Thirdly, grace is the forgiveness of sins, and therefore the assurance of possessing a God of grace, and life, and salvation. How often Luther repeated this, always with the addition that what was efficacious here was the Word—that union of the soul with God in the trust and childlike reverence which God’s Word inspires; it was a personal relation which was here involved. But the same man allowed himself to be inveigled into the most painful controversies about the means of grace, about communion and infant baptism. These were struggles in which he ran the risk of again exchanging his high conception of grace for the Catholic conception, as well as of sacrificing the fundamental idea that it is a purely spiritual possession that is in question, and that, compared with Word and faith, all else is of no importance. What he here bequeathed to his Church has become a legacy of woe.
Fourthly, the counter-Church which, as was inevitable, rapidly arose in opposition to the Roman Church, and under the pressure which that Church exercised, perceived, not without reason, that its truth and its title lay in the re-establishment of the Gospel. But whilst the counter-Church privily identified the sum and substance of its doctrine with the Gospel, the thought also stole in surreptitiously: We, that is to say, the particular Churches which had now sprung up, are the true Church, Luther, of course, was never able to forget that the true Church was the sacred community of the faithful; but still he had no clear ideas as to the relation between it and the visible new Church which had now arisen, and subsequent generations settled down more and more into the sad misunderstanding: We are the true Church because we have the right “doctrine.” This misunderstanding, besides giving rise to evil results in self- infatuation and intolerance, still further strengthened that mischievous distinction between theologians and clergy on the one side, and the laity on the other, on which we have already dwelt. Not, perhaps, in theory, but certainly in practice, a double form of Christianity arose, just as in Catholicism; and in spite of the efforts of the Pietistic movement, it still remains with us today. The theologian and the clergyman must defend the whole doctrine, and be orthodox; for the layman it suffices if he adheres to certain leading points and refrains from attacking the orthodox creed. A very well-known man, as I have been lately told, expressed the wish that a certain inconvenient theologian would go over to the philosophical faculty; “for then,” he said, “instead of an unbelieving theologian we should have a believing philosopher.” Here we have the logical outcome of the contention that in the evangelical Churches, too, doctrine is something laid down for all time, and that in spite of being generally binding it is a matter of so much difficulty that the laity need not be expected to defend it. But if we persist on this path, and other confusions become worse confounded and take firmer root, there is a risk of Protestantism becoming a sorry double of Catholicism. I say a sorry double, because there are two things which Protestantism will never obtain, namely, a pope and monastic priests. Neither the letter of the Bible nor any belief embodied in creeds can ever produce the unconditional authority which Catholics possess in the pope;