Modern Lights On The Reformation -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:218 (Apr 1898)
Article: Modern Lights On The Reformation
Author: James Lindsay


Modern Lights On The Reformation

James Lindsay, M.A.

The modern lights cast upon the Reformation of the sixteenth century have shown a new way of estimating its power and value. The new view is that which comes of regarding it more as part of a wider, more general, movement than as something detached or isolated. The results of this new mode of view lie in the direction of sounder conceptions of its worth and success. These improved conceptions spring from its being set in juster relations to the advancing science and scholarship of its time, and in essential connection with the growth of toleration and liberty.

We may not forget that the age was one of literary discovery, enthusiasm, and progress, in which men like Luther and Ulrich von Hutten found it a glorious thing to live. Renaissance! this it was which acted like a charm on the men of that time, and brought them to feel as though ‘twere bliss in that dawn to be alive. This was the joyous dawn of that life of the mind in which it goes forth into the cosmic life of Nature to find it gifted with an inexhaustible youth. It was the dawn of a new epoch in human history when the mind of man, freeing itself from the yoke of authority, turned to thoughts new, higher, and vaster, and essayed to reconcile the traditions of religion with the teachings of antiquity. Not least of the

evils from which mind freed itself was that of an overshadowing and oppressive supernaturalism. A new impulse wrought within science, and a new light rested upon art The age was one of the new birth of the theoretic spirit or impulse, for that spirit or impulse sprang from the humanistic renewal in the guise of natural science. Philosophy began to proclaim the autonomy of mind, and put on a universal garb.

So far as the Renaissance is concerned, its entire philosophy lay along the lines of recovery of a disinterested study of nature. But the thought of to-day can very well see how closely connected with the past all the new quest of humanistic culture really was, how the world of Greek philosophy and ideas was brought to life again, and how dim and ill-defined was any longing for a worthy goal. What the age in its deepest, if least defined, desire craved, was not really Renaissance,- not the reviving influences of learning or the transfiguring effects of art, but rather those moral and spiritual renewals which meant the Reformation. For the age rightly, if vaguely, divined that it was a greater—as it was a harder—thing to effect the rejuvenescence of the religious life than to renew the life of knowledge or aesthetic. It was still wise enough to perceive that these revivings of art and learning, complete renovations as men declared them to be, by no necessi...

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