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Life of Luther Part 29

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[Footnote: A facsimile of the longest of these letters, bearing date February 7, appears at the end of the volume. It runs as follows: 'Mercy and peace in the Lord. Pray read, dear Katie, the Gospel of St. John and the' [_marginally_ 'little'] 'Catechism, of which you once declared that you yourself had said all that it contained. For you wish to disquiet yourself about your G.o.d, just as if He were not Almighty, and able to create ten Martin Luthers for one old one drowned perhaps in the Saale, or fallen dead by the fireplace, or on Wolf's fowling-floor. Leave me in peace with your cares; I have a better protector than you and all the angels. He--my Protector--lies in the manger, and hangs upon a Virgin's breast. But He sits also at the right hand of G.o.d, the Father Almighty. Best, therefore--in peace. Amen.

'I think that h.e.l.l and all the world must now be free of all the devils who have come together here to Eisleben, for my sake it seems. So hard and knotty is this business. There are fifty Jews here too' [_marginally_ 'in one house'], 'as I wrote to you before. It is now said that at Rissdorff, hard by Eisleben, where I fell ill before my arrival, more than four hundred Jews were walking and riding about. Count Albert, who owns all the country round Eisleben, has seized them upon his property, and will have nothing to do with them. No one has done them any harm as yet. The widowed Countess of Mansfeld (the Countess Dorothea, widow of Count Ernest, born Countess of Solms), is thought to be the protectress of the Jews. I don't know whether it is true, but I have given my opinion in quarters where I hope it will be attended to. It is a case of Beg, Beg, Beg, and helping them. For I had it in my mind to-day to grease my carriage wheels _in ira mea_. But I felt the misery of it too much; my native home held me back. I have been made a lawyer, but they will not gain by it. They had better have let me remain a theologian. If I live and come among them, I might become a hobgoblin, who would comb down their pride by the grace of G.o.d. They behave as if they were G.o.d Himself, but must take care to shake off these notions in good time before their G.o.dhead becomes a devilhead, as happened to Lucifer, who could not remain in heaven for pride.

Well, G.o.d's will be done. Let Master Philip see this letter, for I had no time to write to him; and you may comfort yourself with the thought how much I love you, as you know. And Philip will understand it all.

'We live here very well, and the town-council gives me for each meal half a pint of "Reinfall"' [_marginally_, 'which is very good']. 'Sometimes I drink it with my friends. The wine of the country here is also good, and Naumburg beer is very good, though I fancy its pitch fills my chest with phlegm. The devil has spoilt all the beer in the world with his pitch, and the wine with his brimstone. But here the wine is pure, such as the country gives.

'And know that all letters you have written have arrived, and to-day those have come which you wrote last Friday, together with Master Philip's letters, so you need not be angry.

Sunday after St. Dorothea's Day (7 February) 1546.

'Your loving

'MARTIN LUTHER, D.']

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 66.--ADDRESS OF LUTHER'S LETTER OF FEBRUARY 7.

(' To my beloved housewife, Catharine Lady Luther, Lady Doctor, Lady of the Pigmarket at Wittenberg; my gracious wife, bound hand and foot in loving service.')]

Luther kept up also at Eisleben his correspondence with Melancthon.

He wrote to him three letters, the last testimony of his friendship.

A letter to his 'kind, dear housewife,' and one to Melancthon, his 'most worthy brother in Christ,' both of February 14, are without doubt the last he ever wrote. His sick body was well nursed and tended at Eisleben. He went to bed early every night, after he had stood before his window, according to his old habit, in fervent prayer. The stone no longer troubled him, but he was very weary and worn. His last sermon, on Sunday, February 14, he broke off with the words: 'This and much more is to be said about the Gospel; but I am too weak, we will leave off here.' Most unfortunately for him, he had omitted to bring with him to Eisleben the applications used for keeping his issue open, and now it was nearly closed. He knew that the physicians considered this extremely dangerous.

At length his efforts to mediate between his masters the Counts were crowned with success beyond all expectation. On February 14 a reconciliation was effected upon the chief points, and the various members of the Counts' families rejoiced, while the young lords and ladies made merry all together. 'Therefore,' wrote Luther to Kathe, 'it must be seen that G.o.d is _Exauditor prec.u.m_.' He sent her some trout as a thankoffering from Countess Albert. He wrote to her: 'We hope to return home this week, if G.o.d will.'

On the 16th and 17th of that month the reconciliation upon all the points of dispute was formally concluded. The revenues of churches and schools were fixed upon, and the latter to this day owe a rich endowment to the arrangements there made. On the 16th Luther says in his 'Table Talk': 'I will now no longer tarry, but set myself to go to Wittenberg and there lay myself in a coffin and give the worms a fat doctor to feed upon.'

On the morning of the 17th, however, the Counts found themselves compelled, by Luther's state of health, to entreat him not to exert himself any longer with their affairs; and so he only added his signature where required. To Jonas and the Counts' court-preacher Colius, who were staying, with him, he said he thought he should remain at Eisleben, where he was born. Before supper he complained of oppression of the chest, and had himself rubbed with warm cloths.

This relieved him, and he left his little room, going down the staircase into the public room to join the party at supper. 'There is no pleasure,' he said, 'in being alone.' At supper he was merry with the rest, and talked with his usual energy on various subjects--now jocular or serious, now intellectual and pious. But no sooner had he returned to his chamber and finished his usual evening prayer than he again became anxious and troubled. After being rubbed again with warm cloths and having taken a medicine which Count Albert himself had brought him, he laid himself down about nine o'clock on a leathern sofa and slept gently for an hour and a half. On awakening, he arose, and with the words (spoken in Latin) 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, Thou G.o.d of truth,' went to his bed in the adjoining room, where he again slept, breathing quietly, till one o'clock. He then awoke, called his servant, and begged him to heat the room, though it was quite warm already, and then exclaimed to Jonas, 'O Lord G.o.d, how ill I am! Ah! I feel I shall remain here at Eisleben, where I was born and baptized.' In this state of pain he arose, walked without a.s.sistance into the room which he had left a few hours before, again commending his soul to G.o.d; and then, after pacing once up and down the room, lay down once more on the sofa, complaining again of the oppression on his chest. His two sons, Martin and Paul, remained with him all night. They had spent most of the time at Mansfeld with their relations there, but had now returned to their father (Hans was still absent), and his servant and Jonas. Colius also hastened to him, and the young theologian John Aurifaber, a friend of the two Counts who used to a.s.sociate with Luther together with Jonas and Colius. The town-clerk was there, too, with his wife, also two physicians, and Count Albert and his wife, who busied herself zealously with nursing the sick man; and later on came a Count of Schwarzburg with his wife, who were staying on a visit with the Count of Mansfeld. The rubbing and application of warm clothes and the medicines were now of no avail to ease Luther's anguish. He broke out into a sweat. His friends began to feel more happy about him, hoping that this would relieve him; but he replied, 'It is the cold sweat of death; I shall yield up my spirit.' Then he began to give thanks aloud to G.o.d, Who had revealed to him His Son, Whom he had confessed and loved, and Whom the G.o.dless and the Pope blasphemed and insulted. He cried aloud to G.o.d and to the Lord Jesus: 'Take my poor soul into Thy hands! Although I must leave this body, I know that I shall be ever with Thee.' He then spoke words of the Bible, three times uttering the text of St. John iii: 'G.o.d so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'

After Colius had given him one more spoonful of medicine, he said again, 'I am going, and shall render up my spirit,' and three times rapidly in succession he said in Latin, 'Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord G.o.d of truth.'

From that time he remained quite still, and closed his eyes, without making any answer when spoken to by those around him, who were busy with restoratives. Jonas and Colius, however, after his pulse had been rubbed with strengthening waters, said aloud in his ear: 'Reverend father (_Reverende pater), wilt thou stand by Christ and the doctrine thou hast preached?' He uttered an audible 'Yes.' He then turned upon his right side and fell asleep. He lay thus for nearly a quarter of an hour, when his feet and nose grew cold; he fetched one deep, even breath, and was gone. It was between two and three o'clock in the morning of February 18--a Thursday.

The body was laid in a white garment, first upon a bed, and then in a hastily-made leaden coffin. Many hundreds, high and low, came to see it. The next morning the face was painted by an Eisleben artist, and the morning after that by Lucas Fortenagel of h.e.l.le.

Fortenagel's portrait is no doubt a foundation of all those which we find in several places under Cranach's name, and which no doubt really came from Cranach's studio.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 57.--LUTHER AFTER DEATH. (From a picture ascribed to Cranach.)]

The Elector John Frederick at once insisted that the mortal remains of Luther should rest at Wittenberg. The Counts of Mansfeld wished at least to pay them the last honours. After they had been brought, on the afternoon of the 19th, into the Church of St. Andrew, where a sermon was preached by Jonas that day, and another by Colius on the following morning, a solemn procession started at noon on the 20th, with the coffin, for its destination. In front rode a troop of about fifty light-armed cavalry, with sons of both the Counts, to accompany the body to its last resting-place. All the Counts and Countesses, with their guests, followed as far as the gates of Eisleben, and among them was a Prince of Anhalt, the magistrates, the school-children, and the whole population of the surrounding country.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 58.--CAST OF LUTHER AFTER DEATH. (At Halle.)]

In all the villages on the road the bells tolled, and old and young flocked to join the procession. At Halle the coffin was received with great solemnity, and placed for the night of the 20th in the princ.i.p.al church of the town. There a cast was taken in wax, which is preserved in the library of the church; the original features, however, having been altered by putting in the eyes and improving the shape of the mouth. To complete our picture of Luther's outward appearance, we have in this cast the remarkably strong brow, which in Cranach's portraits of Luther often recedes out of all proportion in his upturned face. The two representations of Luther when dead are of great value, deeply as it must be lamented that no more skilful hands than those of the painter of Halle and the wax-modeller have had the privilege of working upon them.

On the 21st the corpse was taken to Kemberg, after being received at the frontier of the Electorate by deputies from the Elector. On the morning of the 22nd it reached Wittenberg, where it was at once taken to the Castle Church in solemn procession through the whole length of the town. It was a long, sad procession. First went the n.o.bles representing the Elector, then the hors.e.m.e.n from Mansfeld and their young Counts, and immediately after the coffin the widow in a little carriage with some other gentlewomen. Then followed Luther's sons and his brother James, with other relatives from Mansfeld; then the University, the members of the Town Council, and all the citizens of Wittenberg. In the church Bugenhagen preached a sermon, and Melancthon, who, on the arrival of the sad news, had expressed his grief in a charge to the students, gave a Latin oration as representative of the University. Then, near the spot where the great Reformer had once nailed up his theses, the body was lowered into the grave.

Throughout the whole Evangelical Church arose a cry of lamentation.

Luther was mourned as a prophet of Germany--as an Elijah who had overthrown the worship of idols and set up again the pure Word of G.o.d. Like Elisha to Elijah, so Melancthon called out after him, 'Alas! the chariot of Israel and the hors.e.m.e.n thereof!' On the other hand, fanatical Papists were not ashamed to insult his very deathbed with slanders and falsehoods; even a year before he died a silly, sensational story of his death was spread about by them.

Luther throughout his life and labours had never troubled himself much about the praise or the abuse of men. After the example of his great teacher St. Paul, he went his way in honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report, along the road which he knew to be pointed out from above. The portrait of his life, plain and unadorned as it is presented to the present age, will at any rate testify to the worth of this great man, and thus do something towards that eternal end for which he was ready to sacrifice his life and, in the eyes of the world, his honour and his fame.

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Life of Luther Part 29 summary

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