The Homes and Haunts of Martin Luther (1)

First, let me tell you about this cool, old book of mine. It’s called “The Sunday At Home Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading.” This book was published in London by the Religious Tract Society, presumably in 1875. I say “presumably,” because the volume I have is a collection of the issues of “The Sunday At Home” from 1874. There are many wonderful treasures in this book, one of which is a series of articles entitled, “The Homes and Haunts of Martin Luther.” The picture to the right is published on page nine, accompanying the following article. This seems to be the perfect time to share these articles with my readers.
From Issue “No. 1027.–January 3, 1874” page 8, the following is published:
Many readers of the “Sunday at Home” must remember the striking picture with the above title, exhibited at the Royal Academy three years ago. The artist was the great historical painter E. M. Ward, R.A. It occurred to some who had seen the picture that it ought to be secured for the new Bible House in Victoria Street, and there preserved as a memorial of one of the greatest events in the history of the Bible and of the Christian Church. The matter was brought before the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society, who is inn their official capacity very rightly concluded that the purchase would not be a justifiable use of the funds intrusted to them. At the same time they showed their interest in the proposal by individually heading a subscription list, to which the names of the Earl of Shaftesbury, President, and Mr. Joseph Hoare, Treasurer of the Society, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, and many other eminent persons were attached. Mr. Ward, greatly to his honor, on learning the intention of placing the painting in the Bible Society’s House, volunteered to give to the Bible Society a donation of two hundred pounds out of the thousand pounds, the cost of the picture. We hope that the matter may be speedily arranged.
The picture commemorates an event which proved a turning-point in the history of Christendom, and so of the world. Luther had entered the monastery of the Hermits of St. Augustine at Erfurt. He was in deep trouble of mind. Finding in the monastery a Bible fastened by a chain, he was perpetually returning to this chained Bible. He would sometimes pass a whole day there in reading and in meditation.
It was only a short time before that he had first seen a complete copy of the Bible. No more graphic narrative of the incident has been given than that by Dr. Merle d’Aubigne, in his “History of the Reformation.”
“One day–he had then been two years at Erfurt, and was twenty years old–Luther opens many books in the library one after another, to learn their writers’ names. One volume that he comes to attracts his attention. He has never until this hour seen its like. He reads the title–it is a Bible! a rare book, unknown in those times. His interest is greatly excited: he is filled with astonishment at finding other matters than those fragments of the gospels and epistles that the Church has selected to be read to the people during public worship every Sunday throughout the year. Until this day he had imagined that they composed the whole Word of God. And now he sees so many pages, so many chapters, so many books of which he had had no idea! His heart beats as he holds the divinely inspired volume in his hand. With eagerness and with indescribable emotion he turns over these leaves from God. The first page on which he fixes his attention narrates the story of Hannah and of the young Samuel. He reads–and his soul can hardly contain the joy it feels. This child, whom his parents lend to the Lord as long as he liveth; the song of Hannah, in which she declares that Jehovah ‘raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes;’ this child, who grew up in the temple in the presence of the Lord; those sacrificers, the sons of Eli, who are wicked men, who live in debauchery, and ‘make the Lord’s people to transgress;’–all this history, all this revelation that he has just discovered, excites feelings till then unknown. He returns home with a full heart. ‘Oh! that God would give me such a book for myself,’ thought he. Luther was as yet ignorant both of Greek and Hebrew. It is scarcely probable that he had studied these languages during the first two or three years of his residence at the university. The Bible that had filled him with such transports was in Latin. He soon returned to the library to pore over his treasure. He read it again and again, and then, in his astonishment and joy, he returned to read it once more. The first glimmerings of a new truth were beginning to dawn upon his mind.
“Thus had God led him to the discovery of his Word–of that book of which he was one day to give his fellow-countrymen that admirable translation in which Germany has for three centuries perused the oracles of God. Perhaps for the first time this precious volume has now been taken down from the place it occupied in the library of Erfurt. This book, deposited upon the unknown shelves of a gloomy hall, is about to become the book of life to a whole nation. In that Bible the Reformation lay hid.”
“Dr. Usinger, an Augustinian monk, who was my preceptor at Erfurt,” Luther told a friend, “used to say to me, when he saw me reading the Bible with such devotion, ‘Ah, Brother Martin, what is there in the Bible? It is better to read the ancient doctors, who have sucked the honey out of the truth. The Bible is the cause of all troubles.'” Brother Martin stuck to the Bible; and he listened to it as the Word of God, from that day through all his life. Thus, in one of his letters, long afterwards, referring to the struggle that had taken place in his soul, he describes the difficulty he had about the expression, “the righteousness of God:” “I thirsted greatly to know the meaning of it, until, through God’s grace, I observed how the words are connected together in the following way: ‘The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.’ Observing this connection, I saw that the apostle’s meaning was this: That by the gospel is made known that righteousness which avails with God; in which God, out of grace and mere mercy, makes us righteous through faith. Upon this I felt as if I was wholly born anew, and had found an open door into Paradise itself. The precious Holy Scriptures now at once appeared quite another thing to me. I ran quickly through the whole Bible and collected all that it says on this subject. Thus, as I had before hated this expression–the righteousness of God–so now I began highly and dearly to esteem it, as my beloved and most comfortable word of Scripture, and that passage became to me the very gate of heaven.”

2 responses

  1. John,
    Have you listened to my Dad’s lecture on “The little red bible chained to the wall” in his series on Reformation History. It’s on Monergism.


  2. I probably did one time back on the church website. But I’ll be glad to listen to it again.

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