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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83

Froude's Luther

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Froude's Luther.

The proceedings of the Luther Centenary are now sufficiently remote for us to give a cool judgment on the celebration.

"My kingdom is not of this world." These words come to mind as we read the glowing accounts of the Luther Festivals in Germany last year. Theatrical performances, pageants, all the lust of the eye and the pride of life! In short, Luther was a man of the world, and a politician. We are not decrying him, except as an exponent of that religion the watchword of which is humility, abasement, and being evil spoken of by men.

Luther became a tool in the hands of shrewd and ambitious men, to whom religion was of no moment whatever. They were not bad, but they were not pious. Their object was the overthrow of dogmatic religion, and bringing in the advent of Rationalism. Luther was not the friend of the poor. He was a middle-class champion, and the church he founded is the church of the upper and middle classes. Contrast him with Xavier and Loyola. Lutheranism is national, non-expansive, and unfruitful.

Watch, now, how the masses remain untouched by Protestantism, except in the form of the Salvation Army. The Reformation was introduced in England as a political move, and because the Pope would not consent to the divorce of Henry VIII.

The Reformation has failed. Protestantism is split up into its 400 sects. To say that union is strength, and the converse, is the merest truism. Since the Church of Rome revived in England, under Cardinal Wiseman, its progress has been rapid and incontestable.

The prime object of the Reformation was to destroy the Pope. He is stronger now than ever. Stripping him of his temporal dominions was the one step needed to strengthen his spiritual power in the present era.

"Luther shook the world." For our part, we fail altogether to see where the shake came in. Luther was an able man, of the bourgeois type, but he had little religiosity, little of the Thomas à Kempis, wherein is enshrined the true power of religion. What is the effect of this "shake" in Europe, not to speak of Asia?

We read the other day of a great religious philosopher, one Hanbul, or such a name, dying in Bagdad somewhere about Luther's time. He had a funeral of 400,000 persons. His influence was greater than that of Luther. The secret of power in religion is self-denial, of which there is little or none in the life of Luther. It is accompanied throughout with the praise of men.

Luther's reform paved the way for Strauss, the Kulturkampf, and the Chancellor's attack on religion, from which he has prudently drawn in his horns. He has gone to Canossa, though page 16 he said he would not, and has bowed to the Pope, sending the Crown Prince to wait on him. By-the-way, this phrase about going to Cauossa originated from a Pope, in time of yore, having compelled a proud monarch to come and do penance at that little town. Leo XIII. stands as a rock in a weltering sea. "Super hanc scopulum ædificabo ecclesiam meam" are the words round the inside of the dome of St. Peter's.

The commonest nonsense talked is that about the greatness of England being traceable to the piety of Luther, or to any form of piety. Christ never promised, as the reward of following Him, the acquisition of great earthly dominions, the conquest of India by the sword, the heaping of riches, or anything of that kind. We may say that, like the ancient Romans, we have prevailed by our morality; but the real explanation will probably be found in circumstances, and the Silver Streak of the Channel.