Monday, 26 September 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 152.



N. B. That if Martin Luther was the first, to whom God vouchsafed to reveal the things, which he preached, it follows that the Apostles never knew, nor preached his doctrine; which makes me fear his works will never pass for canonical Scripture, or the revealed word of God; though we have his own word for it But what follows is a very extraordinary piece, and will certainly very much edify the reader.

"I, Martin Luther, by the grace of God, ecclesiastes in Wittenberg, to the popish bishops grace and peace. This title I now assume with the utmost contempt of you and Satan, that you may not plead ignorance. And should I style myself an evangelist by the grace of God, I could sooner prove my claim to this title, than you to that of bishop. For I am certain that Christ himself calls me so, and looks upon me as an ecclesiastes. He is that master of my doctrine. Neither doubt I, but in the great day of accounts he will be my witness, that this doctrine is not mine, but the doctrine of God, of the spirit of the Lord, and of the pure and sincere gospel

So that should you kill me, ye bloodsuckers, yet you will never extinguish either me, or my name, or my doctrine, unless Christ be not living. Since now I am certain that I teach the word of God, it is not fit I should want a title for the recommending of this word, and work of the ministry, to which I am called by God; which I have not received of men, nor by men, but by the gift of God, and revelation of Jesus Christ—And now I declare beforehand, that for the time to come, I will not honor you so far, as to condescend to submit myself, or my doctrine to your judgment, or to that of an angel from heaven." Tom. 2, fol. 305, 2.

Here we have a piece of insolence and arrogance never to be paralleled, nay even to a degree of frenzy and madness. We see here a miserable wretch, flying in the face of superiors, trampling upon authority, and even assuming to himself that infallibility, which he would not allow to the Church of Christ. But God, who resists the proud, confounded his arrogance, by permitting him to fall not only into the most impious absurdities in point of doctrine, as will appear hereafter, but even scandalous irregularities in practice. For, though it cost him nothing to mimic the style of a Paul, he could never attain the strength of a Paul to resist the buffets of Satan. His marriage, doubly sacrilegious, by engaging a person consecrated to God in the same crime, betrayed a weakness of so scandalous a nature, as not only gave great offence to his friend Melancthon, (L. 4, Epist. 24) and the sober part of his new reformed Church, but will be an everlasting mark of dishonor to the reformation, and a convincing proof that the head of God had no part in it. For, if the tree may be known by its fruit, and the man by his works, we may justly conclude that the world, the flesh and the devil, were far more prevalent in this pretended reformer, than the spirit of God.

Was it by divine inspiration that he lived at open defiance of all ecclesiastical authority? Was it b}' divine inspiration that he broke vows, threw off his religious habits, and with it all the duties of a religious state, to which he had consecrated himself for life ? Finally, was it by the impulse of the Holy Ghost that he indulged himself in wantonness, when he should have been singing the divine office, as the rule of his order required of him ? I know not whether these be proper marks of an apostolical spirit and a man called by Christ to the work of the ministry; but I am sure they are marks of a very fresh date, and wholly unknown to antiquity. For we read, indeed, of the Apostles, who were married before their vocation to the Apostleship, that they left their wives to follow Christ; and many other apostolical men have done the same after their example. But it is to Luther's reformation alone we owe those excellent patterns of persons breaking through the most sacred engagements of holy orders, and religious vows, to become fathers of children not altogether in a spiritual way; and very different from that of the Apostles of the Gentiles, who begot the Corinthians, and many other spiritual children in Jesus Christ, through the Gospels, Cor. iv. 15.

It seems, however, that Martin Luther found it, if not more edifying, at least more comfortable to join the state of matrimony with his apostolical labors, and call Kate Boren to his assistance in the work of the ministry. For I question not but her good example brought in a plentiful harvest of female converts; and as to Luther's practice, it was but a natural consequence to his doctrine. The one prepared the way for the other. For to what end did he preach down celibacy, and vows of chastity, if he had intended to keep them ? He was not ignorant that marriage of priests was forbidden by the established laws of the Church, and breaking vows by the laws of God, but flesh and blood prevailed, and it was from these he had out the confidence to boast of. The charms of liberty and a female companion gave him wonderful light into matters of religion, and made him discover errors unseen before. Without these extraordinary helps to quicken his zeal, and spur him on to undertake the glorious work of the reformation, he might have continued a private monk till death; and as utter a stranger to all popish errors, as when he first made his solemn vows. It is certain, however, that his preaching, as he did, without i a mission from any lawful superior, is an essential flaw in every thing he taught contrary to the doctrine of his mother-Church, entitles him to no better character than that of a hardened apostate, and one abandoned by God, to be a scourge to his Church, and the instrument of his secret, but just judgment on those, whom he seduced.