This modest volume is issued to present to the public at large some of the most prominent and important features in the life and career of Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism.
We wish to declare in the beginning that this little work makes no pretention to either originality or scholarship; neither does it claim to set forth in its pages anything that is not already well-known and fully authenticated in the life of Luther and the development of the new system of religion he gave to the world. Abler and more competent writers have long since covered the whole ground. Learned and distinguished historians like Janssen, Denifle, Grisar, and many others, have painted with masterly accuracy the real picture of the reformer from material supplied for the most part by his own acknowledged writings. These celebrated authors have practically pronounced the last word on the protagonist and champion of Protestantism, and there seems to be slight justification for the publication of a new work on the old subject.
Whilst we recognize all this to be true, we feel that we may be pardoned for attempting to tell anew, but in greater brevity and directness, the salient and more striking features connected with the apostate monk of Wittenberg and his religious movement, because there are a large number in the community, who in the hurry and high pressure of modern life have not the time to examine the ponderous and exhaustive volumes of the authors alluded to above, and who, moreover, have not the means to secure these works, much as they might desire to do so, on account of prohibitive prices.
Taking all this into consideration, we believe we will be excused for intruding on a field that has already been well covered, ard for presenting to the general public a plain, but well-authenticated sketch of the man who in the sixteenth century inaugurated a movement which bears the name of “Reformation” and caused a large and fearful defection from the Church of which he was a member, and to which the bulk of mankind adhered all through the centuries from its establishment by Jesus Christ.
In treating of this historical character whose startling influence was exercised on his own country and on the world at large, we have no intention to wound the convictions and sensibilities of any in the community who may disagree with us. Our aim is to tell the truth about the standard-bearer of the Reformation, and of this no one should be afraid, for truth and virtue triumph by their own inherent beauty and power. The poet aptly sings :
Truth hath such a face and such a mien
As to be loved needs only to be seen.
In dealing with Luther it is well to remember that students of history have given him such attention as has been accorded to few men of any age, and about fewer still have they expressed such widely divergent views. His friends insist that he was a model of virtue and possessed eminent qualities which in every way made him worthy of his position as a religious reformer, while his opponents openly denounce him and insist that in his own day he was known as a “trickster and a cheat,” one whose titanic pride, unrestrained temper, and lack of personal dignity utterly unfitted him to reform the Church and the age.
To his followers the name and memory of Luther are objects of religious veneration. They have for the last four centuries surrounded him with such an aura of flattery and pedantry, that he is looked upon as one of the glories of Germany, nay, the foremost figure in their Hall of Immortals. By dint of minatory iteration, his admirers have been brought to believe that “he is the precious gift of God to the nation.” Lutheran writers from Mathesius to Köstlin have invariably filled the German mind with all that reverent love could conjure up for their hero’s justification and exaltation. To call in question the powers of the Reformer or deny the divine mission of the Reformation was ever considered blasphemous and unpatriotic.
The opponents of Luther, on the contrary, stoutly maintain that his greatness was taken on trust and that the writers alluded to in the preceding paragraph have invariably, with a fatuous blindness mistaken for patriotism, fed and nourished the German mind, not on the real Luther, but on a Luther glossed over and toned down with respectful admiration and conjured under the influence of partisan-colored traditions intended to prevent him from being catalogued in his proper page in the world’s history. Reverential tenderness keyed to its highest pitch cannot, however, they claim, efface the clearly etched lineaments of the man of flesh and blood, the man of moods and impulses, of angularities and idiosyncracies which dominated his career and singled him out as a destructive genius unfitted to carry out any kind of reformation either in Church or State.
In discussing Luther and his religious movement we feel at liberty to say that many, both in the ranks of his friends and of his opponents, have perhaps at times indulged in too great a display of feeling and exaggeration. It would help considerably to cool down the bitterness aroused among all parties did they honestly endeavor to discover for themselves the findings and conclusions of non-partisan writers on the delicate but interesting question. Wiser council and juster appreciation would inevitably reward the searchers after truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Of these unbiased writers, many of whom are Protestants, there is no scarcity. They have been delving into the pages of history to find out the real Luther and they have not been afraid to tell in the interest of truth what sort of a man he actually was.
These scholarly and reliable authors assert that Luther unquestionably possessed certain elements of greatness. They admit that he was a tireless worker, a forceful writer, a powerful preacher, and an incomparable master of the German language. They credit him with a keen knowledge of human nature and of the trend of the world of his day. They allege, moreover, that he was capable of taking advantage of everything that favored his schemes of yoking to his own chariot all the forces that were then at work to injure and oppose the ancient and time-honored religion of Catholics.
But whatever else of praise these writers bestow on the man, it is equally clear and beyond question that they are all agreed in declaring that Luther possessed a violent, despotic and uncontrolled nature. Many of these writers, although Protestants and not friendly to the Catholic Church, have not been afraid to tell their co-religionists that the rights Luther assumed to himself in the matter of liberty of conscience, he unhesitatingly and imperiously denied to all who differed from him, as many specific cases overwhelmingly confirm. His will and his alone, they declare, he dogmatically set up as the only standard he wished to be recognized, followed, and obeyed. In their historical investigations they discovered many other shortcomings in the character of the man unbecoming in one who claimed to be a reformer, and in their love of truth and real scholarship they have honestly acknowledged that there was something titanic, unnatural and diabolical in the founder of Protestantism.
One of these fearless writers was the Protestant Professor Seeberg of Berlin. He was no friend of the Catholic Church, but his deep study of the man and his movement forced him to say
Luther strode through his century like a demon crushing under his feet what a thousand years had venerated.
The same author further remarks:
In him dwelt ‘The Super-human,’ or, in Neitzsche’s Philosophy, the ‘Ueber-mensch,’ who dwells ‘beyond moral good and evil.’
In November 1883 the English Protestant Bishop Bewick applied to Luther the epithets “foul-mouthed” and “scurrilous.”
In the December “Century” issued in 1900, Augustine Birrell, a distinguished English Protestant writer, declared that “Luther was not an ideal sponsor of a new religion; he was a master of billingsgate and the least saintly of men. At times, in reading Luther, one is drawn to say to him what Herrick so frankly says of himself:
Luther, thou art too coarse to love.
Had Luther been a brave soldier of fortune his coarseness might have passed for a sign of the times; but one likes leaders of religion to be religious; and it is hard to reconcile coarseness and self-will, two leading notes of Luther’s character, with even rudimentary religion. To want to be your own pope is a sign of the heresiarch, not of the Christian.
To the testimony of Professor Seeberg and Mr. Birrell we desire to add another illustration of the change which has come over the minds of men regarding the German reformer. Licentiate Braun, in a contribution written for the “Evangelische Kirchenzeitung,” March 30, 1913, p. 195, tells in all honesty and straight-forwardness, how with strips from the skin of his own co-religionists Protestant theologians have pieced together not a fictitious, but a genuinely reliable account of the life of Luther. This able Protestant theologian writes as follows:
How small the Reformer has become according to the Luther studies of our own Protestant investigators! How his merits have shrivelled up! We believed that we owed to him the spirit of toleration and liberty of conscience. Not in the least! We recognized in his translation of the Bible a masterpiece stamped with the impress of originality — we may be happy now if it is not plainly called a ‘plagiarism!’ We venerated in him the father of the popular school system — a purely ‘fictitious greatness’ which we have no right to claim for him! We imagined that we found in Luther’s words splendid suggestions for a rational treatment of poverty and that a return to him would bring us back to the true principles of charity — but the laurels do not belong to him, they must be conceded to the Catholic Church! We were delighted to be assured that this great man possessed an insight into national economics marvelous for his day — but ‘unbiased’ investigation forces the confession that there were many indications of retrogressive tendencies in his economic views!
Did we not conceive of Luther as the founder of the modern State? Yet in all that he said upon this subject there was nothing of any value which was at all new; as for the rest, by making the king an ‘absolute Patriarch’ he did not in the least improve upon the coercive measures employed by the theocracy of the Middle Ages.
Just think of it, then, all these conclusions come to us from the pen of Protestant theologians! Reliable historians give book and page for them. What is still more amazing, all these Protestant historians continue to speak of Luther in tones of admiration, in spite of the admissions which a ‘love of truth’ compels them to make. Looking upon the ‘results’ of their work thus gathered together, we cannot help asking the question: What, then, remains of Luther?”
This question, remember, is put, not by a Catholic, but by an eminent Protestant theologian. It is an important question and deserves serious consideration. Who will answer it? The bigot and the preacher of “The Gospel of Hate” resent the question and like all enemies of truth they refuse to give it consideration. They hate the light and close their eyes to its illumination. Many of them hate truth as a business. Their books and their lectures bring them reputation or money. Like Judas, they ask, “What will you give me?” For a price the low, the vile, the false feed the fires that burn in the hearts of certain fanatics.
Unlike these are the Seebergs, the Birrells and the Brauns. They are not afraid of the truth. They sought it with unbiased minds and once they discovered it they boldly communicated their findings to the world. Ask them the question: Who and what Luther really was, and their answer is straight-forward, direct and unhesitating. They tell that nothing remains but an unpleasant memory of the man who divided the Church of God, and who, destitute of constructive genius, depraved in manners and in speech, falsely posed as a reformer sent by God. The investigations they made in the field of reliable history convinced them that the father of Protestantism appeared to fill the world with light, but it was only the light of a passing meteor consuming and destroying itself in its fall. To the enemies of truth these scholarly researches are most embarrassing and disappointing. As a distinguished writer puts it, “they pluck jewel after jewel from Luther’s crown and make the praises chanted to him by the ranters of all times sound hollow in honest ears attuned to truth.”
All impartial history proclaims that Luther had very few, if any, of the qualifications that men naturally expect to find in one who poses as a religious reformer. The “Man of God,” “the supernatural spirit,” in which role he is represented by partisan writers, Luther was only in romance and myth. He attempted reformation and ended in deformation. Unfitted for the work he had outlined for himself, his ungovernable transports, riotous proceedings, angry conflicts and intemperate controversies frustrated his designs at every turn. His teaching, like his behavior, was full of inconsistencies, and his contempt of all the accepted forms of human right and of all authority, human and divine, could not but result in lamentable disaster. His wild pronouncements wrecked Germany, wrecked her intellectually, morally, politically. The havoc wrought directly or indirectly by him is almost without example in history. The outcome in the century following was that the nation became a mere geographical term and was thrown back two hundred years in development, in culture and progress.
History presents no apology for the unbridled jealousy, fierce antagonism, and unremitting opposition that marked the career of this man toward the Church of his forefathers. He was a revolutionist, not a reformer. The true reformer restores society to its primitive purity; the revolutionist violently upsets the constitution of society, putting something else in its place. While pretending to reform, he wrote and preached not for but against good works, and the novel teaching was eagerly accepted by the unthinking and bore those awful fruits of which the historians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have painted the sorrowful picture. He rent asunder the unity of the Church till, alongside of the one true Church, there have arisen hundreds of warring sects; nay, there are those who extol him as the founder of a religion, forgetting that this is his greatest shame, for, if he founded a religion it is not the Christian religion established by Christ fifteen hundred years before. No wonder he went down in ignominious defeat and that the Church he unnecessarily attacked and relentlessly endeavored to destroy remained as the central figure of all Christendom to proclaim alike to the humblest peasant and the greatest savant its Divine mission and heavenly authority to teach men the ways of eternal life.
All this may sound very strange, and may, perhaps, shock a great many non-Catholics; but they must kindly remember that they were taught that the subject under consideration had but one side, and that inherited prejudices prevented them from examining the facts and finding the truth they really love. The light they needed was kept from them and they were innocently led to believe that Luther was justified in his defection from the Church he once loved and defended, but which he afterwards disgraced by a notoriously wicked and scandalous life. They heard him praised for what ignorant men called his “robust Christianity,” which was akin to Judas’s betrayal of the Master, and they believed this when they lauded him as an “apostle of liberty” in spite of the fact, as history shows, that he was one of the most intolerant of men.
They have heard the anti-Catholic of every shade of character rake-up the muck of history, vilify the clergy, hold up nuns as the wickedest of women, exploit the Pope as “Anti-Christ” and the “Man of Sin”; resort, in a word, to every known means of ridicule and mis-representation to depict the spotless Spouse of Christ as the “great harlot of the Apocalypse,” “the mother of fornications and the abominations of the earth.” They have heard the wild, monstrous and even impossible statements of the lying and slanderous in the community, whose only aim is to advance the nefarious and diabolical work of inflaming the passions of the rabble and to keep alive the blind, prejudiced, and irrational discrimination against everything Catholic.
The pity of it all is, that, in this day of enlightenment, many who would be ashamed to listen to professional charlatans in any other avocation of life, will think that they are doing a “service to God” by giving a willing ear and swallowing down without a qualm the silly, senseless, and unwarranted reproaches which unscrupulous haranguers, paid hirelings, and vile calumniators unblushingly and without the vestige of proof urge against the religion which Christ established for all time till the consummation of the world, and which history tells has civilized the peoples and the nations.
But, whilst this is all true, we feel that the most generous allowance must be made for the Church’s enemies and their deluded followers. The fact is they cannot help their antagonism and distrust, for they have been brought up from infancy to loathe the Catholic Church, whose history they were made to believe by their false teachers, [and who] was distinguished for nothing save bloodshed, crime, and fraud. Their anti-Catholic views and prejudices and hostilities had their origin in the so-called Reformation period, and since that time all Protestant “mankind descending by ordinary generation” have come into the world with a mentality biased, perverted, and prejudiced. They and their fathers have been steeped and nurtured in opposition, and in most cases without meaning to be unjust they feel instinctively a strong and profound antipathy to everything that savors of Catholicity. Ministers and lecturers and tracts, every channel of propagating error, bigotry, and misrepresentation, are used to preserve, circulate and keep alive popular hatred and distrust of the one true Church of Christ which, all who have any sense should know, is indestructible.
How men in the possession of their wits can engage in the useless and vain task of attempting to displace and destroy a God-founded religion, established for all time and for all peoples, surpasses all understanding. The fact nevertheless remains that many, unfortunately for themselves, are obsessed with an insane hatred of Catholicism and in the exuberance of an enthusiasm akin to that of a Celsus, a Porphyry, and a Julian, they treat the public to a campaign of abuse and vilification of the Church which is a disgrace to themselves and a violation of all Christian teaching.
All these and many other influences at work in the world to destroy true Christianity tend to bind the opponents of the Church with iron bonds to their present inherited convictions, and hence they hate the Church because they do not know her in all her beauty and truthfulness. How could it be otherwise with them? Would we ourselves have been any better under the same conditions ?
Catholics expect the Church, which Christ established and organized for all time, to be misunderstood, maligned, ill-treated, pursued, persecuted, hated by the world. Her founder put the mark of the Cross on her when He said: “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (St. John 15:20). In every age the Catholic Church, which is the only one of the vast number of pretending claimants to Divine origin of which Christ’s prediction is true, has had to suffer persecution from the enemies of order and truth, who, if they could, would wipe her from the face of the earth. This, however, they have not been able to accomplish, nor will they be able at any future time, for God ordained the Church to remain forever in her integrity, clothed with all the attributes He gave her in the beginning. Divinity stamped indestructibility upon the brow of the Church, and though destined to be assailed always she will never be overcome by her enemies. Catholics know that Christ watches over the survival of the Church, and hence, in this day when the vast army of the ignorant and the rebellious rise up to check her development and stop her progress, they fear not, happen what will, for they are confident that, as the sun will rise tomorrow and the next day and so on to the end of the world, so will the Master ever fulfill His promise concerning the Church, preserving her amid storm and sunshine till time is no more. When will the enemy realize that it is too late in the day to overthrow the Church which has stood the test of centuries and which has been accepted, loved and admired by the best minds of all the ages?
Catholics naturally feel indignant at the vilification, abuse and misrepresentation to which their ancient and world-wide religion is constantly subjected, but they are charitable and lenient in their judgment towards all who wage war against them. They are considerate with their opponents and persecutors because they realize that these are victims of a long standing and inherited prejudice, intensified by a lack of knowledge of what the Catholic Church really upholds and teaches. Even as the Church’s Founder prayed the Heavenly Father to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross because they knew not what they did, so do His followers, with malice to none but with charity to all, pray for those who oppose the spread of the Kingdom of God on earth because they do not realize to the full that, in despising the Church, they despise Him who founded her to be the light of the world. Most of the Church’s enemies are to be greatly pitied, for they have never been taught the significant lesson that the man-made system of religion they hold or adhere to is false, an offense and an apostacy in the eyes of God, who despises heresy and Who warned His followers to be on guard against every teacher not commissioned by Him to announce Divine truth. Of all this they are unaware. They know nothing of the Church they malign, abuse and vilify. They are ignorant of her history, of her organization, of her constitution, of her teaching, of her mission and her place in the world. They know her not, and many of them, otherwise honest but nurtured in opposition, are led to hate what with divine light they would come to admire, love, and embrace.
The general ignorance that prevails in regard to the Catholic Church is most regrettable. This ignorance, however, is only surpassed by the lack of knowledge manifested by the maligners of the Catholic Chnrch regarding their own peculiar system of belief. They are ever ready to criticise the Catholic Church, of which they know little or nothing, and yet when they are asked to give an intelligent account of their own system of belief they are unable to reply in such a way as to appeal to the honest searcher after truth.
Ask some of the preachers of the “Gospel of Hate” to describe their own religion, presuming, of course, that they have a religion.
Ask them to give you the real story of the origin of the word and the meaning of the system embodied in the term “Protestantism.”
Ask them to tell you what was there in the teaching of Luther that demanded his expulsion from the Catholic Church.
Ask them to tell you of the pride of intellect which caused Luther to refuse to hear and submit to the Church of Jesus Christ.
Ask them by what authority did an ex-communicated man like Luther establish a system of religion in opposition to the one organized by Christ and with which He said “He would remain all days even to the consummation of the world.”
Ask them to tell you the difference between Christ’s teaching and that of Luther.
Ask them to tell you what was Luther’s conception of religion, why did he decry the necessity of good works and declare it to be the right of every man to interpret the Scriptures according to his own individual conception.
Ask them to tell you why did Luther one day proclaim the binding force of the Commandments and the next declare they were not obligatory on Christian observance.
Ask them to tell you by what authority did Luther approve of adultery, favor concubinage and sanction the bigamy of Philip of Hesse.
Ask them to tell you why Luther advocated freedom of conscience and at the same time compelled all to submit to his will and dictation.
Ask them is the Protestantism of today the same as Luther fathered and what are the changes from the original teachings it has undergone during the last four hundred years.
Ask them to tell you of the varied existence and constantly shifting position of Protestantism, to give you the names of its many contending bodies which have been tossed about by every wind of religious speculation and which are still subject to everlasting drifting.
Ask them to point out to you the difference noticeable between the old and the new Protestantism.
Ask them could they certify that the original opinions of the sect are held in respect in modern times.
Ask them would they affirm that the father of Protestantism, were he in their midst today, set the seal of his approbation on the myriad variations and evolutions which have affected his own false and individualistic doctrinal expositions.
Ask them how does all this fit in with the teaching of St. Paul, the greatest of the Church’s converts, who, putting the query, Is Christ divided? replied in the ever memorable words: “One faith, one baptism, one Lord, and one Master of all.”
These questions are pertinent and in all fairness they should be answered by those who make it a business to wage war on the Mother Church. If the enemies of the Church are honest, God-fearing men they will not shirk their bounden duty in a matter so grave and important. Until they have settled the disorders and contentions everywhere existing in their own Protestant households, we think they should in charity, cease their attacks on the Church which, as the ages have testified, cannot be displaced or destroyed. In the meantime, let them honestly probe the issue to its depths and in prayer and study seek the truth that frees, vivifies, and saves. Earnest and sincere investigation will make it surprisingly evident that only the shell of Protestantism remains. All honest inquiry will show that its origin is of the earth and decline it must. The name it bears designates it as a human institution and history proves that it is nothing more. From its thousands of deluded followers in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we see today but a handful left to testify to its failure. The newspapers told us recently that the exodus of Prussians from the ranks of the State Church is wholesale and that a similar defection is daily going on in England and in this country. Protestantism, as a system of religion, is undeniably dying out. It has unfortunately prepared the way for the monster Agnosticism or Rationalism which stares us today in all its horrible shapes and forms.
But to return to Luther. What about him? What do the vast bulk of non-Catholics know about the man who reviled and hated and cursed the Church of his fathers more than any other mortal ever has done? Must not the great majority of our separated brethren admit they know absolutely nothing at first hand about the man? Beyond his name and his defection from the Mother Church they are in ignorance of his false doctrinal views and depraved manner of life. This side of his work and character is carefully concealed from their vision, and, with a childlike innocence that disarms wrath, they believe their leaders and guides in religion who know the man no better than themselves when in pulpit and on platform they hold him up to view wreathed in a halo of glory and sanctity, and proclaim him a “Reformer of Christ’s Church,” “an apostle of liberty,” “an enlightener of the people,” “a destroyer of the Papacy,” etc., etc.
Most Protestants do not study the career and work of their hero independently for themselves, nor determine to find out the truth from the proper sources, and, as might be expected, it is easy for them, congenial and pleasant, to believe their false guides when they heap unmerited titles on the man, who more than any before or since his day was what St. Paul designates a “lawless one” and a contemner of constituted authority. Did they read reliable historians and learn something of his perverse principles, false teaching, unscrupulous mendacity, coarse and indecent language, they would not for long hold his memory in honor and continue their connection with the false system of religion which he founded without either warrant or authority.
It is no difficult matter, as all educated Protestants know, to show that the reformation Luther contemplated was a very strange one, for according to the open avowal of its author it led to the utter demoralization of its followers. Almost from the beginning of his movement he was disgusted on account of the little change for the better his preachments wrought in the lives of his adherents and with each succeeding year, he expressed his disappointment in the bitterest terms.
Unfortunately, [he says,] it is our daily experience, that now under the Gospel (his) the people entertain greater and bitterer hatred and envy and are worse with their avarice and money-grabbing than before under the Papacy. (Walch XIII, 2195.)
The people feel they are free from the bonds and fetters of the Pope, but now they want to get rid also of the Gospel and of all the laws of God. (Walch XIV, 195. )
Everybody thinks that Christian liberty and licentiousness of the flesh are one and the same thing, as if now everybody was allowed to do what he wants. (Tischr. i, 180.)
Townsfolk and peasants, men and women, children and servants, princes, magistrates and subjects, are all going to the devil. (Erl. 14, 389.)
If we succeed in expelling one devil, he immediately is replaced by seven others who are much worse. We can then expect that after having driven away the monks, we shall see arise a race seven times worse than the former. (Erl. XXXVI, 411.)
Avarice, usury, debauchery, drunkenness, blasphemy, lying and cheating are far more prevalent now than they were under the Papacy. This state of morals brings general discredit on the Gospel and its preachers, as the people say, if this Gospel were true, the persons professing it would be more pious. (Erl. I, 192.)
We could fill a large volume with Luther’s words describing the frightfiil corruption that followed upon the announcement of his new gospel, but we have given enough for the present to show that the so-called reformer was not unaware of the practical effect on the masses in his own day of his wild pronouncements.
From his own lips, then, we learn of the utter failure of his so-called reformation movement. What else might he expect? Did he not sow the wind? Why should he not reap the whirlwind? Wherein, then, lies a reason to honor this destructive genius, and why should men of sense continue to entrust the interests of their immortal souls to his self-assumed leadership?
It is, moreover, no difficult matter, as all well informed Protestants know, to demonstrate that Luther, German as he was to the core, in speaking of his native land used the vilest and most brutal language. Many know in a general way that Luther was in the habit of using rather hard words, to put it mildly, but few know how far he was capable of going. He was reckless to the border of irresponsible rashness, blunt to the exclusion of every qualm of delicacy, audacious to the scorn of every magnanimous restraint, coarse beyond the power of reproducible Anglo-Saxon and lubricous to a degree that pales Rabelaisian foulness. His unbridled tongue did not spare even his own country and his own people. In speech and in writing he unblushingly described the Teutonic race as “brutes and pigs,” and he called the nation “a bestial race,” “a sow,” “a debauched people.” “given over to all kinds of vice.”
Here are some of his sayings: “We profligate Germans are abominable hogs.” “You pigs, hounds, ranters, you irrational asses!” “Our German nation are a wild, savage nation, half devils, half men.” (Walch XX, 1014. lOTS. 1633.) In many pages of his writings he complains that “the German peonle are seven times worse since they embraced the Reformation.”
When one ponders over the description Luther gives of his native land and its people it is difficult to believe that there existed in his soul the faintest spark of patriotism or love of country. Compare his language with that of St. Paul, who was a real reformer, and note the difference. This great convert and distinguished Apostle, speaking of those he won to Christ, calls them his “dearly beloved brethren” and then proclaims them “my joy and my crown.” (Phil. 4:1)
On another occasion, referring to the fruits of his apostolic labors, he says to the Catholics of Thessalonica : “You became followers of us and of the Lord … so that you were made a pattern to all that believe in Macedonia and in Achaja.” (1. Thess. 1:6,7) Which of these, think you, was the true patriot and the true reformer?
When our non-Catholic brethren thoroughly consider the vile, intemperate and disgusting language which was habitual with Luther and weigh well the opprobrious names he hurled at the race of his forefathers, how in all honesty can they give a willing ear to the praise of one so coarse and brutal and continue their association with a sect which its own founder, consumed with pride and hate and despair, pronounced a lamentable failure?
There are many strict non-Catholics today, who are, as a rule, honest, and moral people. God forbid that we should offend or cause the slightest pain to them, but in the interest of truth we beg leave to remind them that it is high time for them to know that they have lived as regards Luther too long on legends and do not realize what sort of man he was.
Luther when living spared not Catholicity nor the Papacy. Today many of his adherents are close imitators of his violence and opposition. We must be pardoned for mildly but fearlessly resenting the vilification and misrepresentation to which the Mother Church has for four hundred years been unnecessarily subjected. Luther was the cause of it all and ignorance among the rank and file of his sympathizers has played a most important part in perpetuating opposition to the one true Church of Christ.
To promote charity and bring about a better understanding among all, it behooves every serious man to know this character for what he was and to learn that he has absolutely no claim to any consideration as a heaven-commissioned agent, as even an ordinary “reformer” or “spiritual leader,” or as in any respect a man above and ahead of the frailties of his age. Non-Catholics should in all fairness read carefully for themselves the teachings of Luther, when their eyes will be opened to the true state of things and they will cease their opposition to the Church against which as yet the gates of hell have not been able to prevail.
When the minds of men are opened to the truth, we assure them that if there be any indignation to be vented, it will not be spent on the Catholic Church, but upon the man who contemned the authoritative guidance of the religion of their forefathers.
To help to clear the way for a better understanding of differences we intend in this little work fairly and honestly to disclose some of the more important facts in the religious schism which, begun by Luther, has proved the most baneful event yet known in man’s history. We will then write about Luther, not against him. We will quote his own words. If the result is not favorable to him, the fault will not be ours. We wish to assure our readers that we will not allude to half the disparaging things of the so-called Reformation and the German people that were uttered and written by the apostate Saxon monk himself. We hope none of our readers will shut their eyes to the truth and that we may be of service to the sincere and earnest to help them to discover before it is too late the Church wherein their forefathers found rest, peace, and salvation.
That Church is in our midst today and may easily be discovered. She stands as of old on the certainty of the Divine veracitv and can no more be shaken than the Throne of God itself. Men like Luther. Zwingle, Calvin and others appeared upon the field of battle to wage war against this Church, but where are they now; where are their congreeations; where are their sanctuaries? Who believes their doctrines? Like the fragments of a thousand barks richly laden with intellect and learning, all man-made religions are now scattered on the shores of error and delusion, while the Church of Truth still rides the waves in hope, in strength, and in security. God is with her and she cannot perish. Her enemies then might reflect with profit on what St. John savs in his second general Epistle : “Whosoever revolteth and hath not the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.”
The Catholic Church alone has that doctrine which unites men with God. She was organized for the express purpose to teach and preserve all things whatsoever Christ, her Founder, had commanded for the instruction and salvation of mankind to the end of the world. She is not man’s work. She is Christ’s work. She is His Spouse, His mystical body, as St. Paul tells us. It is through her that He continues to communicate His doctrine to men, that He causes them to live a life of grace, and leads them to their eternal happiness. He founded her that through her He may apply to mankind the fruits of His Redemption to the end of time.
Hence it follows that no one who through his own fault dies out of the Church will obtain salvation. “No one,” says St. Augustine, “can be saved who has not Christ for his head and no one can have Christ for his head who does not belong to His body, the Church.” These words were spoken long before Luther and his companions in revolt appeared on the scene, and they are as true today as when they were first uttered. The command of Christ to hear the Church which is the chief work of His power, His wisdom and His love for mankind, is imperative and cannot be ignored without suffering exclusion from the inheritance of the children of God. The voice of the Good Shepherd and not that of the hireling must be heard, if salvation is to be secured. Those who refuse to receive the true Christian doctrine, and to enter the Church, which preaches that doctrine in its entirety, should ponder well the words of St. Paul when he says, “And though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a Gospel to you, besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. If anyone preach to you a Gospel besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”
And again in his Epistle to Titus he says: “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition, avoid. Knowing that he, that is such a one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.”
Few men nowadays hate the Church as fiercely and intensely as St. Paul did before the grace of God touched his heart and led him into her bosom. That same grace is ever ready to be imparted to the humble, sincere, earnest inquirer after Divine truth. No pretext, however specious, should deter men from acquiring a full and connected knowledge of God’s revelation and enjoying that profound peace which springs from the conscious possession of the whole, complete, and fixed truth as it is in Christ Jesus and in His Church. The distorted, ever-varying, and changeable man-made religions of Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, Knox, Fox, Wesley, Smith, Dowie, Eddy, and innumerable others, can never take the place of the Catholic Church established by God Incarnate in Christ. In it alone is infallible truth, true life, and certain salvation.
In asking men, who are “tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine,” to exchange their opinions for certitude, their dissensions for unity, their errors for truth, the Church is only fulfilling her Divine mission and endeavoring to realize the prayer of her Founder that there may be but one faith, one baptism and one shepherd of souls. Fail not, then, we beseech you, to listen to her voice, investigate her teachings and accept her authority here and now, so that you may enjoy, “the peace that passeth all understanding” and partake of the Bread of Life.
It is certainly high time to discern the tactics of the wolves in sheep’s clothing and have sense and intellect enough to see the sham and the fraud of men-made brands of religion with their multitudinous divisions, their contradictions, and their lies. The slime-vending, mud-slinging, vile detractors may try to hide the sham and the fraud of their unstable beliefs by well-planned and shameless schemes of attack on the Spouse of Christ, but the intelligent in the community, exercising sound judgment and viewing the contradictions and divisions of the enemy from the standpoint of truth, which they realize can never contradict itself, consider their efforts as a huge joke in presence of the Divinely established, heaven-united Church of all ages and of all peoples. Bigots come and go; they make a great splurge and bluster temporarily with their campaigns of calumny and vilification, but the Catholic Church, because she is the One established by Jesus Christ, continues on in her heavenly mission in spite of the puny weaklings who endeavor to stop her progress. The Mother Church counts not her numbers by men, but by time alone. She has seen centuries and will see more, not changing one jot in the future, but still standing and teaching as she does today. She will live to bury all her misguided enemies. She is of God and cannot be downed or displaced by men no matter what may be their numbers, their influence, or their power. “Against her,” Christ declared, “the gates of hell shall never prevail.”