The plan of a great human life is not something which the man makes –– it is something which makes the man. The wide and full-formed plans which men make before they begin to act, are always failures. The achievements of the great masters in the moral revolutions of our race have invariably, at first, had the semblance of something fragmentary. The men themselves were not conscious of what their own work tended to. Could they have seen the full meaning of their own first acts, they would have shrunk back in dismay, pronouncing impossible those very things with the glorious consummation of which their names are now linked forever. So was it with Luther in the work of the Reformation. The plan of it was not in his mind when he began it. That plan in its vastness, difficulties, and perils would have appalled him, had it been brought clearly before him. So was it also in regard to his greatest Reformatory labor –– the translation of the Bible. At a period when he would have utterly denied his power to produce that very translation which the genius and learning of more than three centuries have failed to displace, he was actually unconsciously taking the first step toward its preparation. Like all great fabrics, Luther’s translation was a growth.
Charles Porterfield Krauth
The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology