German Literature In America -- By: Philip Schaff

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 004:15 (Aug 1847)
Article: German Literature In America
Author: Philip Schaff


German Literature In America

Philip Schaf

[Select Treatises of Martin Luther, in the original German, with Philological Notes, and an Essay on German and English Etymology, by B. Sears. Andover: Allen, Morrill, & Wardwell. 1846.]

Three centuries ago the power of the German mind shook the church and the States of Christendom to their lowest foundation. The need of a reformation, which had long before been prepared in different ways, in the most profound and noble minds, awoke with concentrated force in the bosom of an humble and conscientious, yet gigantic monk of Wittenberg, and worked itself out to a clear conviction. He was chosen by Providence to be the oracle of the times, to be the leader of all who longed for deliverance from the fetters of the second Egyptian bondage. Just such a man was needed—one who did not lightly take upon himself the responsible work of reform; who was not filled with empty dreams of liberty; who, in destroying the superstition which had gathered around the faith, would not destroy the faith itself; but

who by painful experience was acquainted with the entire system, whose fetters he was destined to break; who, with all the energy of a faithful and obedient monk, had struggled to obtain salvation through the ordinances of mediaeval Catholicism. He possessed therefore the indispensable requisites of a genuine reformer—an experimental knowledge of the church which was to be reformed, and a deep religious earnestness, which sought not distinction, but which labored only for the glory of God and the salvation of men. By obeying we learn how to rule; authority educates for freedom; the law is a schoolmaster unto Christ

After this man had for years borne the burden of the ordinances of his mother-church, after he had sought in vain to work out the salvation of his soul by penance and mortification, and had only by this painful process of self-destruction come to a clearer consciousness of his sin and guilt, dawned at last his day of evangelical freedom. He had the courage to renounce all self-constituted righteousness, to cast away all the lumber of good works, so-called, all self-confidence, as offensive to God. He had the still greater courage, to cast himself with all his thoughts, feelings and will into the arms of the free and all-sufficient grace of God in Christ; and lo! in this unqualified faith in him he found at once, as an unmerited gift, all that he had before sought in his own way in vain, righteousness, repose for his troubled conscience, peace with God and with himself. Then it was that in the shameful sale of indulgences, by which the pardon of sins and peace with God were offered for a pitiful piece of money, he was brought into direct contact wit...

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