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It is quite obvious that there was a good deal of scandal about Luther's relations with Catherine before they married. Your example is permanently quoted by those who visit brothers, is one of the typical comments. Even his best friend, Melanchthon, has to admit with a sigh that Luther was more than a reckless man.
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Some time later Luther explains: I have shut the mouth of those who slandered me and Catherine von Bora. Though, at other times, the Devil is once more the main explanation of this unholy marriage. I too am married, and to a nun. I could have refrained had I not special reasons to decide me. But I did it to defy the Devil and his host, the objectors, the princes and bishops, since they were all foolish enough to forbid the clergy to marry. And I would with willing heart create an even greater scandal, if I knew of anything else better calculated to please God and to put them in a rage.
Except in England. Yes, it is true. The researches and advances made in Luther studies, the German Reformation, and history during the last four decades have been utterly and completely ignored in Britain. It is not surprising that such a quite and anything but excitable philosopher as Jacques Maritain could, in a recent article on Luther, refer to Anglo-modern stupidity.
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In no sphere is this so clear as in Luther's attitude towards the State, as in his commands governing relations between the ruling class and the working classes. The line of demarcation is clearly the year 1525. And before we attempt a more theoretical interpretation of Luther's political teachings, let us look for a short while at the historical facts.
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WE have seen how contradictory was Luther's character, how differently he often acted from what he taught. But nowhere is contradiction stronger, or at least does it appear more marked than in Luther's political teachings. The reason for this seems to me obvious. For all we usually look at is the young Luther, the Luther who fought so bravely the Church of Rome, the Luther who acted (even if the words are merely a legend) according to the principle, Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me, Amen.
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Let us take a glance at Luther's death-mask, a representation that cannot be faked, obtained by a method of portraiture which has left us many a lovely picture of great men. In Luther's case we get a shock. Funck-Brentano speaks with much restraint of Luther's aggressive vulgarity. And Maritain, who certainly is not given to polemical language, says he looks surprisingly bestial. Anger, calumny, hatred and lying, love of beer and wine, obsession with filth and obscenityit all pours out in a flood.
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What now was Luther's attitude in these crucial hours? The peasants looked at him as their leader. They felt confident that he, the great lover of Christian freedom and brotherhood, could be relied upon. But Luther's reply to the twelve articles was somewhat ambiguous. He gave to this reply the title Exhortation to Peace regarding the Twelve Articles. Brother Martin here showed the greatest circumspection. His reply to the overlords as well as to the peasants, in its fundamentals at all events is neither fish nor fowl. The peasants were certainly wrong, but the overlords were not right (Funck-Brentano).
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Neither Holbein nor Durer ever painted Lutherwhich is odd since they were his contemporaries. On the other hand, we have many pictures of Luther by Lucas Cranach, who was an ardent admirer of Dr. Martin. These pictures, showing a gentle, smiling, benevolent, slender, and scholarly saint are familiar to most of us. Hundreds of thousands of reproductions exist all over the world. On German stamps and buildings we see the portrait. But the drawback is that Cranach suppressed what he considered to be defects in his sitter.