History of the christian church



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Zwingli unfortunately broke his vow at Einsiedeln, while still a priest, and in receipt of a pension from the Pope. He afterwards married a worthy patrician widow with three children, Anna Reinhard von Knonau, who bore him two sons and two daughters, and lived to lament his tragic death on the field of battle, finding, like him, her only comfort in the Lord Jesus and the word of God.616

Ludwig Cellarius (Keller), Oecolampadius (the Reformer of Basel), Wolfgang Capito (the Reformer of Strassburg), and his more distinguished friend Martin Bucer (a widower who was always ready for union) were successively married to Wilibrandis Rosenblatt, the daughter of a Knight and colonel aid-de-camp of the Emperor Maximilian I. She accompanied Bucer to Cambridge in England, and after his death returned to Basel, the survivor of four husbands! She died Nov. 1, 1564.617 She must have had a remarkable attraction for Reformers. Oecolampadius thought her almost too young for his age of forty-five, but found her a "good Christian "and "free from youthful frivolity." She bore him three children,—Eusebius, Alitheia, and Irene.618 It was on the occasion of his marriage that Erasmus wrote to a friend (March 21, 1528): "Oecolampadius has lately married. His bride is not a bad-looking girl" [she was a widow]. "I suppose he wants to mortify his flesh. Some speak of the Lutheran cause as a tragedy, but to me it appears rather as a comedy, for it always ends in a wedding."619

Archbishop Cranmer appears in an unfavorable light. His first wife, "Black Joan," died in childbed before his ordination. Early in 1532, before he was raised to the primacy of Canterbury by Henry VIII. (August, 1532), he married a niece of the Lutheran preacher Osiander of Nürnberg, and concealed the fact, the disclosure of which would have prevented his elevation. The papal bulls of confirmation were dated February and March, 1533, and his consecration took place March 30, 1533. The next year he privately summoned his wife to England; but sent her away in 1539, when he found it necessary to execute the bloody articles of Henry VIII., which included the prohibition of clerical marriage. He lent a willing hand to the divorces and re-marriages of his royal master. And yet with all his weakness of character, and time-serving policy, Cranmer must have been an eminently devout man if he translated and reproduced (as he certainly edited) the Anglican liturgy, which has stood the test of many generations to this day.620

John Knox, the Luther of Scotland, had the courage, as a widower of fifty-eight (March, 1563–64), to marry a Scotch lass of sixteen, Margaret Stuart, of royal name and blood, to the great indignation of Queen Mary, who "stormed wonderfully" at his audacity. The papists got up the story that he gained her affection by sorcery, and aimed to secure for his heirs, with the aid of the Devil, the throne of Scotland. His wife bore him three daughters, and two years after his death (1572) contracted a second marriage with Andrew Ker, a widower.621

The most unfortunate matrimonial incident in the Reformation is the consent of Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer to the disgraceful bigamy of Landgrave Philip of Hesse. It is a blot on their character, and admits of no justification. When the secret came out (1540), Melanchthon was so over-whelmed with the reproaches of conscience and a sense of shame that he fell dangerously ill at Weimar, till Luther, who was made of sterner stuff, and found comfort in his doctrine of justification by faith alone, prayed him out of the jaws of death.

In forming a just estimate of this subject, we must not only look backward to the long ages of clerical celibacy with all its dangers and evils, but also forward to the innumerable clerical homes which were made possible by the Reformation. They can bear the test of the closest examination.

Clerical celibacy and monastic vows deprived the church of the services of many men who might have become shining stars. On the other hand, it has been calculated by Justus Möser in 1750, that within two centuries after the Reformation from ten to fifteen millions of human beings in all lands owe their existence to the abolition of clerical celibacy.622 More important than this numerical increase is the fact that an unusual proportion of eminent scholars and useful men in church and state were descended from clerical families.623

There is a poetic as well as religious charm in the home of a Protestant country pastor who moves among his flock as a father, friend, and comforter, and enforces his teaching of domestic virtues and affections by his example, speaking louder than words. The beauty of this relation has often been the theme of secular poets. Everybody knows Oliver Goldsmith’s "Vicar of Wakefield," which describes with charming simplicity and harmless humor the trials and patience, the domestic, social, and professional virtues of a country pastor, and begins with the characteristic sentence: "I was ever of opinion, that the honest man who married, and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and only talked of population; from this motive I had scarcely taken orders a year, before I chose my wife, as she did her wedding-gown, not for a fine glossy face, but for such qualities as would wear well." Herder read this English classic four times, and commended it to his bride as one of the best books in any language. Goethe, who himself tasted the charm of a pastoral home in the days of his purest and strongest love to Friederike of Sesenheim, praises the "Vicar of Wakefield," as "one of the best novels, with the additional advantage of being thoroughly moral, yea in a genuine sense Christian," and makes the general assertion: "A Protestant country pastor is perhaps the most beautiful topic for a modern idyl; he appears like Melchizedek, as priest and king in one person. He is usually associated by occupation and outward condition with the most innocent conceivable estate on earth, that of the farmer; he is father, master of his house, and thoroughly identified with his congregation. On this pure, beautiful earthly foundation, rests his higher vocation: to introduce men into life, to care for their spiritual education, to bless, to instruct, to strengthen, to comfort them in all the epochs of life, and, if the comfort for the present is not sufficient, to cheer them with the assured hope of a more happy future."624 In his idyl "Hermann und Dorothea," he introduces a clergyman as an ornament and benefactor of the community. It is to the credit of this greatest and most cultured of modern poets, that he, like Shakespeare and Schiller, never disparaged the clerical profession.

In his "Deserted Village," Goldsmith gives another picture of the village preacher as
"A man who was to all the country dear,

And passing rich on forty pounds a year. ...

At church, with meek and unaffected grace,

His looks adorned the venerable place;

Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,

And fools who came to scoff remained to pray."


From a higher spiritual plane William Wordsworth, the brother of an Anglican clergyman and uncle of two bishops, describes the character of a Protestant pastor in his "Ecclesiastical Sonnets."
"A genial hearth, a hospitable board,

And a refined rusticity, belong

To the neat mansion, where, his flock among,

The learned Pastor dwells, their watchful lord.

Though meek and patient as a sheathèd sword

Though pride’s least lurking thought appear a wrong

To human kind; though peace be on his tongue,

Gentleness in his heart—can earth afford

Such genuine state, pre-eminence so free,

As when, arrayed in Christ’s authority,

He from the pulpit lifts his awful hand;

Conjures, implores, and labors all he can

For re-subjecting to divine command

The stubborn spirit of rebellious man!"


A Romish priest or a Russian pope depends for his influence chiefly upon his official character, though he may be despised for his vices. A Protestant minister stands or falls with his personal merits; and the fact of his high and honorable position and influence in every Protestant country, as a Christian, a gentleman, a husband and father, is the best vindication of the wisdom of the Reformers in abolishing clerical celibacy.
§ 80. Reformation of Public Worship.
I. Luther: Deutsches Taufbüchlein, 1523; Ordnung des Gottes-dienstes in der Gemeinde, 1523; Vom Gräuel der Stillmesse, 1524; Deutsche Messe und Ordnung des Gottesdienstes, 1526; Das Taufbüchlein verdeutscht, aufs neue zugerichtet, 1526. In Walch, X.; in Erl. ed., XXII. 151 sqq. Comp. the Augsburg confession, Pars II. art. 3 (De missa); Apol. of the Augsb. Conf. art. XXIV. (De missa); the Lutheran liturgies or Kirchenagenden (also Kirchenordnungen) of the 16th century, collected in Daniel: Codex Liturgicus Ecclesiae Lutheranae, Lips. 1848 (Tom. II. of his Cod. Lit.), and Höfling: Liturgisches Urkundenbuch (ed. by G. Thomasius and Theodos. Harnack), Leipz. 1854.

II. Th. Kliefoth: Die ursprüngliche Gottesdienstordnung in den deutschen Kirchen luth. Reformation, ihre Destruction und Reformation, Rostock, 1847. Grüneisen: Die evang. Gottesdienstordnung in den oberdeutschen Landen, Stuttgart, 1856. Gottschick: Luthers Anschauungen vom christl. Gottesdienst und seine thatsächliche Reform desselben, Freiburg i. B., 1887.


The reformation of doctrine led to a reconstruction of worship on the basis of Scripture and the guidance of such passages as, God is spirit,"625 and must be worshiped, in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24), and, Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). Protestantism aims at a rational or spiritual service,626 as distinct from a mechanical service of mere forms. It acts upon the heart through the intellect, rather than the senses, and through instruction, rather than ceremonies. It brings the worshiper into direct communion with God in Christ, through the word of God and prayer, without the obstruction of human mediators.

The Reformers first cleansed the sanctuary of gross abuses and superstitions, and cast out the money-changers with a scourge of cords. They abhorred idolatry, which in a refined form had found its way into the church. They abolished the sale of indulgences, the worship of saints, images, and relics, processions and pilgrimages, the private masses, and masses for the dead in purgatory.627 They rejected five of the seven sacraments (retaining only baptism and the eucharist), the doctrine of transubstantiation, the priestly sacrifice, the adoration of the host, the withdrawal of the cup from the laity, and the use of a dead language in public worship. They also reduced the excessive ceremonialism and ritualistic display which obscured the spiritual service.

But the impoverishment was compensated by a gain; the work of destruction was followed by a more important and difficult work of reconstruction. This was the revival of primitive worship as far as it can be ascertained from the New Testament, the more abundant reading of the Scriptures and preaching of the cardinal truths of the gospel, the restoration of the Lord’s Supper in its original simplicity, the communion in both kinds, and the translation of the Latin service into the vernacular language whereby it was made intelligible and profitable to the people. There was, however, much crude experimenting and changing until a new order of worship could be fairly established.

Uniformity in worship is neither necessary nor desirable, according to Protestant principles. The New Testament does not prescribe any particular form, except the Lord’s Prayer, the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper, and the baptismal formula.

The Protestant orders of worship differ widely in the extent of departure from the Roman service, which is one and the same everywhere. The Lutheran Church is conservative and liturgical. She retained from the traditional usage what was not inconsistent with evangelical doctrine; while the Reformed churches of the Zwinglian and Calvinistic type aimed at the greatest simplicity and spirituality of worship after what they supposed to be the apostolic pattern. Some went so far as to reject all hymns and forms of prayer which are not contained in the Bible, but gave all the more attention to the Psalter, to the sermon, and to extemporaneous prayer. The Anglican Church, however, makes an exception among the Reformed communions: she is even more conservative than the Lutheran, and produced a liturgy which embodies in the choicest English the most valuable prayers and forms of the Latin service, and has maintained its hold upon the reverence and affection of the Episcopal churches to this day. They subordinate preaching to worship, and free prayer to forms of prayer.

Luther began to reform public worship in 1523, but with caution, and in opposition to the radicalism of Carlstadt, who during the former’s absence on the Wartburg had tumultuously abolished the mass, and destroyed the altars and pictures. He retained the term "mass," which came to signify the whole public service, especially the eucharistic sacrifice. He tried to save the truly Christian elements in the old order, and to reproduce them in the vernacular language for the benefit of the people. His churchly instincts were strengthened by his love of poetry and music. He did not object even to the use of the Latin tongue in the Sunday service, and expressed an impracticable wish for a sort of pentecostal Sunday mass in German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.628 At the same time he desired also a more private devotional service of converted Christians, with the celebration of the holy communion (corresponding to the missa fidelium of the ante-Nicene Church, as distinct from the missa catechumenorum), but deemed it impossible for that time from the want of the proper persons; for "we Germans," he said, "are a wild, rough, rabid people, with whom nothing can be done except under the pressure of necessity."

So he confined himself to provide for the public Sunday service. He retained the usual order, the Gospels and Epistles, the collects, the Te Deum, the Gloria in excelsis, the Benedictus, the Creed, the responses, the kneeling posture in communion, even the elevation of the host and chalice (which he afterwards abandoned, but which is still customary in the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia), though without the adoration. He omitted the canon of the mass which refers to the priestly sacrifice, and which, since the sixth century, contains the kernel of the Roman mass, as an unbloody repetition of the crucifixion and miraculous trans-formation of the elements.629 He had previously rejected this "horrible canon," as he calls it, in his "Babylonian Captivity," and in a special tract from the Wartburg. He assailed it again and again as a cardinal error in the papal system. He held indeed the doctrine of the real presence, but without the scholastic notion of transubstantiation and priestly sacrifice.

He gave the most prominent place to the sermon, which was another departure from previous custom. He arranged three services on Sunday, each with a sermon: early in the morning, chiefly for servants; the mass at nine or ten; and in the afternoon a discourse from a text in the Old Testament. On Monday and Tuesday in the morning the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer were to be taught; on Wednesday, the Gospel of Matthew; on Saturday, the Gospel of John; on Thursday, the Epistle lessons should be explained. The boys of the school were to recite daily some Psalms in Latin, and then read alternately one or more chapters of the New Testament in Latin and German.

Luther introduced the new order with the approval of the Elector in October, 1525, and published it early in 1526.630 The chief service on Sunday embraces a German hymn or psalm; the Kyrie Eleison, and Gloria in Excelsis (Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr); a short collect, and the Epistle for the day; a hymn; the Gospel for the day sung by the Minister; the Nicene Creed recited by the whole congrega-tion; a sermon on the Gospel; the Lord’s Prayer; exhortation; the holy communion, the words of institution sung by the minister (this being the consecration of the elements), with singing of the Sanctus (Isa. 6:1–4, rendered into German by Luther), the Benedictus, the Agnus Dei (John 1:29) or in German "O Lamm Gottes unschuldig" (by Decius), followed by the distribution, the collection, and benediction. Omitting the canon missae, or the offering of the sacrifice of Christ’s body, the new order was substantially the same as the old, only translated into German.

Melanchthon says in the Augsburg Confession of 1530:631 Our churches are wrongfully accused of having abolished the mass. For the mass is retained still among us, and celebrated with great reverence; yea, and almost all the ceremonies that are in use, saving that with the things sung in Latin we mingle certain things sung in German at various parts of the service, which are added for the people’s instruction. For therefore alone we have need of ceremonies, that they may teach the unlearned."

Luther regarded ceremonies, the use of clerical robes, candles on the altar, the attitude of the minister in prayer, as matters of indifference which may be retained or abolished. In the revision of the baptismal service, 1526, he abolished the use of salt, spittle, and oil, but retained the exorcism in an abridged form. He also retained the public confession and absolution, and recommended private confession of sin to the minister.632

The Lutheran churches in Northern Germany and in Scandinavia adopted the order of Wittenberg with sundry modifications; but the Lutheran churches in Southern Germany (Würtemberg, Baden, Palatinate, Alsace) followed the simpler type of the Swiss service.

The Lutheran order of worship underwent some radical changes in the eighteenth century under the influence of rationalism; the spirit of worship cooled down; the weekly communion was abolished; the sermon degenerated into a barren moral discourse; new liturgies and hymnbooks with all sorts of misimprovements were introduced. But in recent times, we may say since the third centennial celebration of the Reformation (1817), there has been a gradual revival of the liturgical spirit in different parts of Germany, with a restoration of many devotional treasures of past ages. There is, however, no uniform Lutheran liturgy, like the Common Prayer Book of the Church of England. Each Lutheran state church has its own liturgy and hymnbook.
§ 81. Prominent Features of Evangelical Worship.
Taking a wider view of the subject, we may emphasize the following characteristic features of evangelical worship, as compared with that of the Latin and Greek churches:

1. The prominence given to the sermon, or the exposition and application of the word of God. It became the chief part of divine service, and as regards importance took the place of the mass. Preaching was the special function of the bishops, but sadly neglected by them, and is even now in Roman-Catholic countries usually confined to the season of Lent. The Roman worship is complete without a sermon. The mass, moreover, is performed in a dead language, and the people are passive spectators rather than hearers. The altar is the throne of the Catholic priest; the pulpit is the throne of the Protestant preacher and pastor. The Reformers in theory and practice laid the greatest stress on preaching and hearing the gospel as an act of worship.

Luther set the example, and was a most indefatigable and popular preacher.633 He filled the pulpit of the town church alternately with Bugenhagen, the pastor, on Sundays and week-days, sometimes twice a day. Even in the last days of his life he delivered four sermons from the pulpit at Eisleben in spite of physical infirmity and pain.634 His most popular sermons are those on the Gospels and Epistles of the year, collected in the Kirchenpostille, which he completed in 1525 and 1527. Another popular collection is his Hauspostille, which contains his sermons at home, as taken down by Veit Dietrich and Rörer, and published in 1544 and 1559. He preached without notes, after meditation, under the inspiration of the moment.

He was a Boanerges, the like of whom Germany never heard before or since. He had all the elements of a popular orator. Melanchthon said, "One is an interpreter, one a logician, another an orator, but Luther is all in all." Bossuet gives him credit for "a lively and impetuous eloquence by which he delighted and captivated his hearers." Luther observed no strict method. He usually followed the text, and combined exposition with application. He made Christ and the gospel his theme. He lived and moved in the Bible, and understood how to make it a book of life for his time. He always spoke from intense conviction and with an air of authority. He had an extraordinary faculty of expressing the profoundest thoughts in the clearest and strongest language for the common people. He hit the nail on the head. He was bold and brave, and spared neither the Devil nor the Pope nor the Sacramentarians. His polemical excursions, how-ever, are not always in good taste, nor in the right spirit.

He disregarded the scholars among his hearers, and aimed at the common people, the women and children and servants. "Cursed be the preachers," he said, "who in church aim at high or hard things." He was never dull or tedious. He usually stopped when the hearers were at the height of attention, and left them anxious to come again. He censured Bugenhagen for his long sermons, of which people so often and justly complain. He summed up his homiletical wisdom in three rules: —
"Start fresh; Speak out; Stop short."635
The mass and the sermon are the chief means of edification,—the one in the Greek and Roman, the other in the Protestant churches. The mass memorializes symbolically, day by day, the sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world; the sermon holds up the living Christ of the gospel as an inspiration to holy living and dying. Both may degenerate into perfunctory, mechanical services; but Christianity has outlived all dead masses and dry sermons, and makes its power felt even through the weakest instrumentalities.

As preaching is an intellectual and spiritual effort, it calls for a much higher education than the reading of the mass from a book. A comparison of the Protestant with the Roman or Greek clergy at once shows the difference.

2. In close connection with preaching is the stress laid on catechetical instruction. Of this we shall speak in a special section.

3. The Lord’s Supper was restored to its primitive character as a commemoration of the atoning death of Christ, and a communion of believers with Him. In the Protestant system the holy communion is a sacrament, and requires the presence of the congregation; in the Roman system it is chiefly a sacrifice, and may be performed by the priest alone. The withdrawal of the cup is characteristic of the over-estimate of the clergy and under-estimate of the laity; and its restoration was not only in accordance with primitive usage, but required by the doctrine of the general priesthood of believers.

Luther retained the weekly communion as the conclusion of the regular service on the Lord’s Day. In the Reformed churches it was made less frequent, but more solemn.

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