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The subject with which they dealt was not only in close connection with the centre of Christian truth, but it touched the characteristic thought of the Middle Ages.From the beginning to the end, those ages had been a stern school of moral and religious discipline, under what was universally regarded as the divine authority of the Church. Anselm, with his intense apprehension of the divine righteousness, and of its inexorable demands, is at once the noblest and truest type of the great school of thought of which he was the founder.
Here it is only necessary to state that, of the works of Luther contained in it, the “Address to the Nobility of the German Nation,” which was written in German, has been translated by Professor Buchheim, from the text given in the Erlangen, or Frankfort, Edition.
The translation of this work offered very great difficulties, as it was written in Luther’s earliest German style, before the language had been improved, and rendered comparatively definite, by his translation of the Bible. Buchheim has endeavoured to make it as literal as was compatible with the genius of the English language, and with the necessity of modifying, now and then, some obscure or obsolete expression; and he has offered a few annotations.
He desires, at the same time, to express his great obligations to Dr.
Wace, who carefully compared his translation with the original work, and whose suggestions have been of great service to him. Grignon, to whose generous assistance and accurate scholarship the editors feel greatly indebted.
An insight into the deepest theological principles is combined with the keenest apprehension of practical details.
In the Treatise on Christian Liberty we have the most vivid of all embodiments of that life of Faith to which the Reformer recalled the Church and which was the mainspring of the Reformation.The Theses, and the two Treatises, “On Christian Liberty,” and “On the Babylonish Captivity of the Church,” have been translated from the original Latin Text, as given in the Frankfort Edition, by the Rev. present publication is offered as a contribution to the due celebration in this country of the fourth Centenary of Luther’s birth.Much has been written about him, and the general history of his life and work is being sketched by able pens.His characteristic was the masculine grasp with which he seized essential and eternal truths, and by their central light dispersed the darkness in which men were groping.It occurred therefore to my colleague and myself that a permanent service might perhaps be rendered to Luther’s name, and towards a due appreciation of the principles of the Reformation, if these short but pregnant Treatises were made more accessible to the English public; and although they might well be left to speak for themselves, there may perhaps be some readers to whom a few explanatory observations on Luther’s position, theologically and politically, will not be unacceptable.But no adequate attempt has yet been made to let him speak for himself to Englishmen by his greatest and most characteristic writings.The three works which, together with the 95 Theses, are included in this volume, are well known in Germany as the or “The Three Great Reformation Treatises” of Luther; but they seem never yet to have been brought in this character before the English public.Luther’s genius—if a higher word be not justifiable—brought forth at one birth, “with hands and feet,” to use his own image, and in full energy, the vital ideas by which Europe was to be regenerated.He was no mere negative controversialist, attacking particular errors in detail.Luther felt, as he says at the commencement of his Address to the German Nobility, that “the time for silence had passed, and the time for speech had come.” He evidently apprehended that reconciliation between himself and the Court of Rome was impossible; and he appears to have made up his mind to clear his conscience, whatever the cost.Accordingly in these three works he spoke out with a full heart, and with the consciousness that his life was in his hand, the convictions which had been forced on him by the conduct of the Papacy and of the Papal theologians.