Protest and affirmation

Still more prevalent is the view, by which the essence of the Reformation is placed in the emancipation of the human mind subjectively considered; that is, in the triumphant assertion of the liberty of faith and conscience, as well as of unlimited scientific inquiry. Rightly understood this to be sure has its truth; but as commonly represented, it is a sheer caricature of history. It is made to mean very often, for instance, a full liberation of the subject from every sort of restraint, the overthrow of all authority as such. But of such escape from discipline and rule, the Reformers had no thought. Their object was rather to bind man to the grace of God, and to lead his conscience captive to God’s word. In every view, the act of protesting is not the first and main constituent in the Reformation, but the result only of a positive affirmation going before. This last accordingly is the great point, from which alone its true importance springs. Only in connection with such an original positive life principle, and as flowing from it, can deliverance from the papacy, and the restitution of private judgment to its rights, find any right sense, any religious value. Apart from this connection, they fall over to the province of infidelity, with which the Reformation has nothing to do. (Philip Schaff, The Principle of Protestantism)

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