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yield, but seemed rather to call forth the resources of his bold and daring spirit.”
Then came Leo X., the first pope with whom Luther came into collision. He was a scholar, and a friend of scholars and learning. A man of great and noble qualities, but not fit to meet, much less to stem the torrent that beset the popedom in his person He was in spirit wholly a prince of this world, and was constantly entangled in political matters. The spiritual power was at this time rather known as a temporal one, and the pope esteemed rather as a temporal sovereign, than as the head of the church.
A literary spirit was also, at this period, rapidly infusing itself into schools and colleges, a spirit unfavourable to the spirit of blind and implicit obedience challenged and enjoined by the Roman church. Thus, though in the time of Leo, from 1513 onwards, the popedom seemed to shine forth in greater lustre than ever, and to have secured and established its power over the nations, principles were becoming diffused which shook it to its centre, and deprived it of some of its fairest possessions and richest conquests.
Everywhere above and beneath, a hollow noise might be heard reverberating, to harbinger the storm that was about to break forth.” Germany seemed especially ripe for the task of resisting the grand imposition, and having made all things ready, Divine providence raised up the instruments that were to be employed in the mighty contest.
The historian, D’Aubigne, truthfully observes that the Reformers were taken like the apostles from stations of obscurity. Zuinglius came from a shepherd's hut on the Alps; Melancthon, the Theologian of the Reformation, from an armourer's workshop, and Luther from a miner's cottage.
Luther was born at Eisleben on the 10th of November 1483. His father, John Luther, was a plain, honest man, a keen workman, and firm even to obstinacy. He was, for his position in life, a great reader. His wife was deemed by her neighbours a model of excellent qualities. When their son was six months old, they removed to Mansfeld. Having received first from his father, all the instruction he could communicate, and having for some time attended the village school, he was, in his fourteenth year, placed in the school of the Franciscans, at Magdeburgh. Here he fared badly,—“I used,” he afterwards was accustomed to say, “ to beg with my schoolfellows for what little food was required for our need.” From Magdeburgh he was removed to a similar institution at Eisenach, and here, for some time, his position was by no means bettered. Though naturally of a cheerful, buoyant disposition, his hardships and privations would often make him discouraged and sad.
One day when he was hungry, and had nothing to eat, after having been already repulsed from three doors, he ventured, as a last resort, to raise his mellow voice in a pensive air under the window of the lady Ursula, the wife of Conrad Cotta, a man in affluent circumstances, and a magistrate. This lady had often noticed the fair haired student at church, and had been pleased with the good taste and feeling with which he performed his part in the choir. Hearing his voice, she opened the window, and dropped out a few small coins. He turned his face to thank her, and she saw that his eyes were filled with tears. Her pity was moved. She invited him into the house, and gave him food to eat. Her husband approved of her kindness to the friendless student, and, becoming fond of Luther's society, invited him to be a regular inmate of his house. This excellent woman, who afterwards went by the name of the good Shunamite, lived to see her protegè in the height of his usefulness, and Luther thus early had rich experience of the truth to which he afterwards so often gave utterance,“ There is nothing on earth so sweet as the heart of a right good christian woman."
He was now in easy circumstances, while pursuing the remainder of his studies at Eisenach. The castle of Wartburg, so memorable at a later period of his life, is on the summit of a steep mountain, just south of the city of Eisenach, and his youthful eye must often have rested on its antique towers and picturesque position, and little did he dream that it would for ages derive its chief celebrity from being associated with his name. When Luther had attained his eighteenth year, his father insisted that he should study the law, and for that purpose he went to the University of Erfurt. The circumstances of the family were now much improved, and his wants were well supplied. He afterwards said, “My dear father sustained me with all love and fidelity at the university at Erfurt, and by his sweat and hard labour helped me to be what I now am.”
He distinguished himself at once as a scholar in all the branches then taught, and read with great delight the ancient classics. An important circumstance now occurred. Happening on one occasion to be turning over a number of books in the library, a volume which he opened in its turn struck his attention; until that hour he had never seen anything resembling it; he read the title page—it was a Latin Bible. It excited his highest interest; he was greatly astonished to find that it contained something more than the fragments taken from the gospels and epistles by the church for public worship. He had always thought that in these was contained the whole word of God. But here he found pages, chapters, entire books of which he had never had idea before. His heart beat high as he held in his hand the entire sacred volume.
In his twentieth year he took his master's degree—the second scholar in a class of seventeen. One
year after (1505), only three years from the time be entered the university, he began to deliver lectures on the physics and ethics of Aristotle, with great approbation.
Such was the external history of Martin Luther, from his birth till he became a distinguished teacher in one of the best universities of his native country. Let us now turn to his. internal history,—the struggles and conflicts of his mind during this period. In Luther the religious sentiment was, by his own nature, developed with great strength. His whole character was one of gigantic power, and the devotional element was one of the most vigorous of his mental qualities. His education had been strictly religious, but of a kind fitted to inspire terror and dread, rather than confidence and love. The popular religion of the day, consisting in forms and ceremonies, asceticisms and will worship, and senseless mumblings, was far from meeting the wants of a mind like his. The ardour with which he pursued his studies, brought upon him a severe illness. He apprehended that his death might be at hand. An old priest visited him, and in administering to his consolation, employed these remarkable words :-“My dear student, be comforted; you will not die with this sickness. Our God will yet make a great man of
and will be a comfort to very many, for whom the Lord loveth he early lays on them the cross, and they who bear it patiently learn much thereby.” The words fell on his ear, and touched his heart as prophetic, he never forgot them.
In the year 1505, at the age of twenty-two, two occurrences took place which changed all his plans for life. One night he was informed that his most intimate friend, Alexius, had been assassinated in the streets of Erfurt. The painful event made a deep and lasting impression on his mind. Soon after, when returning from a visit to his father, he was overtaken by a violent storm; the thunder rolled above him, and the lightning fell at his side. His whole soul was moved, he at once relinquished all his bright prospects of worldly eminence, and resolved to devote himself to the service of God after the fashion of those days, by retiring to a convent. Without communicating his designs to any one, he invited his friends to meet him at his rooms. The evening was spent in cheerful conversation and music, and that very night, after taking with him only a volume of Virgil and Plautus, he went to the convent of the Augustine monks, offered himself as a brother, and was accepted. He identified himself with that body, dropped his own name and assumed that of Augustine, to the great delight of the fathers, who were not a little proud of such an accession.
This step deeply offended his father, who wrote him an angry letter, in which, Luther amusingly observes, “He thee'd and thou'd me without ceremony,” he having always you'd him since he had become master of arts. All efforts at the time failed to soften or conciliate John Luther; he was inexorable, and withdrew all favour from his son. Subsequently Luther saw that his father was right, and that he had himself been in the wrong, and when he wrote his work against Monastic vows, he dedicated it with all suitable acknowledgements to his sagacious and then reconciled parent.
In the convent, the older monks would not allow him to pursue his studies in peace. He was consigned to the most menial offices. To watch the door, to sweep the halls, to ring the bell, to go round the city and beg provisions, were his most common duties, to all which he submitted without
He, however, employed in study all the time he could command, contenting himself with little sleep, and a most abstemious diet. The more he read the more he was dissatisfied with the religion that surrounded him. His mental distress became intense, and there were few who could understand his feelings or sympathize with him.
There were moments when his anxious melancholy arose with fearful might from the mysterious abysses of his soul, waved its dusky pinions over his head, and felled him to the earth.
These mental conflicts at length gave way before the potent influence of truth; the penitent saw that the same eternal grace, whence the whole race of man is sprung, mercifully brings back erring souls to itself, and enlightens them with the fulness of its own light, that God in Christ reconciles us to himself, not imputing our trespasses unto us, and justifies us freely by faith. Staupitz, the Vicar General, was a man of enlightened judgment, and he contributed not a little towards communicating peace to Luther's mind.
“It is by such trials,” he would say, “ God prepares for himself the souls which he destines for important work. The vessel must be proved before it be launched into the mighty ocean. It is not in vain that God exercises thee by so many conflicts, thou wilt see that he will make use of thee as his minister in great affairs.” We have thus given somewhat in detail so much of the early history of this remarkable man in this account, it will be discovered how, and by what fit and appropriate means he was prepared for the great work allotted him. It is most interesting simply as a piece
of personal history. It is still more commandingly so when regarded as an integral portion of the discipline of a mighty mind, fitting it for vast and sublime achievements, qualifying for its future efforts the spirit of a peasant boy, who was to wage war with the greatest power on earth—to give battle to that popedom which had gathered strength for ages, and now stood aloft and looked down upon Kings and Emperors—and to give it such battle as to make its representative turn pale on his throne, and the crown tremble on his brow, while he delivered from its thraldom nations and peoples, and rescued from its iron grasp myriads of souls, never to be slaves again.
Luther was still a devoted son of the Romish Church, and diligently attended to all her burdensome requirements. He was in due time ordained priest, and through the friendship of Staupitz, was appointed professor in the university of Wittenberg, by Frederick, elector of Saxony. He was for a season employed in teaching physics and logic. Some time after he applied for the degree of Bachelor in theology, and obtained it in March 9, 1509, with the particular vocation of devoting himself to Biblical theology. Every day at one, Luther had to speak on the Bible. His lectures were unlike anything that had been heard there before. Great curiosity was excited. Even the professors of the university came to hear the youthful teacher. He was soon appointed to preach in the church of the Augustini
He commenced his ministry in an old wooden chapel, in the middle of Wittenberg Market-place, in which the Augustinians then worshipped, while their own church was building. Endued,” says one of his adversaries, “with a mind remarkable for promptitude and vivacity, of a strong memory, and singularly happy in the use he made of his mother tongue, he yielded to none of his age in eloquence. Discoursing from the elevation of the pulpit, like a man under the influence of some strong passion, he suited his action to the word,-struck the minds of his hearers in the most extraordinary manner, and hurried them like a torrent whithersoever be would.”
(To be continued.)
RELIGION IN BUSINESS.-It is most painful to see persons making high Christian professions, put off their religion and apparently forget it when in the business of the world. We see them here and there entering into speculations and kinds of employment for a livelihood, which are not sanctioned by the moral sense of the community in which they dwell. Or, in a legitimate business, we see them resorting to underhand and dishonourable means to be successful, which honourable men, who make no claim to religion, would scorn to employ. Oh! how fearfully do such men curse religion. The cursing of an infidel is harmless impotency compared with it. He says, with a voice which no infidel can emulate, that the Christian faith is weak and has no controlling power over men, and, therefore, that it is a sham. He is a standing, working testimony against the Christian religion, making it a by-word, and a thing of contempt. If a man can be religious and still given to deception and equivocal ways in dealing, a person instinctively feels that Christianity cannot be true, cannot be what it assumes to be; that it is all cant and snivelling hypocrisy. He despises the man who makes such
pretensions, while he exhibits such actions; and not only the man himself, but the church, which yet, without objection, receives him into its circle of fraternity. Such reception passes for indorsement, and thus the church of Jesus Christ is made to appear low in morals, loose in its principles of common integrity, and false even in its standards of virtue. What sad reproach one dishonourable transaction by a single individual may bring upon the whole church of which he is a member! Little matter what may be the form of the inconsistency -unworthy conduct—for the purposes of money, or name, or to carry out some really good design-all and each inflict deep wounds upon the body of Christ; the deepest which have ever been made have been made by his professed friends. It was one of the chosen who betrayed our Redeemer.
READING THE BIBLE ALOUD.—The great Dr. Mason is said to have once made the remark, that, “ the best commentator of the Bible is the man who properly reads the English version.” Few of those who sat under the min. istry of this distinguished man would dispute his opinion. Tradition reports his reading of the sacred volume to have been a marvel of expression, power, and effect. There was no mouthing, no affectation, no mimicry, yet such a justness of emphasis and adaptedness of tones, such a manifest comprehension of the whole meaning of the inspired words, that audiences were stirred as with the sound of a trumpet. We have heard a venerable minister often speak of the wondrous power with which Dr. Mason would utter the rugged rhymes and desparate inversions of Rouse's Psalms; but when he had in hand the majestic simplicity of the authorised version he read with an impressiveness which made the words seem new even to those who had been familiar with them from infancy. Why is it that there are now so few, even among the distinguished divines, who can thus by reading, give to the naked words of the Bible all the force of a judicious commentary ? Why is it that this portion of the Lord's-day service, so important in itself, becomes so dull and inefficient in practice ? KEEP THE SABBATH.-Be zealous on this point. Whether
live in town or country, resolve not to profane your Sabbath, or in the end you will give over caring for your soul. The steps which lead to this are regular. Begin with not honouring God's house; cease to honour God's book, and by-and-bye you will give God no honour at all. Let any man lay the foundation with no Sabbath, and I am never surprised if he finishes with the top-stone of no God. It was a remarkable saying of Judge Hale, that of all persons convicted of capital crimes, while he was upon the bench, he found few who did not confess that they began their career of wickedness by neglect of the Sabbath.
THE PATCH OF SUNLIGHT.—The day had been overcast; suddenly the sun shone out, and a little patch of sunshine brightened the corner of the carpet. Immediately Tray got up, and with a wise look trotted to the bright place and laid himself in it." There's true philosophy," said George;
• “only one patch of sunlight in the place, and the sagacious little dog walks out of the shadow and rolls himself round in the brightness. Let not Tray's example be lost upon us, but wherever there shall shine one patch of sunlight, let us enjoy it."
The haters of religion cannot hope to succeed ; they might as soon imagine to quench the orb of day, or drive back the chariot wheels of the queen of night, as to stop the progress of the religion of Christ.