Category Archives: Martin Luther

The Denomination Blues

In case you don’t know, I’m a music lover. And although I decidedly come down on the “traditional” side in the worship wars (in fact, I just got my “Organ Music Rocks” t-shirt from Old Lutheran dot com!), I happen to enjoy some of the music produced by some of those who may differ with me on that issue, I just happen to reserve it “for entertainment purposes only”. Not that I don’t find it edifying as well, at times.

For instance, when it comes to Southern Gospel music, there is very little that I can stand for very long. One or two songs and I’m pretty well done. Any more than that, and I start getting visibly uncomfortable. But not so in the case of Reformed Presbyterian harmonica player extraordinaire, Buddy Greene (visit his official site). I could listen to him all day. I just added a few YouTube videos of Greene excercising his gift to my personal YouTube page (you can visit it here). The first song is “Denomination Blues” (no harmonica in this one) and he pokes fun at a few select denominations, starting with his own (even false churches like Roman Catholicism and Unitarianism). But I was surprised that he didn’t have a verse on the Baptist denomination. If you can write a good one in the vein of  Buddy Greene’s song, post it in the comments. I’ll add mine when I come up with one, too.

Here’s one where he pulls out his harmonica. It’s one of my all-time favorite songs, “God Is With Us.” This has more of a black gospel feel to it:


Dad Rod on Repentance

Lutheran professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Apologetics, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, co-host of The White Horse Inn radio show, was interviewed yesterday,

Rod is rad, he's our dad!

Rod is rad, he's our dad!

 Thursday, February 4th, on “Lutheran Public Radio,” a show called Issues, Etc. on the topic of repentance. Dr. Rosenbladt’s WHI co-hosts, Mike Horton and Kim Riddlebarger, began calling him “Dad Rod,” chiefly, I think, because it was his sense of urgency that American Evangelicalism needs to be reintroduced to the gospel, that drives the vision of their show. Among other things, revivalism has transformed American Protestant Christianity into something more akin to the medieval Roman Catholic spirituality and Anabaptistic enthusiasm  (don’t ignore this link!) than anything produced by the Protestant Reformation of the Magisterial Reformers, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. One of the things that revivalism has “De-formed” in America is the doctrine of repentance.

The revivalist version of the doctrine of repentance is one which puts all the emphasis on the work of the believer to be sorry or contrite enough, really mean it when he repents, and shows that he’s really repented because he has actually ceased and desisted of any recurrence of the particular sinful behavior repented of. “Dad Rod” clearly and simply summarized the Reformation view of repentance from the believer’s perspective when he said . . .

“Our repentance is always imperfect and always half-hearted. . . This is preparation for believing the gospel promise (of forgiveness). . . and we do that half-heartedly, too. But God saves us in Jesus anyway.”

If you didn’t just breathe a sigh of relief, watch out! You may just be one of those dishonest people who thinks they’ve got this obedience to the Law thing down.

By the way, you can learn more pearls of wisdom from our Lutheran Dad Rod at his very own website, New Reformation Press.

Labels, Labels, Labels!

evangelical-labelMany Christians decry the use of “labels” to identify one’s distinctive beliefs and/or practices. I find this attitude intellectually reformed-labeldishonest. Everyone’s belief and practice, or approach to determining his own autonomous belief and practice, is learned either consciously or unconciously from some prior group’s or individual’s belief and practice. Being able to identify these is not some attack on the unity we have in Christ, but when used with a good and accepting attitude, it’s a way to know your brother or sister in Christ. And if you know your friend, you can love him better.

My personal attitude about labels can be likened to the way all you sports fans out there view your teams. Sure, there’s a little competition between teams, and maybe an animated discussion about your team’s strengths and the other teams’ weaknesses, but it’s all in fun. That’s the attitude I like to retain about our various distinctives. Everyone should just relax, and have a good time in the Lord, for cryin’ out loud!

Anyway, I bring all of this up simply to introduce one of R. Scott Clark’s entries in his live blogging of the Calvin’s Legacy Conference from Westminster Seminary California. Dr. Clark answers a question about the difference between the labels “Calvinist” and “Reformed.” You can read his interesting answer here. ” But in the meantime, he shares some history that reveals the origin and significance of other labels like “Lutheran,” “Evangelical,” and “Protestant.” It’s a good, short read.

calvinist-label1Now all you guys who admit to your own labels, remember to play fair! 🙂 If you like what you read, there’s plenty more where that came from. You can subscribe to the Calvin’s Legacy Conference RSS Feed and it’ll come to you, you won’t have to go get it!

The Morning After Reformation Day

R. Scott Clark, Professor of Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Associate Pastor at Oceanside United Reformed Church, splashes a little water in the faces of those of us who get excited about the Reformation on Halloween. If you want your Reformation myths challenged (if they are myths), then read his post at the Heidelblog entitled, “What Reformation Day Really Is.” But be of good cheer, true believer–the doctor not only invalidates the legends, he bestows a sharper knowledge of the true Reformation! Read, and rejoice in the truth!

At Last! The Captain on Luther–Audio!

lutherrose.jpgluther_back_sm.jpgOn Reformation Sunday, 2004, which happened to be Reformation Day itself, myluther_back_sm.jpgluther_back_sm.jpg Southern Baptist pastor allowed me to give an oral presentation on Martin Luther at church. Not being a trained, or even talented, speaker, I desired a crutch, so I put together a Power Point slide show to illustrate my presentation. I thought it would also help me make it through my outline as well. I always hoped I’d be able to share it with you, but back when I did the show, I was even more green computer-wise than I am now, so I just recently figured out how to get one of those “My Public Box” thingies in my sidebar and uploaded it. If you’d like to listen, you are certainly invited.

Some of you Luther scholars out there may detect a less than accurate date or fact or two, but give me a break, I’m an amateur. I did what I could with what I had. So, without further ado, if you go over to the black box in the sidebar and click on the top selection, entitled “Reformation Sunday and Gideon Report” (that’s right those Gideons, remeber them?), then you can give it a listen. I know it’s not October or anything, but some of you may enjoy it, if you like mediocre speaking. You can also view the slide show below. . .



Roman Truths

Before I elaborate on my “Roman Truths,” please allow me to defend myselfEternal Truths Addressed to the Eternal City with the following quote of Martin Luther on the Book of Romans cited by Dr. Tom Browning on page 3 in the introduction to his series of lessons on “The Pinnacle of Christian Doctrine.”

Browning writes that Luther writes:


This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes (Martin Luther, Lutherʹs works, vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I edited by J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1960; reprinted 1999), 365).

So, in my own defense, last night I was pondering the precious and delicious letter of Paul to the Romans. In my much pondering of this book, I often attempt to come up with an original outline of the book which will the reader or Bible student remember the broad themes of this revolutionary, reforming and reviving book of Romans. I can’t help it if it came out like this!

Roman Truths

1. The Bad News (Romans 1:1–3:20)

2. The Good News (Romans 3:21-8)

3. Good News and the Jews (Romans 9-11)

4. The Good News Wearing Shoes (Romans 12-16)

Somebody help me! I’m losing control of my homiletics!!!

Ordinary Means of Illumination

March 29, 1523German reformer Martin Luther wrote in a letter: ‘There has never been a great revelation of God’s Word unless God has first prepared the way by the rise and the flourishing of languages and learning, as though these were forerunners, a sort of John the Baptist.’

Advocates of Solo Scriptura (if only we could link to the article on Solo Scriptura, you’d see what I’m talking about!), when referring to the Holy Spirit’s work of illuminating the Word of God to the believer, seem to assume that his work is primarily supernatural. However, Luther’s comments fly in the face of this assumption. God uses means. Granted, he does at his appointed times and for his own reasons, can and does work supernaturally, but as it has played out providentially in the world, his supernatural work is the exception, rather than the rule. The rule is that God works by his providence through ordinary means. Academics like “languages and learning,” are among those ordinary means the Holy Spirit utilizes to illuminate the truth of God’s Word, centered in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, to the heart/mind of the believer.

"And God saw that the light was good."


Post Tenebras Lux Logo
Perhaps you’ve noticed over the past several weeks on my sidebar a link to a website that was in the works. This morning I checked the link and noticed they’re getting a lot closer. We’re not yet able to download anything, but we are given a glimpse of the good things to come. Just like the image at left, the light is slowly beginning to trickle in. We need a restrained, incremental approach of so much great material, because we may just be blinded by the light, otherwise.
Okay, enough of the imagery. I’ve been eagerly awaiting my opportunity to introduce you to the teaching ministry of my friend, Dr. Thomas Rufus Browning (I hope he doesn’t mind his middle name getting publicity). Dr. Browning is the father of my other friend, Gage Browning, who had heretofore been operating the blog, “Experimental Calvinism.”
Now what I’m about to say is not my merely borrowing some Madison Avenue marketing slogan, it was not focus-group tested, it’s the unvarnished truth . . .
The ministry of
Dr. Tom Browning changed my life!
But it was more indirect than it was direct. A few years ago, I had lots of contact with several members of his old church, who had the distinct privilege of being used by God to perform brain surgery on my four-point Arminian, dispensational-premillennial, King James Only, Independent Fundamental Baptist convictions.
I had looked into Calvinism on my own off and on for years before running into these guys. Michael Horton of Modern Reformation Magazine and The White Horse Inn Radio Show, was the first actual Calvinist I’d ever heard explain in detail what the Bible teaches about the doctrines of grace and their positive effect on the believer’s evangelism, but that was before MR or WHI, Horton was running his old group called CURE (Christians United for Reformation). I ordered CURE’s newsletter, and read it as much as I could, but, being a teenager at the time, the material was a little over my head. I knew this was really cool stuff, but my attention was eventually diverted back to other things. But the seeds were planted.
Years after that, I had a Presbyterian friend in the army with whom I formed quite a bond, and he worked on me non-stop, like a good Calvinist should. I gained a lot of respect for Calvinists at that time, though I was at that time resisting what I was learning. But I knew Calvinist lay people knew their Bibles and they knew theology, which was more than I’d ever seen in my IFB environment, except among the preachers to a greater or lesser degree. But the seeds were watered.
Then a few years after that, God opened the door to work with a print shop full of Calvinist bull dogs who went to Tom Browning’s church! I would walk in at 7:30 (okay, more like 8:00 or 8:30 on most days) and those bulldogs would latch onto my ankle and mercilessly not let go until the end of the work day. It was okay, because they already knew arguing theology was my favorite sport. But of course, being good bosses, they didn’t latch onto my ankle until I walked up to them and stuck it out to them, pulled up my pant leg and whistled, if you will! One of my bosses had a veritable library of White Horse Inn tapes and he generously loaned them to me all the while prophesying, “Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated!” Late in the process, Gage joined the staff and entered the group brain surgery being performed on me. After a few years of employment at what I call “The Reformation Station,” I was at long last assimilated! God gave the increase. To him alone be the glory!
My life has not been the same, since the light of the Reformation began to pierce my darkness. God is at work in my family and church, God’s truth is marching on!
Dear readers, my advice to you is to get yourself over to “Post Tenebras Lux,” partake of the teaching ministry of Dr. Tom Browning and you’ll see what adventures (not Mis-adventures) a real Captain Headknowledge can take you on!
is about to take the blogosphere by storm!
(this was an unsolicited, shameless plug for Post Tenebras Lux. Absolutely no money changed hands–however, greater faith in the sovereignty of God did change hands, and this is my way of passing it on to you!)

A Plea for Inconsistency

I had a conversation with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. He’s a Southern Baptist who, as so many of them do today, holds to four of Arminius’ five points. Fortunately, his thinking is inconsistent enough to affirm “eternal security.” But he told me a relative of his was sharing some scripture with him that was beginning to persuade him to believe that a believer just might lose his salvation (“Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!!”) if he refuses to confess his sin. While he already believes that man is fallen, but not so fallen that he can’t do any good accompanying salvation, God’s election of him is conditioned on his decision to receive Christ, Jesus died to make everyone in the world “saveable,” and that, just because the Holy Spirit may be the divine source of faith, and may have awakened you to your need for Christ, that doesn’t mean you have to receive him, my poor friend was in danger of becoming a consistent, five-point Arminian. Now, we just can’t have that!

The saving grace of the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists is that they haven’t fallen so far from their Calvinist heritage that they’ve enmasse denied the truth that once God has regenerated you, you can “fall from grace” and lose your salvation. They are saved from five-point Arminianism by their logical inconsistency. Of course, it is consistent with a self-centered worldview. Many believers may be offended by the total depravity of the sinner, the sovereignty of God in his unconditional election, the particular redemption of Christ, and the effectual call of the Holy Spirit, because that’s not fair to whomever God was pleased to leave to receive justice, but they’re certainly not offended when the grace over which they’re ultimately sovereign is promised to keep them for eternity! Oh, the blessed consistency of the self-centered four-point Arminian. His focus on his sovereignty and his benefit may be consistent, but his soteriology is definitely (no pun intended) inconsistent.

I attempted to share with my friend some truths from the book of Romans that affirm the Southern Baptist doctrine of “eternal security,” and argued that it goes along with another truth of which he may not have been familiar; namely, the four and a half points of Calvinism to which he currently objects!

I jotted down a short outline of the book of Romans, a survey of the doctrines of grace in each section of the book, and a “moral” or application which underscores his security in the light of the justification which was unconditionally and effectively applied to him. Thought I’d share them with you for your edification and, if need be, scrutiny. Please share with me your thoughts. What did I miss? Did I cover the bases thoroughly enough? Did I strike out? You be the judge.

One of the best ways to get election and eternal security straightened out, and God’s absolute sovereignty over both, is to study the book of Romans. The book of Romans is primarily concerned with the doctrine of justification by faith. If you notice the general outline of Romans, that condemnation and justification are two objective opposites, all the rest falls into place.

Romans 1-3 Condemnation in Adam
Romans 4-8 Justification in Christ
Romans 9-11 Justification and the Jews
Romans 12-16 Living in the Light of Justification in Christ

1-3 Condmenation is our natural state from conception, imputed to us because of our covenantal relationship with God in Adam;

4-8 Christ came as the last Adam to keep the Law, which Adam failed to keep, and to thereby earn eternal life as a man, that his righteousness may be imputed to all whom God has foreknown (defined as, “The Father’s savingly loving the elect before creation”), predestined (defined as, “The Father’s appointing the elect to obtain salvation”), called (defined as the Holy Spirit’s effectively applying the benefits of Christ’s redemption to the elect), justified (defined as “the Father’s declaring believers righteous in Christ”), and glorified (defined as, “The believers’ ultimate conformity to the image of Christ, morally and physically”). Paul applies our justification not only to our initial repentance toward God and faith toward Christ, but to the elect’s whole life of repentance and faith.

9-11 Paul raises and answers the question of God’s faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant, considering the fact that Gentiles now predominate in “the Israel of God.” Paul’s answer is that God’s Israel are not those who are genealogical children of Abraham, but all who share Abraham’s faith by the sovereign, electing mercy of God, whether Jew or Gentile;

12-16 After eleven chapters of solid theology on the objective doctrine of justification by faith and lays the foundation for the believer’s subjective experience of progressive sanctification, Paul now gets “practical.” In view of the mercies of God (in other words, in view of the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ), Paul beseeches his readers to present themselves as living sacrifices, to exercise the gifts God has given each for the good of the many, gives a list of marks of the true Christian, appeals to us to submit to authority, to fulfill the Law through love, to refrain from judging brothers in Christ, to avoid offending brothers in Christ, or influencing them to violate their conscience and sin against God, to do all as eternally justified believers in the light of Christ’s example, looking forward to the mutual hope shared by believing Jews and Gentiles.

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages, but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedienc of faith–to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ. Amen” (Romans 16:25-27)

Allow the objective fact of justification to reassure you in the face of the fact of your subjective failure to be perfectly obedient now. Even though you fail, because of your justification, you walk according to the Spirit, have your mind set on the things of the Spirit, are under grace and free from the condemnation of the Law. And that’s the truth (raspberry)!

postscript: for a great sermon by John Piper on the doxology which closes the book of Romans, and how God strengthens believers, not by anything apart from the gospel, but by the gospel itself (and, like Luther, may I add, the gospel alone–solus benedictus? Somebody help me out with my Latin for “The Gospel Alone”!) click here. There you go, Bob, this post makes me first loser!

Nailing A Reformation Day Reading List from the Blogosphere–Happy Reformation Day!

And finally, Wikipedia’s entry on “Reformation Day”

My Reformation Sunday Presentation Delivered Two Years Ago, Part Two

Here’s part two of my Reformation Sunday Power Point presentation on the life of Martin Luther. The previous post included biographical information about Luther; this portion of the presentation attempts to summarize the themes of the five Solas of the Reformation. This part of the presentation I did not have time to present to the church, so there is no commentary to accompany the slides. I hope their contents are self explanatory.

Blogging on the road–don’t have much time. But he…

Blogging on the road–don’t have much time. But here’s some really concise outlines on the life of Martin Luther from Third Millennium Ministries! I’m sure it corrects many of the details of my own presentation of a couple of years ago, the way Gage Browning’s dad, Dr. Tom Browning’s series on the History of the Reformation does! His series is great reading as well, and it’s written by one of my heroes in the faith!!!

Reformation Men and Theology, Lesson 3 of 11
by Dr. Jack L. Arnold
(Webpage format)
(PDF format)

MARTIN LUTHER:FROM STRUGGLE WITH ROME UNTIL DEATH (1517-1546)Reformation Men and Theology, Lesson 4 of 11
by Dr. Jack L. Arnold (webpage format)
(PDF format)

Read more from Third Mill!

Luther’s "Zion Song"

I wondered what it would yield if I put the lyrics of Luther’s greatest hymn up against a few simple study notes from the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible on Psalm 46, the psalm by which “A Mighty Fortress” was inspired.
Let me know what you get out of it. Right click and open in another window to hear the audio, if you so desire. I highly recommend your doing so. And thanks to for the use of many of the engravings I’ve featured in my posts this month.
Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Now, compare Psalm 46 from the English Standard Version, of course!

1 God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,3 though its waters roar and foam,though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
[a river. Jerusalem has no river. This figurative reference most likely draws upon the ocmmon equation of Jerusalem in the promised land with the Garden of Eden, which had a prominent river (Gen. 2:10). Both Eden and Jerusalem served as loci of God’s special presence on Earth. Ezekiel’s vision also included a river flowing from God’s temple throughout the land (Ezekiel 47). Note also the river of life flowing from God’s presence in Revelation 22:1-2 and Jesus’ teaching about the living water that flows from those who believe in him (John 4:14; 7:38).
he city of God . . . Jerusalem. As the Israelites looked at the temple, they felt secure in this symbol of God’s protecting presence. Later on in Israel’s history the people presumed on God’s presence and viewed the temple as an inviolable sanctuary that necessarily ensured their safety from the Babylonians (Jer. 7:4). Psalm 46 describes the faithful, devoted and obedient looking to the temple for security.]

5 God is in the midst of her;
she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.


Psalm 46 Introduction. This psalm is a moving affirmation of trust in the Lord in the midst of extreme adversity [ That parallels Luther’s experience easily ]. The source of the psalmist’s confidence was that God was with his people [ Ditto, Brother Martin ]. The Lord in his temple would protect them. To assert that “God is with us” is at the heart of the covenant. There are some affinities here with Psalms 48, 76, 84, and 87, which are called “Zion Songs.” Though Zion is not specifically mentioned in Psalm 46, it is alluded to in verses 4 and 5. Martin Luther was moved by this psalm to write “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” As the Israelites could look at the temple in faith and know that God was with them, so Christians can look to Jesus Chrsit as their Immanuel, “God with us.”

Spurgeon on Luther: A Sunday in Rome

” . . . You, dear reader, are perhaps trying to be better in act, better in feeling, better in resolution, and this with the view of commending yourself to the favor of God. What is this but your Pilate’s Stairs? You will find that all your efforts are labor in vain, for by the works of the law no man will ever be justified before God. The gospel does not promise eternal life to good works, or prayers, or tears, or horrible feelings; its one great utterance is, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

Read Spurgeon’s exhortation inspired by Luther’s trip to Rome,

center of justification by faith and . . .

The Homes and Haunts of Martin Luther (3)

from “The Sunday At Home: A Family Magazine for Sabbath Reading”

issue No. 1066–October 3, 1874

by John Stoughton, D.D.

The Schloss Kirche–The Castle Church at Wittenberg

But we must hasten on to the Schloss Kirche, or Castle Church, at the end of the town, opposite to the Elster Gate and the Augustinian Monastery. It is much smaller than the church we have just left; but, on approaching it, the doors arrest our attention from the circumstance of their being connected with one of the boldest acts of Luther’s life. We well remember the doors of the church at Milan, said to have been closed by St. Ambrose against the entrance of the Emperor Theodosius–significant of the courage of a renowned ecclesiastic in the maintenance of discipline. They occur to our recollection as we step up to the threshold of the Schloss Kirche, where the doors are significant of the courage of our Saxoon Reformer in attacking the dogmas on which had rested the reign of ecclesiastical despotism age after age. Against these very doors Luther affixed his ninety-five theses, now world-known–a challenge given to Papal Christendom–a gauntlet thrown down before the Romanised world. It was in the autumn of 1517, on the eve of the feast of All Saints, that Luther, agitated by the sale of indulgences, took certain counter-propositions, which he had elaborated with all the logical skill of the age, so as to cover the whole ground of the controversy as he then apprehended it, and fastened the papers to the panel of the church gate. There it was displayed to public gaze. There it was read. There it was even pondered. The proposition, which serves as a key to the rest, runs thus: “Every Christian who feels a true sorrow, a sincere repentance for his sins, has a plenary remission for his fault, even without an indulgence.” Again: “The true and precious treasure of the Church is the holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” On that church threshold the public proceedings of the Reformation may be said to have begun. There sounded the trupet-note which rolled over Germany from end to end.

As at Milan, the old doors shut against Theodosius have disappeared; so with the old doors to which Luther’s theses were affixed. No fragment of the panelling even remains, as at Milan. The old doors of the Schloss Kirche were burnt by the French; the present are of bronze, from a design by Quast.

Most visitors to Wittenberg complain of the difficulty of gaining access to the Augustinian Monastery and the Schloss Kirche, from the circumstance of the same person being custodian of the keys to both buildings. When we had surmounted the difficulty, and entered the church, we found ourselves in the presence of a worthy old German couple, who manifested a common interest in the edifice and its memorials, and vied with each other in the office of cicerone. That interest was equalled only by the zeal of the old man in exhibiting photographs, facsimiles, and seal impressions, which form a staple of merchandise on this sacred spot, and the zeal of the old woman in providing for the creature comforts of her husband and lord. The hour of the mid-day meal having arrived, she showed a most exemplary desire that the object of her affections should find rest and refreshment amidst his toils; and, therefore, having sent him to his neighbouring hom, to dine in quiet, she undertook his duties, and, conducting us round the building, pointed out to us the several objects of interest which it contains. Here are the tombs of Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast, both friends of the Reformer. The monument of Frederick is, as the guide-book says, “a fine work of art, by Peter Vischer, 1527: his bronze statue is full of life, and of a noble character.” The Gothic work of the niche is very beautiful.

But the two main objects are the graves of Martin Luther and Philip Melancthon. They are covered by tablets of bronze inserted in the stone pavement, and preserved by modern trap-doors opening over them. Two such graves are worth coming a long way to see; and he who cares to take the journey for that purpose will not fail to be moved in spirit, as he gazes on the last home of the earthly remains of these two, who, in spite of transient jars, were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in the tomb, rather than in death, not divided.

It is fitting here first to read the account of Luther’s death:

“Luther had arrived at Eisleben on the 28th of January, 1546, and , although very ill, he took part in the conferences which ensued, up to the 17th of February. He also preached four times, and revised the eclesiastical regulations for the territory of Mansfeldt. On the 17th he was so ill that the counts entreated him not to quit his house. At supper, on the same day, he spoke a great deal about his approaching death; and some one having asked him whether we should recognise one another in the next world, he said he thought we should. On retiring to his chamber, accompanied by Maltre Caelius and his two sons, he went to the window, and remained there for a considerable time engaged in silent prayer. Aurifaber then entered the chamber, to whom he said, ‘I feel very weak, and my pains are worse than ever.’ They gave him a soothing draught, and endeavoured to increase the circulation by friction. He then addressed a few words to Count Albert, who had joined him, and lay down on the bed, saying, ‘If I could manage to sleep for half an hour I think it would do me good.’ he did fall asleep, and remained in gentle slumber for an hour and a half. On awaking about eleven, he said to those present, ‘What! are you still there? Will you not go, dear friends, and rest yourselves?’ On their replying that they would remain with him, he began to pray saying with fervour, ‘Into Thy hands I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, oh Lord God of Truth.’ He then said to those present, ‘Pray, all of you, dear friends, for the gospel of our Lord; pray that its reign may extend, for the Council of Trent and the Pope menace it round about.’ He then fell asleep again for about an hour. When he awoke, Dr. Jonas asked him how he felt. ‘Oh my God,’ he replied, ‘I feel very ill. My dear Jonas, I think I shall remain here at Eisleben, here–where I was born.’ He took a turn or two in the room, and then lay down again, and had a number o clothes and cushions placed upon him to produce perspiration. Two physicians, with the count and his wife, entered the chamber. Luther said to them feebly, ‘Friends, I am dying; I shall remain with you here at Eisleben.’ Dr. Jonas expressing a hope that perspiration would, perhaps, supervene and relieve him; ‘No, dear Jonas,’ he replied, ‘I feel no wholesome perspiration, but a cold dry sweat; I get worse and worse every instant.’ He then began praying again: ‘Oh my Father! Thou, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ; Thou, the source of all consolation, I thank Thee for having revealed unto me Thy well-beloved Son, in whom I believe; whom I have preached and acknowledged, and made known; whom I have loved and celebrated, and whom the Pope and the impious persecute. I commend my soul to Thee, oh my Lord Jesus Christ! I am about to quit this terrestrial body, I am about to be removed from this life; but I know that I shall abide eternally with Thee.’ He then thrice repeated, ‘Into Thy hands I commend my spirit; Thou hast redeemed me, oh Lord God of truth.’ All at once his eyes closed, and he fell back in a swoon. Count Albert, and his wife, and the physicians, made every effort to bring him to life, but for some time altogether in vain. When he was somewhat revived, Dr. Jonas said to him, ‘Reverend father, do you die firm in the faith you have taught?’ he opened his eyes, which were half closed, looked fixedly at Jonas, and replied, firmly and distinctly, ‘Yes.’ He then fell asleep; soon after, those nearest to him saw him grow paler and paler: he became cold: his breathing was more and more faint: at length he sent forth one deep sigh, and the great Reformer was dead.”

The corpse was brought to Wittenberg with great honours. In the procession, first went four deacons, then the officers of the Elector, on horseback; next the Counts of Mansfeldt, with their attendants. The corpse followed, in a leaden coffin covered with black velvet, and conveyed on a funeral car. Luther’s widow (who was not with him when he died), in an open chariot, accompanied her husband’s remains as chief mourner. The three sons, a brother, and his wife, and friends, two and two, including Philip Melanchthon and Justus Jonas, brought up the rear.

The coffin being carried into the Schloss Kirche, and placed on a bier in front of the altar, two funeral orations were pronounced; one by Pomer and one by Melanchthon. The latter remarked: “Often have I myself gone to him unawares, and found him dissolved in tears and prayers for the Church of Christ. He devoted a certain portion of almost every day to the reading of the Psalms of David, with which he mingled his own supplications amidst sighs and tears; and he has frequently declared how indignant he felt against those who hastened over devotional exercises, through sloth or the presence of other occupations. When a variety of great and important deliberations respecting public dangers have been pending, we have witnessed his prodigious vigour of mind, his fearless and unshaken courage. Faith was his sheet-anchor, and by the help of God, he was resolved never to be driven from it.”

A brass plate was fixed upon the grave, and still remains, bearing this inscription: “Martini Lutheri, S. Theologiae Doctoris Corpus H. L. S. E. qui anno Christi MDLVI. XII. Cal. Martii Eyslebii in patria S. M. O. C. V. Ann. LXIII. MIIDX.”

Charles V entered Wittenberg after having beseiged it, and expressed a wish to see the famous tomb. Reading the inscription with folded arms, he was asked by a sycophantic attendant whether he would not have the grave opened and the ashes of the arch-heretic scattered to the winds. It is said the emperor’s cheek grew red as he replied, “I war not with the dead. Let this place be respected.”

We have scarcely time left for a visit to the Rathhaus, which is a large building with long rows of windows opening from a plain wall, the deep roof being relieved by four large dormers, each with an ornamental facing, crowned by a fluttering vane. The steps of the main entrance were, when we visited the spot, crowded with the town authorities, who were celebrating the victory of Sedan, on the anniversary of the battle. Flags were flying; bands of music were playing; trade was interrupted. Even the post-office in front of the town-hall to witness the proceedings of the magistrates in honour of the occasion.

Besides pictures and other curiosities, including a portrait of Gustavus Adolphus, and a sword he left as a memorial of his visit to the Luther shrine, the Rathhaus contains the top of the Reformer’s sacramental cup, and the rosary which he carried when he was a monk. A long catalogue might be drawn up of relics connected with the extraordinary man–now scatterred over different parts of Germany–showing the veneration in which his name is everywhere held. There is an enormous difference between pretended and genuine relics, and between the religious reverence paid to the former and the natural interest taken in the latter. The mouldering bones of mediaeval and primitive saints, exhibited in costly reliquaries within the sacristies of Roman Catholic churches, carry with them no proofs of genuineness, and in very numerous cases must be of a perfectly spurious character; whilst such objects as are shown at Wittenberg and else where, in connection with the history of Luther, are such as, for the most part, carry along with them not only accredited traditions, but manifest signs of credibility in their very form and appearance. Were they brought out to receive religious honours, to have imprinted on them the kisses of superstitious devotees, such a practice would be opposed to the design and spirit of the Reformer’s whole career; but to preserve them as memorials of an illustrious man, and to view them with deep interest when examined under that character, is in accordance with natural feelings which it would be impossible to suppress and absurd to condemn.

The memory of Martin Luther is engraven upon the town of Wittenberg more indelibly and prominently than any other memory. Even the brilliant reputation of Philip Melanchthon pales in connection with the lustre of his colleague’s fame. The fortunes of war, which have thrown shadows over this old German town–such as the Austrian bombardment in 1760, when one-third of the buildings were destroyed, and the Prussian siege in 1814, when the place was taken by storm–are events scarcely remembered even by readers of history, as they walk through the streets of Wittenberg. But everybody, on approaching the gates, thinks of the Saxon monk who there lived and there lies buried. Washington Irving concludes his essay on Shakespeare and Stratford-on-Avon, by remarking that it would have cheered “the spirit of the youthful bard that his name should become the glory of his native place; that his ashes should be religiously guarded as its most precious treasure, and that its lessening spire, on which his eyes were fixed in tearful contemplation, should one day become the beacon, towering amidst the gentle landscape, to guide the literary pilgrim of every nation to his tomb.” It is no depreciation of Shakespeare’s genius to say, that above his aspirations after fame, whatever they might be, rose the aims and desires of Luther; a man absorbed in zeal for the salvation of human souls, and for the glory of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but it would have filled him with wonder–perhaps given him pleasure–could he have forseen the place he was to occupy in the thistory of the world, and how the double tower of the Stadt Kirche, in which he preached, would become a beacon to guide tens of thousands from both hemispheres to the Augustinian monastery, where he lived, and to the Schloss Kirche, where he lies entombed.

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