George Malcolm Stephenson.

The conservative character of Martin Luther online

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straints and labors, that neither plenty nor
slothfulness tempt him to sin." And such
discipline ought to be urged at all times, and
not only on a few and set days.

The deplorable conditions in the monas-
teries and the unwarranted conception of



142 CHARACTER OF MARTIN LUTHER

monasticism as a higher Hfe and the exag-
gerated obHgatlon or effect of the vow have
caused the Protestants to reject the validity
of the monastic vow.

The power of the bishops ought to be con-
fined to preaching the Gospel, the remission
of sins, and the administration of the sacra-
ments. A clear distinction is made between
the power of the Church and the civil power.
"The power of the Church has its own com-
mission. . . . Let it not break into the
office of another; let it not transfer the king-
doms of this world; let it not abrogate the
laws of civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful
obedience; let it not interfere with judg-
ments concerning civil ordinances or con-
tracts ; let It not prescribe laws to civil rulers
concerning the form of the Commonwealth."
"If bishops teach or ordain anything con-
trary to the Gospel, the congregations have a
commandment of God prohibiting obedi-
ence."

The Augsburg Confession was conceived
in a spirit of conciliation. The Lutherans
wished for nothing but peace and toleration.
They passed over In silence the vexed ques-
tions of Indulgences, pilgrimages, and excom-



THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION 143

munication. The Confession reflected the
spirit of Luther, who contended only against
such doctrines and practices which worked
serious injury to the purity of the Gospel as
revealed in the Bible. Luther may not have
been conscious of it, but we see it now, that
there was no possible basis of compromise or
reconciliation between those who planted
themselves squarely on Holy Scripture and
those who rejected it as the sole rule of
faith.

Martin Luther never departed one hair's
breadth from the principles of the Augsburg
Confession. Through many trials and trib-
ulations they had become a living part of
him; and the vicissitudes and discourage-
ments of the sixteen remaining years of his
life could not tear them away.

On the 18th of February, 1546, when the
great reformer's eyelids were closing in
death, Justus Jonas spoke in a loud voice:
"Reverend father, will you stand steadfast
by Christ and the doctrine you have
preached?" "Yes," was the last word
spoken by the man whose devotion to his
conscience made the world a better place in
which to live.



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Online LibraryGeorge Malcolm StephensonThe conservative character of Martin Luther → online text (page 7 of 7)