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as soon as the conscience discovers again the idea of the perfect model,' the smallest failings appeared to be crimes, and man, condemned by his own scruples, fell prostrate, and, as it were, swallowed up” with horror. “ I, who lived the life of a spotless monk,” says Luther, “yet felt within me the troubled conscience of a sinner, without managing to assure myself as to the satisfaction which I owed to God. . . . Then I said to myself: Am I then the only one who ought to be sad in my spirit? Oh, what horrible spectres and figures I used to see!” Thus alarmed, conscience believes that the terrible day is at hand. 6. The end of the world is near. .. Our children will see it; perchance we ourselves.” Once in this mood he had terrible dreams for six months at a time. Like the Christians of the Apocalypse, he fixes the moment when the world will be destroyed: it will come at Easter, or at the conversion of Saint Paul. One theologian, his friend, thought of giving all his goods
“ but would they receive it?” he said. “Tomorrow night we shall be seated in heaven.” Under such an. guish the body gives way. For fourteen days Luther was in such a condition that he could neither drink, eat, nor sleep. “Day and night,” his eyes fixed on a text of Saint Paul, he saw the Judge, and His inevitable hand. Such is the tragedly which is enacted in all Protestant souls—the eternal tragedy of conscience; and its issue is a new religion.
For nature alone and unassisted cannot rise from this abyss. “By itself it is so corrupted, that it does not feel the desire for heavenly things. . . . There is in it before God nothing but lust." Good intentions cannot spring from it. “For, terrified by the vision of his sin, man could not resolve to do good, troubled and anxious as he is; on the contrary, dejected and crushed by the weight of his sin, he falls into despair and hatred
to the poor;
1 “In the measure in which pride is rooted within us, it always appears to us as though we were just and whole, good and holy; unless we are convinced by manifest arguments of our injustice, uncleanness, folly, and impurity. For we are not convinced of it if we turi: our eyes to our own persons merely, and if we do not think also of God, who is the only rule by which we must shape and regulate this judgment. And then that which had a fair appearance of virtue will be founr' to be nothing but weakness.
“This is the source of that horror and wonder by which the Scriptures tell us the saint were afflicted and cast down, when and as often as they feli the presence of God. l'or we see those who were as it might be far from God, and who were confident and went about with head erect, as soon as He displayed His glory to them, they were shaken and terrified, so much so that they were overwhelmed, nay swallowed up in the horror of death, and thu they fainted away."-Caluin's Institutes, i.
of God, as it was with Cain, Saul, Judas; so that, abandoned to himself, he can find nothing within him but the rage and the dejection of a despairing wretch or a devil. In vain he might try to redeem himself by good works: our good deeds are not pure; even though pure, they do not wipe out the stain of previous sins, and moreover they do not take away the original corruption of the heart; they are only boughs and blossoms, the inherited poison is in the sap. Man must descend to the heart, underneath literal obedience and legal rule; from the kingdom of law he must penetrate into that of grace; from forced righteousness to spontaneous generosity; beneath his original nature, which led him to selfishness and earthly things, a second nature must be developed, leading him to sacrifice and heavenly things. Neither my works, nor my justice, nor the works or justice of any creature or of all creatures, could work in me this wonderful change. One alone can do it, the pure God, the Just Victim, the Savior, the Redeemer, Jesus, my Christ, by imputing to me His justice, by pouring upon me His merits, by drowning my sin under His sacrifice. The world is a “mass of perdition," predestined to hell. Lord Jesus, draw me back, select me from this mass. I have no claim to it; there is nothing in me that is not abominable; this very prayer is inspired and formed within me by Thee. But I weep, and my breast heaves, and my heart is broken. Lord, let me feel myself redeemed, pardoned, Thy elect one, Thy faithful one; give me grace, and give me faith! “Then,” says Luther, “I felt myself born anew, and it seemed that I was entering the open gates of heaven."
What remains to be done after this renovation of the heart? Nothing: all religion is in that: the rest must be reduced or suppressed; it is a personal affair, an inward dialogue between God and man, where there are only two things at work, -the very word of God as it is transmitted by Scripture, and the emotions of the heart of man, as the word of God excites and maintains them. Let us do away with the rites that appeal to the senses, wherewith men wished to replace this intercourse between the invisible soul and the visible judge,-mortifications, facts, corporeal penance, Lent, vows of chastity and poverty, rosaries, indulgences; rites serve only to smother living piety underneath mechanical works. Away with the mediators by which men attempted to impede the direct intercourse between God and man, -namely, saints, the Virgin, the Pope, the priest; whosoever adores or obeys them is an idolater. Neither saints nor Virgin can convert or save us; God alone by His Christ can convert and save.
1 Saint Angustine.
2 Melancthon, preface to Luther's Works : "It is clear that the works of Thomas, Scotus, and the like, are utterly silent about the element of justification by faith, and contain many errors concerning the most important questions relating to the church. It is clear that the discourses of the monks in their churches almost throughout the world were either fables about purgatory and the saints or else some kind of dogma of law or discipline, without a
Neither Pope nor priest can fix our faith or forgive our sins; God alone instructs us by His word, and absolves us by His pardon. No more pilgrimages or relics; no more traditions or auricular confessions. A new church appears, and therewith a new worship; ministers of religion change their tone, the worship of God its form; the authority of the clergy is diminished, and the pomp of services is reduced: they are reduced and diminished the more, because the primitive idea of the new theology is more absorbing; so much so, that in certain sects they have disappeared altogether. The priest descends from the lofty position in which the right of forgiving sins and of regulating faith had raised him over the heads of the laity; he returns to civil society, marries like the rest, aims to be once more an equal, is merely a more learned and pious man than others, chosen by themselves and their adviser. The church becomes a temple, void of images, decorations, ceremonies, sometimes altogether bare; a simple meeting-house, where, between whitewashed walls, from a plain pulpit, a man in a black gown speaks without gesticulations, reads a passage from the Bible, begins a hymn, which the congregation takes up. There is another place of prayer, as little adorned and not less venerated, the domestic hearth, where every night the father of the family, before his servants and his children, prays aloud and reads the Scriptures. An austere and free religion, purged from sensualism and obedience, inward and personal, which, set on foot by the awakening of the conscience, could only be established among races in which each man found within his nature the conviction that he alone is responsible for his actions, and always bound to the observance of his duty,
word of the gospel concerning Christ, or else were vain trifles about distinctions in the matter of food, about feasts, and other human traditions. The gospel is pure, incorTuptible, and not diluted with Gentile opinions." See also Fox, lots and Monuments 8 vots., cd. Townsend, 1843, ii, 42.
III, It must be admitted that the Reformation entered England, by a side door; but it is enough that it came in, whatever the manner: for great revolutions are not introduced by court intrigues and official cleverness, but by social conditions and popular instincts. When five millions of men are converted, it is because five millions of men wish to be converted. Let us therefore leave on one side the intrigues in high places, the scruples and passions of Henry VIII.,' the pliability and plausibility of Cranmer, the vacillations and basenesses of Parliament, the oscillation and tardiness of the Reformation, begun, then arrested, then pushed forward, then suddenly, violently pushed back, then spread over the whole nation, and hedged in by a legal establishment, built up from discordant materials, but yet solid and durable. Every great change has its root in the soul, and we have only to look close into this deep soil to discover the national inclinations and the secular irritations from which Protestantism has issued.
A hundred and fifty years before, it had been on the point of bursting forth ; Wycliff had appeared, the Lollards had sprung up, the Bible had been translated; the Commons had proposed the confiscation of all ecclesiastical property; then under the pressure of the Church, royalty and aristocracy combined, the growing Reformation being crushed, disappeared underground, only to reappear at distant intervals by the sufferings of its martyrs. The bishops had received the right of imprisoning without trial laymen suspected of heresy; they had burned Lord Cobham alive; the kings chose their ministers from the episcopal bench ; settled in authority and pomp, they had made the nobility and people bend under the secular sword which had been entrusted to them, and in their hands the stern network of law, which from the Conquest had compressed the nation in its iron meshes, had become still more stringent and more offensive. Venial acts had been construed into crimes, and the judicial repression, extended to sins as well as to crimes, had changed
See Froude, History of England, i.-vi. The conduct of Henry VIII. is there presented in a new licht.
the police into an inquisition. “ Offences against chastity,''heresy,' or 'matter sounding thereunto,'witchcraft,' • drunkenness, 'scandal,' defamation, impatient words,' “broken promises,'
untruth,' absence from church,' speaking evil of saints," nonpayment of offerings,'«complaints against the constitutions of the courts themselves; »»l all these transgressions, imputed or suspected, brought folk before the ecclesiastical tribunals, at enormous expense, with long delays, from great distances, under a captious procedure, resulting in heavy fines, strict imprisonments, humiliating abjurations, public penances, and the menace, often fulfilled, of torture and the stake. Judge from a single fact: the Earl of Surrey, a relative of the king, was accused before one of these tribunals of having neglected a fast. Imagine, if you can, the minute and incessant oppressiveness of such a code; how far the whole of human life, visible actions and invisible thoughts, was surrounded and held down by it; how by enforced accusations it penetrated to every hearth and into every conscience; with what shamelessness it was transformed into a vehicle for extortions; what secret anger it excited in these townsfolk, these peasants, obliged sometimes to travel sixty miles and back to leave in one or other of the numberless talons of the law? a part of their savings, sometimes their whole substance and that of their children. A man begins to think when he is thus downtrodden; he asks himself quietly if it is really by divine dispensation that mitred thieves thus practice tyranny and pillage; he looks more closely into their lives; he wants to know if they themselves practice the regularity which they impose on others; and on a sudden he learns strange things. Cardinal Wolsey writes to the Pope, that “ both the secular and regular priests were in the habit of committing atrocious crimes, for which, if not in orders, they would have been promptly executed ;3 and the laity were scandalized to see such persons not only not degraded, but escaping with complete impunity.” A priest convicted of incest with the prioress of Kilbourn was simply condemned to carry a cross in a procession, and to pay three shillings and fourpence; at which rate, I fancy, he would renew the practice. In the preceding reign (Henry VII.) the gentlemen and'
I Froude, i. 191.
Petition of Commons. This public and authentic protest shows up all the details of clerical organization and oppression. 2 Froude, i. 26; ü. 192.
3 In May 1528. Froude, i. 194.