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THOMAS CARLYLE ON MARTIN LUTHER.
On Heroes, Hero Worship, and the Heroic in required to be a light of inspiration, as History. By Thomas Carlyle. One volume,
we must name it. He presides over the 12 mo. New York: D. Appleton & Co. Critical and Miscellaneous Essays. By Thomus worship of the people; is the Uniter of
Carlyle. Four vols., 12mo. Boston: Junies them with the Unseen Holy. He is the Munroe & Co.
spiritual Captain of the people; as the
Prophet is their spiritual King with many WITHOUT a doubt Thomas Carlyle is captains; he guides them heavenward, by one of the few Englishmen of the present wise guidance, through this earth and iis century who will, in the future ages, be work. The ideal of him is, that he loo ranked among the creators of standard be what we can call a voice from the literature. An insight the most profound unseen Heaven; interpreting, even as the into philosophy and human character, Prophet did, and in a more familiar manwell fitted him for the office of historian, ner unfolding the same to men. The and in “The French Revolution," he unseen Heaven,--the open secret of the proved himself to be very far above the Universe,' which so few have an eye for! whole race of mere chroniclers who in. He is the Prophet shorn of his more undate the world with flimsy accounts awful splendour; burning with mild of public transactions. What painting! equable radiance, as the enlightener of the figures of Titian upon the canvas daily life. This, I say, is the ideal of a are not more dramatically grouped, nor Priest. So in old limes; so in these and do they stand out more clearly to the eye, in all times. One knows very well that, than in his pages do the actors in that in reducing ideals to practice, great latiterrible tragedy in which God abandoned tude of tolerance is needful: very great. the guidance of mankind to themselves, But a Priest who is not this at all, who and let the world see what fantastic tricks does not any longer aim or try to be this, they would in such condition play before is a character of whom we had rather high Heaven. In the Miscellanies, com- not speak in this place. Luther and Knox prising Mr. Carlyle's various contribu- ' were, by express vocation, Priests, and tions to the English Reviews, he shows did faithfully perform that function in its the same high qualities, in many depart- common sense. Yet it will suit us better ments of aesthetical criticism. It is in his here to consider them chiefly in their "Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic historical character, rather as Reformers in History," however, that he has given than Priests. There have been other the most striking and the justest speci. Priests perhaps equally notable, in calmer mens of character writing; and from this times, for doing faithfully the office of a book we shall extract his sketch of the Leader of Worship; bringing down, by solitary Monk who shook the world,” faithful heroism in that kind, a light from Doctor Martin Luther, of Wittemburg. Heaven into the daily life of their people; D'Aubigne, in his History of the Protes- leading them forward, as under God's tant Reformation, has presented Luther guidance, in the way wherein they were very truly and graphically; but his por- to go. But when this same way was a traiture is inferior to Carlyle’s; and, be. rough one, of battle, confusion and dansides, it were useless to quote to the ger, the spiritual Captain who led through readers of this periodical, a work with that, becomes, especially to us who live which they must already be so familiar. under the fruit of his leading, more nota
In his sixth Lecture on Heroes, Mr, ble than any other. He is the warfaring Carlyle considers the great man as a and battling Priest; who led his people, Priest of God; and he begins with a not to quiet labour as in smooth times, fine definition of the holy office. « 'The but to faithful, valorous conflict, in times Priest,” he says, “as I understand it, is all violent, dismembered: a more perilous a kind of Prophet; in him, too, there is service, a more memorable one, be it
higher or not. These two men we will and reality in opposition to falsehood account our best Priests, inasmuch as and semblance, as all kinds of improvethey were our best Resormers."
ment and genuine teaching are and have In the same lecture, Mr. Carlyle dis- been. Liberty of private judgment, if courses of some objections to Protestant- we will consider it, must at all times have ism, especially of the cry about private existed in the world. Dante had not put judgment. “One often hears it said,”. out his eyes, or tied shackles on himself; he remarks, “that Protestantism intro. he was at home in that Catholicism of duced a new era, radically different from his, a free-seeing soul in it,-if many a any the world had ever seen before: the poor Hogstraten, Tetzel and Dr. Eck had era of private judgment,' as they call it. now become slaves in it. Liberty of By this revolt against the Pope, every judgment? No iron chain, or outward man became his own Pope, and learned, force of any kind, could ever compel the among other things, that he must never soul of a man to believe or to disbelieve: trust any pope, or spiritual Hero-captain it is his own indefeasible light, that judg. any more! Whereby, is not spiritual ment of his; he will reign, and believe union, all hierarchy and subordination there, by the grace of God alone! The among men, henceforth an impossibility ? sorriest sophistical Bellarmine, preaching So we hear it said. Now I need not sightless faith and passive obedience, deny that Protestantism was a revolt must first, by some kind of conviction, against spiritual sovereignties, Popes have abdicated his right to be convinced. and much else.......... Protestantism is His privale judgment' indicated that as the grand root from which our whole the advisablest step he could take. The subsequent European history branches right of private judgment will subsist, in out. For the spiritual will always body full force, wherever true men subsist. A itself forth in the temporal history of true man believes with his whole judg. men; the spiritual is the beginning of the ment, with all the illumination and distemporal. And now, sure enough, the cry cernment that is in him, and has always is everywhere for Liberty and Equality, so believed. A false man, only struggling Independence and so forth; instead of to believe that he believes,' will naluKings, Ballot-boxes and Electoral suffra- rally manage it in some other way. Proges: it seems made ont that any Hero- testantism said to this latter, Wo! and to sovereign, or loyal obedience of men 10 the former, Well done! At bottom it was a man, in things temporal or things spirit- no new saying ; it was a return to all old ual, has passed away for ever from the sayings that ever had been said. Be world. I should despair of the world genuine, be sincere; that was, once more, altogether, if so. One of my deepest con. the meaning of it. victions is, that it is not so. Without “And now I venture to assert, that the sovereigns, true sovereigns, temporal and exercise of private judgment, faithfully spiritual, I see nothing possible but an gone about, does by no means necessarily anarchy; the hatefulest of things. But end in selfish independence, isolation, but I find Protestantism. whatever anarchic rather ends necessarily in the opposite of democracy it have produced, to be the that. It is not honest inquiry that makes beginning of a new genuine sovereignty anarchy; but it is error, insincerity, halfand order. I find it to be a revolt against belief and untruth that makes it. A man false sovereigns; the painful but indis- protesting against error is on the way pensable first preparative for true sove- towards uniting himself with all men that reigns getting place among us! This believe in truth. There is no commu. is worth explaining a litile.
Let iis re
nion possible among men who believe mark, therefore, in the first place, that only in hearsays. The heart of each is this private judgment' is, at bottom, lying dead; has no power of sympathy not a new thing in the world, but only even with things,-or he would believe new at that epoch of the world. There them and not hearsays. No sympathy is nothing generically new or peculiar in even with things; how much less with the Reformation; it was a return to truth his fellow-men! He cannot unite with
men; he is an anarchic man. Only in a We now come to Carlyle's notice of world of sincere men is unity possible ; Luther and his life, which all who have and there, in the long run, it is as good not read will read with satisfaction when as certain.
it comes before them. “Luther's birth“For observe one thing, a thing too place,” he says, “ was Eisleben, in Saxoften left out of view, or rather altogether ony; he came into the world there on the lost sight of in this controversy : That it 101h of November, 1483. It was an acis not necessary a man should himself cident that gave this honour to Eisleben. have discovered the truth he is to believe His parents, poor mine-labourers in a in never so sincerely. A Great Man, we village of that region, named Mohra, had said, was always sincere, as the first con- gone to the Eisleben winter-sair; in the dition of him. But a man need not be tumult of this scene the Frau Luther was great in order to be sincere; that is not taken with travail, found refuge in some the necessity of nature and all time, but poor house there, and the boy she bore only of certain corrupt unfortunate epochs was named Martin LUTHER. Strange of time. A man can believe, and make enough to reflect upon it. This poor his own, in the most genuine way, what Frau Luther, slie had gone with he has received from another;—and with band to make her small merchandizings; boundless gratitude to that other! The perhaps to sell the lock of yarn she had merit of originality is not novelty; it is been spinning, to buy the small winter sincerity. The believing man is ihe ori- necessaries for her narrow hut or houseginal man; whatsoever he believes, he hold: in the whole world, that day, there believes it for himself, not for another. was not a more entirely unimportant Every son of Adam can become a sincere looking pair of people than this miner man, an original man, in this sense; no and his wife. And yet what were all mortal is doomed to be an insincere man. emperors, popes and potentates, in comWhole ages, what we call ages of Faith, parison? There was born here, once are original,—all men in them, or the more, a mighiy man; whose light was to most of men in them, sincere. These flame as the beacon over long centuries are the great and fruitful ages : every and epochs of the world; the whole worker, in all spheres, is a worker not world and its history was waiting for this on semblance but on substance; every
It is strange, it is great. It leads work issues in a result: the general sum us back to another birih-hour, in a still of such work is great; for all of it, as meaner environment, eighteen hundred genuine, tends towards one goal ; all of it years ago,—of which it is fit that we say is adılilive, none of it substractive.......... nothing, that we think only in silence; Ah me, that a man be self-subsistent, for what words are there! The age of original, true, or what we call it, is miracles pası? The age of nıiracles is surely the farthest in the world from in- for ever here!disposing him to reverence and believe “I find it altogether suitable to Luther's other men's truth! It only disposes, neces- function in this earth, and doubtless sitates and invincibly compels him to dis- wisely ordered to that end by the Provibelieve other men's dead formulas, hear. dence presiding over him and us and all says and untruths. A man embraces truth things, that he was born poor, and with his eyes open: and because his eyes brought up poor, one of the poorest of are open, does he need to shut them before men. He had to beg, as the schoolhe can love his teacher of truth? He alone children in those times did: singing for can love, with a right gratitude and genuine alms and bread from door to door. Hardloyalty of soul, the Hero-teacher who has ship, rigorous necessity was the poor delivered him out of darkness into light. boy's companion; no man nor no thing Is not such a one a true llero and Serpent- would put on a false face to flatter Martin queller: worthy of all reverence ? The Luther. Among things, not among the black monster, Falsehood, our one enemy shows of things, had he 10 grow. A in this world, lies prostrate by his valour'; boy of rude figure, yet with weak health, it was he that conquered the world for us!" wiih his large, greedy soul full of all
faculty and sensibility, he suffered great- to do, as novice in his convent, all sorts ly. But it was his task to get acquainted of slave-work, were not his grievance : with realities, and keep acquainted with the deep, earnest soul of the man had them, at whatever cost: his task was to fallen into all manner of black scruples, bring the whole world back to reality, for dubitations; he believed himself likely to it had dwelt too long with semblance! die soon, and far worse than die. One A youth nursed up in wintry whirlwinds, hears with a new interest for poor Luther in desolate darkness and difficulty, that that, at this time, he lived in ierror of the he may step forth at last from his stormy unspeakable misery; fancied that he was Scandinavia, strong as a true man, as a doomed to eternal reprobation. Was it god: a Christian Odin,—a right 'Thor, not the humble sincere nature of the man? once more, with his thunder-hammer, to What was he, that he should be raised smite asunder ugly enough Jöluns and to Heaven! He that had known only giant monsters!
misery and mean slavery: the news was Perhaps the turning incidents of his too blessed to be credible. It could not life, we may fancy, was that death of his become clear to him how, by fasts, vigils, friend Alexis, by lightning, at the gate of formalities and mass-work, a man's soul Erfurt. Luther had struggled up through could be saved. He fell into the blackest boyhood, better and worse; displayingwretchedness; had to wander staggering in spite of all hindrances, the largest in- as on the verge of bottomless despair. tellect, eager to learn: his father, judging “ It must have been a most blessed doubtless that he might promote himself discovery, that of an old Latin Bible
, in the world, set him upon the study of which he found in the Erfurt library law. This was the path to rise ; Luther, about this time. He had never seen the with little will in it either way, had con- book before. It taught him another les. sented: he was now nineteen years of son than that of fasts and vigils. A age. Alexis and he had been to see the brother monk, too, of pious experience, old Luther people at Mansfeldt; were got was helpful. Luther learned now that a back again near Erfurt, when a thunder- man was saved, not by singing masses, storm came on; the bolt struck Alexis: but by the infinite grace of God: a more he fell dead at Luther's hand. What is credible hypothesis. He gradually got this life of ours ?-Gone in a moment, himself founded, as on the rock. No burnt up like a scroll, into the blank wonder he should venerate the Bible, eternity! What are all earthly prefer- which had brought this blessed help to ments, chancellorships, kingships? They him. He prized it as the Word of the lie shrunk together--there! The earth Highest must be prized by such a man. has opened on them; in a moment they He determined to hold by that; as are not, and eternity is. Luther, struck through life and 10 death he firmly did. to the heart, determined to devote him- “ This, then, is his deliverance from self to God and God's service alone. In darkness, his final triumph over darkspite of all dissuasions from his father ness, what we call his conversion; for and others, he became a monk in the himself the most important of all epochs. Augustine convent at Erfurt.
That he should now grow daily in peace "This was probably the first light and clearness; that, unfolding now the point in the history of Luther, his purer great talents and virtues implanted in will now first decisively uttering itself; him, he should rise to importance in his but, for the present, it was still as one convent, in his country, and be found Jighe point in an element all of darkness. more and more useful in all honest busiHe says he was a pious monk, ich bien ness of life, is a natural result. He was ein frommer Mönch gewesen; faithfully, sent on missions by his Augustine order, painfully struggling to work out the truth as a man of talent and fidelity fit to do of this high act of his; but it was to their business well. The Elector of Sax. little purpose. His misery had not les- ony, Friedrich, named the Wise, a truly sened'; had rather, as it were, increased wise and just prince, had cast his eye on into infinitude. The drudgeries he had him as a valuable person; made him pro
fessor in his new University of Witten- peaceable a disposition ever filled the berg, preacher, too, at Wittenberg; in world with contention. We cannot but both which capacities, as in all duties he see that he would have loved privacy, did, this Luther, in the peaceable sphere quiet diligence in the shade; that it was of common life, was gaining more and against his will he ever became a notomore esteem with all good men.
riety. Notoriety: what would that do " It was in his twenty-seventh year for him? The goal of his march through that he first saw Roine; being sent this world was the Infinite Heaven; an thither, as I said, on a mission from his indubitable goal for him: in a few years, convent. Pope Julius the Second, and he should either have attained that, or what was going on at Rome, must have lost it for ever! We will say nothing at filled the mind of Luther with amaze- all, I think, of that sorrowfulest of theoment. He had come as to the Sacred ries, of jis being some mean shopkeeper City, throne of God's high priest on grudge, of the Augustine monk against earth: and he found it—what we know! the Dominican, that first kindled the Many thoughts it must have given the wrath of Luther, and produced the Proman; many which we have no record of, testant Reformation. We will say to the which, perhaps, he did not himself know people who maintain it, if indeed any how to utter. This Rome, this scene of such exist now, Get first into the sphere false priests, clothed not in the beauty of of thought by which it is so much as holiness, but in far other vesture, is false: possible to judge of Luther, or of any but what is it to Luther? A mean man man like Luther, otherwise than dishe, how shall he reform a world? That tractedly; we may then begin arguing was far from his thoughts. A humble, with you. solitary man, why should he at all meddle “The monk Tetzel, sent out carelessly with the world? It was the task of quite in the way of irade, by Leo Tenth,-
--who higher men than he. His business was merely wanted to raise a little money, to guide his own footsteps wisely through and for the rest seems to have been a the world. Let him do his own obscure Pagan rather than a Christian, so far as duty in it well; the rest, horrible and he was any thing,--arrived at Wittendismal as it looks, is in God's hand, not berg, and drove his scandalous trade in his.
there, Luther's flock bought indul"It is curious to reflect what might gences; in the confessional of his have been the issue, had Roman Popery church, people pleaded to him that they happened to pass this Luther by; to go had already got their sins pardoned. on in its great was!eful orbit, and not Luther, if he would not be found wantcome athwart his little path, and force ing at his own post, a false sluggard and him to assault it! Conceivable enough coward at the very centre of the little that, in this case, he might have held his space of ground that was his own and no peace about the abuses of Rome; left other man's, had to step forth against inProvidence, and God on high, to deal dulgences, and declare aloud that they with them! A modest, quiet man; not were a futility and sorrowful mockery, prompt he to attack irreverently persons that no man's sins could be pardoned by in authority. His clear task, as I say, them. It was the beginning of the whole was to do his own duty; 10 walk wisely Reformation. We know how it went; in this world of confused wickedness, forward from this first public challenge and save his own soul alive. But the of Tetzel, on the last day of October, Roman high priesthood did come athwart 1517, through remonstranre and arguhim; afar off at Wittenberg he, Luther, ment;--spreading ever wider, rising ever could not get lived in honesty for it; he higher, till it became inquenchable, and remonstrated, resisted, came to extremity; enveloped all the world. Luther's heari's was struck at, struck again, and so it desire was to have this grief and other came to wager of battle between them! griess amended; his thought was still far This is worth attending to in Luther's from introducing separation in the church, history. Perhaps no man of so humble, or revolting against the pope, father of