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ART. 1.- PROTESTANTISM A CONSEQUENCE OF THE REFORMATION, BUT NOT ITS COMPLETION.
1. Geschichte der Teutschen Reformation, von Dr. Philipp Mar
heineke. 4 B. 8vo.--Berlin, 1831.* 2. Mémoires de Luther écrits par lui-même. Traduits et mis en
ordre par M. Michelet, 2 tomes, 8vo.- Paris, 1835.7 3. Essai sur l’Esprit et l'Influence de la Reformation de Luther,
par Charles Villers. Nouvelle Edition.—Paris, 1820. 4. Entwickelung der Politischen Folgen der Reformation für
Europa.—Heeren's Vermischte Historische Schriften. Erster
Theil. s. 1-112.-Göttingen, 1821.9 In the history of human affairs, parallel crises frequently occur. -Rarely is the struggle for justice and freedom decided by a single effort. As the perception of principle is, in most instances, slowly generated amidst the clashing of rival interests, it seldom happens, that the earliest settlement of disputes, which have arrayed perhaps one half of society against the other, is based on the broad ground of right, but is rather the result of compromise, in which something is conceded, and something won: and the imperfect form of civilization, which is thus produced, although the course of events and the strength of political constitutions may give it stability for centuries, necessarily
* History of the Reformation in Germany, by Dr. Philip Marheineke, 4 vols. 8vo.
+ Memoirs of Luther, written by himself. Translated and arranged by Michelet, 2 vols. 8vo.
Essay on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation by Luther. By Charles Villers. New edition.
§ Development of the Effects of the Reformation on European Politics. From the first part of Heeren's Miscellaneous Historical Writings, pp. 1–112. Vol. I. No. 5.--New Series.
carries within itself the seeds of internal dissension, which must break out at some future period in a revival of the question, left virtually undetermined. In the meantime, the tranquillity which accompanies a settled condition of society, is favourable to the growth of knowledge and a consequent developement of philosophical ideas; which are entertained the more freely, and pursued with the greater intrepidity into all their consequences, from the very fact, that they do not admit, under present circumstances, of any practical application: so that, when the question is again brought before the public mind, and a new adjustment of it becomes inevitable, men proceed to its discussion with more enlarged views of its complicated relations, with firmer convictions of what is essentially just, and a more distinct perception of the object to be finally obtained ; and they can then, from this advanced position of public opinion, look back with advantage on the efforts and aims of their forefathers in the same cause, and profit by the lessons, which their errors and failures suggest.
The comparison, which many of the most exciting questions, now occupying men's thoughts, lead us irresistibly to institute between our own times and the period of the Reformation, may serve as an illustration of these introductory remarks. It is impossible not to foresee, that the same disputes, which convulsed the age of Luther, and which have since been cast into a disordered and unquiet slumber by the soporifics of treaties of peace and acts of toleration-must ere long—but in a much clearer light of popular intelligence, and with a vast accession of moral strength to the side of liberty, be again brought before the tribunal, not only of the public, but of the legislatures and governments, of Europe. This being our certain prospect, we cannot do better than fix in our minds before-hand a definite idea of the principles, by which our future course ought to be guided, and of the only objects, at which we should permit ourselves to aim; and, in this view, it may not be uninstructive, to cast a retrospective glance at the labours of the great men, who laid the foundations, however shallow and circumscribed we may now regard them, of the religious liberties of Christendom
-and to compare what the Reformation historically was, with what logically it ought to have been. The warfare of the spiritual and temporal powers for ascendancy,—the earliest shape in which an incipient sense of religious freedom manifests itself, runs through the whole of history; and, in an enquiry of wider limits than the present, it would be interesting to trace its origin and progress from the remotest times, and to indicate a few of the more important revolutions, to which it has given
birth. Regarding the vast hierarchical system of the Middle Ages, as the proper back ground of our present European Society,—the veil, that separates the ancient from the modern civilization,—we shall not now go further back than the Reformation, the first event, which struck a decisive blow at sacerdotal despotism, and set principles in action, whose final consequences have yet to be developed.
The works, of which we have placed the titles at the head of this article, as a sort of text to our ensuing observations,— exhibit the various aspects, under which this great event may be viewed, in its influence on religion and ecclesiastical organization, on the formation of individual character and opinion, on the progress of science and learning, and on the general politics of Europe. Marheineke's book, of which the first part appeared in 1816, and the completion in 1834, and which was offered to the public on occasion of the third centenary of the Reformation, embraces a minute and careful survey of the religious condition of Germany, from the first movements of Luther to the conclusion of the treaty of Passau. It is a learned and elaborate compilation of original documents, arranged in their chronological order, connected by a succinct historical narrative, and generally left to produce their own impression on the reader's mind. But the work, as a whole, wants the pervading life and animation of an enlarged philosophical spirit, and contemplates every event in too narrow and ecclesiastical a point of view. It is surprising, that a writer could traverse a period crowded with the most stirring incidents, and betray so little sympathy with the general interests of humanity; and, amidst the thousand instances of inconsistency and injustice, which he has to record, find nothing more deeply to be deplored, than the disputes between the different parties of the reformers respecting the sacrament, which prevented their coalescence in one comprehensive church. So profound indeed and undoubting is the author's reverence for the great names of the heroic age of Protestantism, that even the turbulent passions of the Landgrave of Hesse,-his undisguised demand of the privilege to have two wives at the same time, and the very extraordinary concessions, which Luther and Melanchthon made to him on that head-are hardly able for one moment to disturb its happy security. He has, however, rendered an important service to the student, by bringing within his reach, in immediate connection with the recital of the events, to which they relate, very copious selections from the correspondence, the controversial and occasional publications, as well as the state papers, of the time, and especially from the letters and writings of Luther himself, who is thus made to illustrate the transactions, in which he took so promi- · nent a part, and to become in a great degree the narrator of his own history. These latter extracts let us into the deep workings of Luther's mind; and in the pure, old, racy German, in which they are presented to us, convey a most vivid impression of that earnest and passionate eloquence,* too often coarse and abusive, but withal of wonderful strength, and breaking out continually into bursts of sublime and touching pathos,—which enabled this extraordinary man to wield such a vast democratic influence, and must have furnished one of the most powerful instruments of the revolution which he accomplished. If therefore Marheineke has not directed the attention of his readers to the whole of the inferences, which a candid employment of his materials unavoidably suggests, he has at least placed them in a situation to draw those inferences most satisfactorily for themselves.t
M. Michelet has constructed a very entertaining biography of Luther on the same principle, which Marheineke has adopted in his history of the Reformation. He has strung together extracts from his letters and Table-talk on a slender thread of connecting narrative. But this is almost the only circumstance, in which the two works have any resemblance to each other. They are so different in their style and execution, that we may almost consider them as representing the genius of the two nations, to which they respectively belong. The slight and sketchy manner of the French writer,the sort of bird's-eye view, which he takes of a wide and crowded field of facts, and
* Luther said of himself (we give M. Michelet's translations of his words, Mémoires de Luther, ii. p. 128.), “ Dans la colère mon tempérament, se retrempe, mon esprit s'aiguise, et toutes les tentations, tous les ennuis, se dissipent. Je n'écris et ne parle jamais mieux qu'en colère.” In fact, it is difficult for men, who are thoroughly in earnest, and think great principles are at stake, to preserve at all times the tone of moderation. This is more easy to the selfish and insincere. Milton's language, under circumstances nearly the same, may be compared with that of Luther. But neither can be justified in the extreme violence, which they occasionally allowed themselves.
Marheineke has embodied in his work some very curious old documents, which completely reproduce the faded image of past times. Among these, may be mentioned the graphic description by Kessler, in the original Swiss, of his accidentally meeting with Luther, and not knowing who he was, in the inn at Jena, when the latter was on his way from the Wartburg, and the former was journeying as a student towards Wittenberg. It introduces us into the very presence of the great Reformer, We see him, in his horseman's hose and doublet, his hand resting on his sword, sitting alone at the table, with the Hebrew psalter before him. His free and cheerful spirit, his easy, convivial humour, his singular style of discourse, half-joking and ironical, half earnest and solemn, rise up in all their striking individuality before us, and make us feel for the moment, that we have actually seen, and conversed with, Luther. Marheineke, i. pp. 320-30. “How Dr. Martin Luther met me John Kessler on my road to Wittenberg."
the sweeping generalizations, which he occasionally throws off with a light and careless hand-present indeed a remarkable contrast to the conscientious accuracy and dull solidity of the German Professor.
The Essay of M. Villers, on the Spirit and Influence of the Reformation, obtained the prize, which was offered by the National Institute of France on this subject, in 1802. The first edition of it was translated into English several years ago, by the late James Mill, with a view to promote a favourable attention to the Catholic claims, which were then under discussion. M. Villers exhibits the influence of Luther's great work on Society in the broad and general point of view, in which liberal minds of the last generation were accustomed to rest, without entering into the more difficult and complicated considerations, which the closer pressing of its principles must sooner or later involve. Educated in Germany, and intimately acquainted with its learning and philosophy, he has evidently taken many of his strongest impressions of the Reformation from the particular state of things, which it produced there; and in no part of his inquiry does he more completely carry with him the convictions of the reader, than in pointing to the rich harvests of research, in every field of human knowledge, which the free constitutions -the really Protestant spirit-of the German Universities have brought forth so abundantly during the last and the present century.
By a singular coincidence, Heeren, the celebrated professor of History at Göttingen, had prepared the first part of an Essay with a view to the same prize that was ultimately awarded to the work of M. Villers; but, on finding they were competitors, he withdrew from the contest, and very liberally communicated to his friend, while engaged in these inquiries, the proof sheets of his dissertation, which afterwards formed the first article of his Historical Miscellanies. Heeren's Essay is entirely confined to a survey of the political consequences of the Reformation, and more particularly traces its influence in consolidating and extending the principle of the balance of power, which he considers to have been the great regulator of the political system of Europe, previous to the French Revolution.* It is marked by the author's characteristic excellencies; it is clear, sensible, and distinct; without however exhibiting any great depth or originality of observation.
It is not our present intention to go into any of the historical
* This idea is more fully developed by Heeren in his Manual of the Political System of Europe. Engl. Transl. Talboys, Oxford. 1834.