WORDS FOR THE HALTING-PLACES.
1. THE VISIBLE CREATION.
GOD writes the Gospel, not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars.
Creation the Veil of God.
ALL creatures are merely shells, masks (Larven), behind which God hides Himself, and deals with us. GOD dealeth not with us in this life face to face, but veiled in shadows from us. “Now, through a glass darkly; but then, face to face.”
Therefore we cannot be without veils in this life. But in this wisdom is required, which can discern the veil from God Himself; which wisdom the world hath not.
The covetous man heareth, indeed, that “ man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God;” he eateth the bread, but seeth not God in the bread, for he beholdeth only the veil, and outward show. So he doth with gold and other creatures, trusting to them as long as he has them; but when they leave him he despaireth. GOD has set the type of marriage everywhere throughout the creation.
Each creature seeks its perfection in another. The very heavens and earth picture it to us. THAT marriage is marriage; the hand a hand; wealth, wealth — that all can understand; but to believe that the marriage state is God’s order; the hand God’s creature; good clothing and riches His gift — it is God’s work when men understand this.
Miracles in Common Things.
WE foolish creatures cannot comprehend with our reason how it is that we speak with our mouths, and whence the word comes, so that the voice of one man sounds in so many thousand ears; neither can we comprehend how our eyes see, nor how the bread and wine are changed into blood and muscle; nor how, when we sleep, as to the body we are dead, and nevertheless we live. And yet we seek to climb above ourselves, and to speculate about the high majesty of God, when we do not understand what is happening every day around us. REASON cannot understand nor grasp how it is that of a little kernel comes a tree; how of a little grain of corn, which corrupts in the earth and perishes, twenty or thirty grains should spring to life.
Therefore the world is full of God’s miracles, which happen without ceasing. But because they are so countless and so manifold, and moreover so altogether common, as says St. Augustin, we do not regard them nor think of them.
Christ once fed five thousand men, not counting the women and children, with five loaves, and when they had all had enough, there remained over and above twelve baskets full. If such a miracle happened now, all the world would wonder.
But that God is daily, without ceasing, working great miracles, the fleshly heart sees and regards not; far less will it wonder and give thanks.
God the Lord gives daily water from the rocks; bread from the sand; wine, beer, butter, cheese, and vegetables of all kinds from the earth. But because He gives them lavishly, without ceasing, no one holds it to be a miracle.
The blind world, forgetting Him, thinks all comes by chance. But on the other hand those who love Him, whithersoever they turn their eyes, whether they look on the heavens or the earth, the air or the water, see pure, obvious miracles of God, whereat they rapturously rejoice, and cannot enough wonder; have gladness and delight therein, and praise the Creator, and know that He also has delight in them. THE whole world is full of miracles, but our eyes must be pure, lest, because they are so common to us, they become dim.
IN brief, in all, even in the smallest creatures, yea, even in their least members, we see the almighty power and the great wonder-working of God. For what man, however powerful, wise, and holy he be, can out of a fig make a fig-tree, or even one other fig? or out of a cherry stone a cherrytree, or even understand how God does it? NO man can think out, or truly understand what God has done, and still ceaselessly is doing. Nor, if we sweat blood for it, could we write three lines such as St. John has written. THE growth of every seed is a work of creation. GOD is constantly making visible things out of invisible, and would fain have us do the same. But we reverse His way, and must needs see and grasp a thing before we will believe it.
The Creatures God’s Army.
ALL the creatures are God’s Host or Army. I have purposely kept the word Exercitus, army, as it stands in the Hebrew, to defy the devil, who is forever striving with all his powers, and in all kinds of ways, to hinder all the creatures in accomplishing the work for which God created them.
THE world, since Adam’s Fall, knows neither God her Creator, nor His creatures; lives a life poorer than that of the cattle, honors not God, nor glorifies Him. Ah, if Adam had not sinned, how man would have recognized God in all the creatures, would have praised and loved Him, so that even in the smallest flower he would have seen and contemplated God’s almightiness, wisdom, and goodness.
For truly who can think to the bottom of this, how God creates out of the dry, dull earth so many flowers of such beautiful colors, and such sweet perfume, such as no painter nor apothecary can rival? From the common ground God is ever bringing forth flowers, golden, crimson, blue, brown, and of all colors. All this Adam and his like would have turned to God’s glory, using all the creatures with thanksgiving. But we misuse them senselessly, just as a cow or any unreasonable brute tramples the choicest and fairest flowers and lilies beneath its feet.
A Green Tree more glorious than Gold.
IF Adam had not fallen, all the creatures had seemed such to us, that every tree and every blade of grass had been better and nobler than if it had been of gold. For in the true nature of things, if we will rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold or silver.
DOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER said he had observed and taken notice that the sun for the two last days had risen as if with a bound of joy. “He rejoiceth as a hero to run a race.” It is a beautiful work of God that we, fallen creatures, dare not gaze at nor fix our eyes upon.
In Paradise we could have gazed on the sun with open eyes, Without pain or hindrance.
HE had a rose in his hand, and was admiring it as a fair and excellent work and creature of God; and he said, “If a man were able to make one rose, he would be worthy of an empire.”
IHAD not known what a lovely thing the dew is, unless the Holy Scriptures had commended it, when God says, “I will give thee of the dew of heaven.” Ah, the Creation is a beautiful thing. When we ought to be understanding it, we lisp and stammer, and say “cledo” for “credo,” like the babes. The word is strong, but the heart lisps. But our Lord God knows well that we are but poor little children, if we would only acknowledge it.
We can never understand, save through the Son. This is the sum of His discourse, “Per Me, per Me, per Me.” Birds.
SEE! Christ makes the birds our masters and teachers, so that a feeble sparrow, to our great and perpetual shame, stands in the Gospel as a Doctor and preacher to the wisest of men.
TOWARDS evening, two little birds who were making a nest in the Doctor’s garden came flying thither, but were now and then frightened by those who were walking there.
Then the Doctor said, “Ah, thou dear little bird, fly not from me. From my heart I wish thee well, if thou wouldst only believe it. Just in this way it is that we distrust our Lord, who nevertheless gives us nothing but good.
Surely He will never harm us who has given His Son for us. “See the little birds, how choice and pure their way of life is. They lay the eggs so daintily in the nest, and brood over them. Then the nestlings peep out. “If we had never seen an egg, and one were brought us from Calicut, in what a rapture of wonder we should be about it!” ONE evening when he saw a little bird perched on a tree, to roost there for the night, he said,” This little bird has had its supper, and now it is getting ready to go to sleep here, quite secure, and content, never troubling itself what its food will be, or where its lodging on the morrow. Like David, it ‘ abides under the shadow of the Almighty.’ It sits on its little twig content, and lets God take care.” DOCTOR LUTHER said, “How gladsome are the little birds; sing so deliciously; hop from one branch to another! They have no anxious cares about any want or scarcity that may come; are so content in themselves; and sing with a glad heart their morning and their evening song. Well might we take off our hats to them and say, ‘My dear sir Doctor, I must confess I have not acquired this art of which thou art master! Thou sleepest all night in thy little nest, without any care; in the morning thou risest again, art joyful and well off; settest thyself on a tree and singest and praisest God; seekest after ward thy daily food and findest it. Why cannot I, old fool that I am, do the same, when I have so much reason to do it?’ Can the little bird leave its cares, and keep itself in such fullness of content, like a loving saint, having neither acre nor barn, neither larder nor cellar, yet singing and praising, joyful and satisfied, because it knows that it has One who cares for it? Why then cannot we do the same, laboring indeed the while, to till the field and gather the fruits, and garner them against our need?”
NO one can reckon how much it costs only to feed the birds, and even those which are of no use. I consider it costs more to maintain all the sparrows for one year than the king of France’s revenues, with all his wealth, rents, and taxes. What shall we say, then, of the food of all the other birds, ravens, jackdaws, crows, finches, and the rest? SPARROWS are the smallest and the most dissolute of birds; yet they have the greatest glory. All through the year they have the best days, and do the greatest mischief. In the winter they infest the granaries; in the spring they devour the seed in the field; in harvest-time they have enough; in autumn grapes and fruits are their refection. Ergo digni sunt omni persecutione.
The World our Storehouse.
GOD’ S power is great, who nourishes the whole world. It is a difficult article truly to grasp, “I believe in God the Father.” He has created a plentiful provision for us. All seas are our cellars; all forests our huntinggrounds; the earth is full of silver and gold and countless fruits, all created for our sake. The earth is our granary and our store-chamber.
It is God who feeds us, not money. GOD knows all handicrafts, and exercises them in the most skillful way. For the stag, He makes a coat to cover him, which would not of itself wear out for nine hundred years. For the stag’s feet He makes shoes which last longer than the owner. And the sun is His hearth-fire, at which the food of all the creatures is cooked.
IWONDER how our Lord God finds wood for so many uses throughout the whole wide world; as wood for building, for burning, for carpenters, for coopers and wheelwrights, for beams of chambers, window-sashes, oars, candlesticks, cups, buckets, etc.
In brief, wood is the most useful and needful thing in the world, which we could not do without.
Cattle preaching to us, ONE day when Doctor Luther saw the cattle in the field going to pasture, he said, “There go our preachers; the carriers of our milk, butter, cheese, wool, who daily preach to us faith in God, that we should trust Him as our Father, that He will care for us and feed us.
Divers kinds of Beasts.
WILD beasts are beasts of the Law, for they live in fear and trembling. But tame animals are creatures of grace; they live securely with man.
Beauty of some Creatures — their Use.
IT does not follow that God has created all plants merely that they may furnish food for man and beast. Many things were created that we may praise God for them. The stars, of what use are they, save that they praise God their Creator?
THE science of the stars and of the revolutions of the heavens is the oldest science of all, which brought many others with it. The ancients, especially the Hebrews, gave earnest heed to the movements of the heavens, as God says to Abraham: “Consider the stars; canst thou count them?” Astronomy is a beautiful gift of God, as long as she keeps to her own sphere; but if she steps beyond it, and seeks to prophesy future things, as the Astrologers do, this is not to be encouraged. I have gone so far in Astrology that I believe it to be nothing.
The Music of the Spheres.
PYTHAGORAS says that the movements of the stars make a beautiful concert and harmony, according with each other; but that men through constant use are now weary of this. It is indeed so with us. We have so many beautiful creatures around us that we heed them not, for their abundance.
All Creatures working freely according to God’s Law.
WHATEVER a thing is created for, it does without law and unconstrained. A tree brings forth fruit freely by nature, unconstrained. The sun shines by nature, whereto God has created it, unbidden and uncompelled. And all creatures do of free will what they ought to do. So also God Himself is ever doing good by His nature and character, freely.
Thanksgiving for a Thunderstorm. “THAT is a beautiful storm,” he said once, with thanksgiving, when thunder came with a fruitful rain, awakening and moistening earth and trees. “Thus Thou givest, unthankful and covetous as we are! That is a fruitful thunder; it has touched the earth and opened its treasure-house, so that gives forth a fragrant perfume, just as the prayer of good Christians gives forth fragrance to God.”
ONCE in beautiful weather in May, he said, “What a picture of the Resurrection! See how the trees are dressed for their bridal! How delightfully all is growing green! What a precious May! Ah, that we would only trust God! What will it be in the life beyond, if God can show us such great delights in this pilgrimage, and this troubled life l Man, not Nature, the Dwelling-place of God.
HEAVEN and earth, with all castles of kings and emperors, could not make a dwelling-place for God, but in the man who keeps His Word, there He will dwell.
Isaiah calls the heavens His throne, and the earth His footstool, but not His abode. We may search long to find where God is, but we shall find Him in those who hear the Words of Christ.
For the Lord Christ saith, “If any man love Me, he will keep my words, and we will make our abode with him.”
2. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
Persons . IF Adam had remained in his innocence, and had not transgressed God’s law, he would not always have remained in the same state in Paradise.
What a fair, glorious creature man had been, adorned with all wisdom and knowledge! He would have had joy and pleasure from all creatures, and what fair, joyous changes and transformations there would have been in all things.
He would have been received into eternal joy and into heaven, not through death, but through transformation and translation into another life. EVE, the dear, holy mother, had good hope of Cain; was persuaded (it seems) that he was the seed of the woman which was to bruise the head of the serpent.
But the dear mother was mistaken; she had not yet fathomed her misery — knew not that “what is born of flesh is flesh;” she erred as to the time when this Blessed Seed, conceived of the Holy Ghost, should be born to the world of the Virgin Mary. WHEN Eve, his only companion and dear wife, bore Cain to Adam, there must have been great rejoicing; so when Abel was born.
But a great and bitter grief and heart-sorrow must the murder of Abel have been; bitterer to Adam than his own fall, since thereby once more he and his Eve became hermits on the earth.
Ah! Adam must have been a sorrowful man; our sufferings are child’s play to his suffering and heart-sorrow.
If, through God’s grace, he had not been of so good and strong a nature, he with his Eve must soon have died of sorrow. But the promise of the Seed of the woman comforted them.
The Early Patriarchs.
IT were worth a world to have the legends of the Patriarchs who lived before the flood; to know how they lived and preached, and what they preached.
Our Lord God must have thought, “I will bury these legends beneath the flood, for those who come after will heed them little, and understand them less. I will keep them until they meet each other in the other life.”
So the dear Fathers who came after the flood, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, also the Prophets and Apostles, whom the devil did not leave unassailed in this life, will have comforted themselves with thinking of the long delay of the earlier Patriarchs, and will have said, “I have a short time to reckon on compared with those before the flood; few years wherein to spread God’s Word, and to suffer my cross and pain. What is my time compared with the unspeakable toil and labor, anguish, suffering, and vexation of our dear fathers of old, who suffered and endured seven or eight hundred years, both from the devil and the world?”
Esau and Ishmael.
HE said, “The rejection and casting away was only temporal. For Esau’s hatred to Jacob his brother lasted only for a time, not always. And I believe that Ishmael and Esau were saved; for many among those nations received the Word of God.”
Job. JOB had much temptation even from his own friends, who pressed hard on him; therefore it stands in the text that his friends were angry with him. He made answer to them, “I know that I am no adulterer, murderer, nor thief.” When he said that, they were angry with him, and vexed him sore.
He, however, suffered them to chatter on, and was silent.
Job is an example of God’s goodness and mercy; for holy he indeed is, but in temptation he fell much, yet he was not forsaken, for he is rescued and delivered again by God’s mercy.
Moses and Aaron.
WHEN God has something great to accomplish, He begins the work through one man, and afterwards gives other helps, as with Moses and Aaron.
JEPHTHAH, although the Spirit had come upon him, made a foolish and superstitious vow, after he gained the victory, that he would sacrifice his own daughter. If there had been a godly and reasonable man present, he could have made him sensible of the folly of this vow, and have said, “Jephthah! thou shalt not slay thy daughter on account of thy foolish vow.
For the law concerning vows must be interpreted according to justice and fitness, not according to the letter.”
THERE never was a man who suffered more than David. His life is a true tragedy. There is nothing like it among the Greeks.
We are all poor schoolboys compared with him; we have indeed the same spirit, but nowhere are such gifts as his were.
He was a great rhetorician. He could weave one subject into a vast web, with words, as in the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm. He could be brief, and embrace all religion and doctrine in one Psalm, as in the Hundred and Tenth.
Elijah. IT is a terrible history, that of Elijah, that such a holy man prayed that it should not rain for such a long time. He must have been very indignant, because he saw the teachers of the people slain, and good godly men hunted down and persecuted.
HE was asked about the mode of revelation to the Prophets, who always say, “Thus saith the Lord,” whether God had spoken personally to them or not.
He said, “They were very holy, spiritual, diligent men, who meditated earnestly on holy things. Therefore God spoke to them in their hearts and consciences, and the prophets received it as a sure revelation.
Pilate. “PILATE is a better man than any of the princes of the Empire who are not Evangelical,” said Dr. Martin Luther. “He kept firmly to the Roman rights and laws, affirming that he could not suffer an innocent man to be ruined and put to death, his cause unheard, convicted of no one evil deed.
Therefore he tried all honorable methods to set Christ free. But when they spoke to him of the displeasure of Caesar, he was carried away, and let the Roman laws and rights go. For he thought, ‘It is only one man, poor and despised; no one will take his cause up; what harm can his death do me? It is better that one should die, than that the Whole nation should be set against me.’” Then Master Johann Mathesius said to Dr. Martin Luther, he had known two preachers who had hotly debated these two questions: why Pilate scourged Christ? and why he said,” What is truth?” For one said Pilate had done it from compassion; the other, from tyranny and scorn.
Dr. Martin Luther answered’ “Pilate was a kindly man of the world, and he scourged Christ from compassion, that he might thereby quiet the insatiable rage and fury of the Jews. And by his saying to Christ, ‘What is truth?’ he gave to understand as much as this: ‘Why wilt thou dispute about truth, in this wretched life here in the world? It is worth nothing; but thou wilt be thinking about wretched disputes, and questions of the jurists, or thou mightest be set free.’” WHEN Pilate asked Him, “Art Thou the king of the Jews?” — “ Yes,” He said, “I am, but not such a king as Caesar; else would my servants and soldiers fight for me, to set me free; but I am a king sent to preach the Glad Tidings, that I might bear witness to the Truth.” “What!” said Pilate, “If thou art a king of that kind, and hast such a kingdom as this, consisting in the word and the truth, thou wilt do no harm to my kingdom.” And Pilate doubtless thought, “Jesus is a good, simple, harmless man, who is talking about a kingdom which no one knows anything about. Probably he comes out of some forest or remote region, is a simple creature who knows nothing of the world, or its government.”
Judas Iscariot. “JUDAS,” said Dr. Martin, “is as necessary among the Apostles as three of the other Apostles. He solves countless questions and arguments. For instance, when they cast at us that there are many false brethren, and bad, unchristian men amongst us.” True! Judas also was an Apostle; and no doubt he conducted himself as a more prudent man of the world than the rest. No one detected anything amiss in him.
DOCTOR MARTIN said one evening when he was at Lochau: “Oh! how I should like to have been once with the Lord Christ when He was rejoicing!”
The Triumphal Entry.
THE entry of the Lord Christ into Jerusalem must have been indeed a poor, mean, and beggarly entry, for Christ the great and mighty King sits on a poor borrowed ass. For John clearly shows that such asses were meant for poor people, who might use them in their need without paying any hire.
The garments which the disciples laid thereon were His saddle. Yet it was a wonderful entry, according to the prophecy of Zachariah.
For when He came from Bethany to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, which must have been as near Jerusalem as the bridge over the Elbe is to this town (Wittenberg), after he had awakened Lazarus from the dead, and a great multitude of people went before and followed, shouting and exulting, He sent His disciples to fetch the ass, and would ride on it, that the prophecy might be fulfilled.
I hold, however, that Christ Himself did not bring forward the prophecy, but the Apostles and Evangelists. Christ, meantime, preached and wept; but the people did Him honor, with olive and palm branches, which are signs of peace and victory.
The Personal Appearance of St. Paul.
ONCE Magister Veit Dietrich asked him, “What kind of a person, Herr Doctor, do you think St. Paul was?” The Doctor said, “I think Paul must have been an insignificant-looking person, with no presence; a poor, dry little man, like Master Philip.”
Books of the Holy Scriptures.
THE first chapter of Genesis comprehends the whole Scriptures. IN Deuteronomy God has placed the most beautiful rules and laws for the government of the world. IN the Book of Judges the excellent heroes and deliverers sent by God are depicted, who began and carried on all their works in trust in God, according to the First Commandment THE Books of the Kings go a hundred thousand steps before him who wrote the Chronicles, for he only points out the substance and the most remarkable passages and histories, and passes by what is simple and small.
Therefore more honor is to be given to the Book of the Kings than to the Chronicles. ECCLESIASTES is a very good and pleasant Book, although it is a fragment; it wants boots and spurs, and rides in sandals, as I used when in the cloister. It has many a fine rule for domestic government. It is like a Talmud, compiled from many books, perhaps from the library of Ptolemy Euergetes in Egypt. SO also the Proverbs of Solomon were collected by others from the mouth of the king, perhaps as he sate at table or elsewhere, and brought together.
AS this sweet book of David continued to be sung in all our churches, and to be chanted over so many thousand times in these incessant rounds and forms of prayer, — even by this frigid use of the Psalms some small savor of life was diffused abroad among many that were of an honest and good heart; and from, these words themselves only, those that feared God drank in some little sweetness of the breath of life, and some small taste of consolation, like the faint fragrance that is to be found in the air that is not far from a bed of roses. Their experience was like also unto a simple man passing through a flowery and sweet-smelling meadow, who, though he knew not the peculiar nature and properties of the herbs and flowers, yet found his senses regaled with the general fragrance.
IF all the greatest excellences and most choice experiences of all the true Saints should be gathered from the whole Church since it has existed, and should be condensed into the focus of one book — if God, I say, should permit any most spiritual and gifted man to form and concentrate such a book — such a book would be what the Book of Psalms is, or like unto it.
For in the Book of Psalms we have not the life of one of the Saints only, but we have the experience of Christ Himself, the head of all the Saints.
So that you may truly call the Book of Psalms a little Bible. Be assured that the Holy Spirit Himself has written and handed down to us this Book of Psalms as a Liturgy, in the same way as a father would give a book to his children. He Himself has drawn up this manual for His disciples; having collected, as it were, the lives, groans, and experiences of many thousands, whose hearts He alone sees and knows. ALL other histories and lives of the Saints, which describe their acts and works only, when compared to the Book of Psalms, set forth to us nothing more than dumb saints; and everything that is recorded of them is dull and lifeless. But in the Psalms, where the very expressions of those that prayed in faith are recorded, all things live, all things breathe, and living characters are set before us in the most lively colors. THE Psalms record not the common and everyday expressions of the saints, but those ardent and pathetic utterances by which, in real earnest, and under the very pressure of temptations, and in the very wrestlings of their souls, they poured out their hearts like Jacob, not before man, but before God! The Psalms give us therefore not only the works and words of the Saints, but the very hidden treasure of their hearts’ feelings, the very inmost sensations and motives of their souls. They give thee not only the outward David, but the inner David; and that more descriptively than he could do it himself, if he were to talk with you face to face.
There you may look into the hearts of the Saints, as into Paradise, or into the opened heaven; and may see, in the greatest variety, all the beautiful and flourishing flowers, or the most brilliant stars, as it were, of their upspringing affections towards God for His benefits and blessings. THE Psalms have this peculiarity of excellence above all other books of description, that the Saints whose feelings and sensations are therein set forth did not speak to the wind, under those their exercises and conflicts, nor to an earthly friend, but unto and before God Himself, and in the sight of God. And it is this that above all things gives a seriousness and reality to the feelings; it is this that affects the very bones and marrow, when a creature feels itself speaking in the very sight and presence of its God.
THE Book of Psalms, therefore, as it contains these real feelings of the Saints, is a book so universally adapted and useful to all Christians, that whatever one that truly fears God may be suffering, or under what temptation soever he may be, he may find in the Psalms feelings and expressions exactly suited to his case, just as much so as if the Psalms had been indited and composed from his own personal experience.
IN a word, if you desire to see the Christian Church painted forth in a most beautiful picture and in the most lively and descriptive colors, then take the Psalms into thy hands; this will be as a clear universal mirror, which will represent to thee the whole Church in its true features; and if there be one that fears God, it will present to thee a picture of thyself; so that, according to the maxim of the philosopher of old, gnwqi seauton , thou wilt by this book come to a true knowledge of thyself, and also of God and all creatures.
The Book of Job.
THE Book of Job is a very good book, written not for his sake only, but for the consolation of all troubled, assaulted, grieved, suffering hearts.
It vexed and pained him that things went so well with the ungodly.
Therefore this must be a comfort to poor Christians who suffer and are persecuted, namely, that in the life beyond, God will give them such a great, glorious, and eternal inheritance, and here also will set a bound to their sufferings.
Job did not speak just as it stands written in his book, but he thought it; for it is not thus that people speak in conflict and temptation; but the fact and marrow of the thing was this.
It is just like an argumentum Tabulae, as in a drama, in which various Persons are brought on, one speaking to or after another, as it is in his heart; thus the Master has described it; as Terence his comedies.
He intended to give an example of patience. It is possible that Solomon wrote this, for it is almost his way of speaking, as in others of his books.
I hold it to have been a true history. This history of Job must have been ancient and well known in the days of Solomon, if indeed he undertook to narrate it, as if I undertook to write the history of Joseph, or of Rebecca.
The Hebrew poet and master who wrote this book, be he who he may, had himself seen and experienced such conflicts and temptations as he describes. DANIEL and Isaiah are the two most excellent Prophets. THE preaching of the Prophets is not given whole and entire, but their disciples and hearers took down from time to time one saying and another, and so put them together. Thus was the Bible preserved.
3. THE FATHERS AND DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH.
THE ancient Fathers and Doctors, as Augustine, Hilary, Ambrose, Bonaventura, and others, should not be cast aside, but held in esteem and honor. For we see in them that the Church in their days believed in Jesus Christ, and believed as we do now.
St. Augustine was an excellent teacher. He taught faithfully of the grace of God.
Hilary and Augustine have written many beautiful things about the Holy Trinity, and about justification.
To Bernard Jesus is as dear as to any one in the world.
Of “St. John Huss the Martyr.”
IN John Huss the Holy Ghost was very powerful, in that he was able to stand so joyfully and steadfastly for the Word of God, he alone against such great peoples and nations; Italy, Germany, Spain, France, England, assembled at the Council of Constance.
Against all this clamor he stood, and bore it, and was burned.
Rome would not suffer him to whisper in a corner, and is now constrained to suffer him to cry aloud through all the world, until Rome itself and the whole world are become too narrow for that cry, and nevertheless there is no end to it.
Legends of the Saints.
DR.MARTIN said once he wished much that the legends of the Saints could be wisely selected from. There was much to learn from some of them. THE legend of St. Margaret is an ecclesiastical allegory and type of the Church. For the Church is the costly Margarita, the precious Pearl; Olybrius the tyrant is the world, which resists the Church, throws this precious Pearl Margaret into the dungeon, where she is tormented and vexed with many assaults from the devil, which she cannot escape until she grasps the Cross — that is, Christ. Thus the dragon is driven away and slain. DOCTOR MARTIN preached about St. Christopher on his festival, and said that “his legend was not a history, but that the Greeks, as a wise and learned and gifted people, had imagined it to signify what a Christian should be, and how it would go with him. It is a beautiful Christian poem.”
So, also (he said), is it with the legend of St. George and the Dragon.
GREAT men and heroes are especial gifts of God, men whom He gives and upholds, who carry on their work and calling, and do great deeds; not puffed up with empty imaginings or droning on with cold, sleepy thoughts; but especially stirred and driven by God thereto, they fulfil their course and work; as King Alexander gained for himself the Persian Empire, and afterwards Julius Caesar the Roman Empire.
Thus also have the Prophets, St. Paul, and other great and noble men, done and fulfilled their work by the especial grace of God, as the Book of Judges shows, wherein we see how God gave great things with one man, and with him withdrew them.
Simplicity of True Heroes.
FRANK, open-hearted soldiers have few words — are modest, do not boast, do not talk much; for they have seen men. When they speak, the deed goes with the word, as with my Lord Bernard von Mila. In his manners he was like a maiden, right noble man that he was; he had much of the lion in his heart, but in words was gentle and unpretending.
Grace using, not destroying Nature.
GRACE does not altogether change nature, but uses it as it finds it. For instance, when a man who is kind and gentle by nature is turned to the faith, like Nicolas Hausmann, grace makes him a tender, gentle preacher; whilst of a man who is naturally given to anger, like Conrad Cordatus, it makes an earnest, serious preacher; whilst if another has a subtle and powerful understanding and wit, that also is used for the benefit of the people.
Princes whom Luther honored. The Elector Frederic Of Saxony. THE Elector Frederic was a wise, understanding, able, and excellent prince, a great enemy to all pomp and pretence and hypocrisy. A pious, Godfearing, prudent prince, such as Duke Frederic, Elector of Saxony, was, is a great gift of God. He was a true father of the fatherland. With his officials, castellans, stewards, and servants he kept accurate accounts. Duke John Of Saxony. THE wonderful steadfastness of the Elector John at the Diet of Augsburg was greatly to be praised. He said: “There are two ways: to deny God, or to deny the world. Let each man consider which is the best.” It is a great miracle and grace of God that one Elector should have stood so firm against the rest, and also against the Emperor. THE physicians say Duke John died of cramp. As infants are born without care, live without care, die without care; so will it seem to our dear prince Duke John at the Last Day, as if he had come in from the forest after the chase; he will not know what has happened to him. As Isaiah says, “The just is taken away; he shall enter into peace; they shall rest on their beds.” Philip, Landgrave Of Hesse. DOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER praised the Landgrave much, that he was a good, understanding, and merry-hearted prince, who kept good peace in his land, which was full of forests and rocks, so that the people could dwell securely therein, work and trade. For if any one was robbed and plundered, instantly he pursued the thieves and punished them, just as his father had done, who once restored three thousand florins to one who had been robbed of them; and when he discovered who had done it, razed his castle to the ground, the delinquent himself having fled. For he said it was for this they ruled, that the land might be kept pure.
The Landgrave is for his age an excellent prince, who suffers himself to be spoken to and counselled; soon yields to good counsel; and when he has decided, delays not long, but executes with diligence; therefore for these princely virtues he is feared by his adversaries. He has a Hessian head — cannot be idle; must have something to do; trusts and believes not lightly. Kaiser Maximilian. ONCE when the king of Denmark had sent a solemn embassy to Kaiser Maximilian, and the Ambassador claimed such honor for his sovereign as to demand to give his message to the Emperor sitting, the Emperor, observing it, stood up to hear him, so that, for shame, the Ambassador had to stand also.
On the other hand, once, when another Ambassador, at the commencement of his address, lost his presence of mind and stopped short, the Emperor began to speak easily to him of other things, to give him time until he recovered.
Again, once, when an impudent beggar asked alms of the Kaiser, and called him “Brother, because they were both children of one fallen Adam,” Kaiser Maximilian said to him, “See! there are two kreuzers. Go to the rest of thy brothers; if they give thee as much, thou wilt be a richer man than I.” Tene mensuram et respice finem was Kaiser Maximilian’s motto. A finer dictum than Kaiser Karl’s Plus ultra .
The Love of their Subjects the true Treasure of Princes.
PHILIP MELANCHTHON said once to Doctor Martin Luther at table that “he had heard in his youth how, at a Diet, several princes had boasted of the excellences of their respective territories. “The Duke of Saxony said he had silver under his mountains, and mines which yielded great revenues. “The Count Palatine praised his good Rhenish wine. “But Duke Eberhard of Wurtemberg said, ‘I am a poor prince, and cannot compare myself with either of your graces (Liebden); nevertheless, I have this treasure in my land, that were I riding anywhere therein, alone and unattended, I could find a night’s lodging, safe and welcome, in the home of any of my subjects.’ “And all the princes held this to be the best treasure of all.” KAISER MAXIMILIAN said, “There were three kings in the world. He himself, the Emperor; the king of France, and the king of England. He was a king of kings; for when he required anything of his princes which pleased them they did it, and if not, they let it alone. The king of France was a king of asses, for all that he commanded of his people they had to do, like beasts of burden. But the king of England was a king of men; for what he required of them they did willingly, and held their prince dear, like obedient subjects.
IN the last day of September Dr. Martin saw his little children sitting at the table, and he said: “Christ says, ‘Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven .’ He affirms it with an oath (verily). O my God, surely Thou makest it all too simple; to lift children, such little foolish creatures, so high ! How comes it that Thou hast bidden and taught thus, that a little simple child should be preferred before a sage? How can this consist with our Lord God’s judgment and righteousness, which Paul exalts so high? Righteousness of God! Righteousness of God!
Is this thy righteousness, that Thou castest out the prudent and receivest babes? The answer is, ‘Believe God’s Word and surrender thyself.’ Our Lord God has purer thoughts than we men. He must prune and polish us, and cut away great branches and boughs, ere He can make us such children and babes again. “See what pure thoughts little children have; how they look at heaven and death without any doubting. They are as if in Paradise.”
HIS little son once sat at the table and lisped and prattled about the life in heaven, and said what great joy there must be in heaven with eating, dancing, etc. There must be the greatest of all pleasures; the brooks flowing with pure milk, and cakes growing on the trees. Then Dr. Martin said, “The life of little children is the most blessed and the best of all, for they have no temporal cares, know nothing of the frightful, monstrous fanaticism in the Church, suffer no terror of death, nor of hell, have only pure thoughts and joyful speculations.”
HE was once playing and having little games with his little daughter Lenichen, and he asked her, “Lenichen, what will the Holy Christ bring you this Christmas?” and then he added, “Little children have such choice thoughts of God, how He is in heaven, and is their own dear Father.” DOCTOR MARTIN, in the year 1538, on the 17th of August, heard that his children had been quarrelling with each other, and soon afterward had been reconciled. Then he said, “My Lord God, how well this life and these plays of the little ones must please Thee! Indeed, all their sins are nothing but forgiveness of sins.” DOCTOR MARTIN was noticing one day how his little child of three years old was playing and prattling to himself, and he said, “This child is like one intoxicated; knows not that it lives; lives joyfully, without fear; springs and dances for joy.” ONCE when his infant son was brought to Dr. Martin, and he kissed and embraced it, he said, “My God, how dearly Adam must have loved Cain, the first born human creature. And afterward he became a fratricide! O Adam, woe, woe to thee!” DOCTOR MARTIN once would not suffer his son to appear before him for three days, nor would he take him again into favor until he had written, and humbled himself for his fault, and entreated forgiveness.
And when his mother, Dr. Jonas, and Dr. Teutleben pleaded for the boy, he said, “I would rather have a dead than an unworthy son. St. Paul said a bishop should be one that brought up his own children well, that others might take example thereby.” PARENTS are to be honored above all magistrates, for they are the fountain and source of the Fourth Commandment. THE life and the faith of children is the best, for they have only the Word; and to it they hold fast, and simply give God the honor of believing that He is truthful, holding what He promises for certain. ANOTHER time he took his infant son and said to him, “Thou art our Lord God’s little babe (Närrchen), livest under His grace and the forgiveness of sins, not under the Law. Thou fearest not, feelest safe, and troublest thyself about nothing. With thee all is unspoiled and uncorrupted.” HIS little son Martin had a little dog with which he was playing. Once when his father saw it, he said, “This babe preaches the Word of God in word and deed, for God says, ‘Have dominion over the cattle.’ And the dog will suffer anything from the child.” WHEN it was told him that his little daughter of four years old often spoke with joyful confidence of Christ, of the dear angels, and of eternal joy in heaven, he once said to her, “Ah! dear child! if we only firmly believe it!”
Thereupon the little maiden with anxious looks asked her father “If he did not believe it?” And Dr. Martin Luther observed, “The dear children live in innocence, know not of sin, live without any anger, avarice, or unbelief, and are therefore joyful and of a good conscience, fear no danger, be it of war, pestilence, or death. And what they hear of Christ and of the future life they believe simply, without any doubt, and speak joyfully about it.
Therefore Christ earnestly appeals to us to follow their example. For the children really believe, and therefore Christ holds little children and their childlike ways dear.” MY little Magdalene and Hans pray effectually even for me and many Christians. CHILDREN under seven years old have the most joyful dying. They have not yet learned the fear of death. DOCTOR MARTIN LUTHER once blessed one of his little children in its aunt’s arms, and said, “Go thy way, and be good. Money I shall not bequeath thee, but I shall leave thee a rich God. He will not forsake thee.”
Children should be taught at Home.
PUBLIC sermons do little for children; they bring little from them, unless in the school and at home they are diligently examined as to what they have learned. “WOMEN” he said, “are eloquent by nature, and are well skilled in rhetoric, in the art of persuading, which men have to learn and conquer with great pains.” “KÄTHE,” he said to his wife, “you have a good husband who loves you.
You are an empress.” And of her he said he held her dearer than the kingdom of France, and the dukedom of Venice. HE said once, “When women embrace the doctrine of the Gospel they are far stronger and more fervent in the faith, and hold it more firmly than men, as we see in the good Anastasia; and Magdalene’s heart was more steadfast than Peter’s.
WHEN schools flourish, all flourishes, and the Church remains upright.
Schools preserve the Church.
PRINTING is summum et postremum donum through which God sends forth the Gospel It is the last flicker of the flame before the extinguishing of the world. The world, thank God, is near its end. The holy Fathers who have fallen asleep would have desired to see this day of the unveiled Gospel.
THERE is no doubt that many seeds of excellent virtues are in those souls who love music; but those who love it not, I hold to resemble sticks and stones. For we know that music is hateful and intolerable to the demons.
And I fully deem, and am not ashamed to assert, that after Theology there is no art which can be compared to music. For she alone, after Theology, produces that which otherwise Theology alone can produce, a glad and quiet heart. Wherefore the devil, author of sad cares, and of crowds of disquiets, flies at the voice of music, as he flies at the word of Theology. THE devil is a sad spirit, and makes men sad; therefore he cannot endure cheerfulness. That is why he flies as far as he can from music, remains not where there is singing, especially of hymns. Thus David softened Saul’s temptation by his harp. DOCTOR MARTIN said, in the year 1541, that music is a glorious and divine gift, which is altogether hostile to the devil, and many temptations and desponding cogitations may be driven away thereby, for the devil cannot endure music. MUSICAL notes make the text living. They drive away the spirit of depression. Some of the kings, princes, and nobles must maintain musicians; for it becomes great potentates and rulers to preserve free, noble arts and laws. MUSIC is the best refreshment of a troubled man, whereby his heart is again brought into peace, invigorated, and refreshed. MUSIC is a discipline, and a mistress of order and good manners; she makes the people milder and gentler, more moral and more reasonable. IN the year 1538, on the 17th of December, when Dr. Martin had the singers as his guests, and they sang beautifully lovely motets and pieces, he said with admiring wonder: “If our Lord God has poured forth such gifts in this poor fallen life, what will it be in that eternal life, where all will be the pleasantest and most perfect? Here we have only the beginnings.”
MUSIC has always been dear to me. Whoever is capable of this art, is of a good kind, is capable of all things good. Music must be kept up in schools.
A schoolmaster must be able to sing, otherwise I will not look at him. Nor should men be ordained preachers until they have been well tried and exercised in the school. ONCE when a choice motet of Senfl’s was sung, Dr. Martin admired and praised it much, and said, “I could not compose such a motet, if I were to strain myself to any extent to do it; and he on the other hand could not explain a Psalm as I can. Thus the gifts of the Spirit are manifold, as in the body there are many members. But no one is content with his gifts. Each member wishes to be the whole body, not one member.” ONCE, as they were singing the Passion, Dr. Martin listened attentively, and said, “Music is a precious, beautiful gift of God. Often it has so awakened and moved me, that I have been filled with the desire to preach.” MUSIC is a beautiful, glorious gift of God, and ranks next to Theology. The young should be exercised in this art, for it makes capable men. SINGING is the best art and exercise. It has nothing to do with the world, is nothing before the tribunals, or in matters of strife. Singers are not anxious and careful but joyful, and with singing drive cares away. DOCTOR MARTIN said once to a harper, “My friend, play me a song, as David did. I think, if David rose from the dead now, he would wonder to find how far we have advanced with music. It was never better than now.” WHEN David struck the harp it must have been like the Magnificat in the Eighth Tone, for David can scarcely have had a Decachordum . HOW is it that on earthly things we have many a fine poem and carmen; and on spiritual things such poor cold things? WHOEVER despises music, as all fanatics do, with him I am not content.
For music is a gift of God, not of man. It drives away the devil and makes people joyful. Through music one forgets all anger, impurity, pride, and other vices. Next to Theology I give to music the highest place and honor.
And we see how David and all the Saints have wrought their godly thoughts into verse, rhyme, and song, quia pacis tempore regnat musica .