Vol. 7, Chapter II. Luther’s Training for the Reformation, a.d. 1483-1517

Book 1. The German Reformation Till the Diet of Augsburg, a.d. 1530

15. Literature of the German Reformation



I. Protestant Sources

(1) The Works of the Reformers, especially Luther and Melanchthon. See §§ 17, 32. The reformatory writings of Luther, from 1517-1524, are in vol. XV. of Walch’s ed., those from 1525-1537 in vol. XVI., those from 1538-1546 in vol. XVII. See also the Erlangen ed., vols. 24-32 (issued separately in a second ed. 1883 sqq.), and the Weimar ed., vol. I. sqq.

(2) Contemporary writers:

G. Spalatin (Chaplain of Frederick the Wise and Superintendent in Altenburg, d. 1545): Annales Reformationis oder Jahrbuecher von der Reform. Lutheri (to 1543). Ed. by Cyprian, Leipz., 1718.

Frid. Myconius (or Mekum, Superintendent at Gotha, d. 1546): Historia Reformationis vom Jahr Christi 1518-1542. Ed. by Cyprian, Leipzig, 1718.

M. Ratzeberger (a physician, and friend of Luther, d. 1559): Luther und seine Zeit. Ed. from MS. in Gotha by Neudecker, Jena, 1850 (284 pp.).

(3) Documentary collections:

V. E. Loescher (d. 1749): Vollstaendige Reformations = Acta und Documenta (for the years 1517-’19). Leipzig, 1720-’29, 3 vols.

Ch. G. Neudecker: Urkunden aus der Reformationszeit, Cassel, 1836; Actenstuecke aus der Zeit der Reform., Nürnberg, 1838; Neue Beitraege, Leipzig, 1841.

C. E. Foerstemann: Archiv. f. d. Gesch. der Reform., Halle, 1831 sqq.; Neues Urkundenbuch, Hamburg, 1842.

Th. Brieger: Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Reformation. Gotha, 1884 sqq. (Part I. Aleander und Luther, 1521.)


II. Roman Catholic Sources

See § 14.




I. Protestant Historians

Lud. A Seckendorf (a statesman of thorough education and exemplary integrity, d. 1692): Commentarius historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo. Francof. et Lips., 1688; Lipsiae, 1694, fol. Against the Jesuit Maimbourg.

Chr. A. Salig (d. 1738): Vollstaendige Historie der Augsburger Confession (from 1517-1562). Halle, 1730-’35. 3 vols.

G. J. Planck (d. 1833): Geschichte der Entstehung, der Veraenderungen und der Bildung unseres protest. Lehrbegriffs bis zur Einfuehrung der Concordienformel. Leipzig, 2d ed., 1791-1800, 6 vols. Important for the doctrinal controversies in the Luth. Church. Followed by the Geschichte der protest. Theologie von der Konkordienformel an his in die Mitte des achtzehnten Jahrh. Goettingen, 1831, 1 vol.

H. G. Kreussler: D. Mart. Luthers Andenken in Muenzen nebst Lebensbeschreibungen merkwuerdiger Zeitgenossen desselben. Mit 47 Kupfern und der Ansicht Wittenbergs und Eisenachs zu Luthers Zeit. Leipzig, 1818. Chiefly interesting for the numerous illustrations.

Phil. Marheinecke (d. 1846): Geschichte der teutschen Reformation. Berlin, 2d ed., 1831, 4 vols. One of the best books, written in Luther-like popularity of style.

K. Hagen: Deutschlands literar. und relig. Verhaeltnisse im Reformationszeitalter. Erlangen, 1841-’44, sqq., 3 vols.

CH. G. Neudecker: Gesch. des evang. Protestantismus in Deutschland. Leipzig, 1844, sq., 2 vols.

C. Hundeshagen (d. 1873): Der deutsche Protestantismus. Frankfurt, 1846, 3d ed. 1850. Discusses the genius of the Reformation as well as modern church questions.

H. Heppe (German Reformed, d. 1879): Gesch. des deutschen Protestantismus in den Jahren 1555-’85. Marburg, 1852 sqq., 4 vols., 2d ed., 1865 sq. He wrote, also, a number of other books on the Reformation, especially in Hesse.

Merle d’Aubigné’s History of the Reformation, see § 14. The first division treats of the German Reformation and is translated into German by Runkel, Stuttgart, 1848-1854, 5 vols., republ. by the American Tract society. Several English editions; London and New York.

Wilh. Gass: Geschichte der protestantischen Dogmatik. Berlin, 1854-’67, 4 vols.

G. Plitt: Geschichte der evang. Kirche bis 1530. Erlangen, 1867.

Is. A. Dorner (d. 1884): Geschichte. der protestantischen Theologie, besonders in Deutschland. Muenchen, 1867. The first Book, pp. 1-420, treats of the Reformation period of Germany and Switzerland. English translation, Edinburgh, 1871, 2 vols.

Ch. P. Krauth (d. 1882): The Conservative Reformation. Philadelphia, 1872. A dogmatico-historical vindication of Lutheranism.

K. F. A. Kahnis (d. 1888): Die deutsche Reformation. Leipzig, vol. I. 1872 (till 1520, unfinished).

G. Weber: Zur Geschichte des Reformationszeitalters. Leipzig, 1874.

Fr. v. Bezold: Gesch. der deutschen Reformation. Berlin, 1886.

The Elberfeld series of biographies of the Lutheran Reformers, with extracts from their writings, 1861-1875. It begins with C. Schmidt’s Melanchthon, and ends with Koestlin’s Luther (the large work in 2 vols., revised 1883).

Schriften des Vereins fuer Reformationsgeschichte. Halle, 1883 sqq. A series of monographs on special topics in the Reformation history, especially that of Germany, published by a Society formed in the year of the Luther celebration for the literary defence of Protestantism against Romanism. Kolde, Benrath, Holdewey, Bossert, Walther, are among the contributors. The series includes also an essay on Wiclif by Buddensieg (1885), one on the Revocation of the edict of Nantes by Theod. Schott (1885), and one on Ignatius of Loyola by E. Gothein (1885).

Of Secular histories of Germany during the Reformation period, comp. especially, Leopold von Ranke: Deutsche Gesch. im Zeitalter der Reformation (6th ed., 1881, 6 vols.), a most important work, see § 14. Also, Karl Ad. Menzel (d. 1855): Neuere Geschichte der Deutschen seit der Reformation. Berlin, 2d ed., 1854 sq., 6 vols. Wolfgang Menzel (d. 1873): Geschichte der Deutschen, 6th ed., 1872 sq., 3 vols. L. Stacke: Deutsche Geschichte. Bielefeld u. Leipzig, 1881, 2 vols. (Vol. II. by W. Boehm, pp. 37-182.) Gottlob Egelhaaf (Dr. Phil., Prof. in the Karls-Gymnasium at Heilbronn): Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation. Gekroente Preisschrift des Allgemeinen Vereins fuer Deutsche Literatur. Berlin, 1885. In the spirit of Ranke’s great work on the same topic, with polemic reference to Janssen. It extends from 1517 to the Peace of Augsburg, 1555. (450 pages.)


II. Roman Catholic Historians

See the Lit. in § 14.

Ignatius Doellinger (Prof. of Ch. Hist. in Munich, since 1870 Old Catholic): Die Reformation, ihre innere Entwicklung und ihre Wirkung im Umfange des Luther. Bekenntnisses. Regensburg, 1846-’48, 3 vols.; 2d ed., 1853. A learned collection of testimonies against the Reformation and its effects from contemporary apostates, humanists, and the Reformers themselves (Luther and Melanchthon), and those of their followers who complain bitterly of the decay of morals and the dissensions in the Lutheran church. The author has, nevertheless, after he seceded from the Roman communion, passed a striking judgment in favor of Luther’s greatness.

Karl Werner: Geschichte der kathol. Theologie in Deutschland. Muenchen, 1866.

Joh. Janssen: Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit dem Ausgang des Mittelalters. Freiburg, i. B. 1876-’88, 6 vols. (down to 1618). This masterpiece of Ultramontane historiography is written with great learning and ability from a variety of sources (especially the archives of Frankfurt, Mainz, Trier, Zürich, and the Vatican), and soon passed through twelve editions. It called out able defences of the Reformation by Kawerau (five articles in Luthardt’s “Zeitschrift fuer kirchliche Wissenschaft und Kirchl. Leben,” 1882 and 1883), Koestlin, Lenz, Schweizer, Ebrard, Baumgarten, and others, to whom Janssen calmly replied in An meine Kritiker, Freiburg, i. B., tenth thousand, 1883 (227 pp.), and Ein Wort an meine Kritiker, Freib. i. B., twelfth thousand, 1883 (144 pp.). He disclaims all “tendency,” and professes to aim only at the historical truth. Admitted, but his standpoint is false, because he views the main current of modern history as an apostasy and failure; while it is an onward and progressive movement of Christianity under the guidance of Divine providence and the ever present spirit of its Founder. He reads history through the mirror of Vatican Romanism, and we need not wonder that Pope Leo XIII. has praised Janssen as “a light of historic science and a man of profound learning.”

Janssen gives in each volume, in alphabetical order, very full lists of books and pamphlets, Catholic and Protestant, on the different departments of the history of Germany from the close of the fifteenth to the close of the sixteenth century. See vol. I. xxvii.-xliv.; vol. II. xvii.-xxviii.; vol. III. xxv.-xxxix.; vol. IV. xviii.-xxxi.; vol. V. xxv.-xliii.

For political history: Fr. v. Buchholz: Ferdinand I. Wien, 1832 sqq., 9 vols. Hurter: Ferdinand II. Schaffhausen, 1850 sqq.


16. Germany and the Reformation

Map, Reformation Germany.

Germany invented the art of printing and produced the Reformation. These are the two greatest levers of modern civilization. While other nations sent expeditions in quest of empires beyond the sea, the Germans, true to their genius of inwardness, descended into the depths of the human soul and brought to light new ideas and principles. Providence, it has been said, gave to France the dominion of the land, to England the dominion of the sea, to Germany the dominion of the air. The air is the region of speculation, but also the necessary condition of life on the land and the sea.

The characteristic traits which Tacitus ascribes to the heathen Germans, contain already the germ of Protestantism. The love of personal freedom was as strong in them as the love of authority was in the Roman race. They considered it unworthy of the gods to confine them within walls, or to represent them by images; they preferred an inward spiritual worship which communes directly with the Deity, to an outward worship which appeals to the senses through forms and ceremonies, and throws visible media between the finite and the infinite mind. They resisted the aggression of heathen Rome, and they refused to submit to Christian Rome when it was forced upon them by Charlemagne.

But Christianity as a religion was congenial to their instincts. They were finally Christianized, and even thoroughly Romanized by Boniface and his disciples. Yet they never felt quite at home under the rule of the papacy. The mediaeval conflict of the emperor with the pope kept up a political antagonism against foreign rule; the mysticism of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries nursed the love for a piety of less form and more heart, and undermined the prevailing mechanical legalism; dissatisfaction with the pope increased with his exactions and abuses, until at last, under the lead of a Saxon monk and priest, all the national forces combined against the anti-christian tyranny and shook it of forever. He carried with him the heart of Germany. No less than one hundred grievances against Roman misrule were brought before the Diet of Nürnberg in 1522. Erasmus says that when Luther published his Theses all the world applauded him. It is not impossible that all Germany would have embraced the Reformation if its force had not been weakened and its progress arrested by excesses and internal dissensions, which gave mighty aid to the Romanist reaction.

Next to Germany, little Switzerland, Holland, Scandinavia, England and Scotland, inhabited by kindred races, were most active in completing that great act of emancipation from popery and inaugurating an era of freedom and independence.

Nationality has much to do with the type of Christianity. The Oriental church is identified with the Greek and Slavonic races, and was not affected by the Reformation of the sixteenth century; hence she is not directly committed for or against it, and is less hostile to evangelical Protestantism than to Romanism, although she agrees, in doctrine, discipline and worship, far more with the latter. The Roman Catholic Church retained her hold upon the Latin races, which were, it first superficially touched by the Reformation, but reacted, and have ever since been vacillating between popery and infidelity, or between despotism and revolution. Even the French, who under Henry IV. were on the very verge of becoming Protestant, are as a nation more inclined to swing from Bossuet to Voltaire than to Calvin; although they will always have a respectable minority of intelligent Protestants. The Celtic races are divided; the Welsh and Scotch became intensely Protestant, the Irish as intensely Romanist. The Teutonic or Germanic nations produced the Reformation chiefly, but not exclusively; for the French Calvin was the greatest theologian among the Reformers, and has exerted a stronger influence in shaping the doctrine and discipline of Protestantism outside of Germany than any of them.


17. The Luther Literature

The Luther literature is immense and has received large additions since 1883. The richest collections are in the Royal Library at Berlin (including Dr. Knaake’s); in the public libraries of Dresden, Weimar, Wittenberg, Wolfenbuettel, Muenchen; in America, in the Theol. Seminary at Hartford (Congregationalist), which purchased the Beck collection of over 1,200 works, and in the Union Theol. Sem., New York, which has the oldest editions.

For the Luther literature comp. J. A. Fabricius: Centifolium Lutheranum, Hamburg, 1728 and 1730, 2 Parts; Vogel: Bibliotheca biographica Lutherana, Halle, 1851, 145 pages; John Edmands: Reading Notes on Luther, Philada., 1883; Beck (publisher): Bibliotheca Lutherana, Noerdlingen, 1883; (185 pages, with titles of 1236 books, now at Hartford), 1884: Bibliographie der Luther-Literatur des J. 1883, Frankf. a. M. 1884, enlarged ed. 1887 (52 and 24 pages, incomplete).


Luther’s Works

Oldest editions: Wittenberg, 12 German vols., 1539-’59,and 7 Latin, 1545-’58; Jena, 8 German and 4 Latin vols., 1555-’58, with 2 supplements by Aurifaber, 1564-’65; Altenburg, 10 vols., 1661-’64; Leipzig, 22 vols., 1729-’40, fol. — The three best editions are:

(1) The Halle edition by Johann Georg Walch, Halle, 1740-1750, in 24 vols., 4to. Republished with corrections and additions by Dr. Walther, Stoeckhardt, Kaehler, etc., Concordia College, St. Louis, 1880 sqq., 25 vols.

(2) The Erlangen-Frankfurt ed. by Plochmann, Irmischer, and Enders, etc., Erlangen, and Frankfurt a. M., 1827 sqq., 2d ed., 1862-1883, 101 vols. 8vo. (not yet finished). German writings, 67 vols.; Opera Latina, 25 vols.; Com. in Ep. and Gal., 3 vols.; Opera Latina varii argumenti ad reformationis Hist. pertinentia, 7 vols. The most important for our purpose are the Reformations-historische Schriften (9 vols., second ed., 1883-’85), and the Briefwechsel (of which the first vol. appeared in 1884; 6 vols. are promised).

(3) The Weimar edition (the fourth centennial memorial ed., patronized by the Emperor of Germany), by Drs. Knaake, Kawerau, Bertheau, and other Luther scholars, Weimar, 1883 sqq. This, when completed, will be the critical standard edition. It gives the works in chronological order and strict reproduction of the first prints, with the variations of later edd., even the antiquated and inconsistent spelling, which greatly embarrasses the reader not thoroughly familiar with German. The first volume contains Luther’s writings from 1512-1518; the second (1884), the writings from 1518-1519; vols. III. and IV. (1885-’6), the Commentaries on the Psalms; vol. VI. (1888), the continuation of the reformatory writings till 1520; several other vols. are in press.

I have usually indicated, from which of these three editions the quotations are made. The last was used most as far as it goes, and is quoted as the “Weimar ed.”

The first collected ed. of Luther’s German works appeared in 1539 with a preface, in which he expresses a wish that all his books might be forgotten and perish, and the Bible read more instead. (See Erl. Frkf. ed. I., pp. 1-6.)

Selections of Luther’s Works by Pfizer (Frankf., 1837, sqq.); Zimmermann (Frankf., 1846 sq.); Otto von Gerlach (Berlin, 1848, 10 vols., containing the Reformatorische Schriften).

The Letters of Luther were separately edited by De Wette, Berlin, 1825, sqq., 5 vols.; vol. VI. by J. C. Seidemann, 1856 (716 pp., with an addition of Lutherbriefe, 1859); supplemented by C. A. H. Burkhardt, Leipz., 1866 (524 pp.); a revised ed. with comments by Dr. E. L. Enders (pastor at Oberrad near Frankfurt a. M.), 1884 sqq. (in the Erl. Frankf ed.). The first volume contains the letters from 1507 to March, 1519. For selection see C. Alfred Hase: Lutherbriefe in Auswahl und Uebersetzung, Leipzig, 1867 (420 pages). Th. Kolde: Analecta Lutherana, Briefe und Actenstuecke zur Geschichte Luther’s. Gotha, 1883. Contains letters of Luther and to Luther, gathered with great industry from German and Swiss archives and libraries.


Additional Works of Luther

The Table Talk of Luther is best edited by Aurifaber, 1566, etc. (reprinted in Walch’s ed. vol. xxii.); by Foerstemann and Bindseil, Leipzig, 1844-’48, 4 vols. (the German Table Talk); by Bindseil: Martini Lutheri Colloquia, Latina, etc., Lemgoviae et Detmoldae, 1863-’66, 3 vols.; and in the Frankf. Erl. ed., vols. 57-62. Dr. Conr. Cordatus: Tagebuch ueber Dr. Luther gefuehrt, 1537, first edited by Dr. Wrampelmeyer, Halle, 1885, 521 pages. Last and best edition by Hoppe, St. Louis, 1887 (vol. xxii. of Am. ed. of Walch).

Georg Buchwald: Andreas Poach’s handschriftl. Sammlung ungedruckter Predigten D. Martin Luthers aus den Jahren 1528 bis 1546. Aus dem Originale zum ersten Mal herausgegeben. Leipzig, 1884, to embrace 3 vols. (Only the first half of the first vol., published 1884, and the first half of the third vol., 1885; very few copies sold.) The MS. collection of Andreas Poach in the public library at Zwickau embraces nine volumes of Luther’s sermons from 1528-1546. They are based on stenographic reports of Diaconus Georg Roerer of Wittenberg (ordained by Luther 1525, d. at Halle, 1557), who took full Latin notes of Luther’s German sermons, retaining, however, in strange medley a number of German words and phrases.

P. Tschackert: Unbekannte Predigten u. Scholien Luthers, Berlin, 1888. MSS. of sermons from Oct. 23, 1519, to April 2, 1521, discovered in the University Library at Koenigsberg. They will be publ. in the Weimar edition.


II. Biographies of Luther

(1) By contemporaries, who may be included in the sources.

Melanchthon wrote Vita Lutheri, a brief but weighty sketch, 1546, often reprinted, translated into German by Matthias Ritter, 1555, with Melanchthon’s account of Luther’s death to the students in the lecture room, the funeral orations of Bugenhagen and Cruciger (157 pages); a new transl. by Zimmermann, with preface by G. J. Planck, Goettingen, 1813; ed. of the original in Vitae quatuor Reformatorum., Lutheri a Melanchthone, Melanchthonis a Camerario, Zwinglii a Myconio, Calvini a Beza, prefaced by Neander, Berlin, 1841. Justus Jonas gives an account of Luther’s last sickness and death as an eye-witness, 1546. Mathesius (Luther’s pupil and friend, d. 1561) preached seventeen sermons on Luther’s life, first published 1565, and very often since, though mostly abridged, e.g., an illustrated popular ed. with preface by G. H. v. Schubert, Stuttgart, 1846; jubilee edition, St. Louis and Dresden, 1883. Joh. Cochlaeus, a Roman Cath. antagonist of Luther, wrote Commentaria de actis et scriptis Martini Lutheri Saxonis, chronographica, ex ordine ab anno Dom. 1517 usque ad annum 1546 (inclusive), fideliter conscripta. Mayence, 1549 fol.

(2) Later Biographies till 1875 (the best marked *) by

*Walch (in his ed. of L.’s Works, vol. XXIV. pp. 3-875); Keil (4 parts in 1 vol., Leipz., 1764); Schroeckh (Leipz., 1778); Ukert (Gotha, 2 vols., 1817); Pfizer (Stuttgart, 1836); Stang (with illustrations, Stuttg., 1836); Jaekel (Leipz., 1841, new ed. Elberfeld, 1871); *Meurer (Dresden, 1843-’46, 3 vols. with illustrations, abridged in 1 vol., 1850, 3d ed., 1870, mostly in Luther’s own words); *Juergens (Leipz., 1846-’47, 3 vols., reaching to 1517, very thorough, but unfinished); J. M. Audin (Rom. Cath., Hist. de la vie, des ouvrages et des doctrines de M. Luth., Paris, 1839, 7th ed., revue et corrigée, 1856, 3 vols. — a storehouse of calumnies, also in German and English); * M. Michelet (Mémoirs de L., écrits par lui-mème, traduits et mis en ordre, Paris, 1835, also Brussels, 1845, 2 vols.; the best biography in French; Eng. transl. by Hazlitt, London, 1846, and by G. H. Smith, London and N. Y., 1846); Ledderhose (Karlsruh, 3d ed., 1883; French transl. of the first ed., Strassburg, 1837); Genthe (Leipz., 1842, with seventeen steel engravings); Westermann (Halle, 1845); Weydmann (Luther, ein Charakter — und Spiegelbild fuer unsere Zeit, Hamburg, 1850); B. Sears (English, publ. by the Am. Sunday School Union, Philada., 1850, with special reference to the youth of L.); Jgn. Doellinger (R. C., Luther, eine Skizze, Freiburg i. B., 1851); Koenig and Gelzer (with 48 fine illustrations, Hamb. u. Gotha, 1851; Engl. ed. with transl. of the text by Archdeacon Hare and Cath. Winkworth, Lond. and N. Y., 1856); * Jul. Hare (Vindication of Luther against his English Assailants, first publ. as a note in his The Mission of the Comforter, London, 1846, vol. II., 656-878, then separately, 2d ed., 1855, the best English appreciation of L.); II. Woersley (Life of Luther, London, 1856, 2 vols.); Wildenhahn (Leipz., 1861); Mueller (Nürnberg, 1867); Henke (Luther u. Melanchthon, Marburg, 1867); H. W. J. Thiersch (Luther, Gustav Adolf und Maximilian I. von Bayern, Noerdlingen, 1869, pp. 3-66); Vilmar (Luther, Melanchthon und Zwingli, Frankf. a. M., 1869); H. Lang (Berlin, 1870, rationalistic); Ackermann (Jena, 1871); Gasparin (Luther et la réforme ait XVe . siècle, Paris, 1873); Schaff (a sketch in Appleton’s “Cyclopaedia,” 1858, revised 1874); Rietschel (Martin Luther und Ignatius Loyola, Wittenberg, 1879).

(3) Recent Biographies, published since 1875, by

Jul. Koestlin (Elberfeld, 1875, 2 vols., 2d ed. revised 1883; 3d ed. unchanged; upon the whole the best German biography; also an abridged ed. for popular use with 64 illustrations, 3d ed., 1883. English transl. of the small ed. by an anonymous writer with the author’s sanction, Lond. and N. Y., 1883; another by Morris, Philad., 1883; comp. also Koestlin’s art. Luther in Herzog, 2d ed., vol. IX.; his Festschrift, 1883, in several edd., transl. by Eliz. P. Weir: Martin Luther the Reformer, London, 1883; and his polemic tract: Luther und Janssen, der Deutsche Reformator und ein ultramontaner Historiker, Halle, 3d ed., 1883); V. Hasak (R. Cath., Regensb., 1881); Rein (Leipz., 1883, English transl. by Behringer, N. Y., 1883); Rogge, (Leipz., 1883); *Plitt and Petersen (Leipzig, 1883); *Max Lenz (2nd ed. Berlin, 1883); P. Kuhn (Luther, sa vie et son oeuvre, Paris, 3 vols.); C. Burk (4th ed., Stuttg., 1884); *Th. Kolde (M. Luther, Gotha, 1884, 2 vols.); J. A. Froude (Luther, a Short Biography, Lond. and N. Y., 1883); John Rae (M. Luth.: Lond., 1884); Paul Martin, i.e., M. Rade of Schoenbach (Dr. M. Luther’s Leben, etc., Neusalza, 1885-87, 3 vols.); Peter Bayne (M. Luth.: his Life and Times, Lond. and N. Y., 1887, 2 vols.).

On Luther’s wife and his domestic life: W. Beste: Die Gesch. Catherina’s von Bora. Halle, 1843 (131 pp.). G. Hofmann: Katharina von Bora, oder M. L. als Gatte, und Vater. Leipzig, 1846. John G. Morris: Life of Cath. von Bora, Baltimore, 1856. Mor. Meurer: Katherina Luther geborne von Bora. Dresden, 1854; 2d ed., Leipzig, 1873.


III. Luther’s Theology

W. Beste: Dr. M. Luther’s Glaubenslehre. Halle, 1845 (286 pp.). Theodos. Harnack (senior): L.’s Theologie, Bd I. Erlang., 1862, Bd. II., 1886. *Jul. Koestlin: L.’s Theologie. Stuttg., 1863, 2d ed., 1883, 2 vols. By the same: Luther’s Lehre von der Kirche, 1853, new ed., Gotha, 1868. Ch. H. Weisse; Die Christologie Luthers, Leipz., 1852 (253 pp.). Luthardt: Die Ethik Luthers, Leipz., 1867, 2d ed., 1875. Lommatzsch: Luther’s Lehre von ethisch-relig. Standpunkt aus, Berlin, 1879). H. C. Moenckeberg: Luther’s Lehre von der Kirche. Hamburg, 1870. Hering: Die Mystik Luther’s. Leipz., 1879. Kattenbusch: Luther’s Stellung z. den oekumenischen Symbolen. Giessen, 1883.


IV. Luther as Bible Translator

G. W. Panzer: Entwurf einer vollstaendigen Gesch. der deutschen Bibeluebers. Dr. M. Luther’s von 1517-1581. Nürnberg, 1783. H. Schott: Gesch. der teutschen Bibeluebers. Dr. M. Luther’s. Leipz., 1835. Bindseil: Verzeichniss der Original-Ausgaben der Luther. Uebersetzung der Bibel. Halle, 1841. Moenckeberg and Frommann: Vorschlaege zur Revision von M. L.’s Bibeluebers. Halle, 1861-62. Theod. Schott: Martin Luther und die deutsche Bibel. Stuttgart, 1883. E. Riehm (Prof. in Halle and one of the Revisers of the Luther-Bible): Luther als Bibeluebersetzer. Gotta. 1884. Comp. the Probebibel of 1883 (an official revision of Luther’s version), and the numerous pamphlets for and against it.


V. Luther as a Preacher

E. Jonas: Die Kanzelberedtsamkeit Luther’s. Berlin, 1852 (515 pp.). Best ed. of his sermons by G. Schlosser: Dr. Martin Luther’s Evangelien-Predigten auf alle Sonn-und Festtage des Kirchenjahres aus seiner Haus-und Kirchenpostille, Frankfurt a. M., 1883; 4th ed., 1885.


VI. Luther as Poet and Musician

A. J. Rambach: Luther’s Verdienst um den Kirchengesang. Hamburg, 1813 Aug. Gebauer: Martin Luther und seine Zeitgenossen als Kirchenliederdichter. Leipzig, 1828 (212 pp.). C. von Winterfeld: Dr. M. Luth. deutsche geistliche Lieder nebst den wahrend seines Lebens dazu gebraeuchlichen Stimmweisen. Leipzig, 1840 (132 pp., 4to). B. Pick: Luther as a Hymnist, Philad., 1875; Ein feste Burg (in 21 languages), Chicago, 1883. Bacon and Allen: The Hymns of Martin Luther with his original Tunes. Germ. and Eng., N. Y., 1883. Dr. Danneil: Luther’s Geistliche Lieder nach seinen drei Gesangbuechern von 1524, 1529, 1545. Frankfurt a. M., 1883. E. Achelis: Die Entstehungszeit v. Luther’s geistl. Liedern. Marburg, 1884.


VII. Special Points in Luther’s Life and Work

John G. Morris: Quaint Sayings and Doings concerning Luther. Philadelphia, 1857. Tuzschmann: Luther in Worms. Darmstadt, 1860. Koehler: Luther’s Reisen. Eisenach, 1872. W. J. Mann and C. P. Krauth: The Great Reformation and the Ninety-five Theses. Philad., 1873. Zitzlaff. L. auf der Koburg. Wittenberg, 1882. Kolde. L. auf dem Reichstag zu Worms. Halle, 1883. Glock: Grundriss der Paedagogik Luther’s. Karlsruh, 1883.


VIII. Commemorative Addresses of 1883 and 1884

Festschriften zur 400 jaehrigen Jubelfeier der Geburt Dr. Martin Luther’s, herausgegeben vom koenigl. Prediger-Seminar in Wittenberg. Wittenberg, 1883. (Addresses by Drs. Schmieder, Rietschel, and others.) P. Kleinert: L. im Verhaeltniss zur Wissenschaft (Academic oration). Berlin, 1883 (35 pp.). Ed. Reuss: Akad. Festrede zur Lutherfeier. Strassburg, 1883. Th. Brieger: Neue Mittheilungen ueber Luther in Worms. Marburg, 1883, and Luther und sein Werk. Marb., 1883. Ad. Harnack: M. Luther in seiner Bedeutung fuer die Gesch. der Wissenschaft und der Bildung. Giessen, 1883 (30 pp.). Vid Upsala Universitets Luthersfest, den 10 Nov., 1883, with an oration of K. H. Gez. von Scheele (Prof. of Theol. at Upsala, appointed Bishop of Visby in Gothland, 1885). Upsala, 1883. G. N. Bonwetsch: Unser Reformator Martin Luther. Dorpat, 1883. Appenzeller, Ruetschi, Oettli, and others: Die Lutherfeier in Bern. Bern, 1883. Prof. Salmond (of Aberdeen): Martin Luther. Edinburgh, 1883. J. M. Lindsay: M. Luther, in the 9th ed. of “Encyclop. Brit.,” vol. XV. (1883), 71-84. Jean Monod: Luther j’usqu’en 1520. Montauban, 1883. J. B. Bittinger: M. Luth. Cleveland, 1883. E. J. Wolf, and others: Addresses on the Reformation. Gettysburg, 1884. The Luther Document (No. XVII.) of the American Evang. Alliance, with addresses of Rev. Drs. Wm. M. Taylor and Phillips Brooks. N. Y., 1883. Symposiac on Luther, seven addresses of the seven Professors of the Union Theol. Seminary in New York, held Nov. 19, 1883. Jos. A. Seiss: Luther and the Reformation (an eloquent commemorative oration delivered in Philad., and New York). Philad. 1884. S. M. Deutsch: Luther’s These vom Jahr 1519 ueber die paepstliche Gewalt. Berlin, 1884. H. Cremer: Reformation und Wissenschaft. Gotha, 1883


IX. Roman Catholic Attacks

The Luther-celebration gave rise not only to innumerable Protestant glorifications, but also to many Roman Catholic defamations of Luther and the Reformation. The ablest works of this kind are by Janssen (tracts in defence of his famous History of Germany, noticed in § 15), G. G. Evers, formerly a Lutheran pastor (Katholisch oder protestantisch? Hildesheim, 4th ed., 1883; Martin Luther’s Anfaenge, Osnabrueck, 3d ed., 1884; Martin Luther, Mainz, 1883 sqq., in several vols.), Westermayer. (Luther’s Werk im Jahr 1883), Germanus, Herrmann, Roettscher, Dasbach, Roem, Leogast, etc. See the “Historisch-politische Blaetter” of Munich, and the “Germania” of Berlin, for 1883 and 1884 (the chief organs of Romanism in Germany), and the Protestant review of these writings by Wilh. Walther: Luther in neusten roemischen Gericht. Halle, 1884 (166 pages).


18. Luther’s Youth and Training

Illustration, Luther

From a Portrait by Cranach in the Town Church at Weimar.

In order to understand the genius and history of the German Reformation we must trace its origin in the personal experience of the monk who shook the world from his lonely study in Wittenberg, and made pope and emperor tremble at the power of his word.

All the Reformers, like the Apostles and Evangelists, were men of humble origin, and gave proof that God’s Spirit working through his chosen instruments is mightier than armies and navies. But they were endowed with extraordinary talents and energy, and providentially prepared for their work. They were also aided by a combination of favorable circumstances without which they could not have accomplished their work. They made the Reformation, and the Reformation made them.

Of all the Reformers Luther is the first. He is so closely identified with the German Reformation that the one would have no meaning without the other. His own history is the formative history of the church which is justly called by his name, and which is the incarnation and perpetuation of his genius. No other Reformer has given his name to the church he reformed, and exercised the same controlling influence over its history. We need not discuss here the advantages and disadvantages of this characteristic difference; we are only concerned with the fact.

Martin Luther was born Nov. 10, 1483, an hour before midnight, at Eisleben in Prussian Saxony, where he died, Feb. 18, 1546.

On the day following he was baptized and received the name of the saint of the day.

His parents had recently removed to that town from their original home at Möhra near Eisenach in Thuringia, where Boniface had first preached the gospel to the Germans. Six months after Luther’s birth they settled at Mansfeld, the capital of a rich mining district in the Harz mountains, which thus shares with the Thuringian forest the honor of being the home of the Luther family. They were very poor, but honest, industrious and pious people from the lower and uncultivated ranks.

Luther was never ashamed of his humble, rustic origin. “I am,” he said with pride to Melanchthon, “a peasant’s son; my father, grandfather, all my ancestors were genuine peasants.” His mother had to carry the wood from the forest, on her back, and father and mother, as he said, “worked their flesh off their bones,” to bring up seven children (he had three younger brothers and three sisters). Afterward his father, as a miner, acquired some property, and left at his death 1250 guilders; a guilder being worth at that time about sixteen marks, or four dollars.

Luther had a hard youth, without sunny memories, and was brought up under stern discipline. His mother chastised him, for stealing a paltry nut, till the blood came; and his father once flogged him so severely that he fled away and bore him a temporary grudge; but Luther recognized their good intentions, and cherished filial affection, although they knew not, as he said, to distinguish the ingenia to which education should be adapted. He was taught at home to pray to God and the saints, to revere the church and the priests, and was told frightful stories about the devil and witches which haunted his imagination all his life.

In the school the discipline was equally severe, and the rod took the place of kindly admonition. He remembered to have been chastised no less than fifteen times in one single morning. But he had also better things to say. He learned the Catechism, i.e.: the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and several Latin and German hymns. He treasured in his memory the proverbial wisdom of the people and the legendary lore of Dietrich von Bern, of Eulenspiegel and Markolf.

He received his elementary education in the schools of Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach. Already in his fourteenth year he had to support himself by singing in the street.

Frau Ursula Cotta, the wife of the wealthiest merchant at Eisenach, immortalized herself by the benevolent interest she took in the poor student. She invited him to her table “on account of his hearty singing and praying,” and gave him the first impression of a lady of some education and refinement. She died, 1511, but he kept up an acquaintance with her sons and entertained one of them who studied at Wittenberg. From her he learned the word: “There is nothing dearer in this world than the love of woman.”

The hardships of Luther’s youth and the want of refined breeding show their effects in his writings and actions. They limited his influence among the higher and cultivated classes, but increased his power over the middle and lower classes. He was a man of the people and for the people. He was of the earth earthy, but with his bold face lifted to heaven. He was not a polished diamond, but a rough block cut out from a granite mountain and well fitted for a solid base of a mighty structure. He laid the foundation, and others finished the upper stories.


19. Luther in the University of Erfurt

At the age of eighteen, in the year 1501, he entered, as “Martinus Ludher ex Mansfeld,” the University of Erfurt, which had been founded a hundred years before (1392) and was then one of the best in Germany. By that time his father was able to assist him so that he was free of care and could acquire a little library.

He studied chiefly scholastic philosophy, namely: logic, rhetoric, physics and metaphysics. His favorite teacher was Truttvetter, called “Doctor Erfordiensis.” The palmy days of scholasticism which reared those venerable cathedrals of thought in support of the traditional faith of the church in the thirteenth century, had passed away, and were succeeded by the times of barren disputes about Realism and Nominalism or the question whether the general ideas (the universalia) had an objective reality, or a merely nominal, subjective existence in the mind. Nominalism was then the prevailing system.

On the other hand the humanistic studies were reviving all over Europe and opened a new avenue of intellectual culture and free thought. The first Greek book in Greek letters (a grammar) which was published in Germany, appeared in Erfurt. John Crotus Rubeanus (Jaeger) who studied there since 1498 and became rector of the University in 1520 and 1521, was one of the leaders of humanism and the principal author of the first part of the famous anti-monkish Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1515); he was at first an intimate friend of Hutten and Luther, and greeted the latter on his way to Worms (1521) as the man who “first after so many centuries dared to strangle the Roman license with the sword of the Scripture,” but afterward he fell away from the Reformation (1531) and assailed it bitterly.

Luther did not neglect the study of the ancient classics, especially Cicero, Vergil, Plautus, and Livy. He acquired sufficient mastery of Latin to write it with clearness and vigor, though not with elegance and refinement. The knowledge of Greek he acquired afterward as professor at Wittenberg. In classical culture he never attained the height of Erasmus and Melanchthon, of Calvin and Beza; but in original thought and in the mastery of his own mother tongue he was unrivalled. He always regarded the languages as the sheath for the sword of the Spirit.

Beside his literary studies he cultivated his early love for music. He sang, and played the lute right merrily. He was a poet and musician as well as a theologian. He prized music as a noble gift of God, as a remedy against sadness and evil thoughts, and an effective weapon against the assaults of the devil. His poetic gift shines in his classical hymns. He had a rich font of mother wit and quaint humor.

His moral conduct was unblemished; and the mouth of slander did not dare to blacken his reputation till after the theological passions were roused by the Reformation. He went regularly to mass and observed the daily devotions of a sincere Catholic. He chose for his motto: to pray well is half the study. He was a devout worshipper of the Virgin Mary.

In his twentieth year he first saw a complete (Latin) Bible in the University Library, and was surprised and rejoiced to find that it contained so much more than was ever read or explained in the churches. His eye fell upon the story of Samuel and his mother, and he read it with delight. But he did not begin a systematic study of the Bible till he entered the convent; nor did he find in it the God of love and mercy, but rather the God of righteousness and wrath. He was much concerned about his personal salvation and given to gloomy reflections over his sinful condition. Once he fell dangerously ill, and was seized with a fit of despair, but an old priest comforted him, saying: “My dear Baccalaureus, be of good cheer; you will not die in this sickness: God will yet make a great man out of you for the comfort of many.”

In 1502 he was graduated as Bachelor of Arts, in 1505 as Master of Arts. This degree, which corresponds to the modern Doctor of Philosophy in Germany, was bestowed with great solemnity. “What a moment of majesty and splendor,” says Luther, “was that when one took the degree of Master, and torches were carried before him. I consider that no temporal or worldly joy can equal it.” His talents and attainments were the wonder of the University.

According to his father’s ambitious wish, Luther began to prepare himself for the profession of law, and was presented by him with a copy of the Corpus juris. But he inclined to theology, when a remarkable providential occurrence opened a new path for his life.


20. Luther’s Conversion

In the summer of 1505 Luther entered the Augustinian convent at Erfurt and became a monk, as he thought, for his life time. The circumstances which led to this sudden step we gather from his fragmentary utterances which have been embellished by legendary tradition.

He was shocked by the sudden death of a friend (afterward called Alexius), who was either killed in a duel, or struck dead by lightning at Luther’s side. Shortly afterward, on the second of July, 1505, two weeks before his momentous decision, he was overtaken by a violent thunderstorm near Erfurt, on his return from a visit to his parents, and was so frightened that he fell to the earth and tremblingly exclaimed: “Help, beloved Saint Anna! I will become a monk.” His friend Crotus (who afterward became an enemy of the Reformation) inaptly compared this event to the conversion of St. Paul at the gates of Damascus. But Luther was a Christian before he became a monk.

On the sixteenth of July he assembled his friends who in vain tried to change his resolution, indulged once more in social song, and bade them farewell. On the next day they accompanied him, with tears, to the gates of the convent. The only books he took with him were the Latin poets Vergil and Plautus.

His father almost went mad, when he heard the news. Luther himself declared in later years, that his monastic vow was forced from him by terror and the fear of death and the judgment to come; yet he never doubted that God’s hand was in it. “I never thought of leaving the convent: I was entirely dead to the world, until God thought that the time had come.”

This great change has nothing to do with Luther’s Protestantism. It was simply a transition from secular to religious life — such as St. Bernard and thousands of Catholic monks before and since passed through. He was never an infidel, nor a wicked man, but a pious Catholic from early youth; but he now became overwhelmed with a sense of the vanity of this world and the absorbing importance of saving his soul, which, according to the prevailing notion of his age, he could best secure in the quiet retreat of a cloister.

He afterward underwent as it were a second conversion, from the monastic and legalistic piety of mediaeval Catholicism to the free evangelical piety of Protestantism, when he awoke to an experimental knowledge of justification by free grace through faith alone.


21. Luther as a Monk

The Augustinian convent at Erfurt became the cradle of the Lutheran Reformation. All honor to monasticism: it was, like the law of Israel, a wholesome school of discipline and a preparation for gospel freedom. Erasmus spent five years reluctantly in a convent, and after his release ridiculed monkery with the weapons of irony and sarcasm; Luther was a monk from choice and conviction, and therefore all the better qualified to refute it afterward from deep experience. He followed in the steps of St. Paul, who from a Pharisee of the Pharisees became the strongest opponent of Jewish legalism.

If there ever was a sincere, earnest, conscientious monk, it was Martin Luther. His sole motive was concern for his salvation. To this supreme object he sacrificed the fairest prospects of life. He was dead to the world and was willing to be buried out of the sight of men that he might win eternal life. His latter opponents who knew him in convent, have no charge to bring against his moral character except a certain pride and combativeness, and he himself complained of his temptations to anger and envy.

It was not without significance that the order which he joined, bore the honored name of the greatest Latin father who, next to St. Paul, was to be Luther’s chief teacher of theology and religion; but it is an error to suppose that this order represented the anti-Pelagian or evangelical views of the North African father; on the contrary it was intensely catholic in doctrine, and given to excessive worship of the Virgin Mary, and obedience to the papal see which conferred upon it many special privileges.

St. Augustin, after his conversion, spent several weeks with some friends in quiet seclusion on a country-seat near Tagaste, and after his election to the priesthood, at Hippo in 391, he established in a garden a sort of convent where with like-minded brethren and students he led an ascetic life of prayer, meditation and earnest, study of the Scriptures, yet engaged at the same time in all the public duties of a preacher, pastor and leader in the theological controversies and ecclesiastical affairs of his age.

His example served as an inspiration and furnished a sort of authority to several monastic associations which arose in the thirteenth century. Pope Alexander IV. (1256) gave them the so-called rule of St. Augustin. They belonged to the mendicant monks, like the Dominicans, Franciscans and Carmelites. They laid great stress on preaching. In other respects they differed little from other monastic orders. In the beginning of the sixteenth century they numbered more than a hundred settlements in Germany.

The Augustinian congregation in Saxony was founded in 1493, and presided over since 1503 by John von Staupitz, the Vicar-General for Germany, and Luther’s friend. The convent at Erfurt was the largest and most important next to that at Nürnberg. The monks were respected for their zeal in preaching, pastoral care, and theological study. They lived on alms, which they collected themselves in the town and surrounding country. Applicants were received as novices for a year of probation, during which they could reconsider their resolution; afterward they were bound by perpetual vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience to their superiors.

Luther was welcomed by his brethren with hymns of joy and prayer. He was clothed with a white woollen shirt, in honor of the pure Virgin, a black cowl and frock, tied by a leathern girdle. He assumed the most menial offices to subdue his pride: he swept the floor, begged bread through the streets, and submitted without a murmur to the ascetic severities. He said twenty-five Paternosters with the Ave Maria in each of the seven appointed hours of prayer. He was devoted to the Holy Virgin and even believed, with the Augustinians and Franciscans, in her immaculate conception, or freedom from hereditary sin — a doctrine denied by the Dominicans and not made an article of faith till the year 1854. He regularly confessed his sins to the priest at least once a week. At the same time a complete copy of the Latin Bible was put into his hands for study, as was enjoined by the new code of statutes drawn up by Staupitz.

At the end of the year of probation Luther solemnly promised to live until death in poverty and chastity according to the rules of the holy father Augustin, to render obedience to Almighty God, to the Virgin Mary, and to the prior of the monastery. He was sprinkled with holy water, as he lay prostrate on the ground in the form of a cross. He was greeted as an innocent child fresh from baptism, and assigned to a separate cell with table, bedstead, and chair.

The two years which followed, he divided between pious exercises and theological studies. He read diligently the Scriptures, and the later schoolmen, — especially Gabriel Biel, whom he knew by heart, and William Occam, whom he esteemed on account of his subtle acuteness even above St. Thomas and Duns Scotus, without being affected by his sceptical tendency. He acknowledged the authority of Aristotle, whom he afterward denounced and disowned as “a damned heathen.” He excited the admiration of his brethren by his ability in disputation on scholastic questions.

His heart was not satisfied with brain work. His chief concern was to become a saint and to earn a place in heaven. “If ever,” he said afterward, “a monk got to heaven by monkery, I would have gotten there.” He observed the minutest details of discipline. No one surpassed him in prayer, fasting, night watches, self-mortification. He was already held up as a model of sanctity.

But he was sadly disappointed in his hope to escape sin and temptation behind the walls of the cloister. He found no peace and rest in all his pious exercises. The more he seemed to advance externally, the more he felt the burden of sin within. He had to contend with temptations of anger, envy, hatred and pride. He saw sin everywhere, even in the smallest trifles. The Scriptures impressed upon him the terrors of divine justice. He could not trust in God as a reconciled Father, as a God of love and mercy but trembled before him, as a God of wrath, as a consuming fire. He could not get over the words: “I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God.” His confessor once told him: “Thou art a fool, God is not angry with thee, but thou art angry with God.” He remembered this afterward as “a great and glorious word,” but at that time it made no impression on him. He could not point to any particular transgression; it was sin as an all-pervading power and vitiating principle, sin as a corruption of nature, sin as a state of alienation from God and hostility to God, that weighed on his mind like an incubus and brought him at times to the brink of despair.

He passed through that conflict between the law of God and the law of sin which is described by Paul (Rom_7:1-25), and which; ends with the cry: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?” He had not yet learned to add: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.”