« PreviousContinue »
But, most illustrious Prince, neither of these motives answer my design. For, in the first place, I am aware that none of the productions which proceed from me, deserve a patron : and so far, it is a happiness that I know my deficiency. And, even if I could produce that which should be worthy of the sanction of a patron's name, yet I should by no means be anxious to put it under a patron's protection. Nay, as soon as I learnt from the Holy Scriptures, how terror-filled and perilous a matter it was to preach publicly in the church of God, and to speak in the midst of those whom you know will one day be your judges, and that in the presence of God the beholder of all things, in the sight of angels, and in the sight and hearing of all creatures, there was nothing that I so much desired as silence; wishing also, that a sponge could deface all that ever I had in my poor foolish way published abroad. For it is a momentous and awe-striking matter to render an account unto God even for every idle word. Nor does he now keep me in the ministry of the Word, but by an overruled obedience to a will above my own, that is, his divine will : for, as to my own will, it always shrunk from it, nor is it fully reconciled unto it to this hour.
And, indeed, what fame, what praise, what eternalizing of a name, can your most illustrious Highness hope from me? being yourself such a Prince, who, not only by all those other endowments that exalt the Prince, but also by a distinguished love of learning and learned men, have procured to yourself that name and glory, that, instead of wanting an Appion to immortalize your name, you yourself immortalize the name of an Appion, and of all who attempt to give you celebrity? Who is there that knows not, that Prince FREDERIC, has given an example to all princes, by his patronage and promotion of literature! Your Wittemberg now devotes itself to the Greek and the Hebrew with encouragement and profit. The arts are taught with greater success than ever they were before. The true theology of Christ now triumphs : while the vain imaginations and disputations of men have no scope for
thought or research. All these things flourish beneath your auspices, at your expense; and under your protection. Othat the ecclesiastical great ones, who ought themselves to be the foremost in showing forth examples in these things for the princes of the laity to imitate, would but imitate the examples that the laity thus show them.—But, such is the unhappily fallen state of the ecclesiastical power and opulence!
And again, why should I attempt to render you gratitude for the abundant kindnesses you have heaped upon me, when you have thrown them upon one who never deserved them. What cares, attentions, expenses, and indeed, perils, did that monstrous production of mine cost your Highness which owed its birth to the indulgences ! The whole of your dominion knows, that my Prince showed a much greater concern for me, than I did for myself. I, in my usual daring way, cast the die, being always ready to attempt and to expect extremities: for I hoped, upon that occasion, that, if I should be removed from teaching others, I should find out some corner of the world into which I might retire, after I had left the public life, to which I was always averse. But the persevering endeavours of your Highness prevailed; and when I was willing to suffer those things which my enemies longed to inflict upon me, neither they nor I had our will. But still
, I am glad that such was the issue of matters, if it were only on this account:—there is not a Christian that ought not to feel a serious grief and concern, that the impudence of a certain set of fellows proceeds to such a pitch of audacity in the church of Christ, that they presume to ensure themselves success in their filthy purposes and lusts, under cover of the venerable name and authority of the church. And the more kind, good, and learned the Pope happens to be, the greater enormities these monsters promise to themselves, by effecting them under the cloak of his authority. For, with what numberless and manifest lies did they profane and defile the sacred name of Leo X. in this one little point, the indulgences, in order to terrify
the conscience of one poor brother, and to establish their own horrible tyrannies ?—Though it is not a thing so much to be wondered at, that there should be found such characters to prostitute the name of the high Pope, and to abuse it: for the patriarchs of such fellows, that is, the false prophets, false apostles, and false christs, did the same; who made the holy name of God and of Christ to serve their lies. Of the holy name of that God and Lord, I say, even our Lord Jesus Christ; whose are all those things which we admire in you, most illustrious Prince; and may he acknowledge, increase, and preserve the same to all eternity.—This prayer I offer up,
which is all I can do, as a return for the favours I have received at your hands.
Hence, the reason why I wished to send forth these my productions, such as they are, (for productions they certainly are, though I cannot find confidence enough to call them interpretations or commentaries, from a consciousness of my poor ability betrayed in them,) under the sanction of the name of your most illustrious Highness, was 'none other, than because I greatly love you. For I am fully persuaded of the pure and chaste love which your heart hath for the Holy Scriptures : and my heart (to use the words of Deborah)" is toward” such Princes.
And why should I not here declare at full my thoughts concerning you, and the cause of this my love for you, that those who boast themselves in the holy Scriptures may see how far a hypocrite differs from a true theologian ?-My very good and reverend father in Christ, John Stupitius, told me, upon a certain occasion, that once, while he was staying with your Highness, the conversation turned upon those who preach publicly to the people; and that, according to the wonderful penetration of your judgment, you said, “Those sermons which are made up of the cunning and traditions of men, are but frigid things, and too weak and ineffectual to persuade us to our best interests; for nothing of that kind can be brought forth so acute, that may not be subverted and rooted up by the same cunning. But the Holy Scriptures carry with them a holy oneness, which sounds in our ears with such force and majesty, even without any exertion of ours, that, leading captive and cutting up all the schemes of human cunning, it urges and compels us to acknowledge “ Never man spake like this man.” This is “the finger of God,” for “he teaches as one having authority, and not as the scribes and pharisees.” With which sentiments, when Stupitius willingly coincided, and expressed his commendation of them, he told me, that you put forth your hand and demanded his, and said, Promise me, I pray thee, that thou wilt always think so.'
And were not this sentiment and this request such as would become even a most holy and high Pope ? and the more so, as it may be clearly perceived, that they were not only expressed in word, but accompanied with a feeling sense of heart? Can we not, then, clearly discern who are the true theologians ? Let shame, therefore, seize those theologians and lawyers especially, to whom the Holy Scriptures have become almost an object of ridicule, and who, tacking to them their infinite glosses, pestilently torment those, (as Hieronymus says) who, in every thing they say, wish to appeal to the Word of God. As if Christ had said to Peter, command,' or * lay injunctions on,' or 'teach,' and not rather, “ feed,” my sheep: that is, deliver to them that which will feed them. And such are fed by the Word of God only, and not by the opinions and traditions of men. And moreover, that nothing so acute can be brought forward, (as you justly observed,) which may not be rebutted by the same human cunning, is abundantly shown us in that miserable workhouse, in which the disciples of Scotus, Thomas, Albertus, Modernus, and all those others who have their peculiar followers, squander away their time.
I confess, most illustrious Prince, that by this sweet account of you which I heard, I was wholly captivated, and constrained to love you. For I know not how it is, but I cannot help loving all whom I hear to be lovers of the holy Scriptures; nor, on the other hand, hating those who are obstinate and despise them : so that, in each respect, from the force of my feelings, I am filled with vehemence, and, as certain of my good friends say of me, am severe and vain-glorious. But let them criminate me as they will: they may affix to me epithets both good and bad, of the first, second, or third kind, and impose them upon me, but they will never take away from me the grand essentials of theology, nor extinguish my love of them if Christ but continue to smile upon me. I know what scholastic theology üid for me: I know also how much I owe to it: and I am glad that I am delivered from it, and give thanks for my deliverance to Christ the Lord. I have no need that they should teach me what it is, for I know what it is already: nor is it of any service for them to endeavour to reconcile me unto it, for I will have nothing to do with it.
Bear, therefore, most illustrious Prince, with my desiring to send forth this little work into the world with the name of your Highness affixed to it, and consider it as a token of my love. I now, for the second time, undertake the Exposition of the Psalms in your Wittemberg, being requested and urged so to do by my hearers, who are some of the best of men, and to whom I cannot deny that I am a debtor. But I so profess to undertake them, as being quite unwilling that any one should presume to expect that from me, which no one of the most holy and most learned of the fathers could ever yet pretend to,--that I should understand and teach the Psalms in all respects according to their real sense and meaning. It is enough that some men understand some parts of them. The Holy Spirit always reserves much to himself, in order that he may keep us learners under him. Many things he only holds out in order to allure us on: and many things he delivers to us that they may work effectually in us. And, as Augustine has greatly remarked, “No man ever yet so spoke as to be understood by all in all things :' which leaves that great truth the more manifest, that it is the Holy Ghost alone who has the understanding of all his own words.
Wherefore, it becomes me candidly to confess, that