Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Three Reformation Day Books

Today is Reformation Day. On 31st October 1517 Dr. Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, thus ushering in that great revival of religion that we call the Reformation.

First of all, let me begin by recommending two books by T. M. Lindsay, neither of which will break the bank. Lindsay was professor of Church history at the Free (later United Free) Church College in Glasgow and an expert on the Reformation.
Firstly, Lindsay's 'The Reformation', recently reprinted by the Banner of Truth and given a rave review on this blog. Anyone wanting to get a good, short introductory work on the Reformation should start here.
The second book is Lindsay's biography of Luther, now published by Christian Focus in their 'Historymakers' series, but first published in 1900 as 'Luther and the German Reformation'. It is the best biography of Luther I have read, and that includes Bainton's 'Here I Stand'. Anyone wanting to know more about the man who started the Reformation could do a lot worse than to start with Lindsay.

This is how Lindsay describes the character of the Reformation:
"It was a genuine revival of religion, a fulfillment of the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon His waiting Church." ('Reformation', second edition, P. 170)

"[The Reformers] had no wish to make a new Church, still less to create a new religion. The religion they professed was the religion of the Old Testament and of the New, the religion of the saints of God from the days of Pentecost downwards. The Church to which they belonged after their severance from Rome was the Church of the Apostles, and of the Martyrs, and of the Church Fathers. It was the Church in which God had been adored, and Christ trusted, and the presence of the Holy Spirit felt from the times of Christ's apostles down to their own day.
Reformation kept them within, they thought; it did not send them out of the Church of their fathers." ('Reformation', second edition, P. 181)

The central principle of the Reformation, according to Lindsay, is the Priesthood of all believers. Is it our principle? IT HAD BETTER BE!

In his larger work on the Reformation, Lindsay writes:
"Luther rediscovered religion when he declared that the truly Christian man must cling directly and with a living faith to the God who speaks to him in Christ, saying, 'I am thy salvation.' The earlier Reformers never forgot this. Luther proclaimed his discovery, he never attempted to prove it by argument; it was something self-evident - seen and known when experienced." ('A History of the Reformation' (Second Ed., T. & T. Clark, 1907) Vol. 1 P. 432).

A somewhat more expensive (but also considerably larger) book on the Reformation is William Cunningham's 'Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation' published by Banner of Truth. As the title suggests, Cunningham deals with the theology of the Reformers in some detail. Alexander Whyte said of the book, "For the time the set of some minds among us is somewhat away from the Reformation theology; but that can only be for a time. And here again I would urge all our students to place Dr. Cunningham's Reformers on their desks beside Hanna's Chalmers. I speak about that book also with some warmth of feeling, for I well remember the absolute glee - not wholly wicked, I hope - with which I read, and many times read, the tremendous castigation that Dr. Cunningham administered to a famous Edinburgh Professor of that day who had ventured to attack Luther, and simply to vilify him, as Dr. Cunningham proved."
Like all of Cunningham's works the 'Reformers' was not originally written as one work, but was compiled and published after his death from materials previously published in magazines and from previously unpublished lectures. His opening sentence is well worth giving here:

"The Reformation from Popery in the sixteenth century was the greatest event, or series of events, that has occurred since the close of the canon of Scripture; and the men who are really entitled to be called the 'Leaders of the Reformation' have a claim to more respect and gratitude than any other body of uninspired men that have ever influenced and adorned the Church." (Cunningham, 'Reformers' P. 1)
Then are not we, who share in the profound convictions that drove the Reformers of the sixteenth century, justified in keeping today, as best we can, as a holy day unto the Lord in thankfulness for those men and what, under Him, they achieved?



Blogger Jenson's Blog said...

I have not read any of these books, but am reading Cunningham's Historical Theology Vol 1. Great book, except I take issue with his idea of the nature of the church - in his mind, it was obviously Presbyterian.

3:26 pm  
Blogger Hiraeth said...

This, of course, is the thing with our veiws of what the early church was like. We all think it was like our own form of Church gov't. So Rome has Peter as the First Pope, etc...

I shall address this at greater length tomorrow.

7:23 pm  

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