As regards the confusion and the checks which it brought upon itself, we must content ourselves with referring to a few leading points. Firstly, Luther would admit nothing but the Gospel, nothing but what frees and binds the consciences of men, what everyone, down to the man-servant and the maidservant, can understand. But then he not only took the old dogmas of the Trinity and the two natures as part of the Gospel—he was not in a position to examine them historically—and even framed new ones, but he was absolutely incapable of making any sound distinction between “doctrine” and Gospel; in this respect falling far behind Paul. The necessary result was that intellectualism was still in the ‘ ascendant; that a scholastic doctrine was again set up as necessary to salvation; and that two classes of Christians once more arose: those who understand the doctrine, and the minors who are dependent on the others’ understanding of it.
Secondly, Luther was convinced that that alone is the “Word of God” whereby a man is inwardly born anew—the message of the free grace of God in Christ. At the highest levels to which he attained in his life he was free from every sort of bondage to the letter. What a capacity he had for distinguishing between law and Gospel, between Old and New Testament, nay, for distinguishing in the New Testament itself! All that he would recognise was the kernel of the matter, clearly revealed as it is in these books, and proving its power by its effect on the soul. But he did not make a clean sweep. In cases where he had found the letter important, he demanded submission to the “it is written”; and he demanded it peremptorily, without recollecting that, where other sayings of the Scriptures were concerned, he himself had declared the “it is written” to be of no binding force.