Ellen G. White Writings

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History of the Reformation, vol. 3, Page 337

at Wittenberg. Luther still continued to reside in the convent and wear his monastic dress; but every one was free to do otherwise. In communicating at the Lord’s table, a general absolution was sufficient, or a particular one might be obtained. It was laid down as a principle to reject nothing but what was opposed to a clear and formal declaration of Holy Scripture. This was not indifference; on the contrary, religion was thus restored to what constitutes its very essence; the sentiment of religion withdrew from the accessory forms in which it had well nigh perished, and transferred itself to its true basis. Thus the Reformation was saved, and its teaching enabled to continue its development in the bosom of the Church in charity and truth.

Chapter 9

Translation of the New Testament—Faith and Scripture—Opposition—Importance of this Publication—Necessity for a systematic Arrangement—Melancthon’s Loci Communes—Original Sin—Salvation—Free Will—Effects of the Loci Communes

Tranquility was hardly established when the reformer turned to his dear Melancthon, and demanded his assistance in the final revision of the New Testament which he had brought with him from the Wartburg. As early as the year 1519 Melancthon had laid down the grand principle, that the Fathers must be explained according to Scripture, and not Scripture according to the Fathers. Meditating more profoundly every day on the books of the New Testament, he felt at once charmed by their simplicity and impressed by their depth. “There alone can we find the true food of the soul,” boldly asserted this man so familiar with all the philosophy of the ancients. Accordingly he readily complied with Luther’s invitation; and from that time the two friends passed many long hours together studying and translating the inspired Word. Often would they pause in their laborious researches to give way to their admiration. Luther said one day, “Reason thinks, Oh! if I could once hear God speak! I would run from one end of the world to the other to hear him… Listen then, my brother man! God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, speaks to thee.”

The printing of the New Testament was carried on with unexampled zeal. One would have said that the very workmen felt the importance of the task in which they were engaged. Three presses were employed in this labor, and ten thousand sheets, says Luther, were printed daily.

At length, on the 21st September 1522, appeared the complete edition of three thousand copies, in two folio volumes, with this simple title: The New Testament—German—Wittenberg. It bore no name of man. Every German might henceforward procure the Word of God at a moderate price.

The new translation, written in the very tone of the holy writings, in a language yet in its youthful vigor, and which for the first time displayed its great beauties, interested, charmed, and moved the lowest as well as the highest ranks. It was a national work; the book of the people; nay more—it was in very truth the Book of God. Even opponents could not refuse their approbation to this wonderful work, and some indiscreet friends of the reformer, impressed by the beauty of the translation, imagined they could recognize in it a second inspiration. This version served more than all Luther’s writings to the spread of christian piety. The work of the sixteenth century was thus placed on a foundation where nothing could shake it. The Bible, given to the people, recalled the mind of man, which had been wandering for ages in the tortuous labyrinth of scholasticism, to the Divine fountain of salvation. Accordingly the success of this work was prodigious. In a short time every copy was sold. A second edition appeared in the month of December; and in 1533 seventeen editions had been printed at Wittenberg, thirteen at Augsburg, twelve at Basle, one at Erfurth, one at Grimma, one at Leipsic, and thirteen at Strasburg. Such were the powerful levers that uplifted and transformed the Church and the world.

While the first edition of the New Testament was going through the press, Luther undertook a translation of the Old. This labor, begun in 1522, was continued without interruption. He published this translation in parts as they were finished, the more speedily to gratify public impatience, and to enable the poor to procure the book.

From Scripture and faith, two sources which in reality are but one, the life of the Gospel has flowed, and is still spreading over the world. These two principles combated two fundamental errors. Faith was opposed to the Pelagian tendency of Roman-catholicism; Scripture, to the theory of tradition and the authority of Rome. Scripture led man to faith, and faith led him back to Scripture. “Man can do no meritorious work; the free grace of God, which he receives by faith in Christ, alone saves him.” Such was the doctrine proclaimed in Christendom.

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