MoboReader > Literature > Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family

   Chapter 19 No.19

Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 70224

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Fritz's Story.

Ebernburg, April 2, 1526.

A chasm has opened between me and my monastic life. I have been in the prison, and in the prison have I received at last, in full, my emancipation. The ties I dreaded impatiently to break have been broken for me, and I am a monk no longer.

I could not but speak to my brethren in the convent of the glad tidings which had brought me such joy. It is as impossible for Christian life not to diffuse itself as that living water should not flow, or that flames should not rise. Gradually a little band of Christ's freedmen gathered around me. At first I did not speak to them much of Dr. Luther's writings. My purpose was to show them that Dr. Luther's doctrine was not his own, but God's.

But the time came when Dr. Luther's name was on every lip. The bull of excommunication went forth against him from the Vatican. His name was branded as that of the vilest of heretics by every adherent of the Pope. In many churches, especially those of the Dominicans, the people were summoned by the great bells to a solemn service of anathema, where the whole of the priests, gathered at the altar in the darkened building, pronounced the terrible words of doom and then, flinging down their blazing torches extinguished them on the stone pavement, as hope, they said, was extinguished by the anathema for the soul of the accursed.

At one of these services I was accidentally present. And mine was not the only heart which glowed with burning indignation to hear that worthy name linked with those of apostates and heretics, and held up to universal execration. But, perhaps, in no heart there did it enkindle such a fire as in mine. Because I knew the source from which those curses came, how lightly, how carelessly those firebrands were flung; not fiercely, by the fanaticism of blinded consciences, but daintily and deliberately, by cruel, reckless hands, as a matter of diplomacy and policy, by those who cared themselves neither for God's curse nor his blessing. And I knew also the heart which they were meant to wound; how loyal, how tender, how true; how slowly, and with what pain Dr. Luther had learned to believe the idols of his youth a lie; with what a wrench, when the choice at last had to be made between the word of God and the voice of the Church, he had clung to the Bible, and let the hopes, and trust, and friendships of earlier days be torn from him; what anguish that separation still cost him; how willingly, as a humble little child, at the sacrifice of anything but truth and human souls, he would have flung himself again on the bosom of that Church to which, in his fervent youth, he had offered up all that makes life dear.

"They curse, but bless Thou."

The words came, unbidden into my heart, and almost unconsciously from my lips. Around me I heard more than one "Amen;" but at the same time I became aware that I was watched by malignant eyes.

After the publication of the excommunication, they publicly burned the writings of Dr. Luther in the great square. Mainz was the first city in Germany where this indignity was offered him.

Mournfully I returned to my convent. In the cloisters of our Order the opinions concerning Luther are much divided. The writings of St. Augustine have kept the truth alive in many hearts amongst us; and besides this, there is the natural bias to one of our own order, and the party opposition to the Dominicans, Tetzel and Eck, Dr. Luther's enemies. Probably there are few Augustinian convents in which there are not two opposite parties in reference to Dr. Luther.

In speaking of the great truths, of God freely justifying the sinner because Christ died, (the Judge acquitting because the Judge himself had suffered for the guilty), I had endeavoured to trace them, as I have said, beyond all human words to their divine authority. But now to confess Luther seemed to me to have become identical with confessing Christ. It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-fields besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.

It seems to me also that, practically, the contest in every age of conflict ranges usually round the person of one Faithful, Godsent man, whom to follow loyally is fidelity to God. In the days of the first Judaizing assault on the early Church, that man was St. Paul. In the great Arian battle, this man was Athanasius-"Athanasius contra mundum." In our days, in our land, I believe it is Luther; and to deny Luther would be for me who learned the truth from his lips, to deny Christ. Luther, I believe, is the man whom God has given to his Church in Germany in this age. Luther, therefore, I will follow-not as a perfect example, but as a God-appointed leader. Men can never be neutral in great religious contests; and if, because of the little wrong in the right cause, or the little evil in the good man, we refuse to take the side of right, we are, by that very act, silently taking the side of wrong.

When I came back to the convent I found the storm gathering. I was asked if I possessed any of Dr. Luther's writings. I confessed that I did. It was demanded that they should be given up. I said they could be taken from me, but I would not willingly give them up to destruction, because I believed they contained the truth of God. Thus the matter ended until we had each retired to our cells for the night, when one of the older monks came to me and accused me of secretly spreading Lutheran heresy among the brethren.

I acknowledged I had diligently, but not secretly, done all I could to spread among the brethren the truths contained in Dr. Luther's books, although not in his words, but in St. Paul's. A warm debate ensued, which ended in the monk angrily leaving the cell, saying that means would be found to prevent the further diffusion of this poison.

The next day I was taken into the prison where John of Wesel died; the heavy bolts were drawn upon me, and I was left in solitude.

As they left me alone, the monk with whom I had the discussion of the previous night said. "In this chamber, not forty years since, a heretic such as Martin Luther died."

The words were intended to produce wholesome fear: they acted as a bracing tonic. The spirit of the conqueror who had seemed to be defeated there, but now stood with the victorious palm before the Lamb, seemed near me. The Spirit of the truth for which he suffered was with me; and in the solitude of that prison I learned lessons years might not have taught me elsewhere.

No one except those who have borne them knows how strong are the fetters which bind us to a false faith, learned at our mother's knee, and riveted on us by the sacrifices of years. Perhaps I should never have been able to break them. For me, as for thousands of others, they were rudely broken by hostile hands. But the blows which broke them were the accolade which smote me from a monk into a knight and soldier of my Lord.

Yes; there I learned that these vows which have bound me for so many years are bonds, not to God, but to a lying tyranny. The only true vows, as Dr. Luther says, are the vows of our baptism-to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, as soldiers of Christ. The only divine Order is the common order of Christianity. All other orders are disorder; not confederations within the Church, but conspiracies against it. If, in an army, the troops choose to abandon the commander's arrangement, and range themselves, by arbitrary rules, in peculiar uniforms, around self-elected leaders, they would not be soldiers-they would be mutineers.

God's order is, I think, the State to embrace all men, the Church to embrace all Christian men; and the kernel of the State and the type of the Church is the family.

He creates us to be infants, children-sons, daughters-husband, wife-father, mother. He says, Obey your parents, love your wife, reverence your husband, love your children. As children, let the Lord at Nazareth be your model; as married, let the Lord, who loved the Church better than life, be your type; as parents, let the heavenly Father be your guide. And if we, abandoning every holy name of family love he has sanctioned, and every lowly duty he has enjoined, choose to band ourselves anew into isolated conglomerations of men or women, connected only by a common name and dress, we are not only amiable enthusiasts-we are rebels against the Divine order of humanity.

God, indeed, may call some especially to forsake father and mother, and wife and children, and all things for his dearer love. But when he calls to such destinies, it is by the plain voice of Providence, or by the bitter call of persecution; and then the martyr's or the apostle's solitary path is as much the lowly, simple path of obedience as the mother's or the child's. The crown of the martyr is consecrated by the same holy oil which anoints the head of the bride, the mother, or the child,-the consecration of love and of obedience. There is none other. All that is not duty is sin; all that is not obedience is disobedience; all that is not of love is of self; and self crowned with thorns in a cloister is as selfish as self crowned with ivy at a revel.

Therefore I abandon cowl and cloister for ever. I am no more Brother Sebastian, of the order of the Eremites of St. Augustine. I am Friedrich Cotta, Margaret Cotta's son, Elsè and Thekla's brother Fritz. I am no more a monk. I am a Christian-I am no more a vowed Augustinian. I am a baptized Christian, dedicated to Christ from the arms of my mother, united to Him by the faith of my manhood. Henceforth I will order my life by no routine of ordinances imposed by the will of a dead man hundreds of years since. But day by day I will seek to yield myself, body, soul, and spirit to the living will of my almighty, loving God, saying to him morning by morning, "Give me this day my daily bread. Appoint to me this day my daily task." And He will never fail to hear, however often I may fail to ask.

I had abundance of time for those thoughts in my prison; for during the three weeks I lay there I had, with the exception of the bread and water which were silently laid inside the door every morning, but two visits. And these were from my friend the aged monk who had first told me about John of Wesel.

The first time he came (he said) to persuade me to recant. But whatever he intended, he said little about recantation-much more about his own weakness, which hindered him from confessing the same truth.

The second time he brought me a disguise, and told me he had provided the means for my escape that very night. When, therefore, I heard the echoes of the heavy bolts of the great doors die away through the long stone corridors, and listened till the last tramp of feet ceased, and door after door of the various cells was closed, and every sound was still throughout the building, I laid aside my monk's cowl and frock, and put on the burgher dress provided for me.

To me it was a glad and solemn ceremony, and, alone in my prison, I prostrated myself on the stone floor, and thanked Him who, by his redeeming death and the emancipating word of his free spirit, had made me a free man, nay, infinitely better, his freedman.

The bodily freedom to which I looked forward was to me a light boon indeed, in comparison with the liberty of heart already mine. The putting on this common garb of secular life was to me like a solemn investiture with the freedom of the city and the empire of God. Henceforth I was not to be a member of a narrow, separated class, but of the common family; no more to freeze alone on a height, but to tread the lowly path of common duty; to help my brethren, not as men at a sumptuous table throw crumbs to beggars and dogs, but to live amongst them-to share my bread of life with them; no longer as the forerunner in the wilderness, but, like the Master, in the streets, and highways, and homes of men; assuming no nobler name than man created in the image of God, born in the image of Adam; aiming at no loftier title than Christian, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and created anew, to be conformed to his glorious image. Yes, as the symbol of a freedman, as the uniform of a soldier, as the armour of a sworn knight, at once freeman and servant, was that lowly burgher's dress to me; and with a joyful heart, when the aged monk came to me again, I stepped after him, leaving my monk's frock lying in the corner of the cell, like the husk of that old lifeless life.

In vain did I endeavour to persuade my liberator to accompany me in my flight. "The world would be a prison to me, brother," he said with a sad smile. "All I loved in it are dead, and what could I do there, with the body of an old man and the helpless inexperience of a child? Fear not for me," he added; "I also shall, I trust, one day dwell in a home; but not on earth!"

And so we parted, he returning to the convent, and I taking my way, by river and forest, to this castle of the noble knight Franz von Sickingen, on a steep height at the angle formed by the junction of two rivers.

My silent weeks of imprisonment had been weeks of busy life in the world outside. When I reached this castle of Ebernburg, I found the whole of its inhabitants in a ferment about the summoning of Dr. Luther to Worms. His name, and my recent imprisonment for his faith, were a sufficient passport to the hospitality of the castle, and I was welcomed most cordially.

It was a great contrast to the monotonous routine of the convent and the stillness of the prison. All was life and stir; eager debates as to what it would be best to do for Dr. Luther; incessant coming and going of messengers on horse and foot between Ebernburg and Worms, where the Diet is already sitting, and where the good knight Franz spends much of his time in attendance on the Emperor.

Ulrich von Hutton is also here, from time to time, vehement in his condemnation of the fanaticism of monks and the lukewarmness of princes; and Dr. Bucer, a disciple of Dr. Luther's, set free from the bondage of Rome by his healthful words at the great conference of the Augustinians at Heidelberg.

April 30, 1521.

The events of an age seem to have been crowded into the last month. A few days after I wrote last, it was decided to send a deputation to Dr. Luther, who was then rapidly approaching Worms, entreating him not to venture into the city, but to turn aside to Ebernburg. The Emperor's confessor, Glapio, had persuaded the knight von Sickingen and the chaplain Bucer, that all might easily be arranged, if Dr. Luther only avoided the fatal step of appearing at the Diet.

A deputation of horsemen was therefore sent to intercept the doctor on his way, and to conduct him, if he would consent, to Ebernburg, the "refuge and hostelry of righteousness," as it has been termed.

I accompanied the little band, of which Bucer was to be chief spokesman. I did not think Dr. Luther would come. Unlike the rest of the party, I had known him not only when he stepped on the great stage of the world as the antagonist of falsehood, but as the simple, straightforward, obscure monk. And I knew that the step which to others seemed so great, leading him from safe obscurity into perilous pre-eminence before the eyes of all Christendom, was to him no great momentary effort, but simply one little step in the path of obedience and lowly duty which he had been endeavouring to tread so many years. But I feared. I distrusted Glapio, and believed that all this earnestness on the part of the papal party to turn the doctor aside was not for his sake, but for their own.

I needed not, at least, have distrusted Dr. Luther. Bucer entreated him with the eloquence of affectionate solicitude; his faithful friends and fellow-travellers, Jonas, Amsdorf, and Schurff, wavered, but Dr. Luther did not hesitate an instant. He was in the path of obedience. The next step was as unquestionable and essential as all the rest, although, as he had once said, "it led through flames which extended from Worms to Wittemberg, and raged up to heaven." He did not, however, use any of these forcible illustrations now, natural as they were to him. He simply said,-

"I continue my journey. If the Emperor's confessor has anything to say to me, he can say it at Worms. I will go to the place to which I have been summoned."

And he went on, leaving the friendly deputation to return to Ebernburg.

I did not leave him. As we went on the way, some of those who had accompanied him told me through what fervent greetings and against what vain entreaties of fearful affection he had pursued his way thus far; how many had warned him that he was going to the stake, and had wept that they should see his face no more; how, through much bodily weakness and suffering, through acclamations and tears, he had passed on simply and steadfastly, blessing little children in the schools he visited, and telling them to search the Scriptures; comforting the timid and aged, stirring up the hearts of all to faith and prayer, and by his courage and trust more than once turning enemies into friends.

"Are you the man who is to overturn the popedom?" said a soldier, accosting him rather contemptuously at a halting-place; "how will you accomplish that?"

"I rely on Almighty God," he replied, "whose orders I have."

And the soldier replied reverently,-

"I serve the Emperor Charles; your Master is greater than mine."

One more assault awaited Dr. Luther before he reached his destination. It came through friendly lips. When he arrived near Worms, a messenger came riding towards us from his faithful friend Spalatin, the Elector's chaplain, and implored him on no account to think of entering the city.

The doctor's old fervour of expression returned at such a temptation meeting him so near the goal.

"Go tell your master," he said, "that if there were at Worms as many devils as there are tiles on the roofs, yet would I go in."

And he went in. A hundred cavaliers met him near the gates, and escorted him within the city. Two thousand people were eagerly awaiting him, and pressed to see him as he passed through the streets. Not all friends. Fanatical Spaniards were among them, who had torn his books in pieces from the book-stalls, and crossed themselves when they looked at him, as if he had been the devil; baffled partisans of the Pope: and on the other hand, timid Christians who hoped all from his courage; men who had waited long for this deliverence, had received life from his words, and had kept his portrait in their homes and hearts encircled like that of a canonized saint with a glory. And through the crowd he passed, the only man, perhaps, in it who did not see Dr. Luther through a mist of hatred or of glory, but felt himself a solitary, feeble, helpless man, leaning only, yet resting securely, on the arm of Almighty strength.

Those who knew him best perhaps wondered at him most during those days which followed. Not at his courage-that we had expected-but at his calmness and moderation. It was this which seemed to me most surely the seal of God on that fervent impetuous nature, stamping the work and the man as of God.

We none of us know how he would have answered before that august assembly. At his first appearance some of us feared he might have been too vehement. The Elector Frederick could not have been more moderate and calm. When asked whether he would retract his books, I think there were few among us who were not surprised at the noble self-restraint of his reply. He asked for time.

"Most gracious Emperor, gracious princes and lords," he said, "with regard to the first accusation, I acknowledge the books enumerated to have been from me. I cannot disown them. As regards the second, seeing that is a question of the faith and the salvation of souls, and of God's word, the most precious treasure in heaven or earth, I should act rashly were I to reply hastily. I might affirm less than the case requires, or more than truth demands, and thus offend against that word of Christ, 'Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.' Wherefore I beseech your imperial majesty, with all submission, to allow me time that I may reply without doing prejudice to the word of God."

He could afford to be thought for the time what many of his enemies tauntingly declared him, a coward, brave in the cell, but appalled when he came to face the world.

During the rest of that day he was full of joy; "like a child," said some, "who knows not what is before him;" "like a veteran," said others, "who has prepared everything for the battle;" like both, I thought, since the strength of the veteran in the battles of God is the strength of the child following his Father's eye, and trusting on his Father's arm.

A conflict awaited him afterwards in the course of the night, which one of us witnessed, and which made him who witnessed it feel no wonder that the imperial presence had no terrors for Luther on the morrow.

Alone that night our leader fought the fight to which all other combats were but as a holiday tournament. Prostrate on the ground, with sobs and bitter tears, he prayed,-

"Almighty, everlasting God, how terrible this world is! How it would open its jaws to devour me, and how weak is my trust in thee! The flesh is weak, and the devil is strong! O thou my God, help me against all the wisdom of this world. Do thou the work. It is for thee alone to do it; for the work is thine, not mine. I have nothing to bring me here. I have no controversy to maintain, not I, with the great ones of the earth. I too would that my days should glide along, happy and calm. But the cause is thine. It is righteous, it is eternal. O Lord, help me; thou that art faithful, thou that art unchangeable. It is not in any man I trust. That were vain indeed. All that is in man gives way; all that comes from man faileth. O God, my God, dost thou not hear me? Art thou dead? No; thou canst not die! Thou art but hiding thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it. Oh, then, arise and work. Be thou on my side, for the sake of thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, who is my defence, my shield and my fortress.

"O Lord, my God, where art thou? Come, come; I am ready-ready to forsake life for thy truth, patient as a lamb. For it is a righteous cause, and it is thine own. I will not depart from thee, now nor through eternity. And although the world should be full of demons; although my body, which, nevertheless, is the work of thine hands, should be doomed to bite the dust, to be stretched upon the rack, cut into pieces, consumed to ashes, the soul is thine. Yes; for this I have the assurance of thy word. My soul is thine. It will abide near thee throughout the endless ages. Amen. O God, help thou me! Amen!"

Ah, how little those who follow know the agony it costs to take the first step, to venture on the perilous ground no human soul around has tried!

Insignificant indeed the terrors of the empire to one who had seen the terrors of the Almighty. Petty indeed are the assaults of flesh and blood to him who has withstood principalities and powers, and the hosts of the prince of darkness.

At four o'clock the Marshal of the Empire came to lead him to his trial. But his real hour of trial was over, and calm and joyful Dr. Luther passed through the crowded streets to the imperial presence.

As he drew near the door, the veteran General Freundsberg, touching his shoulder, said-

"Little monk, you have before you an encounter such as neither I nor any other captains have seen the like of even in our bloodiest campaigns. But if your cause be just, and if you know it to be so, go forward in the name of God, and fear nothing. God will not forsake you."

Friendly heart! he knew not that our Martin Luther was coming from his battle-field, and was simply going as a conqueror to declare before men the victory he had won from mightier foes.

And so at last he stood, the monk, the peasant's son, before all the princes of the empire, the kingliest heart among them all, crowned with a majesty which was incorruptible, because invisible to worldly eyes; one against thousands who were bent on his destruction; one in front of thousands who leant on his fidelity; erect because he rested on that unseen arm above.

The words he spoke that day are ringing through all Germany. The closing sentence will never be forgotten-

"Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

To him these deeds of heroism are acts of simple obedience; every step inevitable, because every step is duty. In this path he leans on God's help absolutely and only. And all faithful hearts throughout the land respond to his Amen.

On the other hand, many of the polished courtiers and subtle Roman diplomatists saw no eloquence in his words, words which stirred every true heart to its depths. "That man," said they, "will never convince us." How should he? His arguments were not in their language, nor addressed to them, but to true and honest hearts; and to such they spoke.

To men with whom eloquence means elaborate fancies, decorating corruption or veiling emptiness, what could St. Paul seem but a "babbler?"

All men of earnest purpose acknowledged their force;-enemies, by indignant clamour that he should be silenced: friends, by wondering gratitude to God who had stood by him.

It was nearly dark when the Diet broke up. As Dr. Luther came out, escorted by the imperial officers, a panic spread through the crowd collected in the street, and from every lip to lip was heard the cry,-

"They are taking him to prison."

"They are leading me to my hotel," said the calm voice of him whom this day has made the great man of Germany. And the tumult subsided.

Ebernburg, June, 1521.

Dr. Luther has disappeared! Not one that I have seen knows at this moment where they have taken him, whether he is in the hands of friend or foe, whether even he is still on earth!

We ought to have heard of his arrival at Wittemberg many days since. But no inquiries can trace him beyond the village of Mora in the Thuringian Forest. There he went from Eisenach on his way back to Wittemberg, to visit his aged grandmother and some of his father's relations, peasant farmers who live on the clearings of the forest. In his grandmother's lowly home he passed the night, and took leave of her the next morning; and no one has heard of him since.

We are not without hope that he is in the hands of friends; yet fears will mingle with these hopes. His enemies are so many and so bitter; and no means would seem, to many of them, unworthy, to rid the world of such a heretic.

While he yet remained at Worms the Romans strenuously insisted that his obstinacy had made the safe-conduct invalid; some even of the German princes urged that he should be seized; and it was only by the urgent remonstrances of others, who protested that they would never suffer such a blot on German honour, that he was saved.

At the same time the most insidious efforts were made to persuade him to retreat, or to resign his safe-conduct in order to show his willingness to abide by the issue of a fair discussion. This last effort, appealing to Dr. Luther's confidence in the truth for which he was ready to die, had all but prevailed with him. But a knight who was present when it was made, seeing through the treachery, fiercely ejected the priest who proposed it from the house.

Yet through all assaults, insidious or open, Dr. Luther remained calm and unmoved, moved by no threats, ready to listen to any fair proposition.

Among all the polished courtiers and proud princes and prelates, he seemed to me to stand like an ambassador from an imperial court among the petty dignitaries of some petty province. His manners had the dignity of one who has been accustomed to a higher presence than any around him, giving to every one the honour due to him, indifferent to all personal slights, but inflexible on every point that concerned the honour of his sovereign.

Those of us who had known him in earlier days saw in him all the simplicity, the deep earnestness, the child-like delight in simple pleasures we had known in him of old. It was our old friend Martin Luther, but it seemed as if our Luther had come back to us from a residence in heaven, such a peace and majesty dwelt in all he said. One incident especially struck me. When the glass he was about to drink of at the feast given by the Archbishop of Treves, one of the papal party, shivered in his hand as he signed the cross over it, and his friends exclaimed "poison!" he (so ready usually to see spiritual agency in all things) quietly observed that "the glass had doubtless broken on account of its having been plunged too soon into cold water when it was washed."

His courage was no effort of a strong nature. He simply trusted in God, and really was afraid of nothing.

And now he is gone.

Whether among friends or foes, in a hospital refuge such as this, or in a hopeless secret dungeon, to us for the time at least he is dead. No word of sympathy or counsel passes between us. The voice which all Germany hushed its breath to hear is silenced.

Under the excommunication of the Pope, under the ban of the empire, branded as a heretic, sentenced as a traitor, reviled by the Emperor's own edict as "a fool, a blasphemer, a devil clothed in a monk's cowl," it is made treason to give him food or shelter, and a virtue to deliver him to death. And to all this, if he is living, he can utter no word of reply.

Meantime, on the other hand, every word of his is treasured up and clothed with the sacred pathos of the dying words of a father. The noble letter which he wrote to the nobles describing his appearance before the Diet is treasured in every home.

Yet some among us derive not a little hope from the last letter he wrote, which was to Lucas Cranach, from Frankfort. In it he says,-

"The Jews may sing once more their 'Io! Io!' but to us also the Easter-day will come, and then will we sing Alleluia. A little while we must be silent and suffer. 'A little while,' said Christ, 'and ye shall not see me; and again a little while and ye shall see me.' I hope it may be so now. But the will of God, the best in all things, be done in this as in heaven and earth. Amen."

Many of us think it is a dim hint to those who love him that he knew what was before him, and that after a brief concealment for safety, "till this tyranny be overpast," he will be amongst us once more.

I, at least, think so, and pray that to him this time of silence may be a time of close intercourse with God, from which he may come forth refreshed and strengthened to guide and help us all.

And meantime, a work, not without peril, but full of sacred joy, opens before me. I have been supplied by the friends of Dr. Luther's doctrine with copies of his books and pamphlets, both in Latin and German, which I am to sell as a hawker through the length and breadth of Germany, and in any other lands I can penetrate.

I am to start to-morrow, and to me my pack and strap are burdens more glorious than the armour of a prince of the empire; my humble pedlar's coat and staff are vestments more sacred than the robes of a cardinal or the weeds of a pilgrim.

For am I not a pilgrim to the city which hath foundations! Is not my yoke the yoke of Christ? and am I not distributing, among thirsty and enslaved men, the water of life and the truth which sets the heart free?

Black Forest, May 1521.

The first week of my wandering life is over. To-day my way lay through the solitary paths of the Black Forest, which, eleven years ago, I trod with Dr. Martin Luther, on our pilgrimage to Rome. Both of us then wore the monk's frock and cowl. Both were devoted subjects of the Pope, and would have deprecated, as the lowest depth of degradation, his anathema. Yet at that very time Martin Luther bore in his heart the living germ of all that is now agitating men's hearts from Pomerania to Spain. He was already a freedman of Christ, and he knew it. The Holy Scriptures were already to him the one living fountain of truth. Believing simply on Him who died, the just for the unjust, he had received the free pardon of his sins. Prayer was to him the confiding petition of a forgiven child received to the heart of the Father, and walking humbly by his side. Christ he knew already as the Confessor and Priest; the Holy Spirit as the personal teacher through His own Word.

The fetters of the old ceremonial were indeed still around him, but only as the brown casings still swathe many of the swelling buds of the young leaves; which others, this May morning, cracked and burst as I passed along in the silence through the green forest paths. The moment of liberation, to the passer-by always seems a great, sudden effort; but those who have watched the slow swelling of the imprisoned bud, know that the last expansion of life which bursts the scaly cerements is but one moment of the imperceptible but incessant growth, of which even the apparent death of winter was a stage.

But it is good to live in the spring time; and as I went on, my heart sang with the birds and the leaf-buds, "For me also the cerements of winter are burst,-for me and for all the land!"

And as I walked, I sang aloud the old Easter hymn which Eva used to love:-

Fone luctum, Magdalena,

Et serena lacrymas;

Non es jam cermonis c?na,

Non cur fletum exprimas;

Causae mille sunt l?tandi,

Causae mille exultandi,

Alleluia resonet!

Suma risum, Magdalena,

Frons nitescat lucida;

Denigravit omnis p?na,

Lux coruscat fulgida;

Christus nondum liberavit,

Et de morte triumphavit:

Alleluia resonet!

Gaude, plaude Magdalena,

Tumba Christus exiit;

Tristis est per acta scena,

Victor mortis rediit;

Quem deflebis morientem,

Nunc arride resurgentem:

Alleluia resonet!

Tolle vultum, Magdalena,

Redivivum obstupe:

Vide frons quam sit am?na,

Quinque plagas adspice;

Fulgem sicut margarit?,

Ornamenta rov? vit?:

Alleluia resonet!

Vive, vive, Magdalena!

Tua lux reversa est;

Guadiis turgesit vena,

Mortis vis obstersa est;

Maesti procul sunt dolores,

L?ti redeant amores:

Alleluia resonet!

Yes, even in the old dark times, heart after heart, in quiet homes and secret convent cells, has doubtless learned this hidden joy. But now the world seems learning it. The winter has its robins, with th

eir solitary warblings; but now the spring is here, the songs come in choruses,-and thank God I am awake to listen!

But the voice which awoke this music first in my heart, among these very forests-and since then, through the grace of God, in countless hearts throughout this and all lands-what silence hushes it now? The silence of the grave, or only of some friendly refuge? In either case, doubtless, it is not silent to God.

I had scarcely finished my hymn, when the trees became more scattered and smaller, as if they had been cleared not long since; and I found myself on the edge of a valley, on the slopes of which nestled a small village, with its spire and belfry rising among the wooden cottages, and flocks of sheep and goats grazing in the pastures beside the little stream which watered it.

I lifted up my heart to God, that some hearts in that peaceful place might welcome the message of eternal peace through the books I carried.

As I entered the village, the priest came out of the parsonage-an aged man, with a gentle, kindly countenance-and courteously saluted me.

I offered to show him my wares.

"It is not likely there will be anything there for me," he said, smiling. "My days are over for ballads and stories, such as I suppose your merchandise consists of."

But when he saw the name of Luther on the title-page of a volume which I showed him, his face changed, and he said in a grave voice, "Do you know what you carry?"

"I trust I do," I replied. "I carry most of these books in my heart as well as on my shoulders."

"But do you know the danger?" the old man continued. "We have heard that Dr. Luther has been excommunicated by the Pope, and laid under the ban of the empire; and only last week, a travelling merchant, such as yourself, told us that his body had been seen pierced through with a hundred wounds."

"That was not true three days since," I said. "At least, his best friends at Worms knew nothing of it."

"Thank God!" he said; "for in this village we owe that good man much. And if," he added timidly, "he has indeed fallen into heresy, it would be well he had time to repent."

In that village I sold many of my books, and left others with the good priest, who entertained me most hospitably, and sent me on my way with a tearful farewell, compounded of blessings, warnings, and prayers.

Paris, July, 1521.

I have crossed the French frontier, and have been staying some days in this great, gay, learned city.

In Germany, my books procured me more of welcome than of opposition. In some cases, even where the local authorities deemed it their duty publicly to protest against them, they themselves secretly assisted in their distribution. In others, the eagerness to purchase, and to glean any fragment of information about Luther, drew a crowd around me, who, after satisfying themselves that I had no news to give them of his present state, lingered as long as I would speak, to listen to my narrative of his appearance before the Emperor at Worms, while murmurs of enthusiastic approval, and often sobs and tears, testified the sympathy of the people with him. In the towns, many more copies of his "Letter to the German Nobles" were demanded than I could supply.

But what touched me most was to see the love and almost idolatrous reverence which had gathered around his name in remote districts, among the oppressed and toiling peasantry.

I remember especially, in one village, a fine-looking old peasant farmer taking me to an inner room where hung a portrait of Luther, encircled with a glory, with a curtain before it.

"See!" he said. "The lord of that castle," and he pointed to a fortress on an opposite height, "has wrought me and mine many a wrong. Two of my sons have perished in his selfish feuds, and his huntsmen lay waste my fields as they choose in the chase; yet, if I shoot a deer, I may be thrown into the castle dungeon, as mine have been before. But their reign is nearly over now. I saw that man at Worms. I heard him speak, bold as a lion, for the truth, before emperor, princes, and prelates. God has sent us the deliverer; and the reign of righteousness will come at last, when every man shall have his due."

"Friend," I said, with an aching heart, "the Deliverer came fifteen hundred years ago, but the reign of justice has not come to the world yet. The Deliverer was crucified, and his followers since then have suffered, not reigned."

"God is patient," he said, "and we have been patient long, God knows; but I trust the time is come at last."

"But the redemption Dr. Luther proclaims," I said, gently, "is liberty from a worse bondage than that of the nobles, and it is a liberty no tyrant, no dungeon, can deprive us of-the liberty of the sons of God;"-and he listened earnestly while I spoke to him of justification, and of the suffering, redeeming Lord. But at the end he said-

"Yes, that is good news. But I trust Dr. Luther will avenge many a wrong among us yet. They say he was a peasant's son like me."

If I were Dr. Luther, and knew that the wistful eyes of the oppressed and sorrowful throughout the land were turned to me, I should be tempted to say-

"Lord, let me die before these oppressed and burdened hearts learn how little I can help them!"

For verily there is much evil done under the sun. Yet as truly there is healing for every disease, remedy for every wrong, and rest from every burden, in the tidings Dr. Luther brings. But remedy of a different kind, I fear, from what too many fondly expect!

It is strange, also, to see how, in these few weeks, the wildest tales have sprung up and spread in all directions about Dr. Luther's disappearance. Some say he has been secretly murdered, and that his wounded corpse has been seen; others, that he was borne away bleeding through the forest to some dreadful doom; while others boldly assert that he will re-appear at the head of a band of liberators, who will go through the length and breadth of the land, redressing every wrong, and punishing every wrong-doer.

Truly, if a few weeks can throw such a haze around facts, what would a century without a written record have done for Christianity; or what would that record itself have been without inspiration?

The country was in some parts very disturbed. In Alsace I came on a secret meeting of the peasants, who have bound themselves with the most terrible oaths to wage war to the death against the nobles.

More than once I was stopped by a troop of horsemen near a castle, and my wares searched, to see if they belonged to the merchants of some city with whom the knight of the castle was at feud; and on one of these occasions it might have fared ill with me if a troop of Landsknechts in the service of the empire had not appeared in time to rescue me and my companions.

Yet everywhere the name of Luther was of equal interest. The peasants believed he would rescue them from the tyranny of the nobles; and many of the knights spoke of him as the assertor of German liberties against a foreign yoke. More than one poor parish priest welcomed him as the deliverer from the avarice of the great abbeys or the prelates. Thus, in farm-house and hut, in castle and parsonage, I and my books found many a cordial welcome. And all I could do was to sell the books, and tell all who would listen, that the yoke Luther's words were powerful to break was the yoke of the devil the prince of all oppressors, and that the freedom he came to republish was freedom from the tyranny of sin and self.

My true welcome, however, the one which rejoiced my heart, was when any said, as many did, on sick-beds, in lowly and noble homes, and in monasteries-

"Thank God, these words are in our hearts already. They have taught us the way to God; they have brought us peace and freedom."

Or when others said-

"I must have that book. This one and that one that I know is another man since he read Dr. Luther's words."

But if I was scarcely prepared for the interest felt in Dr. Luther in our own land, true German that he is, still less did I expect that his fame would have reached to Paris, and even further.

The night before I reached this city I was weary with a long day's walk in the dust and heat, and had fallen asleep on a bench in the garden outside a village inn, under the shade of a trellised vine, leaving my pack partly open beside me. When I awoke, a grave and dignified-looking man, who, from the richness of his dress and arms, seemed to be a nobleman, and, from the cut of his slashed doubtlet and mantle, a Spaniard, sat beside me, deeply engaged in reading one of my books. I did not stir at first, but watched him in silence. The book he held was a copy of Luther's Commentary on the Galatians, in Latin.

In a few minutes I moved, and respectfully saluted him.

"Is this book for sale?" he asked

I said it was and named the price.

He immediately laid down twice the sum, saying, "Give a copy to some one who cannot buy."

I ventured to ask if he had seen it before.

"I have," he said. "Several copies were sent by a Swiss printer, Frobenius, to Castile. And I saw it before at Venice. It is prohibited in both Castile and Venice now. But I have always wished to possess a copy that I might judge for myself. Do you know Dr. Luther?" he asked, as he moved away.

"I have known and reverenced him for many years," I said.

"They say his life is blameless, do they not?" he asked.

"Even his bitterest enemies confess it to be so," I replied.

"He spoke like a brave man before the Diet," he resumed; "gravely and quietly, as true men speak who are prepared to abide by their words. A noble of Castile could not have spoken with more dignity than that peasant's son. The Italian priests thought otherwise; but the oratory which melts girls into tears from pulpits is not the eloquence for the councils of men. That monk had learned his oratory in a higher school. If you ever see Dr. Luther again," he added, "tell him that some Spaniards, even in the Emperor's court, wished him well."

And here in Paris I find a little band of devout and learned men, Lefevre, Farel, and Briconnet, bishop of Meaux, actively employed in translating and circulating the writings of Luther and Melancthon. The truth in them, they say, they had learned before from the book of God itself, namely, justification through faith in a crucified Saviour leading to a life devoted to him. But jealous as the French are of admitting the superiority of anything foreign, and contemptuously as they look on us unpolished Germans, the French priests welcome Luther as a teacher and a brother, and are as eager to hear all particulars of his life as his countrymen in every town and quiet village throughout Germany.

They tell me also that the king's own sister, the beautiful and learned Duchess Margaret of Valois, reads Dr. Luther's writings, and values them greatly.

Indeed, I sometimes think if he had carried out the intention he formed some years since, of leaving Wittemberg for Paris, he would have found a noble sphere of action here. The people are so frank in speech, so quick in feeling and perception; and their bright keen wit cuts so much more quickly to the heart of a fallacy than our sober, plodding, Northern intellect.


Before I left Ebernburg, the knight Ulrich von Hutten had taken a warm interest in my expedition; had especially recommended me to seek out Erasmus, if ever I reached Switzerland; and had himself placed some copies of Erasmus' sermons, "Praise of folly," among my books.

Personally I feel a strong attachment to that brave knight. I can never forget the generous letter he wrote to Luther before his appearance at the Diet:-"The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble: the name of the God of Jacob defend thee. O my beloved Luther, my reverend father, fear not; be strong. Fight valiantly for Christ. As for me, I also will fight bravely. Would to God I might see how they knit their brows.... May Christ preserve you."

Yes, to see the baffled enemies knit their brows as they did then, would have been a triumph to the impetuous soldier, but at the time he was prohibited from approaching the Court. Luther's courageous and noble defence filled him with enthusiastic admiration. He declared the doctor to be a greater soldier than any of the knights. When he heard of Dr. Luther's disappearance he would have collected a band of daring spirits like himself, and scoured the country in search of him. Hutten's objects were high and unselfish. He had no mean and petty ambitions. With sword and pen he had contended against oppression and hypocrisy. To him the Roman Court was detestable, chiefly as a foreign yoke; the corrupt priesthood, as a domestic usurpation. He had a high ideal of knighthood, and believed that his order, enlightened by learning, and inspired by a free and lofty faith, might emancipate Germany and Christendom. Personal danger he despised, and personal aims.

Yet with all his fearlessness and high aspirations, I scarcely think he hoped himself to be the hero of his ideal chivalry. The self-control of the pure true knight was too little his. In his visions of a Christendom from which falsehood and avarice were to be banished, and where authority was to reside in an order of ideal knights, Franz von Sickingen, the brave good lord of Ebernburg, with his devout wife Hedwiga, was to raise the standard, around which Ulrich and all the true men in the land were to rally. Luther, Erasmus, and Sickingen, he thought-the types of the three orders, learning, knighthood, and priesthood,-might regenerate the world.

Erasmus had begun the work with unveiling the light in the sanctuaries of learning. Luther had carried it on by diffusing the light among the people. The knights must complete it by forcibly scattering the powers of darkness. Conflict is Erasmus' detestation. It is Luther's necessity. It is Hutten's delight.

I did not, however, expect much sympathy in my work from Erasmus. It seemed to me that Hutten, admiring his clear, luminous genius, attributed to him the fire of his own warm and courageous heart. However, I intended to seek him out at Basel.

Circumstances saved me the trouble.

As I was entering the city, with my pack nearly empty, hoping to replenish it from the presses of Frobenius, an elderly man, with a stoop in his shoulders, giving him the air of a student, ambled slowly past me, clad in a doctor's gown and hat, edged with a broad border of fur. The keen small dark eyes surveyed me and my pack for a minute, and then reining in his horse he joined me, and said, in a soft voice and courtly accent, "We are of the same profession, friend. We manufacture, and you sell. What have you in your pack?"

I took out three of my remaining volumes. One was Luther's "Commentary on the Galatians;" the others, his "Treatise on the Lord's Prayer," and his "Letter to the German Nobles."

The rider's brow darkened slightly, and he eyed me suspiciously.

"Men who supply ammunition to the people in times of insurrection seldom do it at their own risk," he said. "Young man, you are on a perilous mission, and would do well to count the cost."

"I have counted the cost, sir," I said, "and I willingly brave the peril."

"Well, well," he replied, "some are born for battle-fields, and some for martyrdom; others for neither. Let each keep to his calling,-

'Nequissimam pacem justissimo bello antifero'

But 'those who let in the sea on the marshes little know where it will spread.'"

This illustration from the Dutch dykes awakened my suspicions as to who the rider was, and looking at the thin, sensitive, yet satirical lips, the delicate, sharply-cut features, the pallid complexion, and the dark keen eyes I had seen represented in so many portraits, I could not doubt with whom I was speaking. But I did not betray my discovery.

"Dr. Luther has written some good things, nevertheless," he said. "If he had kept to such devotional works as this," returning to me "The Lord's prayer," "he might have served his generation quietly and well; but to expose such mysteries as are treated of here to the vulgar gaze, it is madness!" and he hastily closed the "Galatians." Then glancing at the "Letter to the Nobles," he almost threw it into my hand, saying petulently,-

"That pamphlet is an insurrection in itself."

"What other books have you?" he asked after a pause.

I drew out my last copy of the "Encomium of Folly."

"Have you sold many of these?" he asked coolly.

"All but this copy," I replied.

"And what did people say of it?"

"That depended on the purchasers," I replied. "Some say the author is the wisest and wittiest man of the age, and if all knew where to stop as he does, the world would slowly grow into Paradise, instead of being turned upside down as it is now. Others, on the contrary, say that the writer is a coward, who has no courage to confess the truth he knows. And others, again, declare the book is worse than any of Luther's and that Erasmus is the source of all the mischief in the world, since if he had not broken the lock, Luther would never have entered the door."

"And you think?" he asked.

"I am but a poor pedlar, sir," I said; "but I think there is a long way between Pilate's delivering up the glorious King he knew was innocent-perhaps began to see might be divine, and St. Peter's denying the Master he loved. And the Lord who forgave Peter knows which is which; which the timid disciple, and which the cowardly friend of His foes. But the eye of man, it seems to me, may find it impossible to distinguish. I would rather be Luther at the Diet of Worms, and under anathema and ban, than either."

"Bold words!" he said, "to prefer an excommunicated heretic to the prince of the apostles!"

But a shade passed over his face, and courteously bidding me farewell, he rode on.

The conversation seemed to have thrown a shadow and chill over my heart.

After a time, however, the rider slackened his pace again, and beckoned to me to rejoin him.

"Have you friends in Basel?" he asked kindly.

"None," I replied; "but I have letters to the printer Frobenius, and I was recommended to seek out Erasmus."

"Who recommended you to do that?" he asked.

"The good knight Ulrich von Hutten," I replied.

"The prince of all turbulent spirits!" he murmured gravely. "Little indeed is there in common between Erasmus of Rotterdam and that firebrand."

"Ritter Ulrich has the greatest admiration for the genius of Erasmus," I said, "and thinks that his learning, with the swords of a few good knights, and the preaching of Luther, might set Christendom right."

"Ulrich von Hutten should set his own life right first," was the reply. "But let us leave discoursing of Christendom and these great projects, which are altogether beyond our sphere. Let the knights set chivalry right, and the cardinals the papacy, and the emperor the empire. Let the hawker attend to his pack, and Erasmus to his studies. Perhaps hereafter it will be found that his satires on the follies of the monasteries, and above all his earlier translation of the New Testament, had their share in the good work. His motto is, 'Kindle the light and the darkness will disperse of itself.'"

"If Erasmus," I said, "would only consent to share in the result he has indeed contributed so nobly to bring about!"

"Share in what?" he replied quickly; "in the excommunication of Luther? or in the wild projects of Hutten? Have it supposed that he approves of the coarse and violent invectives of the Saxon monk, or the daring schemes of the adventurous knight? No; St. Paul wrote courteously, and never returned railing for railing. Erasmus should wait till he find a reformer like the apostle ere he join the Reformation. But, friend," he added, "I do not deny that Luther is a good man, and means well. If you like to abandon your perilous pack, and take to study, you may come to my house, and I will help you as far as I can with money and counsel. For I know what it is to be poor, and I think you ought to be better than a hawker. And," he added, bringing his horse to a stand, "if you hear Erasmus maligned again as a coward or a traitor, you may say that God has more room in his kingdom than any men have in their schools; and that it is not always so easy for men who see things on many sides to embrace one. Believe also that the loneliness of those who see too much or dare too little to be partisans, often has anguish bitterer than the scaffolds of martyrs. But," he concluded in a low voice, as he left me, "be careful never again to link the names of Erasmus and Hutten. I assure you nothing can be more unlike. And Ulrich von Hutten is a most rash and dangerous man."

"I will be careful never to forget Erasmus," I said, bowing low, as I took the hand he offered. And the doctor rode on.

Yes, the sorrows of the undecided are doubtless bitterer than those of the courageous; bitterer as poison is bitterer than medicine, as an enemy's wound is bitterer than a physician's. Yet it is true that the clearer the insight into difficulty and danger, the greater need be the courage to meet them. The path of the rude simple man who sees nothing but right on one side, and nothing but wrong on the other, is necessarily plainer than his who, seeing much evil in the good cause, and some truth at the foundation of all error, chooses to suffer for the right, mixed as it is, and to suffer side by side with men whose manners distress him, just because he believes the cause is on the whole that of truth and God. Luther's school may not indeed have room for Erasmus, nor Erasmus's school for Luther; but God may have compassion and room for both.

At Basel I replenished my pack from the stores of Frobenius, and received very inspiriting tidings from him of the spread of the truth of the gospel (especially by means of the writings of Luther) into Italy and Spain. I did not apply further to Erasmus.

Near Zurich, July.

My heart is full of resurrection hymns. Everywhere in the world it seems Easter-tide. This morning, as I left Zurich, and, climbing one of the heights on this side, looked down on the lake, rippled with silver, through the ranges of green and forest-covered hills, to the glorious barrier of far-off mountains, purple, and golden, and snow-crowned, which encircles Switzerland, and thought of the many hearts which, during these years, have been awakened here to the liberty of the sons of God, the old chant of Easter and Spring burst from my lips:-

Plandite c?li,

Rideat ?ther

Summus et imus

Gaudeat orbis!

Transivit atr?

Turba procell?!

Subuit alm?

Gloria palm?!

Surgite verni,

Surgite flores,

Germina pictis

Surgite campis!

Teneris mist?

Violis ros?;

Candida sparsis

Lilla calthis!

Currite plenis

Carmina venis,

Fundite l?tum

Barbita metrum;

Namque revixit

Sicuti dixit

Pius ill?sus

Funere Jesus.

Plaudite montes,

Ludite fontes,

Resonent valles,

Repetant colles!

Io revixit.

Sicuti dixit

Pius ill?sus

Funere Jesus[9]

And when I ceased, the mountain stream which dashed over the rocks beside me, the whispering grasses, the trembling wild-flowers, the rustling forests, the lake with its ripples, the green hills and solemn snow-mountains beyond-all seemed to take up the chorus.

There is a wonderful, invigorating influence about Ulrich Zwingle, with whom I have spent many days lately. It seems as if the fresh air of the mountains among which he passed his youth were always around him. In his presence it is impossible to despond. While Luther remains immovably holding every step of ground he has taken, Zwingle presses on, and surprises the enemy asleep in his strongholds. Luther carries on the war like the Landsknechts, our own firm and impenetrable infantry; Zwingle, like his own impetuous mountaineers, sweeps down from the heights upon the foe.

In Switzerland I and my books have met with more sudden and violent varieties of reception than anywhere else; the people are so free and unrestrained. In some villages, the chief men, or the priest himself, summoned all the inhabitants by the church bell, to hear all I had to tell about Dr. Luther and his work, and to buy his books; my stay was one constant fête, and the warm-hearted peasants accompanied me miles on my way, discoursing of Zwingle and Luther, the broken yoke of Rome, and the glorious days of freedom that were coming. The names of Luther and Zwingle were on every lip, like those of Tell and Winkelried and the heroes of the old struggle of Swiss liberation.

In other villages, on the contrary, the peasants gathered angrily around me, reviled me as a spy and an intruding foreigner, and drove me with stones and rough jests from among them, threatening that I should not escape so easily another time.

In some places they have advanced much further than among us in Germany. The images have been removed from the churches, and the service is read in the language of the people.

But the great joy is to see that the light has not been spread only from torch to torch, as human illumination spread, but has burst at once on Germany, France, and Switzerland, as heavenly light dawns from above. It is this which makes it not an illumination merely, but morning and spring! Lefevre in France and Zwingle in Switzerland both passed through their period of storms and darkness, and both, awakened by the heavenly light to the new world, found that it was no solitude-that others also were awake, and that the day's work had begun, as it should, with matin songs.

Now I am tending northwards once more. I intend to renew my stores at my father's press at Wittemberg. My heart yearns also for news of all dear to me there. Perhaps, too, I may yet see Dr. Luther, and find scope for preaching the evangelical doctrine among my own people.

For better reports have come to us from Germany and we believe Dr. Luther is in friendly keeping, though where, is still a mystery.

The Prison of a Dominican Convent,

Franconia, August.

All is changed for me. Once more prison walls are around me, and through prison bars I look out on the world I may not re-enter. I counted this among the costs when I resolved to give myself up to spreading far and wide the glad tidings of redemption. It was worth the cost; it is worth whatever man can inflict-for I trust that those days have not been spent in vain.

Yesterday evening, as the day was sinking, I found my way once more to the parsonage of Priest Ruprecht in the Franconian village. The door was open, but I heard no voices. There was a neglected look about the little garden. The vine was hanging untwined around the porch. The little dwelling, which had been so neat, had a dreary, neglected air. Dust lay thick on the chairs, and the remains of the last meal were left on the table. And yet it was evidently not unoccupied. A book lay upon the window-sill, evidently lately read. It was the copy of Luther's German Commentary on the Lord's Prayer which I had left that evening many months ago in the porch.

I sat down on a window seat, and in a little while I saw the priest coming slowly up the garden. His form was much bent since I saw him last. He did not look up as he approached the house. It seemed as if he expected no welcome. But when I went out to meet him, he grasped my hand cordially, and his face brightened. When, however, he glanced at the book in my hand, a deeper shade passed over his brow; and, motioning me to a chair, he sat down opposite me without speaking.

After a few minutes he looked up, and said in a husky voice, "That book did what all the denunciations and terrors of the old doctrines could not do. It separated us. She has left me."

He paused for some minutes, and then continued,-"The evening that she found that book in the porch, when I returned I found her reading it. 'See!' she said, 'at last some one has written a religious book for me! It was left here open, in the porch, at these words: "If thou dost feel that in the sight of God and all creatures thou art a fool, a sinner, impure, and condemned, ... there remaineth no solace for thee, and no salvation, unless in Jesus Christ. To know him is to understand what the apostle says,-'Christ has of God been made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.' He is the bread of God-our bread, given to us as children of the heavenly Father. To believe is nothing else than to eat this bread from heaven." And look again. The book says, "It touches God's heart when we call him Father,"-and again, "Which art in heaven." "He that acknowledges he has a Father who is in heaven, owns that he is like an orphan on the earth. Hence his heart feels an ardent longing, like a child living away from its father's country, amongst strangers, wretched and forlorn. It is as if he said, "Alas! my Father, thou art in heaven, and I, thy miserable child, am on earth, far from thee amid danger, necessity, and sorrow." 'Ah, Ruprecht,' she said, her eyes streaming with tears, 'that is so like what I feel,-so lost, and orphaned, and far away from home.' And then, fearing she had grieved me, she added, 'Not that I am neglected. Thou knowest I could never feel that. But oh, can it be possible that God would take me back, not after long years of penance, but now, and here, to his very heart?"

"I could say little to teach her, but from that time this book was her constant companion. She begged me to find out all the passages in my Latin Gospels which speak of Jesus suffering for sinners, and of God as the Father. I was amazed to see how many there were. The book seemed full of them. And so we went on for some days, until one evening she came to me, and said, 'Ruprecht, if God is indeed so infinitely kind and good, and has so loved us, we must obey him, must we not?' I could not for the world say No, and I had not the courage to say Yes, for I knew what she meant."

Again he paused.

"I knew too well what she meant, when, on the next morning, I found the breakfast laid, and everything swept and prepared as usual, and on the table, in printed letters on a scrap of paper, which she must have copied from the book, for she could not write, 'Farewell. We shall be able to pray for each other now. And God will be with us, and will give us to meet hereafter, without fear of grieving him, in our Father's house."

"Do you know where she is?" I asked.

"She has taken service in a farm-house several miles away in the forest," he replied. "I have seen her once. She looked very thin and worn. But she did not see me."

The thought which had so often suggested itself to me before, came with irresistible force into my mind then,-"If those vows of celibacy are contrary to the will of God, can they be binding?" But I did not venture to suggest them to my host. I only said, "Let us pray that God will lead you both. The heart can bear many a heavy burden if the conscience is free!"

"True," he said. And together we knelt down, whilst I spoke to God. And the burden of our prayer was neither more nor less than this, "Our Father which art in heaven, not our will, but thine be done."

On the morrow I bade him farewell, leaving him several other works of Luther's. And I determined not to lose an hour in seeking Melancthon and the doctors of Wittemberg, and placing this case before them.

And now, perhaps, I shall never see Wittemberg again!

It is not often that I have ventured into the monasteries, but to-day a young monk, who was walking in the meadows of this abbey, seemed so interested in my books, that I followed him to the convent, where he thought I should dispose of many copies. Instead of this, however, whilst I was waiting in the porch for him to return, I heard the sound of angry voices in discussion inside, and before I could perceive what it meant, three or four monks came to me, seized my pack, bound my hands, and dragged me to the convent prison, where I now am.

"It is time that this pestilence should be checked," said one of them. "Be thankful if your fate is not the same as that of your poisonous books, which are this evening to make a bonfire in the court."

And with these words I was left alone in this low, damp, dark cell, with its one little slit high in the wall, which, until my eyes grew accustomed to it, seemed only to admit just light enough to show the iron fetters hanging from the walls. But what power can make me a captive while I can sing:-

Mortis portis practis, fortis

Fortior vim sustulit;

Et per crucem regem trucem,

Infernorum perculit.

Lumen clarum tenebrarum

Sedibus resplenduit;

Dum salvare, recreare

Quod creavit, voluit.

Hinc creator, ne peccator,

Moreretur, moritur;

Cujus morte, nova sorte,

Vita nobis oritur.[10]

Are not countless hearts now singing this resurrection hymn, to some of whom my hands brought the joyful tidings? In the lonely parsonage, in the forest and farm, hearts set free by love from the fetters of sin-in village and city, in mountain and plain!

And at Wittemberg, in happy homes, and in the convent, are not my beloved singing it too?


Yet the time seems long to lie in inaction here. With these tidings, "The Lord is risen," echoing through her heart, would it not have been hard for the Magdalene to be arrested on her way to the bereaved disciples before she could tell it?


I have a hope of escape. In a corner of my prison I discovered, some days since, the top of an arch, which I believe must belong to a blocked-up door. By slow degrees-working by night, and covering over my work by day-I have dug out a flight of steps which led to it. This morning I succeeded in dislodging one of the stones with which the door-way had been roughly filled up, and through the space surveyed the ground outside. It was a portion of a meadow, sloping to the stream which turned the abbey mills. This morning two of the monks came to summon me to an examination before the Prior, as to my heresies; but to-night I hope to dislodge the few more stones, and this very night, before morning dawn, to be treading with free step the forest covered hills beyond the valley.

My limbs feel feeble with insufficient food, and the damp, close air of the cell; and the blood flows with feverish, uncertain rapidity through my veins; but, doubtless, a few hours on the fresh, breezy hills will set all this right.

And yet once more I shall see my mother, and Elsè, and Thekla, and little Gretchen, and all-all but one, who, I fear, is still imprisoned in convent walls. Yet once more I trust to go throughout the land spreading the joyful tidings.-"The Lord is risen indeed;" the work of redemption is accomplished, and He who once lived and suffered on earth, compassionate to heal, now lives and reigns in heaven, mighty to save.

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top