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WORKS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
KEEPING CHILDREN IN SCHOOL - DEDICATORY LETTER
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To the Honorable and Wise Lazarus Spengler, Syndic of the City of Nuremberg, my especially dear sir and friend
Grace and peace in Christ, our dear Lord and true Savior. Amen.
Honorable and wise dear sir and friend.
I have composed a sermon to the preachers here and there, to the effect that they shall exhort their people to keep their children in school. The thing has grown under my hands and become almost a book, though I have had to restrain myself by force in order that it might not become altogether too big, so full and rich is this subject. I hope that it may do much good, and I have published it under your name with the sole thought that it may thereby secure greater respect, and be read, if it be worthy, by the burghers of your city, for I well perceive that your preachers will be diligent enough in this matter and (because they are people whom God has endowed with great gifts) that they understand the case and push it forward. Thus, praise God! they need neither my admonition nor my instruction. And yet it does no harm to have many people agreeing with one another and resisting the devil the more strongly.
For it can scarcely be possible that, in so great a city, with such a large crowd of citizens, the devil will not try his arts and tempt some to despise the Word of God and the schools. This is the case particularly because there are many things there (especially commercial business f117 ) to turn the children from the schools to the service of Mammon, and without doubt the devil has these things in mind. If he could cause the Word and the schools to be despised in Nuremberg, his attack would have had no small measure of success, for he would have set an example that would have mighty importance throughout Germany, and he would, in truth, deal all the schools in other cities a hard blow. For Nuremberg truly shines throughout all Germany like a sun among moon and stars, and what is practiced there has a powerful influence on other cities.
But praise and thanks be to God, Who has long hindered the devil’s purposes, and put it into the heart of an honorable and wise Council to found and equip such a fine and glorious school, at great cost and expense. It elects and appoints to it the very finest people, so that (not to boast too much!) it used to be the case that no university, not even Paris, was so well provided with teachers. I say this on the testimony of those who were trained with me in universities, for I know their wisdom, and have learned it too, and, sad to say! I still know it all too well. This is indeed a fine achievement, and a virtue of such a famous city, and an honor to its well known Council. For in this they have given rich Christian thought to their subjects, and have contributed to their eternal salvation, as well as to their temporal profit and honor. Such a work God will assuredly strengthen with ever increasing blessing and grace, though the devil must strive against it for awhile, since he cannot be happy when such a fine tabernacle is built to the Lord in this sun. He must assemble clouds and mist and dust, and try in every way to keep such glory from shining too far, or to turn it into darkness; what else could he do?
Therefore I hope that the citizens will acknowledge the fidelity and the love of their lords by keeping their children in school and honestly helping to support this work, because they see that, without cost to themselves, their children are so richly and diligently cared for and that everything is provided for them. This will be the case, especially if the preachers are really active; for if they are not active, the common man will be attacked and overcome by thoughts that come from Satan and give this up and turn to other affairs. Indeed he cannot think this matter through, as a preacher can, and see how important it is, or how great the chances are for profit or for loss; therefore we must have patience with them, if only they are not obdurate or wicked. I know Nuremberg well enough to know that it has, thank God! many fine Christian citizens, who do gladly and from the heart that which they ought to do, if only they know or are told their duty. They have this reputation not only with me, but far and wide, and there is no reason to fear that they will fail in this. There may, indeed, be an idolater or servant of the idol (I mean of Mammon) who takes his son out of school and says, “If my son can do sums and read, he can do enough; we now have German books, etc.” Thus he sets other citizens who are pious, a bad example, which they follow without reckoning the harm it does, and with the best intentions, thinking it the right thing and the only thing to do. This mistake the preachers can easily provide against, for every community, and especially so great a city, must have more people in it than merchants, and other people who can do more than keep accounts and read German books. German books are made especially for the common man to read at home. But for preaching and governing and sitting in judgment, all the knowledge and all the languages in the world are too little, to say nothing of Germany only. This is particularly true in these days of ours, when one has to talk with other peoples more than with Neighbor Hans. These idolaters think nothing about governing, and do not realize that without the preachers and the rulers they could not serve their idol a single hour.
Of course, I believe that among so many people there may be an idolater, or a few of them, who would not care whether honor or shame came to the noble city of Nuremberg, so long as they got their pfennig. On the other hand, people ought not to care about these mischievous idolaters, and should let them and their bad example go, and think, “The greater the reputation that comes to our city when an honorable Council deals so faithfully and honestly with the schools, the greater were the shame if the citizens were to despise this fidelity and kindness, and become partakers of the bad example and offense given to other cities which then could say, ‘Yes, that is what they do at Nuremberg; there are people there too; why should we do any better?’ “ You idolater, if you will not consider what God and honor require, and will think of nothing but your idol, God will yet find people who will consider it. Thank God! I have known several cities where the Council cared nothing for the Word or the schools, but where there were many pious citizens, who by daily persistence compelled the Council to found schools and churches. Therefore, if God will, the shameful report will not go out from Nuremberg, on your account, that the citizens followed your example and despised the schools which an honorable Council founds and maintains with so great fidelity, at such great cost, when in much smaller cities the citizens have got their schools, even though their Councils thought nothing of them.
But where am I getting to with my talk, dear friend? I suppose it lies in the nature of these things that there has to be much talk about them. In this case the talking has been done under your name and that of all the burghers of your city. I beg that you will take it kindly, and help to further and to push this matter, as, indeed, you have done and are doing. God knows, I mean it well.
May Christ our Lord strengthen and preserve you until that day when, if God will, we shall see each other with joy and in another shape. He who has given you so much to do for His work and His Word will also go on and complete it all. To Him be praise and thanks forever. Amen. YOUR OBEDIENT, MART. LUTHER.
TO ALL MY DEAR FRIENDS, PASTORS AND PREACHERS, WHO TRULY LOVE CHRIST, MARTIN LUTHER.
Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
My dear friends, you see with your own eyes how that wretch of a Satan is now attacking us in all sorts of ways, with force and guile, and is afflicting us with all kinds of plagues, in order to destroy the holy Gospel and the kingdom of God, or if he cannot destroy them, to hinder them at every turn and prevent them from making progress and gaining the upper hand.
Among his wiles, one of the very greatest, if not the greatest of all, is this — he deludes and deceives the common people so that they are not willing to keep their children in school or bring them up as scholars. He puts the mischievous idea into their minds that because there is no hope for monkery, nunnery, or priestcraft, as they have existed heretofore, there is no more need for scholars or for much studying, but that we must consider how to make a living and get rich.
This seems to me to be a real masterpiece of the devil’s art. He sees that in our time he cannot do what he would like to do; therefore he thinks to have his own way with our descendants, whom he is getting ready in our very sight, so that they may learn nothing and know nothing, and when we are dead, he will have before him a naked, bare, defenseless people, with whom he can do as he pleases. For if the Scriptures and learning disappear, what will remain in Germany but a disorderly and wild crowd of Tartars or Turks, or perhaps, a pig-sty and a mob of wild beasts? But he does not let them see this now. He blinds them in masterly fashion, so that, when it has gone to the point where he wants it and their own experience compels them to see it, he can laugh in his sleeve at all the complaining and the howling. However much they may wish, they will then be able to do nothing that will help, and will have to say that things have gone on too long. They will then be willing to give a hundred gulden for half a scholar, though now they will not give ten for two whole scholars.
And it will serve them right. Because they are not now willing to support and keep pious, honorable, virtuous schoolmasters and teachers, offered them by God, to raise their children in the fear of God, and in virtue, knowledge, learning, and honor, with great labor, diligence, and care, and at small cost and expense; therefore they will get in their places Locaten and Bacchanten, gross asses and louts, such as they have had before, who at great cost and expense, will teach the children nothing else than how to be utter asses, and in return will dishonor their wives and daughters and maid-servants, and become lords over their houses and goods, as has happened heretofore. This will be the reward of the great and shameful ingratitude into which the devil is so craftily leading them.
Now because, as pastors, it is a part of the duty of our office to be on our guard against these and other wicked wiles, we must not go to sleep on this matter, which is of such great importance; but we must incite, exhort, torment, and nag, with all our power and diligence and care, so that the common people may not let themselves be so deceived and deluded by the devil. Therefore let each of us look to himself and remember his office, so that he does not go to sleep and allow the devil to become god and lord.
For if we are silent about this and go to sleep on it, and the young people are neglected and our descendants become Tartars or wild beasts, it will be the fault of our silence and our snoring, and we shall have a heavy account to render for it.
To be sure, I know very well that many of you, without my exhortation, are doing this work better than I can advise you; also I have previously published a book to the Councillors of the cities. Nevertheless, because some may have forgotten this, or would be more persistent on account of my example, I have sent you this sermon of mine, which I have preached more than once to our people. From it you can observe that I am working faithfully with you in this matter, and that we are doing our best everywhere and are guiltless before God in the conduct of our office. The case is truly in our hands, because we see that even those who are called clergy take the attitude of men who would let all the schools, and their discipline and teaching, go to destruction, or even help to overthrow them, because they cannot have their own way with them, as they once did. This, too, is the devil’s doing, through them. God help us. Amen.
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