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THE REFORMATION INCOMPLETE.
Wittemberg, where the Reformation had gained a firm footing, the ritual of the papacy continued its accustomed pomp. Priests inveighed in the pulpit against the mass, and then came down to the altar, and, offering up the host to God, seemed still to work some unspeakable transformation. The faithful still visited favourite shrines, though knowing that there was no other name under heaven given for salvation but the name of Christ; and votive gifts were hung up on the pillars of churches by men who yet ascribed the praise of their deliverance unto God. " There was a new faith in the world, but no new works; the spring sun had appeared, yet winter still bound all nature in its chains.'
No one can defend these inconsistencies ; but they were natural, and even, in some respects, advantageous. Had Luther commenced the Reformation by seeking to abolish the mass, the confessional, and forms of worship, he would probably have failed; and the Reformation would have become a question, not of inward life, but of outward devotion. Speaking and acting ever as he felt, he commenced his
work with great principles, and with these only at first was he concerned, He preached man's guilt and Christ's sufficiency. His ideas wrought upon men's minds, renewed their hearts, and thus prepared them to cast off the usages and errors which contradicted those principles. He first restored truth in doctrine, and now doctrine must carry truth into the forms
* Merle D'Aubigné.
NOT LUTHER'S BOOKS: BUT GOD's.
of the church and into social life. Dogmas are already shaken; the practices which rest upon them begin also to shake. But the whole must be overthrown.
This double imperfection of the Reformation has now to be remedied. The truth must be built, not upon Luther's books, but upon the word of God. This is the first want. Truth, moreover, must be applied to all institutions and practices, ecclesiastical and social. This is the second : and for both men need the Bible.
How extensive is the prison literature of the Christian church! It was from “his place of confinement,” in Aberdeen, that Rutherford sent forth many of his letters. The “ certain place," on which Bunyan lighted, and where he wrote his matchless allegory, was Bedford jail; and to the castle of Wartburg we owe Luther's version of the New Testament. Already had the great reformer translated several fragments of Scripture. The seven penitential psalms were published in 1519, and these attempts had been welcomed with avidity. The New Testament had recently been issued for the first time, in the original Greek, by the Roman Catholic cardinal Ximenes, and the Roman Catholic scholar Erasmus. The Vulgate, though on the whole an excellent version, was faulty in many places, and was accessible only to the learned. Earlier German editions were unidiomatic and costly. The time seemed come, therefore, for a new translation. Luther had leisure for it. His friends urged him to prepare
NOT LUTHIER'S BOOKS : BUT GOD'S.
it, and their voice, echoed by providential dispensations, he regarded as the voice of God. His ideas of what was required in a translator may be gathered from the history of his life. He had for years been studying the Hebrew and Greek originals with unparalleled diligence and great success. He resolved, he tells us, to use no learned or courtly words, but such as were simple and vernacular. He sought “assistance and advice wherever” he believed he could obtain them. He held that “if ever the Bible is to be given to the world, it must be done by those who are Christians, and have the mind of Christ; independent of which," he adds, “the knowledge of language is of no avail." And lastly, he entered upon his work under the deep conviction that the eternal interests of man were connected with his success. “Let this one book," says he, “be on all tongues, in all hands, under all eyes, in all pens, and in all hearts.” To the cross for righteousness, was the substance of his teachings, and to the Bible for light. Reason,” said Luther, “thinks, Oh! if I could only for once hear God, I would run for him to the world's end. Hearken, Oman! my brother!—God, the Creator of heaven and earth, speaks here to thee.”
His work was hardly finished when he gained his liberty ; and, having revised his version with the help of Melancthon, one of the first Greek scholars of his age, he prepared to send
With great zeal the work of printing commenced.
it to the press.
THE GERMAN VERSION.
105 employed, and as many as ten thousand sheets were struck off every day. At last, on the 21st of September, 1522, the complete edition of three thousand copies appeared, with the simple title, “The New Testament-German
Wittemberg ;” no name being appended. Henceforth, any one could procure the word of God in German for half-a-crown.
The success of this version was unexampled; in a couple of months the whole edition was disposed of, and in December a second edition was issued. Within ten years as many as sixty-eight editions were printed, thirty at Wittemberg and Augsburg, and thirteen at Strasburg. As the first edition was passing through the press, Luther commenced the translation of the Old Testament, and in 1530 the whole Bible was published.
The result surpassed all expectation. The new version was written in the very spirit of the sacred books, in a yet virgin tongue, which now, for the first time, displayed its richness and flexibility, and delighted all classes, the humblest as well as the most exalted. It was immediately regarded as a national work, and has never lost its place in the literature of Germany. It fixed and still preserves the German language. Henceforth, moreover, the Reformation was no longer in the hands of the Reformer. Luther retired, giving men the Bible; God himself appeared, and men listened to Him. Hitherto the Reformation had affirmed the doctrine of justification, had denounced
106 THE TRUE SYSTEM OF FAITH. monasticism, and, more recently, had set aside the mass; but it had done no more.
In one writing a solitary truth had been set forth, and un error had been denounced in another. The ancient system was everywhere shaken, but a new system, whether of truth or of duty, to occupy its place, was wanting. That want the publication of the New Testament supplied. While Luther was shut up at Wartburg, Melancthon had sketched his work on " Theological Common-places," and had presented a system of doctrine and practice solidly based, and of admirable proportions—a system remarkable for its simplicity and scripturalness. The Bible justified this system, and it proved itself to be, as Erasmus described it, a " complete army ranged in order of battle against the pharisaical tyranny of false doctors.” Luther's admiration: of it was un'oounded. He himself had been labouring to quarry from Seripture single stones ; kere they were collected into a majestic edifice. “If you wish to be theologians," said he, “ read Melancthon." In seventy years this work passed through sixty-seven editions, without counting translations. Next to the Bible, it contributed most to the establishment of the evangelical doctrine ; but without the Bible it would have been powerless.
Nor less remarkable was the effect of printing the Scriptures on the German nation. They now studied the New Testament with the utmost eagerness. They carried it with them wherever they went, and many of them knew