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.
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.
This is an 1883 collection of Luther’s major works which helped begin the reformation in Europe: the “95 Theses”, his “Address to the Nobility of the German Nation”, “Concerning Christian Liberty”, and the “Babylonish Captivity of the Church”. This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. purpose and plan of this publication, which has been prompted by the celebration of the fourth centenary of Luther’s birth, is explained in the Introductory Essay.The rest of the Reformation, it is not too much to say, was but the application of the principles vindicated in these three works.They were applied in different countries with varying wisdom and moderation; but nothing essential was added to them.Those convictions had been slowly, and even reluctantly, admitted; but they had gradually accumulated in intense force in Luther’s mind and conscience; and when “the time for speech had come” they burst forth in a kind of volcanic eruption.Their maturity is proved by the completeness and thoroughness with which the questions at issue are treated.In the Appeal to the German Nobility he first asserted those rights of the laity, and of the temporal power, without the admission of which no reformation would have been practicable, and he then denounced with burning moral indignation the numerous and intolerable abuses which were upheld by Roman authority.In the third Treatise, on the Babylonish Captivity of the Church, he applied the same cardinal principles to the elaborate Sacramental system of the Church of Rome, sweeping away by means of them the superstitions with which the original institutions of Christ had been overlaid, and thus releasing men’s consciences from a vast network of ceremonial bondage.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.Yet, as is well understood in Germany, it is in these that the whole genius of the Reformer appears in its most complete and energetic form.They are bound together in the closest dramatic unity.