Further, Protestantism was forced by its opposition to Catholicism to lay exclusive emphasis on the inward character of religion, and upon “faith alone”; but to formulate one doctrine in sharp opposition “to another is always a dangerous process. The man in the street is not sorry to hear that “good works” are unnecessary, nay, that they constitute a danger to the soul. Although Luther is not responsible for the convenient misunderstanding that ensued, the inevitable result was that in the reformed Churches in Germany from the very start there were accusations of moral laxity and a want of serious purpose in the sanctification of life. The saying “If ye love me, keep my commandments “was unwarrantably thrust into the background. Not until the Pietistic movement arose was its central importance once more recognised. Up till then the pendulum of the conduct of life took a suspicious swing in the contrary direction, out of opposition to the Catholic “justification by works.” But religion is not only a state of the heart; it is a deed as well; it is faith active, in love and in the sanctification of life. This is a truth with which evangelical Christians must become much better acquainted, if they are not to be put to shame.
There is another point closely connected with what I have just mentioned. The Reformation abolished monasticism, and was bound to abolish it. It rightly affirmed that to take a vow of lifelong asceticism was a piece of presumption; and it rightly considered that any worldly vocation, conscientiously followed in the sight of God, was equal to, nay, was better than, being a monk. But something now happened which Luther neither foresaw nor desired: “monasticism,” of the kind that is conceivable and necessary in the evangelical sense of the word, disappeared altogether. But every community stands in need of personalities living exclusively for its ends. The Church, for instance, needs volunteers who will abandon every other pursuit, renounce “the world,” and devote themselves entirely to the service of their neighbour; not because such a vocation is “a higher one,” but because it is a necessary one, and because no Church can live without also giving rise to this desire. But in the evangelical Churches the desire has been checked by the decided attitude which they have been compelled to adopt towards Catholicism. It is a high price that we have paid; nor can the price be reduced by considering, on the other hand, how much simple and unaffected religious fervour has been kindled in home and family life. We may rejoice, however, that in the past century a beginning has been made in the direction of recouping this loss. In the institution of deaconesses and many cognate phenomena the evangelical Churches are getting back what they once ejected through their inability to recognise it in the form which it then took. But it must undergo a much ampler and more varied development.