WORDS FOR THE WOUNDED.
1. TRIAL OF VARIOUS KINDS.
Passio optima Actio. NEVER do we do more and in a holier way than when we know not how much we do.
Never do we do worse than when we know what and how much we do; for it is impossible that we should not be pleased with ourselves. The stain of glory and ambition soils such works, so that our praise of God is no longer pure. Idea est passio optima actio . Suffering is the best work.
THE Cross of Christ is divided throughout the whole world. To each his portion ever comes. Thou, therefore, cast not thy portion from thee, but rather take it to thee as a most sacred relic; and lay it up, not in a golden or silver shrine, but in a golden heart, a heart clothed in gentle charity.
For if the wood of the cross is so consecrated by contact with the flesh and blood of Christ, that it is held the choicest of relics, how much more are persecutions, sufferings, and the unjust hatred of men (whether of the just or the unjust), most sacred relics; sacred not by the touch of His flesh, but embraced, kissed, blessed, and to the utmost consecrated by the charity of His godlike will, and of His most loving heart, whereby the curse is transformed into blessing, and injury into justice, and suffering into glory, and the cross into joy. — 1516.
LET no one lay on himself a cross, or desire a trial. But if one comes on him let him suffer it, and know absolutely that it shall be good and profitable to him.
IF tribulation takes all away from us, it still leaves God; for it can never take God away. Nay, indeed, it brings God to us.
The Peace of God under the Cross.
HEALTH and peace to thee, but not such as are manifest to the senses of men, but hidden under the cross, and passing all under. standing in the Lord.
Thou seekest and cravest peace, but vainly.
For as the world giveth, seekest thou; not as Christ giveth.
Dost thou not know that God is wonderful in His people, and placeth His peace in the midst of no peace, that is, of all temptations? As it is said, “Reign Thou in the midst of Thine enemies .”
Not he, therefore, hath peace whom none troubleth; this is the peace of the world; but he whom all men and all things trouble, yet who beareth all these things quietly, with joy.
Thou sayest with Israel, “Peace, peace, and there is no peace.” Say rather with Christ: The Cross, the Cross, and there is no cross. For the cross ceaseth to be the cross as soon as thou canst contentedly say, Crux benedicta, inter legna nullum tale , “Blessed Cross, in all earth’s forests Grows no other wood like thine.” See, then, how faithfully the Lord is leading thee to true peace, who surroundeth thee with so many crosses.
It is called “the peace of God which passeth all understanding;” that is, which is not known by feeling or perception, or thinking. All our thinking cannot attain nor understand it; none but those who of free-will take up the Cross laid on them, — these, tried and troubled in all they feel and think and understand, afterward experience this peace. For all our feeling, all our labor, all our thinking He has estimated below this peace of His, and has affixed it to the Cross; that is, to many and disquieting troubles. Thus it is a peace above sense and all else that we picture and desire, indeed better far beyond all comparison than these. Seek, therefore, this peace of His, and thou shalt find. But thus shalt thou seek it best; not by seeking and choosing a peace according to thine own opinion and understanding, but by taking up thy troubles with joy, as sacred relics. — A, D. 1516.
Chastening — Entreating.
IF a father do sharply correct his son, it is as much as if he said, “My son, I pray thee to be a good child.”
It seemeth indeed to be a correction, but if you regard the father’s heart, it is a gentle and earnest beseeching.
Heaviness of Heart.
ST.PAUL confesseth that God had mercy on him, in that he restored Epaphroditus, so weak and near unto death, unto health again, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Therefore, besides outward temptations, it is evident that the Apostles also suffered great anguish, and heaviness, and fear.
Trial the Interpreter of Scripture.
VEXATIO DAT INTELLECTUM. Tribulation teaches; as saith Sirach, “He who is not tried, what does he know?”
None understand the Scriptures save those who prove them by the Cross.
Our Quaere not always answered here.
GOD will give us all things in Christ, that He Himself may be ours, if we humble ourselves in true faith before Him.
But we will not, and go about with Quære : Why God does this or suffers that? For we also would play our part in the game.
The Quaere answered hereafter.
WHEN Dr. Martin was once asked why God did many things of which no one could find out the reason; “Ah!” he said, “we have not power to understand all that God does. He wills not that we should know all He purposes. As He said to Peter, ‘What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter’ (in that joyful Day). Then shall we first truly understand how faithfully and kindly God has meant with us, even through misfortune, anguish, and necessity. Meantime we must look with sure confidence to Him, that He will not suffer us to be really harmed in body or soul, but will deal with us so that, good or bad, all must work for the best.”
Even as a Father the Son in whom He delighteth.
GOD deals not otherwise than a father with his son and his servant. The son he corrects and smites far oftener than the servant, but meantime He is gathering a treasure for him to inherit. But a bad, disobedient servant he does not smite with the rod; he drives him from the house, and gives him no inheritance.
Better anything from God than Silence. “OH my God! punish far rather with pestilence, with all the terrible sicknesses on earth, with war, with anything rather than that Thou be silent to us.”
Flying to God in Sorrow, not from Him.
IT must at last come to this, that we no longer fly from God as from an executioner. For if we fear and fly Him, with whom shall we take refuge? If we lose Him, all is lost.
Victory by Submission.
WHOEVER can earnestly from the heart humble himself before God, and acquiesce in His chastening, has already won the victory. Otherwise our Lord God would lose His Godhead. He is merciful, gracious, patient, of great goodness, and His own prerogative and work it is to have pity on the wretched, to comfort the sorrowful, not to despise the anguished, smitten heart; to help them to right that suffer wrong, to give grace to the lowly. REST IN THE LORD;WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM. In Hebrew (said Dr. Luther), be silent to God, and let Him mould thee. Keep still, and He will mould thee to the right shape.
David singing Psalms in Trial.
WHEN David could remedy an evil he did his utmost to that end: but when he knew of no counsel nor help against a thing, he had to exercise patience; and he made a song to God about it, sang it, and called on Him.
David had worse devils to contend against than we have, for he had such great revelations as cannot be had without great temptations. David made Psalms and sang them. We also, as well as we can, will make psalms, and sing them to the glory of our God, and in defiance of the devil and the world. “WHEN I am pressed with thoughts,” said Dr. Martin once, “about worldly or home cares, I take a Psalm, or a saying of Paul, and go to sleep on it.”\parTHE holy Cross, temptation, and persecution teach the golden art; but flesh and blood can never like them, would fain have peace and ease.
Our Lessons need to be learned over and over.
WHEN one trial is over, another soon comes, against which we have to arm ourselves. And when the second comes, we bear ourselves just as in the first, as if we had never been tried before, become grieved and distressed, and sink beneath it, are no more learned than before, although we have had experience before. We soon forget.
Thus the Evangelist rebukes us, saying, “And they understood not, neither remembered the miracle of the loaves.”
But St. Paul exhorts us “not to be wearied or faint in our minds,” when one trial follows, and one billow chases another, for thus our flesh is disciplined, for our good. “The Order of Christ.”
BARLEY has much to suffer from men. For it is cast into the earth, where it perishes. Then when it has sprung up and ripened it is cut and mown down.
Afterward it is crushed and dried, and pressed, fermented, and brewed into beer.
Just such a martyr also is linen or flax. When it is ripe it is plucked, steeped in water, beaten, dried, hacked, spun, and woven into linen, which again is rent or worn out. Afterwards it is made into plasters for sores and used for binding up wounds. Then it becomes lint, and is laid under the stampingmachines in the paper-mill, and torn into small bits. From this they make paper for writing and printing.
These creatures, and many others like them, which are of great use to us, must thus suffer. So also must all good and godly Christians suffer much from the ungodly and wicked.
David, for instance, was a wonderfully gifted man, and he had to be ploughed and crushed. But such a man is dear to God.
Christ more compassionate than any Christian.
SCHLAINHAUFFEN complained of his trials, on the right hand and on the left. Dr. Luther said, “That the devil can do in a masterly way; otherwise he were no devil. Come to me, dear friend, to Philip, to Cordatus, and believe that we will surely comfort you with God’s Word. But if you expect good from me, what may you expect from Christ, who died for you? Ah, if you would only look for good thus from Him, who is a thousand times better than me, or Philip, or Cordatus!”
ACHRISTIAN should be a joyful man. We must suffer many things from within and from without, both from the world and the devil. But let them pass; be of good cheer, call on God, and have patience. He is a help in need, will not leave thee comfortless and helpless, or suffer thee to be overwhelmed and ruined in trial. Trials are good and needful for us, that God’s power may be the stronger in our weakness. See how faint-hearted the dear holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles were! What then could we poor, feeble little worms expect to be in such a godless world, when godliness, faith, and love are grown so cold, and well-nigh extinguished?
Yet God upholds the Church in a wonderful way.
The Types set in this Life to be read in the Next.
ON the 8th of August, in the year 1538, Dr. Martin, and also his wife, lay sick of a fever. Then he said, “God has smitten me rather hard. I have also been impatient, because I am exhausted by so many and such severe illnesses. But God knows better what end it serves than we ourselves do.
Our Lord God is like a printer, who sets the letters backward. We see and feel Him set the types, but here we cannot read them. When we are printed off yonder in the life to come, we shall read all clear and straight forward.
Meantime we must have patience.
IT may be admitted that Purgatory works in this life, in its sphere. True Christians are cleansed and purged therein. THE sicknesses of the heart are the true sicknesses, such as depression, temptations, etc. I am a very Lazarus, well exercised in such sickness as this.
WE who are baptized must endure and suffer both actively and passively from God, who creates and works all in us; and also from the devil and the world, who will torment-and vex us.
ONCE when Master George Rörer’s children lay ill, Dr. Martin said, “Our Lord God afflicts all His saints. They must all drink of that cup. He dealt thus even with Mary His mother. All dear to Him must learn to endure.
Christians conquer when they suffer. When they resist they lose the day.”
The Barley and Flax again.
WE must suffer. For as the barley from which beer is made, and the flax from which linen is made, must suffer much ere they are fit for use, and the end is attained for which they are sown, so must Christians suffer much, must be sown, torn (like flax), crushed and winnowed (like corn). For the slaying of the old Adam goes before the glorifying. If we are to be saved, and to come to glory, we must first die and be slain.
The Incarnation the greatest Consolation in Sorrow.
THIS highest benefit and mystery, that the Son of God condescends to become man and my brother, no power of eloquence can utter, no human thought can fully grasp.
He Himself so binds Himself, so unites Himself to me, with a tie so close and enduring, that no man on earth, by the firmest bonds of the closest friendship, by the holiest rights of the nearest kindred, could be related to me more truly, or devoted to me more intimately. From Him I may and should expect greater things than from the person in the world most devoted to me; because His love to me is to an infinite extent more fervent than the love of the most tried and steadfast friend, than the love of brother to brother, than any love on earth.
HE could rejoice like me, He could mourn and even wonder like me. Not only has He taken upon Himself the body but the soul of man, so that it was in real earnest He mar-veiled at the centurion’s faith.
There is no article of our Faith that sustains us in all trial like this.
Christ suffering in Christians.
TO THE ELECTOR FREDERIC OF SAXONY IN SICKNESS. — 1527.
OUR most blessed Saviour and most gracious Master has commanded us all to visit the sick, to set free those that are bound, and to fulfil all works of mercy towards our neighbors. As Christ Himself, our Lord, with the example of a wonderful love, to manifest and prove the same, came down from the bosom of the most High Father, humbled Himself into our prison, took on Himself our infirmities, served and toiled for our sins, as He says in Isaiah, “Thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins. Thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities.”
And whosoever despiseth this most dear, fair, and loving example, and this most holy command, will surely hear at the Last Day, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. I was sick and ye visited Me not,” as one perverted by the basest ingratitude, in not showing, in his little measure, to his neighbor that which with so great a perfection of mercy he received from the Lord Christ.
Therefore, I may not neglect, without the guilt of such ingratitude, this form and likeness of my Lord Christ, in your Grace’s sickness. It is to me as if I heard from the body and flesh of your Grace, the voice of Christ calling to me and saying, “I am sick.” For it is not the Christian man only who is sick when he is sick, but Christ our Lord and Saviour, in whom the Christian lives, as He Himself says, “In that ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto Me.”
To Justus Menius, IN LUTHER’ S OWN SICKNESS. — 1520.
I PRAY thee, cease not to pray for me and to console me; for this agony is beyond my strength.
Christ has hitherto been my faithful Preserver, neither do I despair that such He will be forever. Not only have I been sick in body, but far more in spirit, so does Satan with his angels weary me, by the permission of God our Saviour. Therefore I commend myself to your prayers, certain that the Lord will hear you, and will trample Satan under our feet. Amen.
I would have written to Ickelsamer, but the weakness of my head does not permit me to occupy myself with studies; but tell him before he asks it, that I will know nothing against him; as also I will have compassion on all my other enemies, and will know nothing against them; even as I trust Christ and the righteous Father may have compassion on me, and will know nothing against me.
Zwingli and Oecolompadius have answered, but I have not read, nor can I read until I am restored; I am altogether idling and taking holiday, as a languid Lazarus and patient of Christ.
To Agricola. — 1527.
SATAN has raged against me with all his fury; yea, the Lord has set me up before him like another Job, as a mark; he tempts me with a marvellous feebleness of spirit, but through the prayers of the saints I shall not be left in his hands, although the wounds of spirit which I have received can with difficulty be healed.
My hope is that this my agony is for the sake of many; my life is that I know and glory that I have taught the Word of Christ purely and sincerely for the salvation of many, and that therefore it is that Satan burns against me, and desires to see me submerged and ruined; me, with the Word.
To comfort his Father in his last Sickness. — 1530.
AGREAT joy it would be to me if you would come to me with my mother.
My Käthe also begs it with tears, and all of us.
God has sealed the faith in you, and confirmed it, with signs following, namely: that for my sake you have suffered much calumny, shame, scorn, mockery, hatred, and danger.
These are the true stigmata (the marks of the wounds), whereby we must become like our Lord Christ.
So now, in your weakness, let your heart be fresh and comforted; for we have yonder, in that life with God, a sure, true Helper, Jesus Christ, who for us has overcome sin and death, who is sitting there for us, and with all the angels is looking upon us, and is waiting for us, when we journey forth, that we may have no care nor fear lest we should sink or fall. He has too great power over sin and death than that they should do anything to harm us; and He is so heart-true and good, that He neither can nor will forsake us. Only let us, without doubting, desire this.
But if it is His divine will that you should not longer linger away from that better life, and should no further suffer with us in this troubled valley of many sorrows, nor here any more see and hear distress, nor with all Christians here help any longer to suffer and conquer. He will surely give you grace to receive all willingly and obediently.
Herewith I commend you to Him who holds you dearer than you hold yourself, and has shown you such love that He has taken your sin on Himself, and atoned for it with His blood, and has let you know this through the Gospel, and has given you to believe it through His Spirit.
Whatever happens, let Him care. He will make all right; yea, He has already done all things for the very best, better than we can comprehend.
The same our dear Lord and Saviour be with you, and grant us to see each other again joyfully here or yonder. For our faith is sure, and we doubt not that We shall see each other again with Christ, in a little while, since the departure from this life to God is far less than if I parted from you and went from Mansfeld hither, or than if you departed from me from Wittenberg to Mansfeld. A little hour of sleep, and all is changed.
To Margaret, Princess of Anhalt, in Sickness.
SINCE now your princely Grace is visited and heavy-laden with sickness by our dear Father in heaven, who has made us, and given us soul and body, and also, through His dear Son Jesus Christ, has redeemed us from the fall and death of Adam, and by His Holy Spirit has planted the hope of eternal life in our hearts, your Grace must not be distressed, but receive this visitation with thankfulness. For we who believe on Him are no more our own, but His who died for us. If we are sick it is not to ourselves; if we are well, it is not to ourselves; go with us how it may, it is all not to ourselves but to Him who has died for us, and made us His own.
As with a good child, if it is sick and suffers, its sickness is more to its parents than to itself; so is it with us and Him who has redeemed us with His blood and death. And in this faith, though we die, we die not; though we are sick, we are not sick, but whole to Christ, in whom all that according to the flesh seems to us sick, feeble, dead, and lost, is sound, fresh, living, and blessed. He is Almighty on whom we believe. “MY TIMES ARE IN THY HAND.” This saying I learned in my sickness, and will correct and alter my interpretation of it; for before I put it off as belonging only to the day of death. But it means this: In Thine hand is my time, that is, my whole life, all my days, hours, and moments. As if he should say, “My health, sickness, misfortune, prosperity, life, death, joy, sorrow, all are in Thy hands, as also experience shows.”\parIF trial makes us impatient, then the devil laughs and is glad. IN the year 1536, on the 18th of July, after the sermon, Dr. Martin Luther went to visit an honorable, pious matron who had been exiled from Leipzig. On the way her husband had been drowned, and she had fallen into such heart anguish and sorrow that in one night she had fainted away fifteen times. When the Doctor entered, she received him cordially and said, “Oh, dear Herr Doctor, how can I merit such kindness from you?”
He answered and said: “It was long since merited. Christ Jesus with His blood has done and merited far more than this.”
Then he asked how it was with her, and entreated that she would be content with the will of God, and suffer it with patience, as the chastening of a Father who had redeemed her. “Dear daughter,” said he, “be at peace, and suffer the Father’s chastening, let it be for death or life, as it pleases God whom we love. For, living or dying, we are His, as he says, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.’ He has given you a costly treasure in this suffering.
He will also give you to bear it patiently. Therefore pray diligently.”
Thereupon she answered in a right Christian way, that “she was indeed at peace; she knew God meant well, and as a Father with her, and would give her patience to bear the Cross.”
So the Doctor departed from her, giving her his blessing, and committed her to the care and keeping of our good God.
IN the year 1536, on the 4th of August, he visited Benedicta, the widow of the Burgomaster of Wittenberg, and he said to her: “Dear friend, you will have patience, and willingly bear the will of God, which is good and holy; for the body must suffer and die. But we have this great comfort and prerogative, that we may commit the dear soul into the bosom of Him who has redeemed us. This consolation the world has not.”\parHE once visited a chancery-writer at Torgau, who was a good, diligent man, comforted him, and bade him be of good heart and keep to the physician’s directions, and commend his soul to the faithful Creator; “for,” said he, “we may well be glad to die; we have lived long enough, save that we may have to live yet a while longer for the sake of others.”\parONCE when Dr. Martin lay ill himself, and the physician felt his pulse, and found him changed for the worse, he said, “Here I am. I stand and rest here on the will of God. To Him I have entirely given myself up. He will make it all right. For this I know certainly; I shall not die, for He is the Resurrection and the Life, and whosoever liveth and believeth on Him shall never die, and even if he die he shall live. Therefore I commit it all to His will, and leave Him to order all.”\parDOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER was visiting an honorable matron who lay in sore sickness, and he comforted her thus: “Muhme Lene, do you know me? Do you recognize me?” And when she signified that she knew and understood, he said to her, “Your faith rests wholly and entirely on the Lord Christ.”
Then he added: “He is the Resurrection and the Life. You will lose nothing. You will not die, but fall asleep as in a cradle. And when the morning dawns, you will rise again and live forever.” She said, “Yes.”
Then the Doctor asked her, and said: “Have you any temptation?”
She said, “No.” “How? Does nothing indeed trouble you?” “Yes,” she said, “I have a pain in my heart.”
Then he said, “The Lord will soon redeem you from all evil. You will not die.”
And he turned to us and said: “Oh, how well it is with her! For this is not death. It is sleep.”
And he went to the window and prayed.
At mid-day he left her; and at seven in the evening she softly fell asleep in Christ.
Luther’s Way of visiting the Sick.
WHEN Dr. Martin Luther came to visit a sick person in his weakness, he was wont to speak very gently to him; to bend down close to him, and first to ask him about his sickness, what ailed him, how long he had been ill, what physician he had seen, and what treatment had been prescribed for him.
Then he began to ask if he had been patient toward God under this sickness. And if he found that the sick person had borne his sickness patiently, as sent to him by the gracious and fatherly will of God, that he felt he deserved this chastening for his sins, and was willing, if it was the will of God, to die, then Dr. Luther began heartily to commend this Christian will and disposition as the work of the Holy Spirit. And he was wont to say it was a great gift of God when any one attained in this life the true knowledge of God and faith in Jesus Christ our only Saviour, and could yield up his will to the will of God; and he would exhort the sick person to keep steadfast in this faith, through the help of the Holy Spirit, and would promise himself to pray earnestly for him to God.
If the sufferer thanked him for this kindness, and said he did not deserve that he should visit him, the Doctor Would say, “It was his office and duty, and it was needless to thank him ;” and then would comfort him, saying he should be of good cheer, and fear nothing, for God was his gracious God and Father, and had given letters and seals to assure us, through His Word and Sacraments, that we poor sinners are redeemed from the devil and hell, because the Son of God willingly gave Himself up to death for us, and has reconciled us to God.
To Maria Queen of Hungary on the Death of her Husband Louis II., King of Hungary, [Who was defeated and slain in battle against the Turks, A.D. 1526.]\parWITH FOUR PSALMS OF CONSOLATION. ST.PAUL writes to the Romans that the Holy Scriptures are Scriptures of consolation, and teach us patience. Wherefore I have now sent forth these same Psalms to comfort your Majesty (as far as God comforts us, and enables us to comfort others). In this great and sudden misfortune and anguish wherewith the Almighty God at this time visits your Majesty, not in anger or displeasure, but to chasten and to try; that your Majesty may learn to trust alone in the true Father who is in heaven; and to comfort yourself in the true Bridegroom Jesus Christ, who is also Brother to each one of us, yea, our flesh and blood; and to rejoice in those true friends and faithful companions the dear angels, who are around us, and who are ministering to us.
For although it is indeed a heavy, bitter death to your Majesty, and must indeed be so, so early widowed and despoiled of your dear consort, yet will the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, give you much good comfort, richly manifesting to you the sweet, gracious Father and Son in whom the sure and eternal life lies hidden.
And, indeed, whosoever can attain to see and feel the Father’s love to us in the Scriptures, he can easily bear all the unhappiness that can be on earth.
On the contrary, he who feels not thus, can never be truly glad, though he were bathed in all the delights and joys of the world.
Verily, to no man can such sorrow come, as to God the Father Himself, when His beloved Son, in return for all His miracles and mercies, was wounded, spit upon, cursed, and made to die the most shameful of all deaths upon the Cross; although to each of us his own misery seems the greatest, and goes more to the heart than the Cross of Christ.
On the Death of the Wife of Capellanus.
CHRIST did not hear our prayers and tears for her preservation; but at the last He comforted us, when, with the best end, that is, full of faith and strong in spirit, she emigrated to Christ.
To Conrad Cordatus, on the Loss of a Son.
GRACE and peace in Christ, who will console thee in this thy low estate and sorrow, my Cordatus; for who else can assuage such a grief? Easily, indeed, do I believe all that thou writest, knowing how such a loss goes into the heart of a father, sharper than any sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow. Yet, on the other hand, thou shouldst remember it is nothing marvellous if He who is more truly and essentially the Father than thou wert, in His love, chose rather to have thy son, who is verily His son, with Himself than with thee. For he is safer there than here.
But this I write in vain. As a fable to the deaf are words to recent grief; wherefore, now, yield to thy grief; for greater and better than we have mourned with such a mourning, nor were they reproved.
It is good, nevertheless, for thee to have reached once that wilderness of temptation, and to have learned the force of thine own feelings, that thou mayest learn the better in thyself what is the strength of the Word of faith.
Greet her who is the sharer of thy grief, and meanwhile rejoice more in Christ living, than ye mourn over your son dead.
Yea, himself also living, though withdrawn from you.
To Melanchthon ON THE DEATH OF LUTHER’ S FATHER. A. D. 1530. TODAY Hans Reinicke has written me that my most dear father departed from this life, on the Sunday exaudi, at one o’clock.
This death has thrown me altogether into mourning; remembering not only the natural tie, but his most gentle tenderness to me, for from him my Creator gave me whatsoever I am and have. Although it comforts me that he writes me he fell asleep most sweetly in the faith of Christ, yet the memory of his most sweet converse has been such a shock to my heart, that scarcely ever before did I so contemn death. But “the righteous is taken away from the evil to come, and enters into rest.”
So many times, indeed, do we die before we die once. I now succeed to the inheritance of the name, for I am the eldest Luther in my family. To me, now, is due not only the chance, but the right to follow him into the Kingdom of Christ, which may He benignantly grant to us all.
Therefore further I will not write to thee, for it is meet and dutiful that I, a son, should mourn for such a father, from whom the Father of mercy formed me, and through the sweat of whose brow He trained and fed me to be such as I am.
I rejoice that he lived in these times, so that he might see the light of Truth.
Blessed be God in all His acts and counsels forever. Amen.
To N. Link, TO COMFORT HIM FOR THE LOSS OF HIS SON WHILE STUDYING AT WITTENBERG, A.D. 1532. GRACE and peace in Christ our Lord. My dear Friend, I think the tidings must by this time have reached you that your dear son Johannes Link, who was sent hither to us to study, was seized with heavy sickness, and although, indeed, no kind of pains and care and medical skill have been spared for him, nevertheless the sickness proved too strong for him, and has borne him hence, and brought him to our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.
He was a dear boy to us all, especially to me; for many an evening have I had him to sing the Descant in my house. Very quiet and gentle he was, and especially diligent in study, so that it is sore to all our hearts that he is gone, and if it had been possible by any means, we would fain have rescued and retained him. But he was much dearer to God than to us, and He willed to have him at home.
I know well how this event must distress and grieve your heart and your wife’s, when it has so distressed us all, and especially me. Yet I entreat you rather to thank God, who has given you such a good child, and has held you worthy to spend your means and pains so well on him. But this, most of all, must comfort you (as it comforts us), that he fell asleep so softly and serenely (fell asleep rather than departed), with such a high confession, with such faith and consciousness, as were a wonder to us all; so that there can be as little doubt as that the Christian religion can be false, that he is now forever blessed with God, his true Father. For such a Christian end cannot fail of the kingdom of Heaven.
You will also take to heart how much there is to make you thankful, and to comfort you in his not having died in a painful and violent way. And if he had lived a long life, with all your pains and cost, you could only have helped him a little to some office or ministry. But now he is in that place which he would not willingly exchange for the whole world, not even for a moment.
Therefore let your grief be such that your consolation shall be more; for ye have not lost him, but sent him before you, that he may be kept forever blessed. For thus saith St. Paul: “Sorrow not as others who have no hope.”
I know that Master Veit Dietrich, his preceptor, will write for you some of the beautiful words which he spoke before his end, which will please and comfort you. But from love to the dear boy I would not delay to send you this letter, that you may have sure testimony how it went with him.
To Christ, our Lord and Comforter, in His grace, I commend you. ST. GEORGE’S EVE, D. M. L, with my own hand, though now weak.
To Laurentius Joch, Chancellor at Magdeburg, On The Loss Of His Wife. VERILY, the Son of God had to suffer, not only from the devil and the evil world, but at last men said that He was afflicted by God. So must it be with us Christians, so that it may seem to the world that God chastens us, and that our enemies may boast and say, “That is the way your new Gospel is rewarded.”
It is indeed a great consolation that your wife departed in so Christian a way, and has gone without doubt to Christ her Lord, whom she learned to know here below. But it is also a great consolation that Christ has given you to be moulded into His likeness, to suffer not only from the devil, but also from God, who is and shall be your Comforter.
Therefore, although the flesh complains and cries, as Christ Himself cried on God, and was weak, yet shall the spirit be ready and willing, and exclaim with unutterable sighing, “Abba, Father !” that is, “Sharp is Thy rod, but Father art Thou still. This I know for a certainty.”
Our dear Lord and Savior, who is also our dear Example and Pattern in all our suffering, comfort you, and imprint Himself on your heart, so that you may accomplish this sacrifice, from your smitten heart, and offer up your Isaac to Him. Sunday After All Saints, 1532.
To Laurentius Joch. A Second Letter Of Consolation.
IHAVE read and perceived with joy that God has comforted your heart, even through the fellow working of my letter. May the same gracious Father perfect the consolation He has begun. For we Christians must use ourselves to seek patience and comfort of the Scriptures.
It is therefore that He often withdraws from us the consolationes rerum that the consolationes Scripturarum may find space to work in us, and may no longer keep standing vainly outside, as a mere alphabet without exercise.
We must turn our faces to the invisibilia gratiae, and the non apparentia solatii. We must turn our backs on the visible things, that we may grow used to leave them and to depart from them.
But the unwonted ever gives us pain, and the old Adam draws us back again to the visible. There would we fain rest and stay, but it cannot be.
For “the things which are seen are temporal.”
But both patience and consolation are God’s works, impossible to our strength. This is the school of all Christians. This art they have to learn daily, and yet can they never apprehend it, much less learn it thoroughly, but remain always children, and say over and over again our A B C in this art. For the rest, where we fail, we must cling to the forgiveness of sins, and offer our sacrifice through Christ, with a Pater Noster, until that happy Day comes, and makes us perfect in all things. Then we shall be a goodly company, in all things like Christ our Pattern.
Magdalene Luther’s Illness and Death.
ON the 5th of September, 1542, Magdalene became ill, and Doctor Luther wrote to Marcus Crodel:
Grace and peace, my Marcus Crodel: I request that you will conceal from my son John what I am writing to you. My daughter Magdalene is literally almost at the point of death; soon about to depart to her Father in heaven, unless it should yet seem fit to God to spare her. But she herself so sighs to see her brother, that I am constrained to send a carriage to fetch him. They loved each other indeed dearly. May she survive to his coming; I do what I can, lest afterward the sense of having neglected anything should torture me. Desire him, therefore, without mentioning the reason, to return hither at once, with all speed in this carriage, hither where she will either be sleeping in the Lord, or will be restored. Farewell in the Lord.[Her brother came, but she was not restored.] As she lay very ill, Doctor Martin said: “She is very dear to me; but, gracious God, if it is Thy will to take her hence, I am content to know that she will be with Thee.”
And as she lay in the bed, he said to her: “Magdalenchen, my little daughter, thou wouldst gladly stay with thy father here; and thou wilt also gladly go to thy Father yonder.”
She said, “Yes, dearest father; as God wills.”
Then the father said: “Thou darling child, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Then he turned away and said: “She is indeed very dear to me; if the flesh is so strong, what will the spirit be?”
And among other things he said: “For a thousand years God has given no bishop such great gifts as He has given me; for we must rejoice in God’s gifts. I am angry with myself that I cannot rejoice from my heart for her and give thanks; although now and then I can sing a little song to our Lord God, and thank Him a little for this. “But let us take courage. Living or dying we are the Lord’s. Sive vivimus, sive morimur, Domini sumus; that is both in the genitive, ‘ the Lord’s,’ and in the nominative, lords.” (To Master Rorer): “Herr Magister, be of good cheer.”
Then Master George Rorer said: “I once heard a word from your reverence, which often comforts me, namely: ‘ I have prayed our Lord God that He will give me a blessed dying hour, when I journey hence; and He will also do it; of that I feel sure. At my last hour I shall speak with Christ, my Lord, were it for ever so brief a time.’ But I (said Master Rorer) have a fear that I shall depart hence suddenly, in silence, without being able to speak a word.”
Then Doctor Martin Luther said: “Living or dying we are the Lord’s. Equally so, whether you fell from the top of a stair, or were suddenly to die while you were sitting quietly writing. It would not really harm me if I fell from a ladder and lay at its foot dead, for the devil is our enemy.”
When at last little Magdalene’s countenance changed, and she lay at the point of death, her father fell on his knees by her bedside, wept bitterly, and prayed that God would set her free.
Then she departed, and fell asleep in her father’s hands.
Her mother was also in the room, but further off, off account of her grief.
This happened a little after nine o’clock on the Wednesday of the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Anno 1542.
The Doctor repeatedly said, as mentioned above, “I would fain keep my child, for she is very dear to me, if our Lord God would leave her with me.
But His will be done. To her indeed nothing better can happen.”
While she yet lived, he said to her:”Dear daughter, thou hast also a Father in heaven. Thou art going to him.”
Then Doctor Philip said: “The love of parents is an image and type of the Godhead, engraven in the human heart. If then, as the Scriptures say, there is in God such great love to the human race, great as that of parents to their children, verily it is a great and fervent love.”
When she was now laid in the coffin, Dr. Martin Luther said:”Thou dear Lenichen, how well it is with thee.”
And as he gazed on her lying there, he said: “Ah, thou dear Lenichen, thou shalt rise again, and shine like a star, yes, like the sun.”
They had made the coffin too narrow and short for her, and he said: “The bed is too small for her, now that she has died. I am indeed joyful in spirit, but, after the flesh, I am very sad; the flesh cannot bear it. Parting grieves one sorely, beyond measure. Wonderful it is to know that she is certainly at peace, and that all is well with her, and yet to be so sorrowful.”
And when the people who came to lay out the corpse, according to custom, spoke to the Doctor and said they were grieved for his affliction, he said: “You should be pleased. I have sent a saint to heaven; yes, a living saint! Oh that we might have such a death. Such a death I would welcome this very hour.”
Then some one said: “Yes, that is indeed true; yet each would fain keep his own.”
Doctor Martin answered: “Flesh is flesh, and blood is blood. I am glad that she has passed over. There is no sorrow but that of the flesh.”
Afterward he said to others who came in: “Let it not grieve you. I have sent a saint to heaven. Yes, I have sent two thither.” F3 As they were chanting by the corpse, “Lord, remember not against us our former sins which are of old ;” he said, “I say, O Lord, Lord, not only our former sins which are of old, but our present and actual sins, for we are usurers, exactors, misers. Yea, the abomination of the mass is still in the world.”
When the coffin was closed and she was laid in the grave, he said: “There is indeed the Resurrection of the body. “And as they returned from the funeral, he said: “My daughter is now provided for, both in body and soul. We Christians have nothing to complain of; we know it must be so. We are more sure of eternal life than of anything else. For God who has promised it to us for His dear Son’s sake can never lie. Two saints of my flesh our Lord God has taken, but not of my blood. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom.”
Among other things he said: “We must, however, provide for our children, and especially for the poor little maidens. We must not leave it to others to care for them.
For the boys I have no mercy. A lad can maintain himself wherever he goes if he will only work; and if he will not work he is a scoundrel. But the poor little maiden-folk must have a staff in their hands.
And again: “I give this daughter very willingly to God. Yet after the flesh, I would have wished to keep her longer with me. But since He has taken her away I thank Him.”
The night before Magdalene died, her mother had a dream in which it seemed to her that two fair youths, gloriously apparelled, came and sought to lead her daughter away to her marriage.
When on the next morning Philip Melanchthon came into the cloister (Luther’s home), and asked her how her daughter was, she told him her dream.
But he was alarmed at it, and said to others: “Those young men are the dear angels who will come and lead this maiden into the kingdom of heaven, to the true marriage.
And on the same day indeed she died.
Some little time after her death Dr. Martin Luther said: “If my daughter Magdalene would come to life again, and bring with her to me the Turkish kingdom, I would not have it so. Ah, she has made a good journey. Beati mortui qui in Domino moriuntur. Who dies thus, surely has eternal life. I would that I and my children and ye all, my friends, could thus journey hence, for evil days are coming. There is neither help nor counsel more on earth, until the Last Day. I hope, if God will, it will not be long delayed; for covetousness and usury increase. “And often at supper he repeated, “Et multiplicata sunt mala in terris. “Luther’s Epitaph on Magdalene. DORMIO cum sanctis hic Magdalena Lutheri Filia, et hoc strato tecta quiesco meo.
Filia mortis eram, peccati semine nata, Sanguine sed vivo, Christe, redempta tuo. (IN ENGLISH.) HERE sleep I, Lenichen, Dr. Luther’s little daughter, Rest with all the Saints in my little bed:
I who was born in sins, And must forever have been lost.
But now I live, and all is well with me, Lord Christ, redeemed with Thy blood.
To Justus Jonas.
ITHINK you will have heard that my most dear daughter Magdalene is born again to the eternal Kingdom of Christ. But although I and my wife ought to do nothing but give thanks, rejoicing in so happy and blessed a departure, by which she has escaped the power of the flesh, the world, the Turk, and the devil; yet such is the strength of natural affection that we cannot part without groans and sobs of heart. They cleave to our heart; they remain fixed in its depths; her face, her words, the looks, living and dying, of that most dutiful and obedient child; so that even the death of Christ (and what are all deaths in comparison with that?) scarcely can efface her death from our minds. Do thou, therefore, give thanks to God in our stead. Wonder at the great work of God who thus glorifies our flesh !
She was, as thou knowest, gentle and sweet in disposition, and was altogether lovely. Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ who called, and chose, and has thus magnified her! I wish for myself and all mine, that we may attain to such a death; yea, rather to such a life, which only I ask from God, the Father of all consolation and mercy.
To Jacob Probst, Pastor at Bremen.
MY most dear daughter Magdalene has departed to her Father in heaven. I have overcome that paternal passion of my grief; but not without quivering with vengeance against death, with which indignant passion I have assuaged my tears. I loved her vehemently. But in that Day we shall be avenged on death, and on him who is the author of death. My Katha salutes thee, still sobbing, and with eyes wet with weeping.
ITHANK thee that thou hast sought to console me on the death of my most dear daughter. I loved her with a right and perfect love, not only because she was my flesh, but for her most placid and gentle spirit, ever so dutiful to me. But now I rejoice that she lives with her Father, in most sweet sleep, until that Day. And such as our times are, and worse as they will continue to become, I from my inmost heart desire for myself and for all men, for thee also and all dear to us, that a like hour of transition may be given to us, with so great faith, and such placid quiet to fall asleep in the Lord; not to see death, nor to taste it, nor in the least degree to feel its terrors. I hope the time is now at hand of that word of Isaiah’s: “The just are gathered and lie down on their beds in peace,” that when He gathereth the wheat into His garner, He may deliver the chaff to His fire.
Katha salutes thee, still sobbing from time to time at the recollection of that most obedient child.
THOU writest well, that in this most evil age death is indeed to be desired (or rather sleep), for our daughters, and for all dear to us. And yet this departure of my most dear child has moved me not a little. Nevertheless I rejoice, sure that she, as a child of the Kingdom, has been snatched from the jaws of the devil and of the world, so sweetly did she fall asleep in the faith of Christ.
To Justus Jonas. On The Death Of His Wife. 1542 WHAT to write I scarcely know, so has this sudden grief of thine prostrated me.
A most sweet sharer of life have we all lost. She was not only, in truth, dear to me, but her most pleasant face, always full of consolation, was dear to us all, for we knew that in all which concerned us of good or ill, she did not only feel with us, but made it all her own to share and to bear. Bitter is this parting, when I had hoped she would be left after me, to be to all mine the first and chief comforter among all women.
I am stunned by this great sorrow, when I remember her most gentle character, her most placid manner, her most faithful heart. I cannot restrain my sobs at the loss of such a woman, so surpassing in piety and honor, in modesty and all human kindness. What it must be to thee, from my own example I can easily measure. The flesh has no comfort for such a grief.
We must take refuge with the spirit, for with a happy ending of her course, she has gone before to Him who has called us all, and will bring us all through, to Himself, in His own blessed hour, from this misery and malice of the world. Amen.
Meanwhile do thou, I entreat, so sorrow (for cause indeed there is), that thou keep in mind the common lot of us Christians, who although according to the flesh we are separated with most grievous rendings asunder, yet in that life shall see each other again, gathered and knit together in all those sweet unions of old, in Him who has so loved us that He has obtained that life for us with His own blood and death. Dying and behold we live, as saith Paul.
It is well done for us, when with a pure faith in the Son of God we fall asleep. True indeed that thy greatest pity should be for those who live. We here, for a little while in sorrow, shall be received out of it into that unutterable joy, to which thy Katha and my Magdalene, with many others, have gone before us, and to which every day they call, exhort, and tenderly allure us that we may follow.
To Wolf Heinze On The Death Of His Wife. THIS very hour Dr. Jonas has told me that your dear Eva has gone home to God her Father. I can indeed feel how such a parting must go to your heart, and your heart-sorrow is indeed a grief of heart to me; for you know that I have a deep and faithful love for you. I know also that God has love for you; for His Son Jesus is dear to you. Therefore your grief moves me much.
Now what shall we do? This life is thus based on sorrow that we may learn how little all misery is compared with the eternal misery from which the Son of God has redeemed us, He in whom we have our dearest Treasure, which abides with us forever, though all that is temporal, and we ourselves, must pass away.
It is better with her now than where she was. God help you and all of us to journey thence after her, although without sorrow that journey, will not, cannot be made.
To Hans Reineck On The Death Of His Wife. DEEP sorrow indeed must this be to you. My heart also is very heavy for your sake.
But what can we do? God has so ordered and balanced this life, that therein we have to learn and practise the knowledge of His Divine and perfect will, so that we may prove ourselves whether we love and esteem His will more than our own selves, and than all He has given us to love and possess on earth.
And although the infinite goodness of His Divine will is hidden too high and deep, as is God Himself, from the old Adam, so that He can draw no delight or joy, but only mourning and wailing from it, yet we have His holy, sure Word, which reveals to us that hidden will, and makes it shine in our hearts; as everywhere in the Scriptures He says to us, it is not in anger, but in grace, when He chastens His children.
Therefore, since you have richly learned the Word of God, I hope you will know how to practise it, that you have the more joy in God’s grace and Fatherly will, and that the sorrow may not be to your hurt.
It is, moreover, a high consolation that your wife departed in such a Christian way from this valley of sorrow.
The dearest treasure on earth is a dear wife; but a blessed end is a treasure beyond all treasures, and an eternal consolation.
God help us all in a like way to journey from this sinful sepulcher of corruption to our true Home and Fatherland.
To George Hosel. On The Loss Of A Son. A.D. 1544. OUR Savior Christ saith, “It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones should perish.” He adds also a sign, namely, that” Their angels do always see the Face of God.” Therefore you must not doubt that your child is with our Savior Christ and all the Blessed in joy.
I also am a father, and have seen some of my children die. I have also seen other miseries greater than death, and I know that such things cause anguish. God wills that our children should be dear to us. He wills that we should weep for them. Yet the faith of the eternal joy must work consolation in us.
To Ambrosius Berndt. On The Death Of His Wife. “THIS calamity is indeed a burning fire to thee, yet is there sweetness distilling from the very anguish. For it is well with her. She lives now with Christ. She has sprung forth (taken her spring into the other life.)” Ah, would to God that I also had taken that spring. I would not much wish myself here again. (Sie hat ihren Sprung gethan. O, wollt Gott dass ich den Sprung auch gethan hatte. Ich wollt mich nicht sehr herwieder sehnen.)
ON the 1st of December, 1536, Dr. Martin Luther visited the Burgomaster Lucas Cranach (the painter), who was very sorrowful and distressed on account of the death of his dear and dutiful son, who by the advice and wish of his parents, and other good people, had travelled to Italy, and at Bologne, on the evening of the 9th of October, had died, with a beautiful, glorious Christian confession of faith.
But his parents, besides their natural love and tenderness, distressed and tortured themselves as if they had been the cause of his death, because they had sent him thither.
Thereupon said Dr. Martin:” If this were so, I am certainly as much a cause of this as you, for I faithfully counselled you and him to it. But we did not do it with the intention that he should die. Our hearts bear witness with us how far rather we would have had him living. Yea, you would indeed far rather have died yourselves, or lost everything you possess.”
Afterwards he turned to the father, who was weeping, and said: “Dear Master Lucas, let your heart be quieted. God wills to break your will, for He smites us where the pain is sorest, to crucify the old Adam. And even if our trials are not the greatest, to us they seem so. “Think of dear Adam, what heart-anguish his was when the firstborn brother murdered the second. “Think of the beloved David, who mourned for Amnon and for Absalom, and Absalom was indeed lost. “Let us be comforted by the thought of your son’s goodness and dutifulness. For the world is so evil that the choicest youths come to shame, and your son might even have experienced this. “Grievous it is to you to have lost a good, obedient son. We cannot but remember the good and true more than the evil and disobedient; yet let his obedience and his Christian departure be a joy to you.
For his last hour was indeed good and blessed, and God chose when it should be. Ah, blessed, and twice blessed is he who has such a departure. It is my daily sigh and prayer that God may grant me a blessed, joyful departure. Then shall I see that all was well with me here, and, redeemed from all distress and sorrow, be joyful with God. “Dear Master Lucas, commit this to God. He is the highest Father, and has more right to your son than even you have. For you are only his earthly father - have only trained and cherished him a little while. But God has given him body and soul, has guarded and kept him until now; is a tenderer, yes, a far tenderer Father than you. He knows how, and He will preserve him, care for him, cherish him better than even you, on the whole, could do. Let your mourning and grief have measure; commit it to the will of God, which is better than ours. Eat and drink and refresh yourself; do not make yourself ill with grief, for you shall yet serve and help many.”
To Justus Jonas. On The Death Of Heinz’s Wife.- 1543.
IKNOW his sorrow and mourn with him. But the time is coming in which thanks will be given to God, who has taken away His own, by so fatherly a stroke, and one suited to His Church, from the abysses and Tartaruses of this world. I can now rejoice that my most dear daughter Magdalene has been called out of this Ur of the Chaldees, feeling secure for her who now abides secure in eternal peace, although with great anguish I lost her.
To Baumgartner’s Wife. On The Perilous Imprisonment Of Her Husband. 1544. OUR griefs have not risen so high nor grown so bitter as those of His dear Son and the dear mother of His Son.
We have this glorious great advantage in our sorrows over the sorrow of the world, that God is gracious and favorable unto us, with all His angels and creatures, so that no misfortune to the body can hurt the soul, but must rather be for our profit.
You suffer not alone, but have many, many faithful pious hearts who have great sympathy with you. Yea, truly, in great troops we visit dear Baumgartner in his prison; that is, we visit the Lord Christ captive in this His faithful member, and pray and call on Him that He will deliver him, so that He may rejoin you and all of us.
To Parents unknown on the Death of their Son.
SO also ye, when ye have mourned and wept as ye needs must, will once more comfort yourselves; yea, thank God with joy, that your son has had so beautiful an end, and has so gently fallen asleep in Christ, that there can be no doubt he must be in the eternal rest of Christ, sleeping sweetly and softly.
For every one wondered at the great grace which enabled him to continue steadfast to the end in prayer, and in the confession of Christ, which grace must be dearer to you than that he should have revelled a thousand years in all the wealth and honors of the world. He has taken with him the greatest treasure we can gain in this life.
He has baffled the world and the devil; but we must daily be baffled by them, and wander in the midst of perils, while he is safe.
You have sent him to the best school; and your love and cost are well repaid. God help us to follow.
The Lord and highest Comforter Jesus Christ, to whom your son is dearer than even to you; who first met him with His Word, and then demanded him Himself, and took him from you, may He comfort and strengthen you by His grace, until the day when you shall see your son again in His eternal joy.
To the Widow of George Schulze on the Death of her Husband. The Sacrifice Of The Will To God.
YET, although you must indeed have sorrow, the will of God is best of all.
He has given His Son for us. How meet then is it that we should offer up our wills to His will and to His service and good pleasure, which not only are we bound to do, but therein shall we have great and eternal fruit and joy.