speech and reviling words, he just tackled Luther into the spiritual harness, so that he took for his protection David's sling and the spiritual sword, which is earnest prayer and the pure word of God; and sustaining himself on his Doctor's office and his oath, he attacked Tetzel and his Romish indulgence in the name of God, and taught fearlessly that such indulgences were a dangerous cheat. Thus began the strife between Tetzel and Luther on papal indulgences. At first Luther did not assail them in themselves; he would only that they should speak more modestly in this matter, that the great name of papal holiness, in which the indulgences were sold, might not be blasphemed For at this time, the pious monk still felt anxious to maintain the honor and dignity of the Romish head."*

Luther finding all his remonstrances vain, and the abuse growing worse and worse, determined on the bold step of preaching publicly in the parish church against the whole measure. He shut himself up in his cell, and gave himself to meditation and prayer. The rumor of his intention got abroad, and on Sabbath morning, the 4th September, 1517, the great church was crowded to overflowing with an auditory of most eager ex pectants. Amsdorf, Lange, Wolfgang, and other eminent men, secured seats near the altar, that they might have Luther full in their eye and observe his every look and movement. When the officiating monks in two long rows, entered the choir to com. mence the devotional services, every eye was eagerly strained to see if Luther was among them. It was not difficult to distinguish him. He was in his place as usual; with hand and eye and voice, he joined in all the prayers and chantings; and though his friends thought they detected an unusual glow upon his face, and a somewhat unwonted brilliancy in his eye, and a look of more than common determination about the mouth, a stranger would hardly notice him from the rest of the monks, except that his manner was more devotional, and his look more intellectual. The devotional services over, he ascended the pulpit, and broke upon his astonished auditory with his first sermon against indulgences. Of this discourse we have only the skeleton published, beginning—“In the first place, ye should know,' &c.†After sermon, the prior and subprior of the Augustines, trembling for the safety of the order, came to him and said, “Brother, you have done a bold deed, you will get us into trouble. The Dominicans are already chuckling, because they think our order will be crushed.” Luther replied with a smile," If it is not begun in God's name, it will soon come to nothing.

If it be begun in his name, let him manage it." I

• Math. 17, 20, 21. | Aud. i. 40–44.

| Von Gerloch, i. 46, 50. Lomler, i. 9, 13.

The excitement was intense. When Tetzel heard of it, he was frantic with rage, and danced and roared like a madman. He would have Luther burnt, that is what he would; and he kindled a great fire in the market-place at Jüterbok, to show how he would burn Luther, if he could catch him. But Luther went on quietly, minding his business, lecturing and preaching as before.

Luther took the old and correct view of indulgences, namely, that they were only the remission of ecclesiastic penalties, and not of future punishment in purgatory. This he supposed to be so plain a truth, that it need only be clearly stated to gain the assent of the whole church. In this he found himself greatly deceived. At length he peremptorily refused absolution to those who came to his confessional with the indulgences of Tetzel. This excited Tetzel's rage anew, and he stormed the more furiously. Luther knew that he was right, and Tetzel wrong, and he was determined to maintain his ground. He resolved on a still more decided step. At noon of October 31st, 1517, (nearly two months after he had preached his first sermon against indulgences), he nailed to the side-door of the castle church in Wittemberg, his ninety-five theses against indulgences, which he offered to defend against all opponents. This particular time and church were selected, because, it being All-hallow eve, and that church being newly built, and dedicated to all saints, and supplied with relics, would be visited by the largest crowds of people, who would read the theses, and make them matter of earnest conversation, as the subject was then exciting great interest.*

The same day he wrote an eloquent letter to the cardinal Albert, the primate of Germany, under whose direction Tetzel was acting, t and at the same time the substance of his sermon was issued from the press.

Of the effect of these publications, a contemporary thus speaks: “Before fourteen days were past, they were scattered through all Germany, and in four weeks they had run through all Christendom, as if the angels had been the messengers, and placed them before the eyes of all men. No man can conceive what a noise was made about them. They were immediately translated; and the matter greatly pleased everybody, except the Dominicans and the bishops, and many others who daily fed on the pope, and enjoyed the treasures of the earth which he raised up." Luther afterwards said: “At that time I was a preacher here in the cloister

a young doctor just off the anvil, hot and hasty in the Holy Scripture. As now, many people ran from Wittemberg to Jüterbok after indulgences, and I, as true as my Lord Christ has redeemed me, knew not what indulgence was, and nobody knew,

* Von Gerlach, i., 29—41. THIRD SERIES, VOL. III. NO. 4.

| Ibid, i., 42—45. D. W. 1., 67–70.


[ocr errors]

I began to preach cautiously, that men could do better, could act in a better way than to buy indulgences.”—"I did not rightly understand about indulgences, and all the papists in a heap were utterly ignorant of them. On that account I wished to discuss the matter, not for the purpose of rejecting them, but that I might know their nature and power.”—“Since all the bishops and doctors kept still, and nobody would tie the bells on to the cat, then Dr. Luther was made a great man, that he should come and take hold of the matter."*

We now see Luther in conflict with the church, but sorely against his will; he was forced to it by her enormous corruptions. He still believed her to be the true church, and had not the remotest idea of being separated from her. Hear his own testimony seventeen years after. “By these theses themselves is my shame publicly manifested, that is, my great weakness and uncertainty, which pressed me first to begin this controversy with great fear and trembling. I had fallen upon this business improvidently; and because I could not withdraw, I yielded not only much to the pope, in very important articles, but also willingly intreated him, and in real earnest. For who was I then ? A miserable, despised monk, more like a corpse than a man; that I should set myself against the majesty of the pope, before which not only the kings on the earth, and the whole world, but, if I may so speak, even heaven and hell trembled, and must regulate themselves according to his nod. What my heart endured and suffered during that first and the following years, in what humility, not feigned, but deep and sincere, yea, I would say, in what despair I was confounded. Ah! those self-sufficient spirits, who afterwards assailed the pope's majesty with such boldness and presumption, know nothing of all this! Nevertheless, they, with all their art, would never have been able to curl a single hair of the pope's head, had not Christ first, by me, his weak and unworthy instrument, already inflicted on him a deep and incurable wound; yet they bore away the fame and the honor, as if they were the men who had done it, which I willingly conceded to them. But I, when they stared at me and left me alone in the danger, was not joyous, and confident, and sure in the business; for then I knew not many things which now, thank God, I do know; and while the dead or dumb teachers, that is, the books of the theologians and canonists, could not give me sufficient information, I desired to seek council of the living. Then I found many pious men who had great pleasure in my propositions, and thought much of them. But then it was impossible for me to look upon and consider them, the members of the church, gifted with the Holy Ghost-for I could thus regard only the popes,

* Pf. 66-8.

cardinals, bishops, theologians, canonists, monks, and priests. In them I had expected the spirit; for I had so greedily devoured and drank in, so to speak, their doctrine, that I was entirely stupified by it, and felt not whether I was asleep or awake. And when I had, by the Scripture, overcome all the arguments which lay in my way, I could not even then easily, nor without great trouble, anxiety, and labor, and only by the grace of Christ, overcome this one, that we must hear the Church ; for I then with great earnestness and perseverance, and from the depths of my heart, believed the pope's church to be the true church."*

Such was the manner in which the reformation was begun by Luther; such the long process of preparation of mind and heart; such the outward conflicts and dangers; such the inward fears and anxieties. When we examine the history of the Reformation in its sources, especially when we look into the soul of Luther, how utterly inadequate, jejune, and even contemptible, seem the speculations on the part which he bore in that great event, indulged by historians of such eminence as Hume and Robertson, and even Hallam, of our own generation. To such men we must say, as Henry More said to Southey, in respect to his biography of Wesley, “ Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep."



By Rev. GEO. SHEPARD, D.D., Prof. Sacred Rhetoric, Theo. Sem., Bangor, Me.

Sermons by the late Edward Dorr Griffin, D.D., with a Memoir of his

Life. By William B. SPRAGUE, D.D. New York: M. W. Dodd.

Very few preachers in this country have had so high a reputation for eloquence as the late Dr. Griffin; and his reputation was well earned and altogether deserved. His Sermons have been before the public for a number of years, and they need no commendation from the press; they are capable of making their own way, not merely to the favor, but to the hearts of the people. We only wish they were published, in a

. form, and at a price, which would make them more available to the great ends to which they are so singularly adapted. Then will

• Mart. i. 77- .

they be read by the young preacher, who will come to this great model, both for incitement and correction : they will be read also by the common Christian, who will derive from these glowing structures, a genial warmth in the season of spiritual languishing and decay: and by the worldly man, too, who, attracted by an eloquence so splendid and commanding, will meet, as he reads, arguments and expostulations which will enter to the very depths of his soul.

We have to do, in this article, only with the preaching of Dr. Griffin ; and as we begin with the admission, that he was one of the most remarkable and effective preachers of the age, it might be well to inquire into the training, the endowments, the circumstances, and the habits, which went to the formation of so admirable a model.

Of the original religious experience of Dr. Griffin, we have no minute account. From what is said of it, we infer that there was nothing peculiarly marked or decisive about it. It occurred in July, 1791, in a season of sickness. He says: “The thought which I had frequently had before in sickness, returned upon me with great power. If I cannot bear this for a short time, how can I bear the pains of hell forever? I have no distinct recol. lection of the exercises which accompanied this uneasiness. I can only say that I found myself resolved to lead a different life, and devote myself to the service of God. I had often formed such a resolution, but this seemed to be more deep and real.” It was two or three months before he cherished the belief that he was a Christian. While this is not a remarkable experience in itself considered, it is a remarkable experience, as belonging to Dr. Griffin-remarkable, that such a mind and heart as he subsequently developed, came so coolly and quietly into the kingdom of God. The experience seems hardly in keeping with the preacher. His call away from the bar to the pulpit is more characteristic. On a certain Sabbath, a day in which his mind was strongly exercised on this subject, putting a small Bible un. der his arm, he walked toward his chamber. As he went, the thought occurred to him, "I have seen ministers carry a Bible thus to the meeting house." He says: “The question instantly came back upon me—and why should not you be a minister ?' It made no impression. And why should not you be a minister ?' Still I turned it off. And why should not you be a minister?'It was this question, thus suggested, and pertinaciously returning, which led him to examine, and pray, and soon to resolve most heartily, to abandon his legal studies and all his hopes in that sline, and to “hug the cross” and become one of its preachers.

Of his intellectual habits, the training of his mind, his mode of disciplining and replenishing it, we know as little. in detail, as


« VorigeDoorgaan »