The Reformation was essentially a revival of Augustinianism and through it evangelical Christianity again came into its own. It is to be remembered that Luther, the first leader in the Reformation, was an Augustinian monk and that it was from this rigorous theology that he formulated his great principle of justification by faith alone. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and all the other outstanding reformers of that period were thorough-going predestinarians. In his work, "The Bondage of the Will," Luther stated the doctrine as emphatically and in a form quite as extreme as can be found among any of the reformed theologians. Melanchthon in his earlier writings designated the principle of Predestination as the fundamental principle of Christianity. He later modified this position, however, and brought in a kind of "synergism" in which God and man were supposed to co-operate in the process of salvation. The position taken by the early Lutheran Church was gradually modified. Later Lutherans let go the doctrine altogether, denounced it in its Calvinistic form, and came to hold a doctrine of universal grace and universal atonement, which doctrine has since become the accepted doctrine of the Lutheran Church. In regard to this doctrine Luther's position in the Lutheran Church is similar to that of Augustine in the Roman Catholic Church, that is, he is a heretic of such unimpeachable authority that he is more admired than censured.
To a great extent Calvin built upon the foundation which Luther laid. His clearer insight into the basic principles of the Reformation enabled him to work them out more fully and to apply them more broadly. And it may be further pointed out that Luther stressed salvation by faith and that his fundamental principle was more or less subjective and anthropological, while Calvin stressed the principle of the sovereignty of God, and developed a principle which was more objective and theological. Lutheranism was more the religion of a man who after a long and painful search had found salvation and who was content simply to bask in the sunshine of God's presence, while Calvinism, not content to stop there, pressed on to ask how and why God had saved man.
"The Lutheran congregations," says Froude, "were but half emancipated from superstition, and shrank from pressing the struggle to extremes; and half measures meant half-heartedness, convictions which were half convictions, and truth with an alloy of falsehood. Half measures, however, could not quench the bonfires of Philip of Spain or raise men in France or Scotland who would meet crest to crest the princes of the house of Lorraine. The Reformers required a position more sharply defined and a sterner leader, and that leader they found in John Calvin . . . For hard times hard men are needed, and intellects which can pierce to the roots where truth and lies part company. It fares ill with the soldiers of religion when 'the accursed thing' is in the camp. And this is to be said of Calvin, that so far as the state of knowledge permitted, no eye could have detected more keenly the unsound spots in the creed of the Church, nor was there a Reformer in Europe so resolute to exercise, tear out and destroy what was distinctly seen to be false so resolute to establish what was true in its place, and make truth, to the last fibre of it, the rule of practical life."1
This is the testimony of the famous historian from Oxford University. Froude's writings make it plain that he had no particular love for Calvinism; and in fact he is often called a critic of Calvinism. These words just quoted simply express the impartial conclusions of a great scholar who looks at the system and the man whose name it bears from the vantage ground of learned investigation.
In another connection Froude says: "The Calvinists have been called intolerant. Intolerance of an enemy who is trying to kill you seems to me a pardonable state of mind . . . The Catholics chose to add to their already incredible creed a fresh article, that they were entitled to hang and burn those who differed from them; and in this quarrel the Calvinists, Bible in hand, appealed to the God of battles. They grew harsher, fiercer, if you please, more fanatical. It was extremely natural that they should. They dwelt, as pious men are apt to dwell in suffering and sorrow, on the all-disposing power of Providence. Their burden grew lighter as they considered that God had so determined that they must bear it. But they attracted to their ranks almost every man in Western Europe that 'hated a lie.' They were crushed down, but they rose again. They were splintered and torn, but no power could bend or melt them. They abhorred as no body of men ever more abhorred all conscious mendacity, all impurity, all moral wrong of every kind so far as they could recognize it. Whatever exists at this moment in England and Scotland of conscious fear of doing evil is the remnant of the convictions which were branded by the Calvinists into the people's hearts. Though they failed to destroy Romanism, though it survives and may survive long as an opinion, they drew its fangs; they forced it to abandon that detestable principle, that it was entitled to murder those who dissented from it. Nay, it may be said that by having shamed Romanism out of its practical corruption the Calvinists enabled it to revive."2
At the time of the Reformation the Lutheran Church did not make such a complete break with the Catholic Church as did the Reformed. In fact some Lutherans point out with pride that Lutheranism was a "moderate Reformation." While all protestants appealed to the Bible as a final authority, the tendency in Lutheranism was to keep as much of the old system as did not have to be thrown out, while the tendency in the Reformed Church was to throw out all that did not have to be kept. And in regard to the relationship which existed between the Church and the State, the Lutherans were content to allow the local princes great influence in the Church or even to allow them to determine the religion within their bounds a tendency leading toward the establishment of a State Church while the Reformed soon came to demand complete separation between Church and State.
As stated before, the Reformation was essentially a revival of Augustinianism. The early Lutheran and Reformed Churches held the same views in regard to Original Sin, Election, Efficacious Grace, Perseverance, etc. This, then, was the true Protestantism. "The principle of Absolute Predestination," says Hastie, "was the very Hercules-might of the young Reformation, by which no less in Germany than elsewhere, it strangled the serpents of superstition and idolatry; and when it lost its energy in its first home, it still continued to be the very marrow and backbone of the faith in the Reformed Church, and the power that carried it victoriously through all its struggles and trials."3 "It is a fact that speaks volumes for Calvinism," says Rice, "that the most glorious revolution recorded in the history of the Church and of the world, since the days of the Apostles, was effected by the blessings of God upon its doctrines."4 Needless to say, Arminianism as a system was unknown in Reformation times; and not until 1784, some 260 years later, was it championed by an organized church. As in the fifth century there had been two contending systems, known as Augustinianism and Pelagianism, with the later rise of the compromised system of Semi-Pelagianism, so at the Reformation there were two systems, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, with the later rise of Arminianism, or what we might call Semi-Protestantism. In each case there were two strongly opposite systems with the subsequent rise of a compromised system.
1Calvinism, p. 42.
2Calvinism, p. 44.
3History of the Reformation, p. 224.
4God Sovereign and Man Free, p. 14.