History of the christian church



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"Therefore, dear little boy Johnny, learn and pray with a good heart, and tell Lippus and Jost to do the same, and then you will all come to the garden together. And now I commend you to Almighty God. Give my love to aunt Lene, and give her a kiss for me. Anno 1530.

Thy loving father,

"Martinus Luther"
He was deeply grieved by the early death of his favorite daughter Lena (Magdalen), a pious, gentle, and affectionate girl of fourteen, with large, imaginative eyes, and full of promise.598 "I love her very much," he prayed; "but, dear God, if it is thy holy will to take her hence, I would gladly leave her with Thee." And to her he said, "Lena dear, my little daughter, thou wouldst love to remain here with thy father: art thou willing to go to that other Father?"—"Yes, dear father," she replied, "just as God wills." And when she was dying, he fell on his knees beside her bed, wept bitterly, and prayed for her redemption. As she lay in her coffin, he exclaimed, "Ah! my darling Lena, thou wilt rise again, and shine like a star,—yea, as a sun. I am happy in the spirit, but very sorrowful in the flesh." He wrote to his friend Jonas: "You will have heard that my dearest child is born again into the eternal kingdom of God. We ought to be glad at her departure, for she is taken away from the world, the flesh, and the devil; but so strong is natural love, that we cannot bear it without anguish of heart, without the sense of death in ourselves." On her tomb he inscribed these lines: —
"Here do I Lena, Luther’s daughter, rest,

Sleep in my little bed with all the blessed.

In sin and trespass was I born;

Forever would I be forlorn,

But yet I live, and all is good —

Thou, Christ, didst save me with thy blood."


Luther was simple, regular, and temperate in his habits. The reports to the contrary are slanders of enemies. The famous and much-abused adage, —
"Who does not love wife, wine, and song,

Remains a fool his whole life long,"599-


is not found in his works, nor in any contemporary writing, but seems to have originated in the last century, on the basis of some mediaeval saying.600 He used beer601 and common wine according to the general custom of his age and country; but he abhorred intemperance, and justly complained of the drink-devil (Saufteufel) of the Germans.602 Melanchthon, his daily companion, often wondered (as he reports after Luther’s death) how a man with such a portly frame could live on so meager a diet; for he observed that Luther sometimes fasted for four days when in good health, and was often contented for a whole day with a herring and a piece of bread. He preferred "pure, good, common, homely fare." Occasionally he received a present of game from the Elector, and enjoyed it with his friends.

He had a powerful constitution, but suffered much of the stone, of headache, and attacks of giddiness, and fainting; especially in the fatal year 1527, which brought him to the brink of the grave. He did not despise physicians, indifferent as they were in those days, and called them "God’s menders (Flicker) of our bodies; "but he preferred simple remedies, and said, "My best medical prescription is written in John 3: ’God so loved the world.’ " He was too poor to keep horse and carriage, but he kept a bowling-alley for exercise. He liked to throw the first ball himself, and elicited a hearty laugh when he missed the mark; he then reminded the young friends that by aiming to knock down all the pins at once, they might miss them all, as they would find out in their future calling. He warned Melanchthon against excess of study, and reminded him that we must serve God by rest and recreation as well as by labor, for which reason He has given us the fourth commandment, and instituted the Sabbath.

Luther exercised a generous hospitality, and had always guests at his table. He was indiscriminately benevolent to beggars, until rogues sharpened his wits, and made him more careful.603 There was an unbroken succession of visitors—theologians, students, princes, noblemen, and ladies, anxious to see the great man, to get his advice and comfort; and all were favorably impressed with his frank, manly, and pleasant bearing. At times he was wrapt in deep thought, and kept a monkish silence at table; but at other times he talked freely, seriously and merrily, always interestingly, about every thing under the sun. His guests called his speeches their "table-spice," and recorded them faithfully without discrimination, even his most trivial remarks. Once he offered a premium for the shortest blessing. Bugenhagen began in Low German: —
"Dit und dat,

Trocken und nat

Gesegne Gott."
Luther improved upon it in Latin: —
"Dominus Jesus

Sit potus et esus."
But Melanchthon carried the palm with
"Benedictus benedicat."
To the records of Veit Dietrich, Lauterbach, and Mathesius, which were often edited, though in bad taste, we owe the most remarkable "Table-Talk "ever published.604 Many of his sayings are exceedingly quaint, and sound strange, coarse, and vulgar to refined ears. But they were never intended for publication; and making due allowance for human weakness, the rudeness of the age, and his own rugged nature, we may agree with the judgment of one of his most accurate biographers, that "in all his words and deeds Luther was guided constantly by the loftiest principles, by the highest considerations of morality and religious truth, and that in the simple and straightforward manner which was his nature, utterly free from affectation or artificial effort."605 After dinner he indulged with his friends and children in music, sacred and secular songs, German and Latin hymns. He loved poetry, music, painting, and all the fine arts. In this respect he was ahead of those puritanical Reformers who had no taste for the beautiful, and banished art from the church. He placed music next to theology. He valued it as a most effectual weapon against melancholy and the temptations of the Devil. "The heart," he said, "is satisfied, refreshed, and strengthened by music." He played the lute, sang melodiously, and composed tunes to his hymns, especially the immortal, Ein feste Burg," which gives classic expression to his heroic faith in God and the triumph of the gospel. He never lost his love for Virgil and Cicero, which he acquired as a student at Erfurt. He was fond of legends, fables, and proverbs. He would have delighted in the stories of old "Mother Goose," and in Grimm’s "Hausmährchen." He translated some of Esop’s Fables, and wrote a preface to an edition which was published after his death.

He enjoyed the beauties of nature, loved trees and flowers, was fond of gardening, watched with wonder the household of the bees, listened with delight to the singing birds, renewed his youth with the return of spring, and adored everywhere the wisdom and goodness of nature’s God. Looking at a rose, he said, "Could a man make a single rose, we should give him an empire; but these beautiful gifts of God come freely to us, and we think nothing of them. We admire what is worthless, if it be only rare. The most precious of things is nothing if it be common." "The smallest flowers show God’s wisdom and might. Painters cannot rival their color, nor perfumers their sweetness; green and yellow, crimson, blue, and purple, all growing out of the earth. And yet we trample on lilies as if we were so many cows." He delighted in a refreshing rain. "God rains," he said, "many hundred thousand guilders, wheat, rye, barley, oats, wine, cabbage, grass, milk." Talking of children, he said, "They speak and act from the heart. They believe in God without disputing, and in another life beyond the present. They have small intellect, but they have faith, and are wiser than old fools like us. Abraham must have had a hard time when he was told to kill Isaac. No doubt he kept it from Sarah. If God had given me such all order, I should have disputed the point with Him. But God has given his only begotten Son unto death for us."

He shared in the traditional superstitions of his age. He believed in witchcraft, and had many a personal encounter with the Devil in sleepless nights.606 He was reluctant to accept the new Copernican system of astronomy, because Joshua bade the sun stand still, not the earth." He regarded the comets, which he calls "harlot stars," as tokens of God’s wrath, or as works of the Devil. Melanchthon and Zwingli held similar opinions on these irregular visitors. It was an almost universal belief of mankind, till recent times, that comets, meteors, and eclipses were fire-balls of an angry God to scare and rouse a wicked world to repentance.607 On the other hand, he doubted the calculations of astrology. "I have no patience with such stuff," he said to Melanchthon, who showed him the nativity of Cicero from the stars. "Esau and Jacob were born of the same father and mother, at the same time, and under the same planets, but their nature was wholly different. You would persuade me that astrology is a true science! I was a monk, and grieved my father; I caught the Pope by his hair, and he caught me by mine; I married a runaway nun, and begat children with her. Who saw that in the stars? Who foretold that? Astronomy is very good, astrology is humbug. The example of Esau and Jacob disproves it."

Luther gave himself little concern about his household, and left it in the hands of his wife, who was prudent and economical. He calls himself a negligent, forgetful, and ignorant housekeeper, but gives great credit to his "Herr Kathie." He was contented with little, and called economy the best capital. All the Reformers were poor, and singularly free from avarice; they moved in a lofty sphere, and despised the vanities of the world.

Luther’s income was very small, even for the standard of his times, and presents a striking contrast to the royal splendor and luxury of bishops and cardinals. His highest annual salary as professor was three hundred guilders; it was first a hundred guilders; on his marriage the Elector John doubled it; the Elector John Frederick added a hundred; a guilder being equal in value to about sixteen marks or shillings (four dollars) of the present day. He received no honorarium from the students, nor any salary as preacher in the town church; but regular payments in wood and grain, and occasional presents of a fine suit, a cask of wine, or venison, or a silver cup from the Elector, with his greetings. Admiring friends gave him rings, chains, and other valuables, which he estimated in 1542 at a thousand guilders. In his last years (from 1541) he, as well as Bugenhagen, Melanchthon, and Jonas, received an annual honorary pension of fifty guilders from the king of Denmark, who thereby wished to show his gratitude for the Lutheran Reformation, and had previously (1539) sent him a special present of a hundred guilders through Bugenhagen. From his father, who left twelve hundred and fifty guilders, he inherited two hundred and fifty guilders. The publishers offered him (as he reported in 1539) a yearly grant of four hundred guilders for the free use of his manuscripts, but he refused "to make money out of the gifts of God." If he had been rewarded according to modern ideas, the royalty of his German Bible Version alone would have amounted to a handsome fortune before his death. He bought in 1540 from his brother-in-law a little farm, Zulsdorf, between Leipzig and Borna, for six hundred and ten guilders, as a home for his family. His wife cultivated a little garden with fruit-trees, even mulberry and fig trees, raised hops and brewed beer for domestic use, as was then the custom. She also had a small fish-pond. She enjoyed hard work. Luther assisted her in gardening and fishing. In 1541 he purchased a small house near the convent, for his wife.608 He willed all his property, which amounted to about nine thousand guilders, to his wife during her lifetime, wishing that, she should not receive from her children, but the children from her; that they must honor and obey her, as God has commanded."

His widow survived him seven years, and suffered from poverty and affliction. The Elector, the Counts of Mansfeld, and the King of Denmark added small sums to her income; but the unfortunate issue of the Smalkaldian war (1547) disturbed her peace, and drove her from Wittenberg. She returned after the war. Melanchthon and Bugenhagen did for her what they could. When the pestilence broke out at Wittenberg in 1552, and the university was moved to Torgau, she followed with her children; but on the journey she was thrown from the wagon into a ditch, and contracted a cold which soon passed into consumption. She died Dec. 20, 1552, at Torgau; her last prayer was for her children and the Lutheran Church.

A few words about Luther’s personal appearance. In early life, as we have seen, he looked like an ascetic monk, pale, haggard, emaciated.609 But in latter years he grew stout and portly. The change is characteristic of his transition from legalistic gloom to evangelical cheerfulness. He was of middle stature, had a large head and broad chest, a bold and open face without any dissimulation lurking behind, prominent lips, short curly hair, and uncommonly brilliant and penetrating eyes. His enemies saw in them the fire of a demon. His countenance makes the impression of frankness, firmness, courage, and trust in God. He looks like a hero of faith, who, with the Bible in his hand, defies the world, the flesh, and the Devil. His feet are firmly planted on the ground, as if they could not be moved. "Here I stand, I cannot otherwise." His voice was not strong, but clear and sonorous. He was neat in his dress, modest and dignified in his deportment. He exchanged the monastic gown in 1524 for a clerical robe, a gift of the Elector. He disliked the custom of the students to rise when he entered into the lecture-room. "I wish," he said, "Philip would give up this old fashion. These marks of honor always compel me to offer a few more prayers to keep me humble; and if I dared, I would go away without reading my lecture."

The same humility made him protest against the use of his name by his followers, who nevertheless persisted in it. "I pray you," he said, "leave my name alone, and do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine. I have not been crucified for any one. St. Paul would not that any one should call themselves of Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How, then, does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to those party names and distinctions,—away with them all! and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes. It is quite proper, that the Papists should bear the name of their party; because they are not content with the name and doctrine of Jesus Christ, they will be Papists besides. Well, let them own the Pope, as he is their master. For me, I neither am, nor wish to be, the master of any one. I and mine will contend for the sole and whole doctrine of Christ, who is our sole master."


§ 79. Reflections on Clerical Family Life.
The Reformers present to us the first noted examples of clerical family life in the Christian Church. This is a new and important chapter in the history of civilization.

They restored a natural right founded in the ordinance of God. The priests and high priests of the Jewish theocracy down to the father of John the Baptist, as well as the patriarchs, Moses, and some of the prophets, lived in wedlock. The prince of the apostles, whom Roman Catholics regard as the first pope, was a married man, and carried his wife with him on his missionary journeys.610 Paul claimed the same right as "other apostles, and the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas," though he renounced it for personal reasons. From the pastoral Epistles we may infer that marriage was the rule among the bishops and deacons of the apostolic age. It is therefore plainly a usurpation to deprive the ministers of the gospel of this right of nature and nature’s God.

But from the second century the opinion came to prevail, and still prevails in the papal communion, which is ruled by an unmarried priest, that marriage is inconsistent with the sacerdotal office, and should be forbidden after ordination. This view was based on the distinction between a lower and higher morality with corresponding merit and reward, the one for the laity or the common people; the other for priests and monks, who form a spiritual nobility. All the church fathers, Greek and Latin, even those who were themselves married (as Tertullian, Gregory of Nyssa, Synesius), are unanimous in praising celibacy above marriage; and the greatest of them are loudest in this praise, especially St. Jerome. And yet the mothers of Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, and Augustin, are the brightest examples of Christian women in the ancient Church. Nonna, Anthusa, and Monica were more useful in giving birth to these luminaries of the Church than any nuns.

This ascetic feature marks a decided difference between the Fathers and the Reformers, as it does between the Catholic and Evangelical churches. Anglicanism, with all its respect for the Fathers, differs as widely from them in this respect as any other Protestant communion.

The Oriental churches, including that of Russia, stopped half way in this ascetic restriction of a divine right. They approve and even enjoin marriage upon the lower clergy (before ordination), but forbid it to bishops, and regard the directions of Paul, 1 Tim. 3:2, 12 (compare 5:9), as a concession to the weakness of the flesh, and as a prohibition of second marriage. The Latin Church, understanding the advice of Paul, 1 Cor. 7:7, 32, 33, as, a counsel of perfection, "indicating a better way, imposed, as early as the fourth century, total abstinence from marriage upon all orders of the clergy, and brands the marriage of a priest as sinful concubinage. Pope Siricius, a.d. 385, issued the first prohibition of sacerdotal marriage. His successors followed, but it was not till Gregory VII. that the prohibition was rigidly enforced. It was done in the interest of hierarchical power, and at an enormous sacrifice of clerical purity. The Roman Catholic system makes marriage one of the seven sacraments; but by elevating celibacy above it, and by declaring it to be beneath the dignity of a priest of God, it degrades marriage as if it involved an element of impurity. According to the Gnostic and Manichaean theory, condemned by Paul as a doctrine of demons, 1 Tim. 4:1–3, marriage is a contact with sinful matter, and forbidden altogether.

In view of this state of public opinion and the long tradition of Latin Christendom, we need not wonder that the marriage of the Reformers created the greatest sensation, and gave rise to the slander that sensual passion was one of the strongest motives of their rebellion against popery. Erasmus struck the keynote to this perversion of history, although he knew well enough that Luther and Oecolampadius were Protestants several years before they thought of marrying. Clerical marriage was a result, not a cause, of the Reformation, as clerical celibacy was neither the first nor the chief objection to the papal system.611

On a superficial view one might wish that the Reformers had remained true to their solemn promise, like the Jansenist bishops in the seventeenth century, and the clerical leaders of the Old Catholic secession in the nineteenth.612 But it was their mission to introduce by example as well as by precept, a new type of Christian morality, to restore and re-create clerical family life, and to secure the purity, peace, and happiness of innumerable homes.

Far be it from us to depreciate the value of voluntary celibacy which is inspired by the love of God. The mysterious word of our Lord, Matt. 19:12, and the advice and example of Paul, 1 Cor. 7:7, 40, forbid it. We cheerfully admire the self-denial and devotion of martyrs, priests, missionaries, monks, nuns, and sisters of charity, who sacrificed all for Christ and their fellow-men. Protestantism, too, has produced not a few noble men and women who, without vows and without seeking or claiming extra merit, renounced the right of marriage from the purest motives.613 But according to God’s ordinance dating from the state of innocency, and sanctioned by Christ at the wedding feast at Cana, marriage is the rule for all classes of men, ministers as well as laymen. For ministers are men, and do not cease to be men by becoming ministers.

The Reformation has changed the moral ideal, and elevated domestic and social life. The mediaeval ideal of piety is the flight from the evil world: the modern ideal is the transformation of the world. The model saint of the Roman Church is the monk separated from the enjoyments and duties of society, and anticipating the angelic life in heaven where men neither marry nor are given in marriage: the model saint of the Evangelical Church is the free Christian and useful citizen, who shows his piety in the performance of social and domestic duties, and aims at the sanctification of the ordinances of nature. The former tries to conquer the world by running away from its temptations—though after all he cannot escape the flesh, the world, and the Devil in his own heart: the latter tries to conquer the world by converting it. The one abstains from the wedding feast: the other attends it, and changes the water into wine. The one flees from woman as a tempter: the other takes her to his heart, and reflects in the marriage relation the holy union of Christ with his Church. The one aims to secure, chastity by abstinence: the other proves it within the family. The one renounces all earthly possessions: the other uses them for the good of his fellow-men. The one looks for happiness in heaven: the other is happy already on earth by making others happy. The daily duties and trials of domestic and social life are a better school of moral discipline than monkish celibacy and poverty. Female virtues and graces are necessary to supplement and round out the character of man. Exceptions there are, but they prove the rule.

It may be expected that in the fervor and hurry of the first attempts in the transition from slavery to freedom, some indiscretions were committed; but they are as nothing compared with the secret chronique scandaleuse of enforced celibacy. It was reserved for later times to cultivate a more refined style of family life; but the Reformers burst the chains of papal tyranny, and furnished the practical proof that it is possible to harmonize the highest and holiest calling with the duties of husband and father. Though falling short of modern Protestant ideas of the dignity and rights of woman, they made her the rightful companion of the Christian pastor; and among those companions may be found many of the purest, most refined, and most useful women on earth. The social standing of woman is a true test of Christian civilization.

Melanchthon was the first among the Reformers who entered the state of matrimony; but being a layman, he violated no priestly or monastic vow. He married, at the urgent request of his friends, Katharina Krapp, the daughter of the burgomaster of Wittenberg, in November, 1520, and lived with his plain, pious, faithful, and benevolent wife, till her death in 1557. He was seen at times rocking the cradle while reading a book.614

Calvin was likewise free from the obligation of vows, but the severest and most abstemious among the Reformers. He married Idelette de Buren, the widow of an Anabaptist minister of Holland, whom he had converted to the Paedobaptist faith; he lived with her for nearly nine years, had three children who died in infancy, and remained a widower after her death. The only kind of female beauty which impressed him was, as he said, gentleness, purity, modesty, patience, and devotion to the wants of her husband; and these qualities he esteemed in his wife.615

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