Images de page
PDF
ePub

BAPTIST MAGAZINE.

JANUARY, 1828.

THE LIFE OF LUTHER, OR A BRIEF
HISTORY OF the ReformatION IN
GERMANY.

(Extracted from a German Tract published
at Berlin in the year 1817, chiefly as a
Present for the Young, on occasion of
the Celebration of the 300th Anniver-
sary of that Event.*)

MARTIN LUTHER was the son of a poor labourer, Hans Luther, and of Margaret, his wife, who lived, at the period just preceding his birth, at a village named Moere, not far distant from the town of Eisleben. To the latter place the mother had proceeded, for the purpose of making some purchases, when the subject of this memoir was born, on the 10th of : November, 1483. The infant was baptized the following day, in the church called St. Peter's, and he received the name of Martin, from the circumstance of this being what is termed St. Martin's day.

and thus it was in the case of Lu-、 ther.

Little Martin was sent to school

at a very early age. His pious father carried him in his arms to Mansfeld, for he had determined to lose no time in training him up to that which is good. Martin was so delighted with his studies, that his father soon thought it advisable to have him placed in the high school at Magdeburg, and subsequently at Eisnach, where he was to prepare for more serious studies. Here he suffered many privations; his poor

father being unable to make any very suitable provision for his son. Martin, therefore, joined a few other poor scholars in singing hymns in the streets, and his share of the few pence with which they were rewarded, proved some relief to him. It was at this period that the finger of God Who could have thought at that became strikingly visible in the life time, that the offspring of so poor of Luther. At Eisnach, the attena man was to become instrumental tion of an excellent woman, Mrs. in enlightening balf the world! The Conrad Cotta, was peculiarly exdecrees of the Almighty are in- cited in favour of young Luther, scrutable. His works, in the be- from the spirit of piety which ginning, often appear insignificant, seemed to animate him during the but they end in glory. He geneperformance of the devotional exrally performs great things by ercise above alluded to. humble instruments. The man pious lady felt induced to take the through whom the Lord intends to young Christian into her own faaccomplish some grand design, mily, and being thus comfortably must be exercised in humility;

• The Tract has passed through ten editions (up to 1826), comprising 108,000 copies.

This

provided for, he had an ample opportunity of pursuing his studies; and this he did with so much diligence, that he was admitted, at the age of eighteen, into the uniA town of Saxony, the capital of the versity of Erfurth. Here, again, county of Mansfeld, two miles S. E. of Mansfeld, and 12 W. of Halle; about his progress was such, as to procure for him, after the expiration

5,400 inhabitants.

[ocr errors]

of two years, the title of "Magis- this, and Luther was subsequently ter;" which confers the authority filled with regret at having provokof teaching in public. His invari-ed the displeasure of his father. able rule was to prepare and Yet he was forced to remain in the strengthen himself for his pious cloister, and this was for good labours by prayer to the Lord, a purposes-no doubt from an espractice he would often and ur-pecial providence of God. gently recommend to others.

About this period, Frederick, As the instrument, in the hands Prince of Saxony, conceived the of the Lord, through whom those plan of establishing a new univereternal truths, then almost entirely sity at Wittenberg. Dr. Stanpitz, out of practical remembrance, the Prince's chaplain, was commiswere to be re-published to the sioned to appoint the requisite work, he was in the first instance teachers to that establishment. led to a knowledge of them for Knowing Luther, as a young man himself. There was at Erfurth a both of learning and piety, Dr. large library, which Luther fre- Stanpitz called for him to Wittenquented with a view to the en-berg. In the year 1508 he became largement of his own knowledge. a master at the new university. Here he one day found a Latin Here his labours, from the very Bible, and how great was his joy! commencement, were matter of He never had seen one before. astonishment to his colleagues. Opening it at the history of Samuel, Dr. Mellerstadt having heard him he read that portion through at on one occasion, said, "In this once; and as often as he could, man dwells a fine spirit; he rests returned to read his Bible, and firmly on the Bible and the word thus he acquired wisdom and di- of Jesus Christ, which no man can vine instruction. overthrow."

Yet, in order to his proclaiming the truth to the world, it appeared best that he should have an official calling; and this was brought about by the Lord in a wonderful manner. Luther had consented, agreeably to his father's wishes, to embrace the profession of the law. Taking a walk one evening, with a friend named Alexius, they were overtaken by a severe thunder-storm. A flash of lightning struck so near to Luther, that he fell to the ground and remained senseless for some time, whilst his friend was actually struck dead at his side by the same flash. In his great fright, Luther vowed that he would become an ecclesiastic, and enter a cloister. He imagined thereby to please the Lord, and accordingly he went forthwith into the cloister of Augustine at Erfurth, in 1507. His father was much displeased at

Whenever it pleases God to accomplish some divine appointment, all things must combine to work in its favour. Thus it was necessary that Luther should be made acquainted with the great corruption of the church at that time. In the year 1510, the cloister at Wittenberg had some favour to seek at the hands of the Pope. Luther was called upon to proceed to Rome, and this again was a manifestation of God's especial design, for thus Luther became an eyewitness to the wickedness of the clergy there, and to the general wretchedness which prevailed; and at which he felt deeply distressed. He afterwards frequently said, “he would not take one thousand florins not to have seen Rome."

On his return, in 1512, he was commanded by his cloister to become "Doctor of the Holy Scrip

tures." At first he objected, not | various countries, offered to the knowing the mind of God in this people, in the name of the Pope, providence; but he presently yield-and for money, absolution from ed, and the Prince himself defrayed the requisite expences. The result was favourable. Luther now possessed authority and courage, and was able to dispute with effect. On being reproached with the strictness of his teaching, he would reply, "They have made me Doctor of the Holy Scriptures: I have sworn by the Bible; and to the Bible I will hold."

acts of penitence, and forgiveness
of sins. One of these priests,
named John Tetzel, belonging to
the cloister of the Dominicans at
Pirna, was eminently skilful in
these wicked extortions, which he
accomplished by various sorts of
lies and deceptions, pretending he
possessed the power of pardoning,
by order of the Pope, the grossest
sins, even such as they (the peo-
ple) might intend to commit in

sums of money; a truly horrible
state of things.
Such as gave
what he chose to demand, were
furnished by him with letters, tes-
tifying that their sins were pardon-
ed. These letters were called

In the year 1517, Tetzel came into the neighbourhood of Juterbock and Wittenberg, from which places several of the inhabitants went to him to purchase letters of absolution. Luther, upon being

Before he could apply a remedy against the corruption then pre-future, if they would but pay large vailing, it was necessary that he should first become more fully acquainted with its nature and extent; and accordingly it pleased God so to order the course of events, that Luther was commissioned by Dr. Stanpitz, in 1516, to visit all clois-letters of absolution.. ters in Meissin and Thuringen. And what did he discover there! How did he speak and teach! The Bible was what he universally recommended to the clergy, and he insisted on order and regularity. Thus the principal instrument informed of this, taught the people was become prepared and fitted, in his sermons, that no forgiveby various means, for the accom-ness of sin could be purchased for plishment of the great work; and money, but that God was willing by him the other estimable indivi- to give it gratuitously and freely, duals mentioned before, who saw for Jesus Christ's sake, to all those more and more clearly the justness who were penitent and willing to of Dr. Luther's doctrines, and felt amend. Yet several came to him constrained to become his faithful to confess great sins. Dr. Luther coadjutors, were both instructed explained to them the nature of and encouraged to proceed. true repentance, but they replied that they stood in need of none, having procured letters of absolution. Luther, distressed and moved to pity by the deception practised on the people, earnestly told them that their letters could avail them nothing, there being no remission of sins without repentance; whereupon they returned to Tetzel, complaining that they had purchased his letters of absolution in vain. Tetzel became so enraged at this,

But how was the work of reformation carried on? Just like all divine operations; gradually, and by means of particular circumstances favourably combining, although accompanied by many hindrances and sacrifices. Among the nearest and most important of these circumstances, was the great abuse existing with respect to the system of absolutions. Priests at that time, travelling throughout

that he said Luther ought to have | himself, however, wrote to the

his tongue cut out, and then to be burnt alive. And in order to create alarm, he actually caused a scaffold to be erected at Juterbock. But what did Luther do? Confiding firmly in God, whose glory he sought to promote, he published a large book, wherein he explained how a man might obtain forgiveness of sin. Nay, he wrote down ninety-five especial articles on the subject, and affixed them, according to the custom of the universities, to the walls of the palace church at Wittenberg, inviting all men of learning to discuss the matter with him, and to examine whether or not these propositions were true, or whether they were able to disprove his doctrines. This took place on the 31st of October, 1517, which day is in many places celebrated annually as the anniversary of the Reformation, to which great work this was the first great step. The consternation occasioned hereby was so vast, as speedily to reach the Pope, who, in great rage, commanded Dr. Luther to come to Rome, to be punished; but God protected him. He inclined the heart of the pious Frince (of Saxony) not to let him go. He was, however, obliged, in 1518, to appear at Augsburg, to defend himself before a cardinal, by whom Luther was commanded to recant all his opinions, and to confess that he had been teaching error. Dr. Luther replied, "This I cannot do prove to me from the Scriptures that it is so." Being threatened by the cardinal with punishment, he answered, "I have given up my will to the will of God, and though I had four hundred heads, I would lose them all sooner than retract my doctrine of faith." Whereupon, he was for this time set free.

Some time afterwards, the Pope

Prince, complaining of the protection he was extending to Luther, and demanded anew that he should send him to Rome. But the Prince feared God, and complied not with the Pope's desires. Luther's work, meanwhile, made constant progress: he published many good books, particularly sermons, which travelled through the world, and imparted light and comfort unto many.

The

to

The new year, 1519, brought with it a new trial to Luther. Pope sent his Chamberlain, Mr. Von Miltit, to the Prince of Saxony, to try either to gain the Prince in his favour, or to turn the mind of Luther. To meet this messenger, Luther was invited to come Altenburg, and was there urged, in a very friendly manner, to change his mind. Luther replied, "What I have taught I cannot retract, for I have taught the truth. I am willing, however, to desist from attacking Tetzel and his followers, provided they hold their peace, and do not provoke me." Thus outward quietness appeared to be restored, but the enemies of truth. did not rest. Through their opposition, they helped to forward the cause of reform. Dr. Eck, a learned man, caused a disputation to be held at Leipsic, but he could not prevail against Luther and Carlstadt; incensed at which, he proceeded to Rome, where he raised accusations against Luther, so strong as to provoke the Pope, in great fury, to excommunicate Luther, and all who believed his doctrines; permitting and commanding that they might be deprived of honour, office, property, and life. He caused the writings of Luther to be publicly burnt at Rome. But what did Luther, on hearing this? Surprising is the step he now ventured upon. He took

the Pope's bull and others of his papers, and likewise burned them publicly at Wittenberg; thus proving that he cared not for the pretended visible head of the church. God, no doubt, gave him the courage and the strength he thus displayed.

prayer to God, and then was en-
abled, by the strength of the Spirit
of the Lord, boldly to open his
mouth, and to say
"Since your
imperial majesty and your princely
graces desire a round answer, I
will give one that cannot easily be
misunderstood. Save that I be
proved from God's word to have
erred, I neither can nor will retract,
seeing it is not good to do aught
contrary to conscience. Here I
am; I cannot turn; God help me.
Amen!"

and then he was dismissed. Oh, brethren, consider the hardness of the conflict, for his life was in danger; but remember also the glorious victory! Oh, the great power of faith and prayer! The emperor had given his promise to have him safely re-conducted to his home, but now the ambassadors of the Pope urgently entreated the emperor not to keep this promise; to whom the emperor nobly replied, "And though truth and faith should be found no where else in the world, they shall yet be found with the Roman emperor." Do you not again perceive here the finger of God?

Still many another hard conflict this brave reformer was destined to sustain. God was with him throughout, and Him he trusted and obeyed; wherefore God did not forsake him. A new emperor, Charles V. had mounted the throne, The whole assembly was deeply and before him the Prince of agitated. They looked at one anSaxony and Dr. Luther were ac- other with astonishment. At length cused by the Pope; the Doctor Luther was once more invited to being forthwith summoned to ap-retract, but he continued stedfast, pear at the Diet, to be held at requesting he might not be urged Worms, in 1521, before the empe- to act contrary to his conscience; ror, princes, cardinals, and bishops, in council assembled. Before these he was to defend himself. He was advised by many not to go, seeing the great danger attending such a step; but the brave Reformer replied, "I am called; I must proceed in Christ, though there should be at Worms as many devils as there are tiles on the roofs of the houses, yet I must go." Some reminded him of the fate of John Huss, who was burnt alive at a Diet held one hundred years before; to whom he courageously replied, "And if they made a fire, reaching from Wittenberg to Worms, yet I must go; I must defend the Gospel of Jesus." How noble a mind was Luther's! He arrived at Worms on the 16th of April, and immediately on the following day was summoned to appear before the imperial assembly. Here lay the books published by him. He was asked whether he were willing to retract their contents. He requested time for consideration, which was granted till the following day. What must he have felt then! He spent the whole night in

But our hero for the truth had not yet escaped from all dangers. After his departure, the ambassadors succceded so far as to induce the emperor silently to permit his being proclaimed " a banished man;" that is, his life was placed at the mercy of every man who might meet him. Luther was thus in the most imminent danger, but his God was with him. He disposed the heart of the Prince to send for him secretly, whilst yet

« PrécédentContinuer »