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§ 104. Luther’s Theory before the Controversy.


Luther rejected, in his work on the "Babylonish Captivity of the Church" (1520), the doctrine of the mass, transubstantiation, and the withdrawal of the cup, as strongholds of the Papal tyranny. From this position he never receded. In the same work he clearly intimated his own view, which he had learned from Pierre d’Ailly, Cardinal of Cambray (Cameracensis),818818    Petrus de Alliaco (1350-1420) was one of the leaders of the disciplinary reform movement during the papal schism, and in the councils of Pisa and Constance, the teacher of Gerson and Nicolaus de Clemanges. He gives his views on consubstantiation and transubstantiation, which resemble those of Occam in his Quaestiones super libros Sententiarum (Argent. 1490), Lib. IV. Qu. VI. See Steitz, in his learned art. on transubstantiation, in Herzog2 XV. 831; and Tschackert, Peter von Ailli, Gotha, 1877. in these words: —


Formerly, when I was imbibing the scholastic theology, the Cardinal of Cambray gave me occasion for reflection, by arguing most acutely, in the Fourth Book of the Sentences, that it would be much more probable, and that fewer superfluous miracles would have to be introduced, if real bread and real wine, and not only their accidents, were understood to be upon the altar, unless the Church had determined the contrary. Afterwards, when I saw what the church was, which had thus determined,—namely, the Thomistic, that is, the Aristotelian Church,—I became bolder; and, whereas I had been before in great straits of doubt, I now at length established my conscience in the former opinion: namely, that there were real bread and real wine, in which were the real flesh and real blood of Christ in no other manner and in no less degree than the other party assert them to be under the accidents.819819    "Esse verum panem verumque vinum, in quibus Christi vera caro verusque sanguis non aliter nec minus sit, quam illi sub accidentibus suis ponunt."... Why should not Christ be able to include his body within the substance of bread, as well as within the accidents? Fire and iron, two different substances, are so mingled in red-hot iron that every part of it is both fire and iron. Why may not the glorious body of Christ much more be in every part of the substance of the bread? ... I rejoice greatly, that, at least among the common people, there remains a simple faith in this sacrament. They neither understand nor argue whether there are accidents in it or substance, but believe, with simple faith, that the body and blood of Christ are truly contained in it, leaving to these men of leisure the task of arguing as to what it contains."


At that time of departure from Romanism he would have been very glad, as he confessed five years later, to become convinced that there was nothing in the Lord’s Supper but bread and wine. Yea, his old Adam was still inclined to such a view; but he dared not doubt the literal meaning of the words of institution.820820    "Das bekenne ich," he wrote, Dec. 15, 1524, to the Christians in Strassburg (De Wette, II. 577), "wo D. Carlstadt oder jemand anders vor fünf Jahren mich hätte mögen berichten, dass im Sacrament nichts denn Brot und Wein wäre, der hätte mir einen grossen Dienst gethan. Ich habe wohl so harte Anfechtungen da erlitten und mich gerungen und gewunden, dass ich gern heraus gewesen wäre, weil ich wohl sah, dass ich damit dem Papstthum hätte den grössten Puff können geben. Ich hab auch zween gehabt, die geschickter davon zu mir geschrieben haben denn D. Carlstadt, und nicht also die Worte gemartert nach eigenem Dünken. Aber ich bin gefangen, kann nicht heraus: der Text ist zu gewaltig da, und will sich mit Worten nicht lassen ans dem Sinn reissen." The two persons alluded to are probably, as Ullmann conjectures, Wessel or Rhodius and Honius, who sent a letter to Luther with Wessel’s books. In his book on the "Adoration of the Sacrament" (1523), addressed to the Waldensian Brethren in Bohemia, he rejects their symbolical theory, as well as the Romish transub-stantiation, and insists on the real and substantial presence of Christ’s body and blood in the eucharistic elements; but treats them very kindly, notwithstanding their supposed error, and commends them for their piety and discipline, in which they excelled the Germans.821821    In Walch, XIX. 1593 sqq.; Erl. ed., XXVIII. 389 sqq. He says in the beginning: "We Germans believe that Christ is verily with his flesh and blood in the sacrament, as he was born of Mary, and hung on the holy cross." He rejects the figurative interpretation because it might deprive other passages of their force.

In his conviction of the real presence, he was greatly strengthened by the personal attacks and perverse exegesis of Carlstadt. Henceforth he advocated the point of agreement with the Catholics more strenuously than he had formerly opposed the points in which he differed from them. He changed the tone of moderation which he had shown in his address to the Bohemians, and treated his Protestant opponents with as great severity as the Papists. His peculiar view of the eucharist became the most, almost the only, serious doctrinal difference between the two wings of the Reformation, and has kept them apart ever since.



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