BLTC Press Titles

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Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh

Life of Martin Luther

by Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Tischer






As a bright morning dawn is not always the precursor of a splendid day, and a cloudless sky, so is an illustrious pedigree no indication of renowned deeds and great talents. The great instructress of mankind, the history of the world, presents us with exalted and beneficent men, who descended from parents of low degree, and whose own noble actions raised them to celebrity.

A striking proof of this fact, we behold in the Great Luther, whose parents were poor and humble. His father, John Luther, a miner, and his mother Margaret, the daughter of one Lindeman, resided in the village of Mcere, between Eisenach and Salzungen. In the year 1483, they took a journey to Eisleben to attend the annual fair, where he was born on the 10th of November at 11 o'clock at night. He was baptized on the calendar day called Martinus, and according to the custom of those times, to name the children after their baptismal day, he was consequently named Martin Luther. He was yet very young, when his father moved with his family to Mansfeld, for the purpose of seeking employment in the celebrated mines which then were at that place. It was there that Ihe father was held in the highest esteem on account of his strict observance of the moral duties, and his pious behaviour; which virtues he manifested in an especial manner, by the extraordinary care he bestowed on his son. He was therefore not only a good man; but was also what many forget to be, a good father. And inasmuch as he would lose no time in having his son trained to virtue, he carried him in his arms to school at Mansfeld, and committed him to the care of his preceptor, with the strongest injunctions to be strict in his discipline with him; and his instructor was consequently so severe, that Luther himself once confessed, he had on a certain occasion been fifteen times in succession thoroughly chastised with a rod. When he was in the fourteenth year of his age his father sent him to Magdeburg, and as he there found no assistance to promote the education of his son, he in the following year sent him to Eisenach. He there joined the choir of academical scholars, and was obliged, with other poor students, to earn his bread by singing before the doors of houses. And this bread music, as Luther himself termed the singing before the doors, hardly afforded him his necessary support, and this mortifying necessity was embittered by the circumstance, that he was often obliged to take up 'with refusals and taunting replies, which he received instead of the hoped for donation of bread.

It is a maxim, the correctness of which is confirmed by experience, that when the unjust treatment given to any person has been pursued to the utmost degree of humiliation, it then moves with pity the hearts of even those who had only in a smaller degree humbled the unfortunate subject of their insults. Hard language and bitter reproaches heaped on him at several doors had one day filled him with shame, and entirely dejected the mind of young Luther, when the worthy wife of an upright citizen, whose name was Conrad Cotta, penetrated with pity, called him into the house, and refreshed the hungry youth with food. History, with gratitude, preserves and records this long forgotten name of his benefactor, conscious that he was an instrument in the hand of providence, to cherish a talent, which afterwards yielded such excellent fruits.

And you, who may chance to read this narrative, do you know how many great deeds that youth, to whom you show acts of kindness, may one day perform. It is sufficient to say, that this good woman was so exceedingly pleased with young Luther, that she, after having obtained the consent of her husband, determined to take him entirely into her house, and to provide for him food and clothing, that he might without interruption and care for his support the more zealously pursue his studies. And this he also did, and having during his scholastic years spent his time in the most advantageous manner in study, he left Eisenach, where he had stayed three years, and went to Erfurt in the year 1501, to the university. And there, too, he did not fail to apply his time in the best manner, and to acquire that knowledge of things which might contribute to make him a useful man. In his youth already, he more especially began to awaken in his mind pious and religious feelings, and commenced each day with prayer and raising his heart to God. And hence he always repeated the saying: "He who prays as he ought has already half finished his studies and hjs labours." The man who knows how he who is engaged in prayer discovers in himself dormant powers of mind, and confident of the efficacy of prayer, not only becomes inclined to use them, but also feels that he is pledged to exert them, will readily agree in opinion with Luther. He every morning awoke very early, and seldom suffered himself to be surprised in bed by the sun; because he knew very well, that he who is awake during the morning hours lives almost one-third longer than he who sleeps them away. His close application to study was perhaps also the cause, why especially in his younger years he had a spare and pale visage. Books were his most agreeable companions, and the perusal of them his most pleasant employment. On a certain occasion, when in the library at Erfurt he was taking a look at the books, a Bible happened to be the first volume on which he laid his hands. He hardly trusted his own eyes, when to his astonishment he found it to contain more than he had expected. "When I was twenty years of age," he once wrote to some person, " I had not yet seen a Bible. I thought the whole Bible contained only those gospels and epistles which were read on Sundays. At length I found a Bible in the library at Erfurt, which I read with the greatest admiration." So great was the ignorance of those times, that even the learned were unacquainted with the Bible. How much gratitude do we owe to providence which permits us to live in better times! His indefatigable industry at that time already procured him honour and respect with all who knew him. He indeed became interrupted in his studies for some time, by a severe sickness, which however was not followed by any serious consequences. An' old and respectable clergyman paid him a visit while he lay sick, and bade him to be comforted, for God would not let him die, but would yet make a great man of him. For, added he, whom he loves, him he early visits with affliction, in which patient people learn a great deal. However little this man could claim the character of a prophet, yet the active and lively spirit of young Luther inspired him with the hope of much future good. In short, Luther found himself so much cheered and strengthened by those encouraging expressions, that from thenceforth he exerted all his powers ,to fulfil the wishes of the old clergyman.

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