Charles Ebert Hay.

Luther, the reformer online

. (page 13 of 14)
Online LibraryCharles Ebert HayLuther, the reformer → online text (page 13 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


by the " l)ut " in the last clau.se. He sent it post-
haste to Luther, who fully endorsed the judgment
of his prince. No pat<'hwork for them! Still, the
Reformer, waited upon l>y a special connnittee
sent from Katisbon, ri*sponded in terms so court-
eous that they were almost mistaken for approval,
and advised his own frientls t«» interpose no oIh
Htacle to the work of the commission. Let tluin
go on. The Papists will surrender everything
that concerns merely tlie salvation of souls, but



rAULKYiNt; WITH Tin: rAi»ii>Ts. 185

tlu'v will j^row stuM>nrn when it comos to the dis-
cussinn of the jmpal authority and the idolatntus
massi'S. The j)roi)lu'('y was fully justilitd. Thu
further eolhxjuy served only to l)rin;r out into
the elearer light the irreconcilable differences
hetween the eontendin;^ j)artit'S. Tiie Minju'ror
(h'sired that the artieles U])on which harmony
had heen attained should he adopted by the Diet ;
hut the j)apal party declared that the doctrines
upon which no a])proach to agreement could be
made were the most important, and the Tojk^
sent messa<:es denouncing the concessions already
made. The wIk-Ic attempt was linally al)andoned,
and the Diet sini})ly conlirmed for an indelinite
iK-riod the religious peace granted at Nureml)erg.

The result of these tedious negotiations was
doubtless, upon the whole, favorable to the cause
of the Reformation. They proved that it was
not personal feeling nor mere stubbornness that
actuated the Reformers, but their devotion to a
great jjrinciple, a principle now more clearly
than ever seen to be totally irreconcilable with
the hierarchical system of Rome. They sug-
gested further, only too ])lainly, that were it not
for her lust of power, Rome herself, as repre-
sented by her foremost theologians, would be
almost j)rei)ared to acknowledge that, in the great
doctrinal battle of a (juarter of a century, Luther
hatl already gained the victory.

It remained only for the Rope to rally his
forces, and in a c(»uncil of his own (o]»ened at
Trent, December loth, 15-15) to repair if possil)lo
the l)reaehes made in ihe doctrinal defences of
his own j»arty and set up a new standard with
which to meet the victorious hosts that now
marched with the enthusiasm of deep conviction
beneath the banners of the Augsburg Confession.



CHAITKII XXII



STANDAHI) (»F MOLALITY.



Thk critir?! of Luther wt-rr ii<>t slow to cliarixj*
upon liis doctrine of jiistirKatinii l.y faitli :i t»ii-
(leney to undermine tlie foundations of moral-
ity. His unsparinj: assaults upon the )»(>asted
j^ood works of the Papists seemed to jrive coun-
tenance to the cliarge of comparative indifference
to the outward dej)ortment.

In nieetin<; this ohjection of Ins adversaries,
Luther found liimsclf in tlie very worthy com-
panionship of tlie Apostle Paul, and was as
little disturheil hy it as was the latter. Koth
alike rejected the idea of hasin*? salvation upon
any work of man. lioth ^ave all the glory to the
unmerited grace of (iod extended to all who sin-
cerely depend upon the all-sulHcient sacrifice of
Christ. Only wilful l)lindness could fail to see
that such faith as they advocated nnist hring
forth gof)d works as surely as a good tree will
hear good fruit.

The assertion of one of Luther's former asso-
ciates, Agricola. tliatgood works are not necessary
at all. gi\ing rise to the annoying Antinomian
Controversy, was refuted )»y Luther to the sat-
isfaction of all hut its author ; and tlie history of
the Trotestiint Church is a standing witne.»*s to tlie
truth, that the faith that justifies is a faith that
ah()un<l- also in the work of the Lord.

Tin* personal life of Luther liimself was ahove
re|)roach. lie was ahstemious in his <liet, hahit-
ually »o abhorhcd in his work as to have little re-
(186)



STANDAKl* OK MoHAI.ITV. 187

rranl for tlio |»lcasurt'S of the palatf. Of dissipa-
ti<»n \\v woiil«l, even as a studi'iit, know nothing.
Purity of thoii<:lit and stronj: control of all carnal
j>assions marked his entire career, and lifted him
ahove the aspersions of his bitterest foes in an age
when tlagrant lapses from the ])ath of social recti-
tude were accounted venial olTences.

He was, however, no ascetic. He was con-
stantly assailing the ]»rtvaKiit error of the day,
which mistook a ])routl austerity for virtue, and
k«i»t the consciences of men in bondage by the
minute nciuirements of the code of monastic self-
mortilication. He claimed for himself and others
the right to enjoy the good things of life, and
.-onutimes .shocked the sensibilities of those who
yet clung to the gloomy ideals of the past by the
boldness f>f his language in defence of personal
lilxTty. H we ourselves are startled l)y the refer-
<nces of his biograj>h('rs to the gifts of beer and
wine that were gratefully accepted, we must re-
member that the idea of total abstinence from
intoxicants for the sake of the weak brother was
foreign to that age, and that Luther himself was
most guarded in the use of alcoholic stimulants —
was, in fact, regarded as a model in this resj>ect.

M'ith a clear conscience, therefore, he could lift
uj) his voice in earnest warning to his countrym«n
against the ravages of the •• drink devil," who
notr>riously held the poor (lerniaiis in >U(h abject
Itondage to his dominion. At the time of Ids
death, he had in contem]>lation the ])reparation of
a special treatise upon tin* subject.

His terril»le arraignment of tlic monastic sys-
tem as a nursery of vice is too well known to
n«|uire n)ore than pa.'^sing mention. Already in
l.")'J(), in his Address to the yulnlitif, he demands
action by those in authority for the supprc^^sion of



188 LITIIEK, TlliC UEFOKMER.

licentiousness ; and one of the first fruits »»f tlie
Kt'fornuition in the territory of Saxony was the
closing of (lisreputahlc |ihu('S of resort

In later years, when i)rinees were his friemls,
his re^Mrd for them could not restrain him from
scathing denunciation of the loose morality of
courts. The growing luxury of the commercial
cities, and the rirkless exjKnditures of even the
j>oor peasants, drew from him indignant protests.
The frivolity of tin' rising generati«»n, tiie tendency
to immodesty in (hrss or in deportment, the
koepiiii: of late hours and the frequenting of
public houses, wen- all fre(|Uent suhjects of un-
sparing condemnation from tin- })ulj»it.

The duty of filial obedience learned in his
early home and strictly enforced in his own
household, he maintained with unllinching
fidelity. The duty of a child to its i»arents he
j»laced far ahove any claim which the Church or
society might have upon it. One •►f the most ser-
ious charges which he hrought against the |)apal
church was that it claimed the right, like the
Pharisees of old, to make this commantlment of
Goil of none effect by its traditions. He regarded
his own njonastic vow on this account an impit)us
one, and sought to make some slight anjcnds for
his early filial impiety hy displaying the most
seru)>ulous regard f(»r his father's wishes through-
out the renjaindcr of his life.

The custom of secret espousals recognized
by the jurists of the day upon the basis of the old
canonical laws, aroused Ids indignation. Mere
children were thus pennitted to enter into the
most solemn ccjmpacl of life without the knowl-
e<lg(? of their parenU*. Luther fiercely assailed
the practic*', and from tin- pulpit l)oldly ctiisurtMl
the juri.»ts and the civil authorities for cncourag-



STANDAHD OK MnUAMTY. 189

in«: such violations of the Fourth C'oniniandnitnt.
Thr latter retorted ant^rily, hut finally were eoin-
pelh'd to sueeunih hefore the tremendous moral
eneriiy of the faithful j)astor, and the ahuse was
aholishe<l.

We have seen how Luther, hy teaching: and
(xainple, honored \hv institution of marriage.
It should not surprise us to find his eonreptioii
• •f this Paered relation somewhat limited hy the
earlier distorted ideas in regard to the normal
relation of the sexes. The eonjugal hond was
reirarded too exelusively in its lower, carnal as-
]»eets, or as a matter of social economy, and the
spiritual relationshi]> uj>on which it should he
hased, and which irives to it its highest sanctity,
had not yet come to due reconriiition. This de-
ficiency, so natural in a carnal age and among
men trained under tlie false system of monastic-
ism, hecame painfully manifest in the assent of
the Reformers to the bigamous marriage of
Philip of Hesse. The latter, having found the
com]>anion of Ids youth uncongenial, proposed,
with her cons<'nt, to wed anctther, and inquired
of Luther and his associates whether the Ciospel
forhids polygamy. They re])lied that sucli a
practice is contrary to the general divine order
and sure to W(^rk incalculahle injury; hut they
cr)uld lind no ex])ress scriptural prohihition.
Tiny inferred from its i)ermission in the lives of
the early patriarchs that it might he allowahle in
exceptional cases. I'hilip naturally inferred that
his own ca.'ic fell under the latter category, and
the ceremony was ]M'rformed in the ])resencc of
Melanchthon. It must he acknowledged that, in
this single instance, the judgment of the Ke-
formers was inferior to that of the ]»rinces and
simple laity and to the ]>««-iti'>?i of the Roman



190 LUTHEH, TlIK KKKOUMKU.

Ca^liolic churcli. They f< 11 int<» the error l»y
failinj; to note tlie iinj)erf((tion in the moral en-
li^'htennient of (ijxl's |)e«)ple in tlie early ages and
through their own iniperfeet eoneei)tion of the
liigh moral unity involved in the marriage rela-
tionship. Th«' unfortunate afTair brought per-
plexity and shame upon all connected with it,
and, as Thilij) was the leader of the Smalcald
League, it cast dis(r«'<lit upon the entire cause of
the Protestants. Mclanclithon's distress on ac-
count of it very nearly co.st him his life. Lutlier
afterwards saw his error, but found consolation in
the fact that lie had acted conscientiously.

In estimating the zeal of the Reformer for i)rac-
tical morality, we must remember that it was
not his chief providential mission to rebuke
the o])en vici'S of his day, but rather to uncover
the hidden wickedness that lurked beneath the
boasted superior holiness of the }>rofessed teachers
of morality ami religion. It was only when this,
his peculiar work, had been alm<>st accomjdisluMl,
and his eniTgies concentratetl more and more upon
his own more immediate surroundings, that he
came into really close contact with the vices of the
rude multitude. His cjistigations of these ofTenses
among his own i)eoj)le was then fully as unsparing
as had Ix-en his <lenunciation of his bitterest
enemies. Nor was his vehemence in vain. The
authorities of the city and Tniversity adopte<l
more stringent measures for thi' restraint of dissi-
pation. Thus, thrnugh all the yeai*s of conllict
with ini«|uity, whether found lurking in the dark
or parading in the light of day, this Man of Faitli
was continually l>y his intense moral earni'stness
overthrowing the works of the devil.



CHAPTKR XXIII.



IIOMK LIKE.



No portraituro of Lutlier can l»o com])l(t(' wliich
docs not Itrinir distinctly into view tlic husband
and father, tindin<^ daily rcfrcslnncnt in the circle
of loved ones in his humble hut always hospitable
home. The monastery in which his active career
had been be<run remained his j)lace of residence,
and became his i)ersonal property by pft of the
Elector John shortly before the hitter's death.
Its construction accordinj^ to the ori<,nnal plan had
never been com])leted, and extensive ro])airs were
frecjuently nccessar}'. Yet it was commodious, and
connwtcd with it was an excellent garden. T«)
its bare walls we have seen Luther lead his brave-
hearted Katie, but, by the blessing of God, the
dark spectre of want was ere long banished. The
annual salary from the electoral treasury was from
time to time increased, and gifts from various
sources added to the cipiipment of the home.
Additional land was bought immediately adjoin-
ing and in the neighboring village of Zulsdorf.
Luther himself estimated the value of his estate
shortly before his death at al^out 1(),U(KJ ll«»rins,
his income from other sources being at the time
40() florins. He might, as his wife was accus-
tomed to lament, have been (piite rich had he
been like other men; but he always refused to
accept any m<»ney for his books, although others
m.idr fnitunes liv the sale of them. His free-
handed generosity was known far and wide, an<l
not seldom abused. Judged bv ordinary stand-
(V.)\)



l'^2 LITHKH, THK KKKOKMEU.

nrds, his donations t<> tlio needy wen- far ])eyoiul
liis ability. To the protests of his fnipd wife he
was areiistonied to replv : " W'c liave a rich
Father."

To his own household he weleomed an aunt
of his wife, Bcveral children of a deceased sister
named KaiifTman, at onetime four orphans whose
parents had died durinj: a siepe of j)estilence,
tutors of his ^n-owin.L' children, students at the
Tniversity, and tlie fu^dtive wife of the Elector of
Jkandenl)urfr. His friends often made lontr visits,
jiassin^ strangers were always cordially welcome<l,
escaj)ed monks and nuns found a comfortahle
refuge until homes or employment could he
secured for them, and there were frequt^nt celebra-
tions of fannly birthdays and sindlar occasions of
festivity.

The lunden of all this hospitality fell U])on the
faithful Katie, whose tireless enerpy and wise
econ<nny alone could save the household from
bankruj)tcy. She found especial deli}_dit in her
"kinplom," as Luther ])layfully called it, at
Zulsdorf, witli its cattle, poultry and croj)s ; while
Luther himself was content to amuse himself in
the nu)nasterv jjarden, <rraftini; the trees and
watching the birds. They both enjoyed hshing
in a litth' ])ond near the monastery. lb* himself
bore loving testimony to lier lidehty in minist»'r-
ing to all his wants, and his cordial lettei-s, written
to her whenevtT duty called him from his hom<*,
give al)undant <'vidence at onc<' of Ins genuine re-
spect for her charactiT and liis sincere alTection.

Six children were borne to them, of whom
Elizabeth died in infancy and ^bigdalena at the age
of thirti-en. The father was in each case heart-
broken. Tbe scene at the dcath-bcd of Mag-
dalcna wa.s dee]»ly touching. Lending tindt riy



HoMK I.IFK. 193

over luT couch, the man before wlioin princes
• jiuiilcd hinisclf trembled like a leaf. '' Lena,
dear," he said, "you would like to stay with
your father here, and yi-t you will ^dadly «x<> to
your Father in heaven." " Yes, dearest fatlier,"
she replied, "just as (iod wills." ^Vith stream-
ing; tears he then prayed for her release from pain
and weakness, and, as she breathed her last,
turned to comfort the weeping family. " I liave
^'iven heaven a saint," he exclaimed. " O, that
we mi^zht die thus ! Such a death I should wel-
come this very hour." No other event in his
life so (lc<'})ly moved him. He sou^'ht to allay
his j^rief by reliecting upon her happy state, but
there were times when his tears could be stayi'd
only by his swelling indignation at the ravages of
death, and of him that hath the power of death,
the devil. Thus even sorrow could but stimulate
to more earnest warfare against the ])rince of evil.

Tlie daily intercourse of the Reformer with
his children was unrestrained and cordial, lie
dilighted in watching their innocent ]»ranks,
rompcfl with them, t(jl(l them wondf.'rful tales
emi)ellished by the rich hues of his ever-vivid im-
agination, and in every way sought to make their
early years as bright as his own had been stern
and cheerless. He taught them faithfully from
tile liibleand the catechism, and encouraged them
in the cultivation of whatever musical talent they
j)ossessed, his own lute and clear tenor voice
always leading in the family chorus.

The inlluence of the peaceful evening hours
thus Kj)ent in njaintaining the joyous, hopeful
spirit of the great witness for the truth, who
found in the world without little but corruption
and strife, can scarcely be overestimate*!. Luther
as a lonely monk would have been crusiied with
18



VJi LITHKH, THK HKFOIJMKK.

discourajjomcnt beneath the burdens wliich Luther
as thr hajipy head of a Christian home carri«Kl so
liplitly. Here he was kept in touch with what is
])uri'st and best in liuman life. Here his hinder
heart found sympathy and poured out in return
more than it received. Here, as in a Httle world,
he studied human nature and learned to speak
words of comfort and clieer that echoed in many
other homes when clouds of sorrow lowered.

Here, too, was manifested most clearly the sin-
cere, child-like piety of the man. Merrily and
unreproved miglit pass the jest and sonp from lij)
to lij), but the Unseen Presence was never for-
gotten in that home. The most trifling,' incidents
were made to teach lessons of reverence and trust.
The Scriptures were quoted naturally and aptly as
illustratinjx all manner of j)assin^ thenn^. Kvery
eveninj^ closed with j)rayer, and at nine o'clock,
however popes and emperors mi.^ht ra<:e without,
the sentiment of David found literal fultilment in
the experience of this royal servant of Daviil's
Lord: "I will both lay me down in peace an<l
sleep; for thou, Lord, onlv makest me dwell in
safety.*'

The results of this home training, as seen in
the lives of Luther's < hildrrn, wen- not disappoint-
ing. None of them wius endowe<l with extraor-
dinary talent. John became a lawyer, meeting'
with a fair measure of success in his callinir.
Martin studied for the ministry, but never assumed
its active responsibilities, dying at the age of
tliirty-three years. Paul ln'i-ame a physician of
considerai)le not<', filling j)ositions of trust at sev-
cnd courts. Margaret was married to a Prussian
no!)leman, Von Kuidieim. They all !)ore excel-
lent reputations, and lived as worthy members of
tb" <1iurch, enjoyini' ;ind i»<'t il.n-iiP' \]m> lilurty



IIOMK I. IKK. 195

of conscience won for thoni, as for many millions,
hy the dauntless eoura«;e of their revered father.

Nor should we fail to thank (Jod ft)r the exam-
ple of that Christian home. It was a city set
ui>«.n a hill, whose li;;lit slione far and wide, dis-
I.ellin(]j clouds of error which had darkened thX3
nations for centuries. It did more i)erhai)s than
even Luther's ponderous words to crush out the
"doctrine of devils" which dared to cast dis-
honor ui)on tliat state which (lod had distinctly
pronounced holy. It encouraged thousands of
j)riests to estahlish family altars, and emancipated
multitudes from the stilling' moral atmos])here of
convents. It pive hack in the Church, instead of
the prying j)riest, the sympathizing friend and
pastor. L<3fty indeed was the vocation of the
man, who not only j)ointed the way to a heavenly
home, hut whose intluence was destined to dot the
sinful earth with domestic temples resounding
through the ages with carols of peace and anthems
of praise.



CHAPTER XXIV.



SICKNESS AND DEATH.



'I'liE lIcTriilcan tasks aoconiplisliod by T.utlicr
un<l(T nianifoM distractions aiul uikKt burdens of
rcHponsihility such as had rested upon no other
champion of the truth since the days of the
apostles, imply the ])ossession of a bodily constitu-
tion naturally vigorous. He could scarcely,
however, have Ixen pronounced at any stajze of
his career a healthy man. The excessive rigor of
his monastic days had told upon him. His
pale face and ha*z<:ard frame were a subject
of comment when he stood before the Diet at
Worms. The seasons of deep spiritual struggle
through which he jKissed at intervals had j>n)bably
some c(mnection with incipient physical disorder.
We recall the helpless condition which so often
interrupted his labors at Coburg in lo.'U). From
that date onward his bodily ailments increased,
and he was coinjK'llcd t<» (•••ndition all liis engage-
ments for travel or literary labors uj»on the state
of his health. Again and again, at important
junctures — while in the pulpit, upon his journeys,
or engaged in negotiations witli representatives
from distiuit churclies — he wjis suddenly overcome
with intense pain «»r dizziness. Several times he
appeared to be at the ]>oint of death, and bade
solemn farewi 11 to bis family an<l assix iates. I>ur-
ing the last twenty years of his life theshadi»ws
of the apjiroaching en«l were seldom lifted. To
liis friends he habitually s|>oke of hiniself as an
oM an<l worn-out man, and often sighctl for de-
livrniiiri fn.iii an <vil world.

(190)



SICKNESS AM) DKATII. 1!>7

Yet of tliis no trace is to he found in the cliar-
acttT of liis polemical or devotional writings.
AVhcn he «rras])rd his ])vn for ])ractical work, he
was ever the same Luther still. His hand wa.s
steady, and liis t^itat soul poured itself out in
clear analysis, in terrihle invective, or in the joy-
ous utterances of a triumphant faith. His hody
was but a feeble instrument, (juite for<^otten when
the glowin<^ sj)irit rose to deal with the great
themes of salvation and eternal life. His latest
writings are in eviTV respect as vigorous as any
which })rcceded them.

The clear conviction that the hour of his de-
j)arture was rapidly a|))>roaching had, however, a
marked influence upon his disposition toward
those whose views differed in some respects
irom his own, but who yet accepted the funda-
mental doctrines of liuman helplessness and divine
grace. With the Roman Catholic Church he had
no longer the faintest desire of reconeilation. He
recognized more clearly than any other in that age
tlie imj)assable chasm that separated him from
the ])apal fold. It was not only the glaring
abuses of that Church against which he i)rotested,
but the entire conception upon which it was based
he regarded as the j)roduct of impious deception
and human pride. In his dying hours he beggeil
his friends to pray the Lord to i)rotect His Church
against the mad assaults of the Poj)e and his
<ounselors then assembled in the Council at
Trent. JUit, from the time when the truth had
been so boldly confessed at Augsliurg and com-
j>romisc with extreme error reje<ted at Marburg,
the desire for harmony with all who held the
essential truths of the (iospel grew constantly
stronger, until it became the passion of his soul.
He longed to sec the emancipated hosts of



198 LUTHER, TIIK REFORMER.

Chrises truo followers hound in loving fellowship
hefore his eyes should elose in death. Tiiis in-
ward yearning in tlie mighty soul in which the
Kefonnation itself had its hirth found concrete
expression in the " Wittenherg Concord," which
remains for all time a monumental witness to the
hroad spirit of hrothcrly love which lay heneath
the often stern exterior of the great Reformer.

Ill the closing years of his life, however, the
old spirit of distrust was re-awakened. Inci-
dental references in his writings of the years
looD— 11 to the tlieory of Zwingli, whose views he
regarded as ahandoned by all hut a few of the
latter's inunediate followers, aroused angry j)ro-
tcsts in Switzerland. The discussion which fol-
lowed developed the fact that some German th»-o-
logians still inclined more to the views of Zwingli
than to his own. It was whispered that some of
his intimate a.'^sociatc^, notably Melanchthon,
were no longer sound u]>on the doctrine of the
Ixjrd's Suj)per. When the custom (»f elevating
the host was (juietly discontinued in the ^^'itten-
burg church, the re]>ort was circulated that even
Luther himself had abandoned the d(K'trine of
the bodily presence of (^irist in the sacrament.
This was too much for the brave, bold man.
His charity was being misinterpri'ted. The ]>eac»'
which he had ailvocated seemed, after all, to
be basecl ujton hy])ocrisy. His own testimony
wa.s being beclouded. He shuddi-red to think
that death might overtake him while apparently
blindly loitering in the camp of the enemy. It
must not l>e. With terrific energy lie hurled
new thunderbolts to right and left, regardless of
resulting ali. nations. He rejected all overtures of
j)eace, and njoiced tlie more, the more l»itterly he
was denounccHl by the '*Sacramentariaii.s." He



SICKNESS AND DEATH. 199

wanted all the world t<» know that tlicst* rationalistic


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13

Online LibraryCharles Ebert HayLuther, the reformer → online text (page 13 of 14)