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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

146 Luther's indebtedness to Gerson Jean Charlier


139 Resolutiones_, Preface.

140 Acts viii. 4.

141 Rom. xiii. 14.

142 Matt. x. 9.

143 Prov. ii. 1.

144 "If we review all the men and women of the West since Augustine's time, whom, for the disposition which possessed them, history has designated as eminent Christians, we have always the same type; we find marked conviction of sin, complete renunciation of their own strength, and trust in grace, in the personal God who is apprehended as the _Merciful One_ in the humility of Christ. The variations of this frame of mind are innumerable--but the fundamental type is the same. This frame of mind is taught in sermons and in instruction by truly pious Romanists and by Evangelicals; in it youthful Christians are trained, and dogmatics are constructed in harmony with it. It has always produced so powerful an effect, even where it is only preached as the experience of others, that he who has come in contact with it can never forget it; it accompanies him as a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night; he who imagines that he has long shaken it off, sees it rising up suddenly before him again."--Harnack's _History of Dogma_, v. 74 (Eng. trans., London, 1898).

145 The Wolfenbuettel

Library contains the Psalter (Vulgate) used by Luther in lecturing on the Psalms. The book was printed at Wittenberg in 1513 by John Gronenberg, and contains Luther's notes written on the margin and between the printed lines.

146 Luther's indebtedness to Gerson (Jean Charlier, born in 1363 at Gerson, a hamlet near Rethel in the Ardennes, believed by some to be the author of the _De Imitatione Christi_) has not been sufficiently noticed. It may be partially estimated by Luther's own statement that most experimental divines, including Augustine, when dealing with the struggle of the awakened soul, lay most stress on that part of the conflict which comes from temptations of the flesh; Gerson confines himself to those which are purely spiritual. Luther, during his soul-anguish in the convent, was a young monk who had lived a humanly stainless life, _sans peur et sans reproche_; Augustine, a middle-aged professor of rhetoric, had been living for years in a state of sinful concubinage.

147 It is commonly said that Luther made use of the _mystical_ passages found in these and other authors; but _mystical_ is a very ambiguous word. It is continually used to express personal or individual piety in general; or this personal religion as opposed to that religious life which is consciously lived within the fellowship of men called the Church, provided with the external means of grace. These are, however, very loose uses of the word. The fundamental problem, even in Christian Mysticism, appears to me to be how to bridge the gulf between the creature and the Creator, while the problem in Reformation theology is how to span the chasm between the sinful man and the righteous God. Hence in mysticism the _tendency_ is always to regard sin as imperfection, while in the Reformation theology sin is always the power of evil and invariably includes the thought of guilt. Luther was no mystic in the sense of desiring to be lost _in_ God: he wished to be saved _through_ Christ.

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