BLTC Press Titles

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The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle

Martin Luther

by Gustav Freytag


Old Hans Luther maintained some influence over the life of his son down to the time of his death in 1530. When, at the age of twenty-two years, Martin secretly entered a monastery, the old man's anger was violent, for he had thought of providing for his son by a good marriage. And when, at last, friends succeeded in reconciling the irate father, when he confronted his son, who pleaded that a terrible apparition had compelled him to the secret vow to enter a monastery, the father broke out into the petulant words: "May God grant, that it was not a cheat or a spectre sent by the Devil."

He still further tore the heart of the monk by the angry question: "You thought to obey the bidding of God when you took orders, did you not also hear that children should obey their parents?" The sting of the words rankled deeply in the heart of the son. And many years later, when he lived on the Wartburg, expelled from the church, outlawed by the Emperor, he wrote to his father the pathetic words: "Do you still wish to take me from the monkish life? You are still my father; I am still your son; on your side is the divine commandment and the power, on mine is human wrong-doing. And lo, that you might not boast before God He anticipated you, He took me out Himself I" From that time, the old man felt as if his son had been given back to him. Old Hans at one time calculated on a grandson for whom he wanted to work. He reverted to that idea stubbornly, disregarding the rest of the world. Before long__he urged his son to marry, and his persuasion was not the least powerful influence to which Luther yielded. And when the father, having reached a ripe old age and the honor of a councilman of Mansfeld, was lying on his death-bed and the minister, bending over the man who was passing away, asked if he would die in the purified faith on Christ and the Holy Gospel, old Hans gathered his strength for the last time and said, curtly: "A scoundrel who does not believe in it!" Luther, in telling about it in later years, was wont to add admiringly: '' He was a man of the good old time."

The son received the news of his father's death in the


fortress of Coburg. Gazing at the letter in which his wife had enclosed the picture of his youngest daughter, Magdalen, he spoke to his companions only the brief words: "Well, my father is dead, too," then rising and taking his psalter, he went to his chamber and prayed and wept so hard that, as the faithful Veit Dietrich reports, his head was dull the next day—but he came forth with his mind composed. The same day he wrote to Melanchthon with much emotion about the cordial affection of the father and his intimate intercourse with him. "Never have I despised death so much as to-day. So many times do we die before we finally die. Now I am the oldest of my race and I have a right to follow him."

From such a father the son received for his life those qualities which remained the foundation of his nature— truthfulness, persevering will, a sincere confidence in, and prudent treatment of, men and affairs. Rough was his infancy, much that was harsh did he experience in the Latin school and as a chorister, but he also met with kindness and love, especially in the house of Frau Cotta. And Luther retained that which is more easily preserved in the smaller circles of life, a heart full of faith in the goodness of human nature and of reverence for all that is great on this earth. At the University of Erfurt his father was able to assist him more liberally; he felt the vigor of youth and was a merry companion with harp and song.


THE corruption of the world had waxed huge, the oppression of the poor was beyond endurance, gross sensuality held sway, clergy and laity were dominated by insatiable greed. Who would punish the young squire for ill-treating the peasant? Who protect the poor citizen against the powerful family of the rich councilman? Hard was the toil of the man of the people from morning till night, through winter and summer. There was the plague, failure of crops, and famine. Inscrutable the order of the world, and a dearth of love in the life on earth. Salvation from misery was in God alone. Before Him all the things of the earth were petty and as naught; Emperor and Pope and the wisdom of man were transient as the flowers of the fields. If God was merciful he could save man from the troubles of this life and compensate him by everlasting bliss for his sufferings here below. But how could such grace be won? What virtue of weak humanity durst hope to earn the infinite treasure of divine favor? Man was damned from the time of Adam to will the good and work the evil. Vain was his best virtue; he was cursed with original sin, and it was through no merit of his own if God showed him mercy.

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