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Galatians he began October 27th, 1516, and resumed them repeatedly. They appeared first in Latin, September, 1519, and in a revised edition, ] 523, with a preface of Melanchthon.1 They are the most popular and effective of his commentaries, and were often published in different languages. John Bunyan was greatly benefited by them. Their chief value is that they bring us into living contact with the central idea of the epistle, namely, evangelical freedom in Christ, which he reproduced and adapted in the very spirit of Paul. Luther always had a special preference for this anti-Judaic Epistle and called it his sweetheart or his wife.1
These exegetical lectures made a deep impression. They were thoroughly evangelical, without being anti-catholic. They reached the heart and conscience as well as the head. They substituted a living theology clothed with flesh and blood for the skeleton theology of scholasticism. They were delivered with the energy of intense conviction and the freshness of personal experience. The genius of the lecturer flashed from his deep dark eyes which seem to have struck every observer. "This monk," said Dr. Pollich, "will revolutionize the whole scholastic teaching." Christopher Scheurl commended Luther to the friendship of Dr. Eck (his later opponent) in January, 1517, as "a divine who explained the epistles of the man of Tarsus with wonderful genius." Melanchthon afterward expressed a general judgment when he said that Christ aud the Apostles were brought out again as from the darkness and filth of prison.
§ 28. Luther and Mysticism. The Theohgia Germanica.
In 1516 Luther read the sermons of Tauler, the mystic revival preacher of Strassburg (who died in 1361), and discovered the
1 See the first ed. in the Weimar ed. of his works, vol. II. 436-618. This commentary of 1519 must he distinguished from the larger work of 1535 which has the same title, hnt rests on different lectures.
* In December, 1531: "Epistola ad Galatas iet mevnt Epistola, der ieh mieh veriravl habe, meine. Kethe von Jiora." Weimar ed. II. 437. Melanchthon called Luther's commentary the thread of Theseus in the labyrinth of N. T. exegesis. remarkable book called "German Theology," which he ascribed to Tauler, but which is of a little later date from a priest and custos of the Deutsch-Herrn Hans of Frankfort, and a member of the association called "Friends of God." It resembles the famous work of Thomas a Kempis in exhibiting Christian piety as an humble imitation of the life of Christ on earth, but goes beyond it, almost to the very verge of pantheism, by teaching in the strongest terms the annihilation of self-will and the absorption of the soul in God. Without being polemical, it represents by its intense inwardness a striking contrast to the then prevailing practice of religion as a mechanical and monotonous round of outward acts and observances.
Luther published a part of this book from an imperfect manuscript, December, 1516, and from a complete copy, in 1518, with a brief preface of his own.1 He praises it as rich and overprecious in divine wisdom, though poor and unadorned in words and human wisdom. He places it next to the Bible and St. August in in its teaching about God, Christ, man, and all things* and says in conclusion that "the German divines are doubtless the best divines."
There are various types of mysticism, orthodox and heretical, speculative and practical.2 Luther came in contact with the practical and catholic type through Staupitz and the writings of St. Augustin, St. Bernard, and Tauler. It deepened and spiritualized his piety and left permanent traces on his theology. The Lutheran church, like the Catholic, always had room for mystic tendencies. But mysticism alone could not satisfy him, especially
1 Both prefaces are printed in the Weimar ed. of his works I. 153 and 378 sq. The book itself has gone through many editions; the best is by Franz Pfeiffer, Thcrtojia deutuch, Stuttgart, 1851, third ed. 1855. There is a good English translation by Susanna Winkworth, Theohgia Germanim, with additions by Canon Kingsley and Chevalier Bunsen, (London, 1854, new ed. 1874; reprinted at Andover, 1846). Several characteristic mystic terms, as Enlwerdung, Gelassenheit, Vergottung, are hardly translatable.
* Ed. von Hartmann, the pessimist, says (Die PMloa. des Unbeumtsttn, Berlin, 1869, p. 276): "Die Myatii ist eint SMinypfl'inze, die an jedem Stabe emporwueheri und sieh mit den extremeten Gcgenwtten gleichyut idwifinden iroiss."
after the Reformation began in earnest. It was too passive and sentimental and shrunk from conflict. It was a theology of feeling rather than of action. Luther was a born fighter, and waxed stronger and stronger in battle. His theology is biblical, with such mystic elements as the Bible itself contains.1
§ 29. The Penitential Psalms. The Eve of the Reformation.
The first original work which Luther published was a German exposition of the seven Penitential Psalms, 1517.2 It was a fit introduction to the reformatory Theses which enjoin the true evangelical repentance. In this exposition he sets forth the doctrines of sin and grace and the comfort of the gospel for the understanding of the common people. It shows him first in the light of a popular author, and had a wide circulation.
Luther was now approaching the prime of manhood. He was the shining light of the young university, and his fame began to spread through Germany. But he stood not alone. He had valuable friends and co-workers such as Dr. Wenzeslaus Link, the prior of the convent, and John Lange, who had a rare knowledge of Greek. Carlstadt also, his senior colleague, was at that time in full sympathy with him. Nicolaus von Amsdorf, of the same age with Luther, was one of his most faithful adherents, but more influential in the pulpit than in the chair. Christoph Scheurl, Professor of jurisprudence, was likewise intimate with Luther.
1 See Hermann Hering, Die Mystik Luthers im Zusammerthange seiner Theohgie wtd in ihrem Verh. zur aJteren Mystik. Leipzig, 1879. He distinguishes three periods in Luther's relation to mysticism: (1) Romanisch-rnxjstisehe Periode; (2) Oermaniseh-mystisehe Periode; (3) Conflict with the false mysticism of Miinzer, Carlstadt, the Zwickau Prophets, and Schwenkfeldt.
* Weimar ed., vol. I. 154-220. A Latin copy had appeared already in 1513 and is preserved in the library at Wolfenbiittel, from which Prof. E. Eichm of Halle published it: Imtinm theologies I/utheri. S. cxempla seholiorum quibus D. Luthenu PsaJierivm interpretari eeepii. Part. J. Scplem Psalmi poenitentiales. Teitum originalem nunc primum de I/utheri autographo exprimendum curavit. Halle, 1874. Luther's closing lectures of 1516 exist likewise in MS. at Dresden, from which they were published by J. Seidemnnn in: IMorisM. Lutheri scholar ineditee de Ps'ilmis annin 1510-1516. Dresden, 1876, in 2 rols.
Nor must we forget Georg Spalatin, who did not belong to the university, but had great influence upon it as chaplain and secretary of the Elector Frederick, and acted as friendly mediator between him and Luther. The most effective aid the Reformer received, in 1518, in the person of Melanchthon.1 The working forces of the Reformation were thus fully prepared and ready for action. The scholastic philosophy and theology were undermined, and a biblical, evangelical theology ruled in Wittenberg. It was a significant coincidence, that the first edition of the Greek Testament was published by Erasmus in 1516, just a year before the Reformation.2
Luther had as yet no idea of reforming the Catholic church, and still less of separating from it. All the roots of his life and piety were in the historic church, and he considered himself a good Catholic even in 1517, and was so in fact. He still devoutly prayed to the Virgin Mary from the pulpit; he did not doubt the intercession of saints in heaven for the sinners on earth; he celebrated mass with full belief in the repetition of the sacrifice on the cross and the miracle of transubstantiation; he regarded the Hussites as "sinful heretics" for breaking away from the unity of the church and the papacy which offered a bulwark against sectarian division.
But by the leading of Providence he became innocently and reluctantly a Reformer. A series of events carried him irresistibly from step to step, and forced him far beyond
1 On the early colleagues of Luther, see Jiirgens, II. 217-235.
3 Luther made good use of it for his translation, but was not pleased with the writings of Erasmus. As early as March 1, 1517, he wrote to John Lange: "I now read our Erasmus, but he pleases me less every day. It is well enough that he should constantly and learnedly refute the monks and priests, and charge them with a deep-rooted and sleepy ignorance. But I fear he does not sufficiently promote Christ and the grace of God, of which he knows very little. He thinks more of the human than the divine. . . . Not every one who is a good Greek and Hebrew, is also for this reason a good Christian. The blessed Jerome with his five tongues did not equal the one-tongued Augustin, although Erasmus thinks differently."—Briefe, ed. De Wette, I. 52.
his original intentions. Had he foreseen the separation, he would have shrunk from it in horror. He was as much the child of his age as its father, and the times molded him before he molded the times. This is the case with all men of Providence: they are led by a divine hand while they are leading their fellow-men.
The works of Luther written before the 95 Theses (reprinted in the Weimar e !., I. 1-238, III., IV.) are as follows: Commentary on the Psalms; a number of senuons: Tractatus de his, qui ad ecclesias confvgiunt (an investigation of the right of asylum; first printed 1517, anonymously, then under Luther's name, 1520, at Landshut; but of doubtful genuineness); Sermo prcescriptus pr&posito in Litzka, 1512 (a Latin sermon prepared for his friend, the Provost Georg Mascov of Leitzkau in Brandenburg); several Latin Sermons from 1514-1517; Quatstio de viribus et voluntate hominis sine gratia disputata, 1516; Preface to his first edition of "German Theology," 1510; The seven Penitential Psalms, 1517; Disputatio contra scholaxtic.am theologian), 1517. The last are 97 theses against the philosophy of Aristotle, of whom he said, that he would hold him to be a devil if he had not had flesh. These theses were published in September, 1517, and were followed in October by the 95 Theses against the traffic in Indulgences.
The earliest letters of Luther, from April 22, 1507, to Oct. 31, 1517, are addressed to Braun (vicar at Eisenach), Spalatin (chaplain of the Elector Frederick), Lohr (prior of the Augustinian Convent at Erfurt), John Lange, Scheurl, and others. They are printed in Latin in Loseher's Reformations-Acta, vol. I. 795-840; in De Wette's edition of Luther's Briefe, I. 1-64; German translation in Waleh, vol. XXI. The last of these anteUeformation letters is directed to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz, and dated from the day of the publication of the Theses, Oct. 31, 1517 (DeWette I. 6770). The letters begin with the name of "Jesus."