Again, it is generally supposed that Luther was exceptionally brilliant; in reality, however, it seems that reason was very weak in him. If by intelligence we mean capacity to grasp the universal, to discern the essential, to follow humbly the wanderings and refinement of reality, then he was not intelligent but shallow -- stubborn especially. But he had the understanding of the particular and practical to an amazing degree, and an astute and vigorous ingenuity, skill to detect evil in others, the art of finding a thousand ways out of a difficulty and of crushing his opponent.
Luther's inadequate knowledge of the writings of St Augustine is evident. In passing, however, Luther might be quoted briefly: "St Augustine often erred: he cannot be trusted. Many of his writings are worthless. It was a mistake to place him among the saints, for he had not the true faith." And again: “The Fathers knew nothing about the text of Saint Paul concerning widows who have broken their first faith - primum fidem. Augustine thinks that by primum fidem, the apostle means the vow of chastity; but I understand the text better than a thousand Augustines. This Father should have been sent to school; the Fathers are blockheads who have only written fooleries upon celibacy..."
Scholasticism at this time had declined from its golden age in the thirteenth century, and at best the Scholasticism with which Luther was acquainted was then in a state of decadence, having lost all its vitality and freshness. Known only under the unending subtleties and disputatious distinctions of the nominalist Occam, Scholasticism did not appeal to Luther. That the education of the clergy at that time was poor was recognized by the Council of Trent when it for the first time provided for the formal education of ecclesiastical students in seminaries as we now understand that term.
There is very little known with regard to Luther’s inward development and the manner in which he practiced the virtues of the religious life during the first four or five years at Wittenberg up to 1517, with the exception that the process of his falling away from the Church's teaching was already accomplished in Luther’s mind before he began the dispute about indulgences with the Dominican friar, John Tetzel; secondly, a certain moral change, the outlines of which can be identified, went hand in hand with his theological views, indeed, if anything, preceded them; the signs of such an ethical change are apparent in his growing indifference to good works, and to the aims and rules of conventual life, and in the quite extraordinary self-confidence he displayed, more especially when disputes arose.
(Continued on the next page.)