When I read about the Reformation I am always drawn to consider Philpot’s words. He said that the Reformation started in the soul of a sinner, in the soul of Martin Luther.
“Luther was not so much a Reformer as the Reformation; in other words, that the abuses, the errors, the burdens against which he testified by voice and pen with such amazing energy and power, were errors and burdens under which his own soul had well near sunk in despair; and that the truths which he preached with such force and feeling had been brought into his heart by the power of God, whose mighty instrument he was. Thus as error after error was opened up in his soul by the testimony of the Spirit in the word of truth and in his conscience, he denounced them in “thoughts that breathe and words that burn;” and similarly, as one blessed truth after another was revealed to his heart and applied to his soul, he declared it with voice, and pen dipped in the dew of heaven.
He did not come forth as a theologian fully furnished with a scheme of doctrines, or as a warrior armed at all points, but advanced slowly, as himself a learner, from one position to another, gradually feeling his way onward; taking up, therefore, no ground on which he had not been clearly set down, and which he could not firmly maintain from the express testimony of God.”
And how much we need to remember this; how much I need the errors in my soul to be opened up one by one by the Spirit. How much I need one blessed truth after another to be revealed to my heart and applied to my soul. How much I still need to learn.
This is the heart of the Reformation, the grace of God enlightening the eyes of sinners, and transforming them by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.
Philpot reminds us that,
“this gradual progress of his mind involved him at times in contradictions and inconsistencies, not to say mistakes and errors, which his enemies have availed themselves of to sully and tarnish one of the noblest characters, both naturally and spiritually, that the world has ever seen. It is the distinguishing feature of low, base minds to fix their eyes on the blemishes of those noble characters, whose excellencies they cannot understand for want of similar noble feelings in themselves. Any one can censure, criticize, and find fault; but any one cannot admire, value, or rightly appreciate, for to do so requires a sympathy with that which deserves admiration. Envy and jealousy may prompt the detracting remark; but humility and a genuine approval of what is excellent for its own sake will alone draw forth the admiring expression. Admiration, or what a popular writer of the present day calls “hero-worship,” should not indeed blind us to the faults of great men.”
If Reformation starts within the soul of men, then we will always be in need of a reformation until we will be glorified.
Philpot closes his article by encouraging his readers to read three books:
1. The Book of Providence; and this he reads to good purpose, when he sees written down line by line the providential dealings of God with him, and a ray of Divine light gilds every line.
2. The Word of God; and this he reads to profit, when the blessed Spirit applies it with power to his soul.
3. The Book of his own heart; and this he studies with advantage, when he reads in the new man of grace the blessed dealings of God with his soul, and in the old man of sin and death, enough to fill him with shame and confusion of face, and make him loathe and abhor himself in dust and ashes.
As we remember and take time to commemorate the Reformation, let us take time to see within our own hearts and see where is it that we need a reformation.
More on the Reformation: