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beside several printed at Nuremberg, Strasburg, Augs burg, and other places in Germany, editions were printed under the inspection of Luther, and his learned coadjutors, at Wittemberg, in 1535, 1536, 1538, 1539, 1541, 1543, 1544, and 1545; which was the last edition that he superintended.
Luther, at different periods, published Commentaries on particular parts of the Sacred Writings, chiefly in Latin, which were afterwards translated into German by his friends. In that on Deuteronomy, he has the following judicious directions and remarks :-“ Let the Christian reader's first object always be to find out the literal meaning of the WORD OF GOD; for this, and this alone, is the whole foundation of faith, and of Christian theology. It is the very substance of Christianity; the only thing which stands its ground in distress and temptation : it is what overcomes the gates of hell, together with sin and death, and triumphs, to the praise and glory of God. Allegories are often of a doubtful nature, depending on human conjecture and opinion; for which reason Jerome, and Origen, and other fathers of the same stamp, nay, I may add, all the Alexandrian school, should be read with great caution. An excessive esteem for these has gradually introduced a most mischievous taste among
later writers, who have gone such lengths, as to support the most extravagant absurdities by scriptural expressions. Jerome complains of this practice in his own time, and yet he himself is guilty of it. In our days there are some commentators, who, wherever they find in Scripture a word of the feminine gender, understand it to mean the Virgin Mary; and hence, almost all the revealed Word is made to treat of the blessed Virgin. Wherefore, we ought always to observe St. Paul's rule, not to build upon wood, hay, and stubble, but upon gold, silver, and precious stones; that is, an allegory should never be made the foundation of any doctrine, but be introduced as a secondary thing, to confirm, to adorn, to enrich a Christian article of faith. Never produce an allegory to support your sentiment; on the contrary, take care that your allegory rest on some just sentiment as a foundation, which, by its aptness and similitude, it is calculated to illustrate.” a
The zeal of this pious and fearless reformer was crowned, by the great Head of the Church, with a success equal to his most sanguine expectations; and he lived to see the cause of scriptural truth embraced, not only by several of the German States, but by many of the other nations of Europe. The papal power, which had exercised despotic sway over the mightiest monarchs of the world, was deprived of its extensive influence; and the thunders of the Vatican rolled over the heads of the Reformed without exciting the least alarm. The Scriptures of truth were generally circulated, and placed in the hands of persons of every rank, and age, and sex, by translations in to the vernacular dialects, the copies of which were rapidly multiplied by the labours of the press; and the traditions of Rome gave place to the Gospel of Christ. But whilst Luther was continuing his important exertions in favour of religion and truth, his incessant occupations and intensity of thought were undermining his constitution, and hastening his death. Early in the year 1546, he visited Eisleben, his native place, at the request of the Counts of Mansfeld ; but his strength was exhausted by the journey ; and on the 18th of February, 1546, he expired. After the removal of
a Milner's Hist. of the Church of Christ. vol. v. p. 383.
the body to Wittemberg, Melanethon pronounced the funeral oration; and the corpse was committed to the grave by several members of the University, amid the most unfeigned expressions of sorrow and regret ; princes and nobles, doctors and students, mingling their tears with the thousands of people, who wept over the mortal remains of the man of God.
The papal authority had, in the short space of time from 1516, to the year 1527, declined very perceptibly, and the doctrines of the Reformation had gained considerable ground. The Roman clergy had become exceedingly corrupt, and were so grossly ignorant, that they were generally disliked. Several of the German monasteries had no public library for the use of the monks : and in some of them, not a single copy of the Scriptures could be found. Prior to the publication of the Greek Testament, by Erasmus, not a copy could be procured in all Germany; so that Conrad Pellican was obliged to obtain one from Italy. In some churches, Aristotle's Ethics, and similar works, were read, instead of sermons ; a practice which in some places had subsisted from the time of Charlemagne ; in others, the works of Aquinas were explained; and in some, lectures on the heathen poets were delivered, where the word of God ought to have been preached. The original languages of the Scriptures were not only generally neglected, but the study of them was despised.
Conrad Heresbachius relates, that he heard a monk declaiming in a church, who affirmed, “A new language is discovered, called Greek, and is the parent of all heresy. A book, written in that language, is every where got into the hands of persons; and is called the New Testament. It is full of daggers and poison. Another language has also sprung up, called the Hebrew, and those who learn it become Jews.”—The grossest ignorance of the Scriptures prevailed, not only amongst the laity, but also amongst many of the clergy. Degrees in divinity were conferred on those who had scarcely ever read the Bible; and numbers of divines were far advanced in life before they had ever seen one! In the year 1510, the University of Wittemberg registered in its acts, Andrew Carolostad, afterwards one of the Reformers, as being sufficientissimus, fully qualified for the degree of doctor, which he then received; though he afterwards acknowledged, that he never read the Bible till eight years after he had received his academical honours. Albert, Archbishop and Elector of Mentz, having, in 1530, accidentally found a Bible on a table, opened it, and having read some pages, exclaimed, “ Indeed, I do not know what this book is; but this I see, that every thing in it is against us. Gerard Listrius, in his Note on the Moriæ Encomium of Erasmus, says, “I have known many doctors in divinity, as they were called, who have candidly acknowledged that they were fifty years of age before they had read the Epistles of St. Paul;" and Musculus affirms, (Loc. Com.) that prior to the Reformation, “ many priests and pastors had not so much as seen a Bible." Those who devoted themselves to the study of the Scriptures were objects of derision, and treated as heretical ; whilst the advocates of the Aristotelian philosophy were regarded as the oracles of wisdom, and the only true theologians. * Thus they spent their time and energies
a Vide Dr. Townley's Biblical Literature, vol. ii. p. 300.
to as little purpose as those philosophical speculatists, whom the poet describes as
" dropping buckets into empty wells, And growing old in drawing nothing up.”
Such was the state of sacred literature, and the morals of the clergy were equally low and disgraceful. Meanwhile, the doctrines of the Reformers were diffusing their light in every direction, and the minds of many were so far enlightened as to discern the absurdity of implicit faith and blind obedience, as well as the divine authority, purity, and excellence of the Holy Scriptures, and the right and privilege of every man reading and judging of their meaning for himself.
At this period, in England, was raised up a resolute and haughty prince, who, as much, if not more out of mere humour than sound principle, at once threw off the papal tyranny. Henry VIII. desiring to have his queen Catharine, the sister of Charles V. divorced, and to marry the beautiful Ann Boleyn, led to a renunciation of all alliance with Rome ; for the pope refusing to grant the king a dispensation for that purpose, he threw off all subjection to papal intolerance. He gave to the church an Episcopal constitution, and in which he acted as sovereign pontiff. “In the year 1534, he was declared the head of the English Church by Parliament; the authority of the pope was completely abolished in England; all tributes formerly paid to the holy see were declared illegal; and the king was intrusted with the collation to all the established benefices. The nation came into the king's measures with joy, and took an oath, called the oath of supremacy. All the credit which the popes had maintained over England for ages, was now overthrown at once; and none repined at the change,