WORDS OF VICTORY.
1.THE LAST CONFLICT.
To the People of Wittenberg, A. D. 1521.
ICANNOT always be with you. Every one of us must die alone, and in that greatest and last conflict none of us can counsel or help another. I shall not be with you, nor you with me. He who stands steadfast then against sin, the devil, and hell, is saved. He who endures not is lost.
But in that hour none will stand steadfast save those who have well learned the words of power and comfort against sin during life. What the soul has embraced of that comfort in the world, that she bears away with her. That, and nothing in the world besides.
Against the devil and hell no one in that hour can stand, save he who has learned Christ by heart thoroughly; so that he can defiantly, nothing doubting, hold up against the devil how Christ died for him, and has vanquished Satan and hell. Then will he be saved, though all the devils are against him.
The Fear of Death. “THE fear of death,” he said,” is itself death. and nothing else. He who has banished death from his heart tastes and feels no death.”
He was asked about the pains of death. “Ask my Kathe,” he said, “if she felt anything of them, for she was indeed dead.”
She replied, “Herr Doctor, I felt nothing.”
Then Doctor Martin said, “Therefore I say that the fear of death is the greatest part of death. In the Hebrews it is written that ‘He (the Lord Christ) tasted death for every man.’ We are happy people not to have to taste death. For the taste of death is bitter! What kind of anguish it is to taste death may be seen indeed in Christ Himself, when He says, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.’ In the garden it was that Christ died. For to taste death is to die.”
What do you think these words mean, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death?” I hold them to be the greatest words in the whole Scriptures, although these also are indeed great, when He cried on the Cross, “My God, my God ! why hast Thou forsaken me?” No one can compress this into words. No angel understands how great that agony was that pressed the bloody sweat from Him.
That was the taste and terror of death, when a creature had to strengthen the Creator! The Apostles understood nothing at all of it.”
He who keeps my Saying shall never taste Death.”
FOR when he dies, life shall so lift itself up before him, that for this life which he sees he shall not be able to see death.
For the night becomes clear light, and bright as day, because the light and the shining of that rising, dawning, new life, altogether quenches and shines away this dying and self-destroying death. DEATH, which is to men a penalty of sin, through the most tender and kind mercy of God becomes to Christian men an end of sin, and a beginning of life and righteousness.
For to him who already has righteousness and life, death becomes a minister of life a - loom wherein life is woven; which surely we need not fear, since through no other passage can we reach that life.
This is the might of faith. It mediates between death and life, transmuting death into life and immortality. THEY threaten us with death.
If they were as wise as they are unwise, they would threaten us with life.
It is a contemptible, feeble threat to threaten Christ and His Christians with death, when they are lords and victors already over death.
It is as if I were to threaten a man that I would bridle his horse for him, and set him to ride thereon.
But they believe not that Christ is risen from the dead, and is Lord over life and death. To them He is still in the grave; yea, still in hell.
But we know (and knowing this are bold and joyful), that He has risen, and that death is nothing more than the end of sin and of itself.
Small Intimations of Immortality.
HEREIN is indicated the soul’s immortality, in that no creature save only man can understand and measure the heavenly bodies. Animals do not consider and analyze the water they drink. This upward contemplation of his indicates that man was not made to live always in this lower part of the world, but that hereafter he should possess the heavens. DEATH, in men, is in infinite and countless ways more mournful than in animals without reason. For man is a creature that was not created for this, but to live in obedience to the Divine Word, and in the likeness of God.
Man was not created to die. “DEAR brothers,” said Dr. Martin Luther, “despise the devil. For He who was nailed to the cross has crucified him; so likewise if he crucifies us, we on the other hand, shall crucify him, even with that cross wherewith he crucifies us.” THANK God, the devil has never been able altogether to vanquish me; he has burnt himself out on Christ. He says, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world; the sting of death has been worn out and blunted on Me, yea, altogether broken.”
IN the year 1538, on the 21st of October, Dr. Martin Luther made a public exhortation in the church, severely blaming those who were so fearful, and made such a clamor and cry about the Plague. “We should be of good cheer in the Lord; and should trust Him,” said he, “and each of us abide and walk in his own calling, and if our neighbors need our help and assistance, not desert them. We ought not to be so sore afraid of death; for we have the Word of life, and we cleave to the Lord of life, who for our sake has overcome death.”
SINCE now He has been laid beneath this earth, and has been buried, henceforth the graves of all Christians become sanctuaries, and wherever a Christian rests, there rests the sacred body of a Saint.
The Damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
THIS place is very remarkable, that our Lord Himself calls death nothing else than sleep, which is a glorious consolation for all who believe. For Christ does not only say that the dead maiden sleeps; He proves by facts that she sleeps, in that He speaks to her with soft, gentle words, as to awaken her from sleep.
This wisdom none of the world’s wise men have reached; endless questions they have raised, but here all the questions are answered in one word, “She sleeps.” If she sleeps, where art thou, O Death?
Death is no death to the Christian, but really a sleep. Yes, even the place where Christians are buried is called koi mhthrion , that is, a sleepingchamber.
AMAN who lies asleep is much like one who is dead. Therefore the ancient sages said, “Sleep is the brother of Death.”
So also Death and Life are pictured and signified in the revolutions and transformations of day and night, and of all creatures. SLEEP is verily a death, and, equally, death is a sleep. Our death is nothing but a night’s sleep.
In sleep all weariness passes away, and we rise again in the morning joyous, fresh, and strong.
So at the last Day shall we arise from our graves as if we had only slept a night, be fresh and strong, bathe our eyes (as in morning dew), and all weakness, corruption, and dishonor shall vanish from us forever.
IF Cicero could nobly console himself and take courage against death, how much more should we Christians, who have a Lord who is the Destroyer of death, who has vanquished him, namely, Christ the Son of God, who is the Resurrection and the Life.
AND if we would fain live a little longer, what a little while it is at the longest! Just as if several of us were journeying over the Duben Heath to Leipzig, and some arrived at four o’clock, some at seven or eight, some at evening; yet all had to be there before night. Thus our first forefather arrived a few hours before us. But even he will have rested no longer than one night, like ourselves. WE must submit to death; but the miracle is that whosoever keeps to God’s Word shall not feel death, but pass hence as one falling asleep. No more should it be said of such an one, Morior, sed cogor dormire ; no more “I die,” but, “I am constrained to sleep.” “IKNOW I shall not live long,” he said; “my brain is like a knife in which the steel is quite worn out, and there is nothing but iron left.
The iron can cut no more. So it is with my brain. Now, Oh my dear Lord! I hope, and am persuaded, that the hour of my departure is at hand. “At Cobourg I used to go about and seek a place where they might bury me; and I thought I could rest well in the Chapel, beneath the Cross. But now I am weaker than I was at Cobourg. God help me, and give me a gracious, blessed departure. I desire not to live any longer.” ON the 22nd of July, in the year 1533, Dr. Martin Luther said, at table, to Duke John Frederic, Elector of Saxony, “It is a far more terrible thing when a prince dies than when a peasant dies, who is thought nothing of. “A prince has to be abandoned of all his friends and nobles, and at last must enter into single combat with the devil. Then there will be no help in remembering that one has lived in a princely style.” DEATH for the sake of Christ’s name and Word is held precious and glorious before God; for we are mortal, and must die in one way or another, on account of sin. But if we can die for the sake of Christ’s Word, and the free confession of it, we die a most honorable death; we become altogether sacred; we have sold our life dear enough.
We who are Christians pray for peace and a long life; not for our own sakes, for to such death is pure gain; but for the sake of the Church and those who come after us.
To all the dear Friends of Christ at Halle.1527 - (On The Murder Of The Preacher George Winkler, By Archbishop Albrecht, At Mainz.) THEREFORE will I translate into writing the cry of his blood from the earth; that this murder may never more be silent, until God, the merciful Father and just Judge, hear this cry, as He heard that of the blood of holy Abel, and execute justice and vengeance on the murderer and traitor, the old enemy who brought about the deed; that the blood of Master George may be a Divine seed, and may bring forth fruit an hundred-fold; so that instead of one murdered George, a hundred other true-hearted preachers may arise, who shall do Satan a thousand-fold more harm than this one man has done. And thus, because he would not endure to hear this one, he shall have to endure, hear, and see countless numbers. As it happened to the Pope through the blood of Huss, whom he would not suffer to whisper in a corner, and is now constrained to suffer to cry aloud throughout all the world, until Rome itself, and the whole world are become too narrow for this cry, and nevertheless there is no end to it.
To Michael Stiefel, On The Martyrdom Of Leonhard Kaiser. - 1527. UNHAPPY am I, so unequal to Leonhard. I a preacher of many words, he a mighty doer of the Word. Who will make me worthy, that, not with a double portion of his spirit, but with the half of it, I may vanquish Satan?
Pray for me. Christ grant that we be followers of Leonhard. Not king only is he deservedly named, but Kaiser, who has vanquished him to whose power there is no equal on the earth.
Not a priest only is he, but a high-priest and true Pope, who has thus offered his body a sacrifice to God, acceptable, living, holy. Well too he is named Leonhard; that is, strength of a lion. Truly he was a lion, strong and fearless. All names with him have been fateful. He first of his family has consecrated and fulfilled the family name.
Attestation. “THE handwriting of Luther which he gave to a messenger who asked for a certificate that he was alive; for the Papists had shown great joy at the news of his death.”
IDOCTOR MARTIN, confess, in this my handwriting, that I am of one mind with the Devil, the Pope, and all my enemies; for they would fain rejoice over my death; and I, from my heart, would fain give them this joy, and would gladly have died at Smalkald. But God would not have it so that I should confirm this their joy.
But one day He will do it ere they think, to my great gain; and then they will say, “Alas, if Luther were still alive!” THERE is no better death than that of St. Stephen, who says,” Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” F4 To lay aside all the register of our sins and our merits, and to die on simple grace alone.
St. Stephen learned this of two high persons, of the Lord Christ, and of David. 2.
THE PRESENT LIFE OF THE JUST IN HEAVEN.
ON Him sin is laid no more, but only righteousness; no pain and sorrow are in Him any more, but only joy; no death but unmingled life, far, far fuller than this temporal life. This should make us joyful. For since the Lord Christ is now sitting yonder at the right hand of God, and possesses and rules not a kingdom of death, sorrow, and misery, but a kingdom of life, where dwell peace, joy, and redemption from all evil, so also it is certain that His own do not remain in death, anguish, terror, temptation, and suffering, but must be torn from death, and live with Him. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” IT is enough that we know we live when our body dies. But how we shall there live, we know not yet. For this life is hidden in God. “HE IS THE GOD NOT OF THE DEAD,BUT OF THE LIVING.” Therefore it is impossible that the good should altogether die. They must live eternally; otherwise God would not be their God. THE Scriptures say that the holy and just go into the unseen world, and there enjoy the most pleasant peace, and the sweetest rest. How they live there we indeed know not, nor what the place is where they dwell. But this we know assuredly, they are in no grief or pain, but rest in the grace of God. As in this life they were wont to fall softly asleep in the guard and keeping of God and of the dear angels, without fear of harm, though the devil might prowl around them, so after this life do they repose in the hand of God. WHEN my soul journeys forth I know that highest kings and princes are appointed to attend me, namely the dear angels themselves, who will receive me and guard me on my way. THE Father of all mercy has given us to believe not in a wooden, but in a living Christ.
And if Satan towers yet higher, and rages more fiercely, he shall not weary us out, unless he could tear down Christ from the right hand of God.
While Christ sits there, we also shall remain lords and princes over sin, death, the devil, and hell.
Our cause is not yet sunk so low as it sank in Christ’s own time, when Peter himself denied Him, and all the disciples fled from Him, and Judas betrayed Him. And if it fell as low as this, nevertheless, never should it fall to the ground, nor ever shall our Christ perish. THE world lifts itself up raging against Christ. Be it so. With this Man we choose to be trampled on, and with Him to rise. We shall see what they gain and we lose by this: for He says,” Where I am, there also shall my servant be.” THE enemy will have to let Christ stand; and even if we die, we are not dead. If Christ can die, then shall I die. But I comfort myself with this. The Word of God abideth forever. “I live, and ye shall live also.”
Immortality in Name and in Truth.
SINCE all men feel and recognize, yea see, that we must die and pass away, every one seeks immortality here on earth, that he may be forever remembered.
Great kings, princes, and lords sought it of old, by erecting marble obelisks, and high pyramids; and now by building costly churches and palaces. Soldiers seek an eternal name through famous victories; learned men by writing books.
But the endless, imperishable glory, and the eternity of God, men do not see. Ah ! we are poor creatures. NATURAL life is a little fragment of the Eternal life. THIS life is life before our true birth to immortality. ALL that God creates, He creates for life. He has delight in life. HE said once, “When he lay a babe on his mother’s breast he knew little how he would afterwards be nourished, or what his future life would be.”
Still less do we understand what the eternal life will be. We are like infants here. HERE on earth it is ever imperfect. We cannot here acknowledge and grasp our true treasure as we would. He has indeed begun in us, and will not give up the work, but if we continue in faith and are not impatient, He will bring us to the true, eternal good things and perfect gifts, where we shall never wander, stumble, be angry, or sin any more.
WE know not how our Lord God is carrying on His building. Here we see only the scaffolding, with its beams and boards. But in that life we shall see God’s building and house; and then we shall wonder, and shall indeed rejoice that we have endured temptation.
AS there is a difference among the stars, so will there be among the Saints after this life, in the eternal life. As St. Augustine says, “God crowns His gifts in man.”
WE do not believe that God will give us better things than those which He lavishes on the godless in this world; namely, better things than money, lands, honor, and power.
The supreme good, indeed, He withholds from them, because they desire it not; namely, Himself.
But he who has not God, let him have what he will besides, is poorer and more miserable before God than Lazarus, who lay at the rich man’s gate, and died of hunger there.
If indeed the rich, patient God lavishes such temporal good things, yea, even dominions and kingdoms, on His bitter foes and blasphemers, what has He not prepared for us His children who suffer for His sake? Nay, what has He not given? His Only Begotten Son, and with Him all things: that we in Him should be children of God, heirs and fellow-heirs, through hope, of eternal heavenly treasures. “IHAVE been suffering from sore sickness, so that I gave up my life to God; but many a thought have I had in my weakness. Oh! how I thought of what eternal life is, what joys it has! Although I am sure that it is already given us through Christ, and prepared for us, because we believe; yet, it is there that it will be manifested what the new creation shall be. Whilst we remain here below, we cannot attain to understanding the first creation. “If I had been with God before He created the world, I could have given Him no counsel how to create the round worlds and the firmament from nothing, and to jewel it with the Sun, enlightening all the earth in its swift course; or how to create man and woman.
All this He did. and none was His counsellor or taught Him. Surely therefore I may joyfully trust Him and give Him glory for the future life, and the new creation, how all shall be in these, and be content that He alone be the Creator.” “ITHINK often about it,” said Dr. Martin, “but I cannot understand how we shall spend our time in that eternal life; no change, no eating and drinking, no labor, nothing to do. I deem, however, that we shall have countless objects to contemplate.”
Thereon Philip Melanchthon said very softly: “Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us.” That will be the glorious object for us to contemplate.
With that we shall have enough to do. “IN the life to come,” Dr. Martin said, “we shall not see darkly, as we now do; but we shall see face to face; that is to say, there shall be a most glorious brightness of the Eternal Majesty, in which we shall see God, even as He is. There shall be a true and perfect knowledge and love of God, a perfect light of reason, and a perfect will, an heavenly, Divine, and eternal will.” THIS far passeth all man’s capacity, that God should call us heirs, not of some rich and mighty prince, not of the Emperor, not of the world, but of God, the Almighty Creator of all things. If a man could comprehend the great excellency of this, that he is indeed the son and the heir of God, and with a constant faith believe the same, he would contemn all the pomp and glory of the world in comparison of the eternal inheritance. He would do all things with great humility, and suffer all with great patience.
Furthermore, he would earnestly desire, with Paul, to depart and be with Christ; and nothing could be more welcome to him than speedy death, which he would embrace as a most joyful entering into peace, knowing that it would be the end of all his miseries, and that through it he should attain to his true inheritance.
Yea, a man that could perfectly believe this, would not long remain alive, but would be swallowed up at once with exceeding joy.
IBELIEVE that in that future life we shall need no occupation but to contemplate with wondering joy the Creator and His creatures.
AGAIN in his sickness, in the year 1538, he said many beautiful things about the future life, and of its “unutterable joy, which human reason cannot comprehend with all her speculation and meditation, since are cannot with our thoughts escape from the visible and corporeal. The eternal can be comprehended in no human creature’s heart. Work itself will be delight there. Rapture will be work. What that joy will be we cannot conceive.” THERE we shall ever be studying, and learning more of what there is in the Incarnation of the Son of God. We can never learn that mystery through.
Yes, this will be the Eternal life, the life of the angels, ever searching and learning more and more; ever seeing something new that we have not seen before. NOT to leave us here on this earth with its troubles and sorrows, its poor wants and pleasures, did Christ come from heaven, die on the Cross, and rise again; still less to leave us in the dust and corruption of the grave; but to bring us to another life, where we shall need no more to eat and drink and toil; shall never more suffer, be sorrowful, or die. 3.
THE RESURRECTION AND THE GLORIOUS ADVENT.
Manifestation of Christ.
NOW that Christ has risen again He has drawn all with Him, so that all men must rise, even the ungodly. But that we still live here and use this world is just as if a father were to take a journey into a foreign country, and were to say to his child or servant, “See, there thou hast two golden groschen; use them for the necessities and nourishment of thy body until I come again.”
Moreover all creatures are a figure and type of the future Resurrection, for towards the spring they come forth again living from death, grow and become green, which in winter no one would believe could be, who had not before proved and seen it.
Similarly, now that He has ascended to heaven He has taken all with Him thither. He sitteth on the right hand of God and has translated us who are members of His body with Him into the heavenly existence, that we also, like Christ, may be lords over all things; whilst yet He remains the Firstborn among many brethren.
Therefore, a Christian who believes this looks at the sun, and all that we use here in this world, as if they were not, but ever thinks of the future life, in which he already lives, although it doth not yet appear. The whole creation also waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. CHRIST has made us free, not civilly and carnally, but divinely. The most high and sovereign Majesty doth not only defend and succor us in this life, but as touching our bodies also, will deliver us, so that our bodies, which are sown in corruption and dishonor and weakness, shall rise again in incorruption, glory, and power.
Death, which is the most mighty and dreadful thing in all the world, is utterly vanquished in the conscience by this liberty of the Spirit.
Wherefore the majesty of this Christian liberty is highly to be esteemed and diligently considered.
IN the year 1539, on the 11th of April, Doctor Martin Luther was in his garden, and with many a deep thought, he looked at the trees - how fair and lovely they were, budding and blossoming and growing green; he said,” Praised be God the Creator, who in the springtime out of dead creatures makes all living again. Look at the little twigs,” he said, “so sweet and full; pregnant with new life. There we have a beautiful image of the Resurrection of the dead. The winter is death; the summer is the Resurrection of the dead, for then all live again and grow green.” OUR Lord has written the promise of the Resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. WHILE Adam (the old man) lives; that is, while he sins, life is swallowed up of death. But when Christ dies, death is swallowed up of Life, that is, of Christ Himself. IN the year 1544, on the Sunday Cantate, after Easter, Dr. Martin made a very beautiful sermon in the Church on the Resurrection of the dead, from the Epistle. He dwelt on these words: “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” He spoke first of the Resurrection of Christ, “which,” said he, “every day becomes more complete, as one by one we follow Him. For we must ever bind and link together the Resurrection of Christ and our own. For He is our Head.” WHEN we shall live in that Day we shall look with wonder on one another, and say, “Shame! that we were not of better cheer, braver and stronger, and more joyful to trust Christ, and to endure the Cross, and all tribulations and persecutions, since this glory is so great.” THIS corrupt and feeble body cannot continue as it is. Therefore it is best that the Potter should take the vessel, break it in pieces, make it mere clay again, and then make it altogether new. “ISHALL rise again,” said Dr. Martin, “and once more be able to converse with you. This finger, on which this ring is, I shall have again. All must be restored. For it is written, ‘God will create new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.’ That will be no empty nor idle kingdom. There will be pure joy and rapture; for those heavens and that earth will be no dry, barren sand. “When a man is happy, a green tree, a fair flower, or nosegay can make him glad; but when he is sad he can scarcely bear to look at the trees, or at anything beautiful. “Heaven and earth shall be renewed, and we who believe shall be all together, one company. “If we were all one here on earth there would be great peace; but God makes it otherwise, and suffers this world to be so strangely entangled and confused that we may long and sigh for the future Fatherland, and be weary of this toilsome life.” WHEN Christ shall cause the trumpet to peal at the last Day, then all will spring forth and arise; as the flies who lie dead (dormant) in winter, but towards summer, when the sun shines, start to life again; as the birds, who lie dead (dormant) all the winter in nests, or in clefts of the rocks and trees, or under the hollow banks of streams, as the cuckoo, the swallow, and others, and towards spring come to life again. Experience teaches us to expect this. ONCE, when Dr. Martin and others had been discoursing merrily together, they came at length to earnest converse about eternal life; “how the heavens and the earth would be made new.” In Christ we already possess the new future and eternal life. Then will the flowers, leaves, and grass be as fair, pleasant, and glorious as an emerald, and all creatures be at their fairest.
Even now, when we have God’s grace shining on us, all the creatures smile on us.
And in the new heavens there will be a great, eternal light and beauty.
What here we would be, there we shall be. Wherever thought takes us, thither the body also will be able to follow.
In this life the body is obedient to the will. Much more in the future life shall the body be able easily to obey the will. All shall be restored us there, but shining, bright, glorious. And all which here we count fair will be as nothing, by comparison, there. We shall be satisfied with God’s grace, and be altogether what we would be. There shall be all that we would so fain have here, namely: justice, peace, joy, blessedness, and we shall be free from all sickness and every evil chance.
To a heart that is full of joy, all it sees is joyful; but to a sad heart all is sad.
Change of heart is the greatest change.
All that we lost in Paradise we shall receive again far better, and far more abundantly. The new heavens and earth, each shall be full of the life which belongs to each. NOT only in heaven shall we be, but wheresoever we will in heaven or earth; no more tottering under this heavy body, which ever drags us earthward. The body itself shall then be full of activity and life. IT is a great thing to believe that then the weak and burdensome body shall be so vigorous, and swift, and full of life and activity. I believe this but feebly; the world not at all.
If here we have such pleasure in the creatures, in the sun, the stars, and all the creation, what will it be there, where we shall see God face to face?
There the Saints shall keep eternal Holy Day, ever joyful, secure, and free from all suffering; ever satisfied in God.
This body is a Sepulchre.
SLEEP is nothing else than a death, and death a sleep. What is our death but a night’s sleep? For as, through sleep all weariness and faintness pass away and cease, and the powers of the spirit come back again, so that in the morning we arise fresh, and strong, and joyous; so at the Last Day we shall rise again, as if we had only slept a night, and shall be fresh and strong.
Wonder of the Saints at the Joy of Heaven.
THOSE who in their necessity and anguish could comfort themselves no otherwise than because they had Christ the Son of God as their Savior and their Advocate with the Father, by keeping close to His Word, and by a heartfelt yearning and longing for His blessed appearing, those shall then look with wonder on one another. We shall recognize one another and say, “Lo! verily, do we meet again thus? Who would have foreseen this wonderful, blessed transformation? On earth we were the most miserable, the least esteemed, and sorely tried; were called heretics and those who turned the world upside down, were scorned and mocked, trampled under foot, hunted down, cast into dungeons, slain by torture, sword, and fire.
We bore the cross a little while, yea, but for a moment, compared with this great glory which is now revealed in us; and now behold, we live with Christ in unspeakable eternal joy, and praise Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit with all the angels and saints.” “IF we rightly considered,” said Doctor Martin, “how great the glory of the future life will be, for which we wait, when we shall rise again from the dead, we should not be so heavy-hearted and unwilling to suffer all kinds of trials, torments, and wrong from this evil world. “When the Son of Man, our dear Lord Christ, shall come at the Last Day to judge the quick and the dead, and His sentence falls on the godly and on the ungodly, then we shall be ashamed at heart, and each say to himself, ‘ Shame on thee ! Had I indeed believed God’s word, I would have suffered gladly not only sore temptation, and unjust imprisonment, but would willingly have been trampled under the feet of all the Turks and the ungodly, and have lain there, for the sake of the coming glory which now I see revealed.’” GO into the garden and ask the cherry-tree how it is possible that from a dry, dead twig can spring a little, living eye, and from that eye can spring cherries? Go into the house and ask the matron how it is possible that from the lifeless egg can come the living bird?
And since God does such wonders with cherries and with eggs, canst thou not give Him the glory of believing that if He suffers the winter to come over thee, if He suffers thee to die and be imprisoned in the earth, thee also, when His summer comes, will He bring forth again and awaken from the dead?
Christ calling all by Name to Him.
MY Lord is called “Sit thou at My right hand.” He saith “I will raise you up again at the last day.” And then He will also say, “Doctor Martin, Doctor Jonas, Master Michael Coeli, come hither!” He will call us all by name. Forward then: fear not.
The Advent (as he believed) near.
THE light of the Gospel in our times is a sure sign of the glorious Advent of the Lord Christ. It is like the rose of dawn preceding the Eternal Day, and the rising of the Sun of Righteousness.
THE prophets threw the Advents of Christ together; as now we know that the Last Day will come, yet cannot know what or how things will be after it, except only in general that there will be eternal joy, peace and blessedness. So the prophets held that immediately after the coming of Christ, the Last Day would come. They have also thrown together the signs of the First and Second Advent, as if both would happen at one time.
So also in the Epistle to the Corinthians St. Paul questions whether the Day of Judgment will soon come, while those then at Corinth still lived. And even Christ Himself did the same, placing the signs of both close together. DOCTOR MARTIN said, “Oh, my God, come at last! I am ever waiting for that Day, early in the spring, when day and night are equal, and there will be a bright clear dawning. These are my thoughts. Quickly from this rosy morning sky, a black, thick cloud will arise, and three flashes of lightning, then a peal of thunder, and in a moment (a ‘ now ‘), in the twinkling of an eye, the heavens and the earth will collapse, smitten into an indistinguishable mass. Praise God who has taught us not to dread, but to sigh and long for that Day. Under the Papacy all the world dreaded it: ‘ Dies irae, dies illa.’” STIEFEL said once, “As I was on the way hither, I saw a glorious rainbow, and I thought of the Last Day.” “Nay, it will not come ushered in by rainbows,” said Dr. Martin, “but with a sudden crash: with fire, thunder and lightning, the whole creation shall pass away. In a moment we shall all be changed. A mighty trumpet peal will awaken and renew us all. It will not be the soft sighing of a lute that shall awaken all that are in the graves to hear.”
AFAR different pomp from the pomp of the triumphal entry of kings and emperors, will that Advent have. For the whole air shall be full of angels and of saints, who shall shine brighter than the sun. AT Eastertide, in April, when there was least fear of rain, Pharaoh perished in the Red Sea and Israel was led out of Egypt.
At the same season the world was created. At that season the year changes; and then Christ arose again and renewed the world.
So, perhaps, at the same season will dawn the Last Day. I have a thought that this Day will come about Eastertide, when the year is pleasantest and most fair; and early, when the sun ariseth, as with Sodom and Gomorrha.
The heavens will become troubled, and there will be thunders and earthquakes, perhaps for an hour or longer. Then the people who see it will say, “See! see ! you foolish creature! Did you never hear thunder before?”
And suddenly the whole world will fall together, and many a debt will remain unpaid. BY these fires in the sky I judge the Last Day to be at the doors. The empire is falling, kings are failing, priests are falling; the whole world everywhere is falling, even as a great house, when about to fall, is wont first to begin its ruin with little cracks.
His Prayer for the Speedy Advent of Christ.
HELP, O Lord my God, that the joyful Day of Thy Holy Advent may come, that we may be redeemed from this evil, envious world, the Devil’s kingdom, and be set free from the bitter torments that we have to suffer both from without and from within, both from wicked men and from our own conscience. Destroy this old Adam, that we may be clothed with another body that is not disposed to evil and excess as this is, but which, redeemed from all infirmity, shall be made like unto Thy glorious body, my Lord Jesus Christ, so that at last we may attain our full and glorious redemption.
Luther’s last Conflict and Victory.
ON Wednesday the 17th of February, 1543, it was observed that he was feeble and ailing. The Princes of Anhalt and the Count Albert Mansfeld, with Dr. Jonas and his other friends, entreated him to rest in his own room during the morning. He was not easily persuaded to spare himself, and probably would not have yielded then, had he not felt that the work of reconciliation was accomplished, in all save a few supplementary details.
Much of the forenoon, therefore, he reposed on a leathern couch in his room, occasionally rising, with the restlessness of illness, and pacing the room or standing in the window praying, so that Dr. Jonas and Coelius, who were in another part of the room, could hear him. He dined, however, at noon, in the Great Hall, with those assembled there. At dinner he said to some near him, “If I can, indeed, reconcile the rulers of my birthplace with each other, and then, with God’s permission, accomplish the journey back to Wittemberg, I would go home and lay myself down to sleep in my grave, and let the worms devour my body.”
IN the afternoon he complained of painful pressure on the breast, and requested that it might be rubbed with warm cloths. This relieved him a little; and he went to supper again with his friends in the Great Hall. At table he spoke much of eternity, and said he believed his own death was near; yet his conversation was not only cheerful, but at times gay, although it related chiefly to the future world. One near him asked whether departed saints would recognize each other in heaven. He said, yes, he thought they would. WHEN he left the supper table he went to his room. In the night his two sons, Paul and Martin, thirteen and fourteen years of age, sat up to watch with Justus Jonas, whose joys and sorrows he had shared through so many years. Coelius and Aurifaber also were with him. The pain in the breast returned, and again they tried rubbing him with hot cloths. Count Albert came and the Countess, with two physicians, and brought him some shavings from the tusk of a sea-unicorn, deemed a sovereign remedy. He took it, and slept till ten. Then he awoke, and attempted once more to pace the room a little; but he could not and returned to bed. Then he slept again till one. During those two or three hours of sleep, his host Albrecht, with his wife, Ambrose, Jonas, and Luther’s son, watched noiselessly beside him, quietly keeping up the fire. Everything depended on how long he slept, and how he woke.
The first words he spoke when he woke sent a shudder of apprehension through their hearts. He complained of cold, and asked them to pile up more fire. Alas! the chill was creeping over him which no effort of man could remove.
Dr. Jonas asked him if he felt very weak. “Oh,” he replied, “how I suffer !
My dear Jonas, I think I shall die here, at Eisleben, where I was born and baptized.
His other friends were awakened and brought in to his bedside. JONAS spoke of the sweat on his brow as a hopeful sign, but Dr. Luther answered: “It is the cold sweat of death. I must yield up my spirit, for my sickness increaseth.”
Then he prayed fervently, saying: “Heavenly Father, everlasting and merciful God, Thou hast revealed to me Thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Him have I taught; Him have I experienced; Him have I confessed; Him I adore and love as my beloved Savior, Sacrifice, and Redeemer - Him whom the godless persecute, dishonor, and reproach. O heavenly Father, though I must resign my body, and be borne away from this life, I know that I shall be with Him forever. Take my poor soul up to Thee.”
Afterwards he took a little medicine, and assuring his friends that he was dying, said three times: “Father, into Thy hands do I commend my spirit. Thou has redeemed me, Thou faithful God. Truly God hath so loved the world!”
Then he lay quite quiet and motionless. Those around sought to rouse him, and began to rub his chest and limbs, and spoke to him, but he made no reply. Then Jonas and Coelius, for the solace of the many who had received the truth from his lips, spoke aloud, and said: “Venerable father, do you die trusting in Christ, and in the doctrine you have constantly preached?”
He answered by an audible and joyful “Yes.”
That was his last word on earth. Then turning on his right side, he seemed to fall peaceably asleep for a quarter of an hour. Once more hope awoke in the hearts of his children and his friends; but the physician told them it was no favorable symptom. A light was brought near his face; a death-like paleness was creeping over it, and his hands and feet were becoming cold.
Gently once more he sighed; and with hands folded on his breast, yielded up his spirit to God without a struggle.
This was at four o’clock in the morning of the 18th of February, 1543.