Imagens da página

firmness, with which Luther resisted all endeavours to shake his belief, had the effect of strengthening the popular current in his favour; and, when he entered the hall in which the princes were assembled, voices were heard from the crowd, calling to him not to “be afraid of those who could kill the body only." The Diet having gone so far as to excommunicate him, the Elector Frederick deemed it expedient to provide for him a place of secure retreat; and, with this view, he was carried, apparently by force, to the castle of Wartemburg in Thuringia. Here he continued to write against the Catholics, and undertook the most laborious of all his works, a translation of the Scriptures into German. After he had appropriated several months to the prosecution of this task, he was induced to quit his retreat, and to re-appear at Wittemberg, in order that he might check the impatient ardour of Carolostadt, and other adherents, who were advancing with too hasty steps in the career of innovation.

All these memorable events happened before Luther had passed his fortieth year. On the subsequent occurrences of his life, which reached to the age of sixty three, we are less disposed to dwell, because they are, in general, sufficiently known to the readers of history. One of his remarkable characteristics was a disposition to advance in the progress of change more gradually than we might have expected from the vehemence of his temper. He was the last person who remained in the dress and capacity of a monk in the establishment to which he belonged; and many of his followers had thrown off the restraint of celibacy before their leader ventured on a similar step.

The superiority of the Protestants over the Catholics in learning enabled them to triumph in most of their polemical contests: but they unfortunately became divided among themselves; and the latter part of Luther's career was disquieted and even embittered by dissensions of this nature.

In particular, the disputed question of the sacrament kept him at variance with Zuinglius, a man of admirable attainments, and led to many unprofitable meetings and controversies. One of those which took place at the town of Marpurg, in HesseCassel, in 1529, is described in the present work (p. 249.) in animated terms, by a follower of Luther, named Jonas.

Throughout the remainder of life, Luther continued indefatigable in the discharge of his duty as a professor, and equally active in the composition of publications in opposition to the Catholics. He finished his great work, the translation of the Bible into German, and had the satisfaction of seeing it obtain very general circulation. He was also engaged in publishing


complete collection of his works, when the decline of his constitution, accelerated in some degree by too sedentary habits, led to a final termination of his labours in 1546. Mr. Bower closes with a delineation of his character, from which we extract the following passages :

· Though learned beyond his contemporaries, Luther had much to acquire after coming forward as an author. His theological knowledge was derived, in great part, from the writings of the Fathers, and, familiar as he was with Scripture, he had to study its most difficult passages without the assistance of intelligent commentators. It was more suitable, however, to his constitutional ardour to attack corruption at once with the weapons which lay at hand, than to allow time to pass in preparing arms of a less defective character. Hence those changes and inconsistencies in particular topics, which, however suspicious in the eyes of the weak or the malignant, afford to the considerate observer a complete evidence of his sincerity. Conscious of pure intention, Luther felt no shame in acknowledging the errors arising from haste or engendered by early prejudice. He journeyed along the track of inquiry without assistance, he was obliged to feel his way; and it was only step by step that he acquired a knowledge of the true path. He was long in the hope that the head of the church would disapprove of the indecent sale of Indulgences, and would extend support to the man who came forward to denounce it. When less confident of this support, he was inclined to ascribe to bad advisers that protection of vice of which he accounted the pontiff incapable. Nor could he prevail on himself to think otherwise till after the most conclusive proofs that no integrity of motive was accounted a justification of the capital crime of developing the corruption of the church. When this was clearly ascertained, Luther's choice was no longer doubtful — the establishment, which refused to listen to reform, became in his view an object for direct and unmiti. gated hostility. Many years of his life were yet to pass, and his views in points of doctrine were destined to undergo several changes; but no solicitation or argument had effect in altering his behaviour towards the church of Rome.'—

• In considering Luther as an author, we are struck with the extent and variety of his labours. They consist of controversial tracts, of commentaries on Scripture, of sermons, of letters, and of narra. tives of the chief events of his life. The leading feature of his controversial writings is an unvaried confidence in the goodness of his ar. guments. It never seems to occur to him to entertain a doubt of the accuracy of the proposition which he undertakes to defend. It unavoidably followed that he bestowed too little time on analyzing the reasoning of others, and on reconsidering his own. His natural temper led him to conceive strongly, and his triumphs over the Romanists powerfully seconded this constitutional tendency. The same warmth led him to avail himself of the aid of whatever weapons were calculated to reach his adversary. Sarcasm in all its shapes, raillery, ridicule, direct personality, and even punning, abound in his controversial tracts to a degree which is hardly justified by the example of


[ocr errors]

other writers of the age. Impatience and irritability were his great
faults, and they are abundantly conspicuous in his writings. No sooner
had he formed an idea of the motives or of the doctrine of an individual
at variance with himself, than he made it the object of unsparing con-
demnation. Hence the endless complaints from adversaries of his
precipitation and rudeness. Without desiring to excuse such excep-
tionable characteristics, it is due to his memory to observe that they
originated in no malignant intention. They were not displayed to
wards inoffensive persons, nor were they meant as the foundation of
lasting animosity. They were often the ebullition of the moment,
and appear to have been carried, in the heat of composition, to a
greater length than was intended at the outset. The freedom of his
language in treating of the conduct of the great arose partly from
constitutional ardour, and partly from an habitual impression of the
all-powerful claims of truth. The lofty attitude so often assumed
by Luther is not therefore to be attributed to pride or vanity. In
treating of the Scriptures, he considered himself as acting in the pre-
sence of God, whose majesty and glory were so infinitely exalted
above all created beings, as to reduce to one and the same level the
artificial distinctions of worldly institutions. Under this conviction
the prince or the king who ventured to oppose what Luther considered
the word of God, seemed to him no more exempted from severe epi-
thets than the humblest of his adversaries. However we may censure
the length to which his freedom was carried, the boldness of his con-
duct was, on the whole, productive of much good. An independent
and manly tone in regard not only to religion, but to civil liberty,
literature, the arts and sciences, was created and disseminated by his
example. His compositions of all kinds, including sermons and epis-
tolary disquisitions, are calculated, by his distinguished biographer,
Seckendorff, at the extraordinary number of eleven hundred and
thirty-seven. When we consider, in addition, the extent of his public
duty, and the variety of his correspondence, we cannot fail to admire
the prodigious efforts of his industry. Where the mass of writing
was so large, we must expect little polish of style. Luther's imagi-
nation was vigorous, but the cultivation of taste engaged no part of
his attention. His inelegance of style has been chiefly remarked in
his Latin publications. His taste in early life had been corrupted by
the barbarous diction of the scholastic divines, and in his riper years he
was too impatient to communicate the substance of his thoughts, to
bestow much attention on the dress in which they appeared. It suited
his ardour to commit to paper the impression of the moment, and to
give free course to that excitement which grows strongly on men of
his temper in the progress of composition. The consequence is that
his sentences are generally of great length; the succeeding members
appearing an expansion, and not unfrequently a repetition, of what had
gone before. No pains were taken to promote clearness, and very
little to correct ambiguity. As he was wholly indifferent to the price
of elegance, he gave himself no trouble about the choice of
When classical vocables did not readily occur to him, h
scruple in making a new word by giving a Latin termi
expression borrowed from the Greek, or some other 1

[ocr errors]

arrangement is equally defective, and the result of all this is, that his works are full of obscure passages. Some of them are so much involved, that it is next to impossible to make out the meaning. In his German compositions the case is different. His translation of the Bible has been always admired, and his hymns have given way to versifications of later date in consequence only of the progressive change in the language.'

• If among the numerous virtues of Luther, we seek for that which more particularly characterized him, we shall fix, without he. sitation, on his contempt for the terrors of power. It was to this undaunted spirit that he was chiefly indebted for his usefulness and ce. lebrity. To maintain the cause of truth, as a servant of God, was a task in which no danger could appal him. His courage arose from no hasty resolution and still less from any hidden ambition--it was a firm, deliberate determination, founded on thorough conviction, and unconscious of abatement under the most embarrassing circumstances. Regardless of the threats of foes, or the expostulations of friends, he persevered in his course, and looked forward, with patience and confidence, to “ reap in joy what he had sown in tears.”

• Again, if we pass from the examination of his mind to a view of the different capacities in which he came before the public, we shall see him to greater advantage in the character of a preacher. He mounted the pulpit full of his subject, and eager to diffuse a portion of his stores among the audience. The hearer's attention was aroused by the boldness and novelty of the ideas; it was kept up by the ar. dour with which he saw the preacher inspired. In the discourse there was nothing of the stiffness of laboured composition; in the speaker no affectation in voice or gesture. Luther's sole object was to bring the truth fully and forcibly before his congregation. His delivery was aided by a clear elocution, and his diction had all the copiousness of a fervent imagination.'

Our attention has been so much occupied with the subject of this work, as to leave us little room for observations on its merits as a composition. The extracts, however, may be regarded as fair specimens of the author's style, and his manner of arrangement; since they are sufficiently copious to convey a clear impression of both, and to render unnecessary the comments of the critic. The volume is divided into eleven chapters, some of which are confined, in the busiest part of Luther's career, to a single year; while others, towards the beginning and the close of the narrative, are found to comprehend

a series of years :--not that the transactions of the evening of Luther's day were devoid of interest, but, as they had been

incorporated into general history, Mr. Bower very properly declines to expatiate on them at so much length as on events of less notoriety. It remains that we add a favourable testimony to the fidelity with which Mr. B. has re-searched the works of Seckendorff, and other writers who have treated on the history of the Reformation. The Appendix is of considerable extent, and contains a variety of particulars relative to the contemporaneous history. The rude mode of education in those days, the profligacy of the clergy, the remonstrances of the laity against the behaviour of churchmen, and biographical notices of the more distinguished reformers, are successively introduced into this supplementary part of the volume.


Art. III. Moonlight, a Poem : with several Copies of Verses.

By Edward, Lord Thurlow. 4to. 55. White and Co. 1814. ART. IV. Ariadne ; a Poem, in Three Parts. By Edward,

Lord Thurlow. 8vo. 45. Longman and Co. Art. V. The Doge's Daughter ; a Poem, in Two Cantos : with

several Translations from Anacreon and Horace.. By Edward,

Lord Thurlow. 8vo. 35. 6d. Longman and Co. WE

E have not placed these three poems in the exact order of

their publication, but have exercised an act of judgment in arranging them in the classification assigned by a late facetious poet to his three Wigs, as Malus, Pejor, and Pessimus, Of the first of the poems, which is in blank verse, the principal fault is one which has long been predominant in the catalogue of Dullness, and is called Nonsense. We are informed at page 9, • That the archangels dwell in night :'

• But night serene, unvisited by storms,

And fed with golden cressets from the hand

Of Love immediate, prodigal of Truth.' In page 11. we read of viewing the planets from the edge of heaven,' and are told that the eclipse of the moon' is the proper time for a ' flight to that middle empire of inconstant air,' which is inhabited by the spirits neither bad or good. This information may perhaps be useful to Mr. Sadler, the wronaut, though the society in that region must, from this account, be rather indifferent. We are next favoured with the following lines:

• No soul has fown unto the gate of woe,

Or to the blissful soil, or brush'd the shore
Of Limbo with its wings ; or flown, and liv'd:
But yet intelligence from these has come,
By angels, and pale ghosts, and vexed fools,
That, straying as they wont, were blown athwart
The nether world, from the oblivious pool
Scarce 'scaping, on our scornful marge to land;
Thence to be blown by ev'ry idle wind,
Their tale half told, with a new

flight of fools,
Eclectick, to the planetary void.'


« AnteriorContinuar »