To die for the sake of Christ’s word, is esteemed precious and glorious before God. We are mortal, and must die for the sake of our sins, but when we die for the sake of Christ and his word, and freely confess them, we die an honorabledeath; we are thereby made altogether holy relics, and have sold our hides dear enough. But when we Christianspray for peace and long life, ‘tis not for our sake, to whom death is merely gain, but for the sake of the Church and of posterity.
The dream I had lately, will be made true; ‘twas that I was dead, and stood by my grave, covered with rags. Thus am I long since condemned to die, and yet I live. ‘Whoso keepeth my saying, shall never see death.’ Luther expounded this passage of St. John thus: We must die and sufferdeath, but whoso holds on God’s Word, shall not feel death, but depart as in a sleep, and concerning him it shall not be said: ‘I die, but I am forced to sleep.’ On the other hand, whoso finds not himself furnished with God’s Word, must die in anguish; therefore, when thou comest to die, make no dispute at all, but from thy heart say: I believe in JesusChrist the Son of God; I ask no more. One’s thirty-eighth year is an evil and dangerous year, bringing many heavy and great sicknesses; naturally, by reason, perhaps, of the comets and conjunctions of Saturn and of Mars, but spiritually, by reason of the innumerablesins of the people. Pliny, the heathen writer, says, (book 20, chapter 1): The best physic for a human creature is, soon to die; Julius Caesar contemned death, and was careless of danger; he said: ‘Tis better to die once than continually to be afraid of dying; this was well enough for a heathen, yet we ought not to tempt God, but to use the means which he gives, and then commit ourselves to his mercy.
It were a light and easy matter for a Christian to overcome death, if he knew it was not God’s wrath; that quality makes deathbitter to us. But a heathendies securely; he neither sees nor feels that it is God’s wrath, but thinks it is merely the end of nature. The epicurean says: ‘Tis but to endure one evil hour. When I hear that a good and godly man is dead, I am affrighted, and fear that Godhates the world, and is taking away the upright and good, to the end he may fall upon and punish the wicked. Though I die, it makes no great matter; for I am in the pope’s curse and excommunication; I am his devil, therefore he hates and persecutes me. At Coburg, I went about, and sought me out a place for my grave; I thought to have been laid in the chancel under the table, but now I am of another mind. I know I have not long to live, for my head is like a knife, from which the steel is wholly whetted away, and which is become mere iron; the iron will cut no more, even so it is with my head. Now, lovingLordGod, I hope my time is not far hence; God help me, and give me a happy hour; I desire to live no longer. We read of St. Vincent, that, about to die, and seeing death at his feet, he said: Death! what wilt thou? Thinkest thou to gain anything of a Christian? Knowest thou not that I am a Christian? Even so should we learn to contemn, scorn, and deridedeath. Likewise, it is written in the history of St. Martin, that being near his death, he saw the devil standing at his bed’s foot, and boldly said: Why standest thou there, thou horrible beast? thou hast nothing to do with me. These were right words of faith.
Such and the like ought we to cull out of the legends of the saints, wholly omitting the fooleries that the papists have stuffed therein. Luther, at Wittenberg, seeing a very melancholy man, said to him: Ah! human creature, what dost thou? Hast thou nothing else in hand but to think of thy sins, on death, and damnation? Turn thine eyes quickly away, and look hither to this man Christ, of whom it is written: ‘He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the VirginMary, suffered, died, was buried, descended into hell, the third day arose again from the dead, and ascended up into heaven,’ etc. Dost think all this was done to no end?