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THE LIFE OF LUTHER, OR A BRIEF | and thus it was in the case of Lu- ,
HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION IN ther.
Little Martin was sent to school (Ertracted from a German Tract published at Berlin in the year 1817, chiefly as a
at a very early age. His pious Present for the Young, on occasion of father carried him in his arnis to the Celebration of the 300th Anniver- Mansfeld, for he had determined sry of that Erent.*)
to lose no time in training him up MARTIN LUTHER was the son of to that which is good. Martin was a poor labourer, Hans Luther, and so delighted with his studies, that of Margaret, his wife, who lived, his father soon thought it advisable at the period just preceding his to have him placed in the high birth, at a village named Moere, school at Magdeburg, and subsepot far distant from the town of quently at Eisnach, where he was Eisleben. † To the latter place to prepare for more serious studies. the mother had proceeded, for the Here he suffered many privations ; purpose of making some pur
father being unable to chases, when the subject of this make any very suitable provision memoir was born, on the 10th of for his son. Martin, therefore, Sovember, 1483. The infant was joined a few other poor
scholars baptized the following day, in the in singing hymns in the streets, church called St. Peter's, and he and his share of the few pencé received the name of Martin, from with which they were rewarded, the circumstance of this being what proved some relief to him. It was is termed St. Martin's day. 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
of Luther. At Eisnach, the atten
poor a 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 Lüther, 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 gene- performance of the devotional exrally performs great things by ercise above alluded to. This 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; provided for, he had an ample
opportunity of pursuing his studies; • The Tract has passed through ten edi- and this he did with so much dilitions (up to 1826), comprising 108,000 gence, that he was admitted, at copies.
the age of eighteen, into the uni+ A town of Saxony, the capital of the county of Mansfeld, iwo miles s.e. of versity of Erfurth. Here, again, Mansfeld, and 12 'w, of Halle; about his progress was such, as to pro5,400 inbabitants.
cure for him, after the expiration 3d Sorin
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 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, 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 worki, 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.
over throw." Yet, in order to his proclaiming Whenever it pleases God to acthe truth to the world, it appeared complish some divine appointment, best that he should have an official all things must combine to work in calling; and this was brought about its favour. Thus it was necessary by the Lord in a wonderful manner. that Luther should be made acLuther had consented, agreeably to quainted with the great corruption his father's wishes, to embrace the of the church at that time. In the profession of the law. Taking a year 1510, the cloister at Wittenwalk one evening, with a friend berg had some favour to seek at named Alexius, they were over the hands of the Pope. Luther taken by a severe thunder-storm. was called upon to proceed to A flash of lightning struck so near Rome, and this again was a manito Luther, that he fell to the ground festation of God's especial design, and remained senseless for some for thus Luther became an eyetime, whilst his friend was actually witness to the wickedness of the struck dead at his side by the clergy there, and to the general same flash. In his great fright, wretchedness which prevailed; and Luther vowed that he would be- at which he felt deeply distressed. come an ecclesiastic, and enter a He afterwards frequently said, “he cloister. He imagined thereby to would not take one thousand florins please the Lord, and accordingly not to have seen Rome.” he went forth with into the cloister On his return, in 1512, he was of Augustine at Erfurth, in 1507. comm
manded by his cloister to beIlis father was much displeased at come “ 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 acts of penitence, and forgiveness the requisite expences. The result of sins. One of these priests, was favourable. Luther now pos- named John Tetzel, belonging to sessed authority and courage, and the cloister of the Dominicans at was able to dispute with effect. Pirna, was eminently skilful in On being reproached with the strict- these wicked extortions, which he ness of his teaching, he would accomplished by various sorts of reply, “ They have made me Doc- lies and deceptions, pretending he tor of the Holy Scriptures : I have possessed the power of pardoning, sworn by the Bible; and to the by order of the Pope, the grossest Bible I will hold."
sins, even such as they (the peoBefore he could apply a remedy ple) might intend to commit in against the corruption then pre- future, if they would but pay large vailing, it was necessary that he sums of money ; a truly horrible should first become more fully ac- state of things. Such as gave quainted with its nature and extent; what he chose to demand, were and accordingly it pleased God so furnished by him with letters, testo order the course of events, that tifying that their sins were pardonLuther was commissioned by Dr. ed. These letters were called Stanpitz, in 1516, to visit all clois- letters of absolution. . ters in Meissin and Thuringen. And In the year 1517, Tetzel came what did he discover there! How into the neighbourhood of Juterdid he speak and teach! The Bible bock and Wittenberg, from which was what he universally recom- places several of the inhabitants mended to the clergy, and he in- went to him to purchase letters of sisted on order and regularity. absolution. Luther, upon being
Thus the principal instrument informed of this, taught the people was become prepared and fitted, in his sermons, that no forgive. by 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
But how was the work of refor- that they stood in need of none, mation carried on? Just like all having procured letters of absoludivine operations; gradually, and tion. Luther, distressed and moved by means of particular circum- to pity by the deception practised stances favourably combining, al- on the people, earnestly told them though accompanied by many hin- that their letters could avail them drances and sacrifices. Among nothing, there being no remission the nearest and most important of of sins without repentance ; wherethese circumstances, was the great upon they returned to Tetzel, comabuse existing with respect to the plaining that they had purchased system of absolutions. "Priests at his letters of absolution in vain. that time, travelling throughout Tetzel became so enraged at this,
that he said Luther ought to have himself, however, wrote to the his tongue cut out, and then to be Prince, complaining of the protecburnt alive. And in order to create tion he was extending to Luther, alarm, he actually caused a scaf- and demanded anew that he should fold to be erected at Juterbock. send him to Rome. But the Prince But what did Luther do? Confid-feared God, and complied not with ing firmly in God, whose glory he the Pope's desires. Luther's work, sought to promote, he published a meanwhile, made constant prolarge book, wherein he explained gress : be published many good how a man might obtain forgive- books, particularly sermons,
which ness of sin. Nay, he wrote down travelled through the world, and ninety-five especial articles on the imparted light and comfort unto subject, and affixed them, accord- many. ing to the custom of the universi The new year, 1519, brouglit ties, to the walls of the palace with it a new trial to Luther. The church at Wittenberg, inviting all Pope sent his Chamberlain, Mr. men of learning to discuss the Von Miltit, to the Prince of Saxony, matter with him, and to examine to try either to gain the Prince in whether or not these propositions his favour, or to turn the mind of were true, or whether they were Luther. To meet this messenger, able to disprove bis doctrines. Luther was invited to come to This took place on the 31st of Oc- Altenburg, and was there urged, in tober, 1517, which day is in many a very friendly manner, to change places 'celebrated annually as the his mind. Luther replied, “ What anniversary of the Reformation, to I have taught I cannot retract, for which great work this was the first I have taught the truth.
I am great step: The consternation oc- willing, however, to desist from casioned' hereby was so vast, as attacking Tetzel and his followers, speedily to reach the Pope, who, provided they hold their peace, in great rage,
commanded Dr. and do not provoke me.” Thus Lutber to come to Rome, to be outward quietness appeared to be punished; but God protected him. restored, but the enemies of truth He inclined the heart of the pious did not rest. Through their oppoPrince (of Saxony) not to let him sition, they helped to forward the go. He was, however, obliged, in cause of reform. Dr. Eck, a 1518, to appear at Augsburg, to learned man, caused a disputation defend himself before a cardinal, to be held at Leipsic, but he could by whom Luther was commanded not prevail against Luther and to recant all his opinions, and to Carlstadt; incensed at which, he confess that he had been teaching proceeded to Rome, where he error. Dr. Luther replied, “This raised accusations against Luther, I cannot do: prove to me from the so strong as to provoke the Pope, Scriptures that it is so.” Being in great fury, to excommunicate threatened by the cardinal with Luther, and all who believed his punishment, he answered, “I have doctrines; permitting and comgiven up my will to the will of God, manding that they might be deand though I had four hundred prived of honour, office, property, heads, I would lose them all sooner and life. He caused the writings than retract my doctrine of faith.” of Luther to be publicly burnt at Whereupon, he was for this time Rome. But what did Luther, on set free.
hearing this ? Surprising is the step Some time afterwards, the Pope he now ventured upon. He took
.“ Since your
the Pope's bull and others of bis prayer to God, and then was enpapers, and likewise burned them abled, by the strength of the Spirit publicly at Wittenberg; thus prov- of the Lord, boldly to open bis ing that he cared not for the pre- mouth, and to say tended visible head of the church. imperial majesty and your princely God, no doubt, gave him the cou- graces desire a round answer, I rage and the strength he thus dis- will give one that cannot easily be played.
misunderstood. Save that I be Still many another hard conflict proved from God's word to have this brave reformer was destined erred, I neither can nor will retract, to sustain. God was with him seeing it is not good to do aught throughout, and Him he trusted contrary to conscience. Here I and obeyed; wherefore God did am; I cannot turn; God help me. not forsake him. A new emperor, Amen!” Charles V. had mounted the throne, The whole assembly was deeply and before bim the Prince of agitated. They looked at one allSaxony and Dr. Luther were ac- other with astonishment. At length cused by the Pope; the Doctor Luther was once more invited to being forth with 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; for, princes, cardinals, and bishops, and then he was dismissed. Oh, in council assembled. Before these brethren, consider the hardness of he was to detend himself. He was the conflict, for his life was in advised by many not to go, seeing danger; but remember also the the great danger attending such a glorious victory! Oh, the great step; but the brave Reformer re- power of faith and prayer! The plied, “I am called ; I must pro- emperor had given his promise to ceed in Christ, though there should have him safely re-conducted to his be at Worms as many devils as home, but now the ambassadors of there are tiles on the roofs of the the Pope urgently entreated the houses, yet I must go.” Some emperor not to keep this promise; reminded him of the fate of John to whom the emperor nobly reHuss, who was burnt alive at a plied, “ And though truth and faith Diet held one hundred years before; should be found no where else in to whom he courageously replied, the world, they shall yet be found “ And if they made a fire, reach- with the Roman emperor.” Do you ing from Wittenberg to Worms, not again perceive here the finger yet I must go; I must defend the of God ? Gospel of Jesus.” How poble a But our hero for the truth had mind was Luther’s ! He arrived at not yet escaped from all dangers. Worms on the 16th of April, and After his departure, the ambassaimmediately on the following day dors succeeded so far as to induce was summoned to appear before the emperor silently to permit his the imperial assembly. Here lay being proclaimed “a banished the books published by him. He man;" that is, his life was placed was asked whether he were willing at the mercy of every man wbo to retract their contents. He re- might meet him. Luther was thus quested time for consideration, in the most imminent danger, but which was granted till the follow- his God was with him. He disa ing day. What must he have felt posed the heart of the Prince to then! He spent the whole night in send for him secretly, whilst yet