The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

7
BROTHER MARTIN OF THE EREMITES

WHEN the day of the "profession" was past and the young friar returned from the evening service in the choir to throw himself on his bed of straw in his cell, his heart must have been warm with pride and assurance. For the moment, at least, the fears for salvation and the inner turmoil that had driven him into the cloister were stilled. The congratulations of the prior and the kiss of the brothers had sealed his entrance into a life where the way to salvation was guarded by the most powerful sanctions of tradition. To win the grace of God had now become the goal and the profession of his life.

The future seemed to lie clear before him. Until he should join the brothers whose graves lay across from the window of his cell he must endure hardship in the struggle against original sin which, in spite of baptism and saving grace, still nestled down in the secret places of the heart, and he must confront the temptations of the flesh and the wiles of the devil. Nevertheless, he was now armed with sharper weapons than those Christians who lived outside cloister walls.1 These weapons he sought to

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1
The medieval conception of the peculiar character of piety attainable by the monk in comparison with that of the layman has been a subject of active discussion ever since the appearance of Denifle's Luthertum. Catholic apologists contend that authoritative ideas in the Church assured those who entered the cloister nothing essential toward the fulfillment of God's demands that was not available also to every Christian outside; although obviously the superior opportunities of the monastic life for worship, self-denial, prayer, and meditation create a condition more favorable to fulfillment. See Denifle, Luthertum ( 1904), passim; also N. Paulus, "Zu Luthers Schrift ber dasM nchsgel bde", Historisches Jahrbuch, XXVII ( 1906), 487 ff. Lutheran apologists, on the other hand, tend to stress ideas prevailing widely in clerical and lay circles of the later Middle Ages that those who made the sacrifices demanded by the monastic life and withdrew from the world might attain a qualitatively superior degree of perfection than was possible for the best Christian in the world outside. See Scheel, ed., Luthers Werke, Erg`nzungsband II, 36 f., 45 ff., 90 ff.; Scheel, Martin Luther, II, 188 ff.; also M`ller, Luthers theologische Quellen; Holl, Gesammelte Auts`tze zur Kirchengeschichte, I, III, 16 ff.; Luther's views on this point are documented in his writings and in reports from him that belong to

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