesung über den Römerbrief,”
1908, p. xcvii.) only mentions the Observantines cursorily, saying that
Luther did not seem much attached to them. Hering (“Theolog. Studien
und Kritiken,” 1877, p. 627) offers little of interest.

[128] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 61.

[129] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 155.

[130] _Ibid._, 4, p. 312. Note “_bonitas fidei_” (= Christian
righteousness), “_veritas fidei_” (= Christian truth), “_iustitiæ fidei
substantia_” (= essence of Christian righteousness).

[131] _Ibid._, 4, p. 122.

[132] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 4, p. 675; 1, p. 44.

[133] Köstlin, “Martin Luther,” 1², p. 125. In the 5th edition by
Köstlin and Kawerau (vol. i., p. 122) the disapproving comment of
Köstlin’s was suppressed.

[134] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 423.

[135] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 424.

[136] _Ibid._, p. 425.

[137] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 42, where he explains Psalm iv. 1 (_Cum
invocarem exaudivit me Deus iustitiæ meæ_) as follows and underlines
same (his grandson Johann Ernst Luther has added in the margin:
“_Locus illustris de iustificatione_”): “_Vide quam vera et pia est
ista confessio, quæ_ NIHIL SIBI DE MERITIS ARROGAT. _Non enim ait ‘cum
multa fecissem, vel opere, ore aut aliquo meo membro meruissem,’ ut
intelligas, eum_ NULLAM IUSTITIAM ALLEGARE, _nullum meritum iactare,
nullam dignitatem ostentare, sed_ NUDAM ET SOLAM MISERICORDIAM DEI _et
benignitatem gratuitam extollere, quæ nihil in eo invenit_.”

[138] Cp. _ibid._, 3, pp. 172, 288, 355, 439, 514; and 4, p. 19, etc.
Hunzinger, who quotes these and other passages, says: “He warns much
against our own works and desire to gain merit” (“Luther und die
deutsche Mystik,” in “Neue kirchl. Zeitschrift,” 19, 1908, Hft. 11, pp.
972-88, p. 978).

[139] Weim. ed., 3, p. 537 ff. on Psalm lxxvi.

[140] _Ibid._, p. 549: “_Inde et mihi_ [_psalmus_ lxxvi.] _difficilis,
quia extra compunctionem sum et loquor de compunctione_”; in such
matters one must be able “_intus sentire_”; “_igitur quia meæ
compunctionis practica non possum, declarabo eum_ [_psalmum_] _ad
exemplum et ex practica B. Augustini_ (‘Confess.,’ 1, 8).”

[141] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 331 f.

[142] _Ibid._, 4, p. 78.

[143] _Ibid._, 4, p. 306 f.

[144] _Ibid._, p. 312.

[145] _Ibid._, 3, p. 541. “_Non in viribus nostris et iustitiis
operemur, sed opera Dei discamus operari ... Eruditus_ [_psalmi
auctor_] _concludit, opera Dei non esse, nisi quæ Deus in nobis
operetur. Quare iustitiæ et opera nostra coram eo nihil sunt, ideoque
opera exterioris iustitiæ non sunt opera Dei_,” p. 542: “_Omnia
ista_ (Ps. lvi. 13) _dicuntur contra superbos et iustos apud se,
qui meditantur, quomodo sua opera statuant et suas adinventiones
exerceant_.” He therefore blames them: “_Foris ambulant in carne et
carnali iustitia_,” etc. Cp. _ibid._, 4, p. 281 against “_proprietarii
iustitiæ_” who, in exchange for good works, have taken out
righteousness on lease.

[146] Weim. ed., 4, p. 443. Cp. _ibid._, 3, pp. 174, 178, where Romans
i. 17, “_Iustitia Dei revelatur in eo_ [_evangelio_],” is quoted with
the correct traditional meaning.

[147] _Ibid._, 4, p. 383. The passage reminds one of the “_esto
peccator et pecca fortiter_,” which will be referred to later. It
reads: “_Æquum est infirmari secundum carnem, ut inhabitet in nobis
virtus Christi_ (2 Cor. xii. 9) _in homine interiori_. ÆQUUM EST
INIUSTOS ET PECCATORES FIERI, _ut iustificetur Deus in sermonibus suis_
(Ps. l. 6): _quia non venit iustos vocare sed peccatores_ (Matt. ix.
13), _id est ut iustitia nostra agnoscatur nihil esse nisi peccatum
et pannus menstruatæ_ (Is. lxiv. 6), _ac sic potius iustitia Christi
regnet in nobis, dum per ipsum et in ipso confidimus salvari, non ex
nobis, ne auferamus ei nomen, quod est Jhesus, id est Salvator_.”

[148] Cp. Weim. ed., 3, pp. 290, 284.

[149] _Ibid._, p. 172.

[150] _Ibid._, 3, p. 320 ff.; 4, p. 300 ff., 312.

[151] _Ibid._, 4, p. 325.

[152] Weim. ed., p. 343: “_omnes sumus massa perditionis et debitores
mortis æternæ_.”

[153] _Ibid._, p. 354.

[154] Cp. _ibid._, 4, p. 207.

[155] _Ibid._, p. 497.

[156] _Ibid._, p. 383.

[157] _Ibid._, p. 211.

[158] _Ibid._, 3, p. 171: “_Quod ex nullis operibus peccata
remittuntur, sed sola misericordia Dei non imputantis._” Cp. p. 175.

[159] Cp. on Concupiscence, in the Commentary on the Psalms, Denifle,
1², p. 441 f. and pp. 453, 476. A. Hunzinger, “Lutherstudien,” 1;
“Luthers Neuplatonismus in den Psalmvorlesungen,” Leipzig, 1906,
Preface: “Denifle’s ‘Luther’ is correct; Luther during the first
years of his literary activity stood on Catholic ground; nor is it
by any means the case that from the beginning the reforming element
was contained in germ in Luther’s theology.” On the other hand, the
elements which were to lead him to take the step from the obscure
theology of the Commentary on the Psalms to the heretical theology of
1515-16—viz. his false mysticism and misapprehension of the Epistle to
the Romans—were already present. The most suspicious passage in the
Commentary on the Psalms is 4, p. 227, which points to the continuance
of his doubts regarding predestination; he says that Christ had drunk
of the chalice of suffering for the elect, but not for all. See the
next note, especially the first quotation.

[160] Weim. ed., 4, p. 295: “_Anima mea est in potestate mea et
in libertate arbitrii possum eam perdere vel salvare eligendo vel
reprobando legem tuam_.” Concupiscence has not yet become original
sin itself, but is still a mere relic of the same (3, pp. 215, 453).
Köstlin, in “Luthers Theologie,” 1², p. 66, quotes other passages from
the Commentary on the Psalms, thus, 3, p. 584: God is more ready to
have mercy on us than we are to beseech Him; but He is unable to have
mercy on us if our pride proves a hindrance (“_quando nos nolumus ...
prohibente nostra superbia_”). In his marginal notes on Peter Lombard
(written 1509) Luther had rightly said: “_Liberum arbitrium damnatur
quia ... gratiam ... oblatam et exhibitam non acceptat vel acceptam non
custodit._” “Werke,” Weim. ed., 9, p. 71.

[161] Weim. ed., 3, p. 546: “_Desideriis ait apostolus, carnis non esse
obediendum, nec regnare peccatum debere licet esse desideria et peccata
in carne prohiberi non possit.... In mediis tentationibus eundum est_,
as the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. _Sentiri et videre et
experiri oportet bonitates et malitias carnis, sed non consentire._”

[162] _Ibid._, 3, p. 603: “_Residuum præteritorum bonorum_ [of the
original state] _quod in affectu remansit syntheresico_.” On the
syntheresis and Luther’s early views on this subject see Köstlin,
“Luthers Theologie,” 1², p. 51 f., 125.

[163] Weim. ed., 4, p. 295, cp. above, p. 74, n. 9.

[164] _Ibid._, 3, pp. 89, 101, 200; 4, p. 204 f., 309.

[165] _Ibid._, 4, pp. 262, 309.

[166] _Ibid._, pp. 262, 312.

[167] _Ibid._, 3, pp. 52, 189, 239 f., 424, 462, 466, 603.

[168] _Ibid._, 4, p. 250.

[169] _Ibid._, 3, pp. 426, 239.

[170] Weim. ed., 3, p. 289. Cp. _Ibid._, 4, pp. 329, 312: “_ex pacto et
promissione Dei_.”

[171] “Dogmengesch.,”^[4] (1906), p. 697 with ref. to “Werke,” Weim.
ed., 4, p. 443: “_sine merito redimi de peccatis_,” and similar

[172] “Luther und die deutsche Mystik,” p. 976, above, p. 71, n. 4.

[173] “Lutherstudien,” 1. See above, p. 74, n. 8.

[174] Hunzinger thus sums up his results in “Luther und die deutsche
Mystik,” p. 975.

[175] Veit Dietrich MS. Collecta, fol. 137´ in Seidemann, “Luthers
erste Psalmenvorlesung,” 1, p. vii.

[176] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 9, p. 29. _Ibid._, “In Augustinum,” pp. 7,
23, 24, 27.

[177] “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 26 f., probably not meant seriously by

[178] “Luthers ungedruckte Predigten,” ed. G. Buchwald, 3, 1885, p. 50.

[179] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 121.

[180] Johann Mensing O.P., “Antapologie,” Frankfurt, 1533, fol. 18´.
Cp. N. Paulus, “Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampfe mit Luther,” 1903,
p. 40.

[181] Cp. Evers, “Luther,” 1, p. 377.

[182] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 1, p. 30 f.: “_Semper prædico de Christo,
gallina nostra ... et efficitur mihi errans et falsum._” He preached,
namely, against those “_qui ab alis_ [_Domini_] _recedunt in sua propria
bona opera ... et nolunt audire, quod iustitiæ eorum peccata sint.
Gratiam maxime impugnant, qui eam iactant_.” The expression “_gallina
nostra_” appears also in the Commentary on the Psalms (“Werke,” Weim.
ed., 3, p. 71).

[183] To Spalatin, June 8, 1516, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 40.

[184] Cp. his reproaches against members of his own Order with regard
to disobedience and want of charity, which will be given shortly.

[185] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 1, p. 61.

[186] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 1, p. 62, Fragment.

[187] _Ibid._, p. 63. (_Sermo contra opinionem sanctitatis et meriti._)

[188] _Ibid._, p. 70. (_Sermo de vitiis capitalibus in merito operum et
opinione sanctitatis se efferentibus._)

[189] _Ibid._, p. 73. Line 25 should read “_in fine quia_” not “_in
fine qui_”; and line 28 “_in Deo quieti_” not “_ac Deo quieti_.” The
edition elsewhere leaves much to be desired.

[190] “Werke,” Weim. ed., 1, p. 10: “_Scatet totus orbis imo inundat
... doctrinam sordibus._” The doubts as to the authenticity of this
sermon do not deserve attention.

[191] Cp. Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 118. Extracts from the first of the
Christmas sermons of 1515 (or 1514).

[192] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 128 _seq._

[193] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 129.

[194] Seidemann, “Luthers Vorlesungen über die Psalmen,” 1, p. 211;
“Werke,” Weim. ed., 3, p. 319.

[195] To Joh. Lang, Prior at Erfurt, February 8, 1517. “Briefwechsel,”
1, p. 86: “_Nihil ita ardet animus, quam histrionem illum, qui tam vere
Græca larva ecclesiam lusit, multis revelare ignominiamque eius cunctis
ostendere_.” De Wette has the letter incorrectly dated February 8, 1516.

[196] Letter to Trutfetter, May 9, 1518, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 187.

[197] “Corpus Reform.,” 3, p. 154, n. 83. O. Waltz erroneously
questions this statement in “Zeitschr. f. Kirchengesch.,” 2, 1878, p.
628. Cp. 3, 1879, 305.

[198] Köstlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 110 f.

[199] Preface to his first edition: “Werke,” Weim. ed., 1, p. 153.

[200] “Correspondence,” 1, p. 75.

[201] Letter of April 8, 1516, “Briefwechsel,” 1, p. 29. (De Wette
dates it April 7.)

[202] “Luther never became by his diligent study of Tauler a mystic
in the strict sense of the word. He makes his own merely the language
of mysticism. He often uses the same expressions as Tauler, but with
another meaning, indeed he even unconsciously imputes to Tauler his own
views,” H. Böhmer, “Luther im Lichte der neueren Forschung,” Leipzig,