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Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 9348

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Eva's Story.

Wittemberg, October, 1522.

How strange it seemed at first to be moving freely about in the world once more, and to come back to the old home at Wittemberg! Very strange to find the places so little changed, and the people so much. The little room where Elsè and I used to sleep, with scarcely an article of furniture altered, except that Thekla's books are there instead of Elsè's wooden crucifix; and the same view over the little garden, with its pear-tree full of white blossoms, to the Elbe with bordering oaks and willows, all then in their freshest delicate early green; while the undulations of the level land faded in soft blues to the horizon.

But, unlike the convent, all the changes in the people seemed to have been wrought by the touch of life rather than by that of death.

In Elsè's own home across the street, the ringing of those sweet childish voices, so new to me, and yet familiar with echoes of old tones and looks of our own well-remembered early days! And on Elsè herself the change seemed only such as that which develops the soft tints of spring into the green of shadowing leaves.

Christopher has grown from the self-assertion of boyhood into the strength and protecting kindness of manhood. Uncle Cotta's blindness seems to dignify him and make him the central object of every one's tender, reverent care, while his visions grow brighter in the darkness, and more placid on account of his having no responsibility as to fulfilling them. He seems to me a kind of hallowing presence in the family, calling out every one's sympathy and kindness, and pathetically reminding us by his loss of the preciousness of our common mercies.

On the grandmother's heart the light is more like dawn than sunset-so fresh, and soft, and full of hope her old age seems. The marks of fretting, daily anxiety, and care have been smoothed from dear Aunt Cotta's face; and although a deep shadow rests there often when she thinks of Fritz, I feel sure sorrow is not now to her the shadow of a mountain of divine wrath, but the shadow of a cloud which brings blessing and hides light, which the Sun of love drew forth, and the Rainbow of promise consecrates.

Yet he has the place of the first-born in her heart. With the others, though not forgotten, I think his place is partly filled-but never with her. Elsè's life is very full. Atlantis never knew him as the elder ones did; and Thekla, dearly as she learned to love him during his little sojourn at Wittemberg, has her heart filled with the hopes of her future, or at times overwhelmed with its fears. With all it almost seems he would have in some measure to make a place again, if he were to return. But with Aunt Cotta the blank is as utterly a blank, and a sacred place kept free from all intrusion, as if it were a chamber of her dead, kept jealously locked and untouched since the last day he stood living there. Yet surely he is not dead; I say so to myself and to her when she speaks of it, a thousand times. Why, then, does this hopeless feeling creep over me when I think of him? It seems so impossible to believe he ever can be amongst us any more. If it would please God only to send us some little word! But since that letter from Priest Ruprecht Haller, not a syllable has reached us. Two months since, Christopher went to this priest's village in Franconia, and lingered some days in the neighbourhood, making inquiries in every direction around the monastery where he is. But he could hear nothing, save that in the autumn of last year, the little son of a neighbouring knight, who was watching his mother's geese on the outskirts of the forest near the convent, used to hear the sounds of a man's voice singing from the window of her tower where the convent prison is. The child used to linger near the spot to listen to the songs, which, he said, were so rich and deep-sacred, like church hymns, but more joyful than anything he ever heard at church. He thought they were Easter hymns; but since one evening in last October he has never heard them, although he has often listened. Nearly a year since now!

Yet nothing can silence those resurrection hymns in his heart!

Aunt Cotta's great comfort is the holy sacrament. Nothing, she says, lifts up her heart like that. Other symbols, or writings, or sermons bring before her, she says, some part of truth; but the Holy Supper brings the Lord Himself before her. Not one truth about him, or another, but himself; not one act of his holy life alone, nor even his atoning death, but his very person, human and divine,-himself living, dying, conquering death, freely bestowing life. She has learned that to attend

that holy sacrament is not, as she once thought, to perform a good work, which always left her more depressed than before with the feeling how unworthy and coldly she had done it; but to look off from self to Him who finished the good work of redemption for us. As Dr. Melancthon says,-

"Just as looking at the cross is not the doing of a good work, but simply contemplating a sign which recalls to us the death of Christ;

"Just as looking at the sun is not the doing of a good work, but simply contemplating a sign which recalls to us Christ and his gospel;

"So participating at the Lord's table is not the doing of a good work, but simply the making use of a sign which brings to mind the grace that has been bestowed on us by Christ."

"But here lies the difference; symbols discovered by man simply recall what they signify, whereas the signs given by God not only recall the things, but further assure the heart with respect to the will of God."

"As the sight of a cross does not justify, so the mass does not justify. As the sight of a cross is not a sacrifice, either for our sins or for the sins of others, so the mass is not a sacrifice."

"There is but one sacrifice, there is but one satisfaction-Jesus Christ. Beyond him there is nothing of the kind."

I have been trying constantly to find a refuge for the nine evangelical nuns I left at Nimptschen, but hitherto in vain. I do not, however, by any means despair. I have advised them now to write themselves to Dr. Luther.

October, 1522.

The German New Testament is published at last.

On September the 21st it appeared; and that day, happening to be Aunt Cotta's birthday, when she came down among us in the morning, Gottfried Reichenbach met her, and presented her with two large folio volumes in which it is printed, in the name of the whole family.

Since then one volume always lies on a table in the general sitting-room, and one in the window of Aunt Cotta's bed-room.

Often now she comes down in the morning with a beaming face, and tells us of some verse she has discovered. Uncle Cotta calls it her diamond-mine, and says, "The little mother has found the El Dorado after all!"

One morning it was,-

"Cast all your care on him, for he careth for you;' and that lasted her many days."

To-day it was,-

"Tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us." "Eva," she said, "that seems to me so simple. It seems to me to mean, that when sorrow comes, then the great thing we have to do is, to see we do not lose hold of patience; she seems linked to all the other graces, and to lead them naturally into the heart, hand in hand, one by one. Eva, dear child," she added, "is that what is meant?"

I said how often those words had cheered me, and how happy it is to think that all the while these graces are illumining the darkness of the heart, the dark hours are passing away, until all at once Hope steals to the casement and withdraws the shutters; and the light which has slowly been dawning all the time streams into the heart, "the love of God shed abroad by the Holy Ghost."

"But," rejoined Aunt Cotta, "we cannot ourselves bring in Experience, or reach the hand of Hope, or open the window to let in the light of love; we can only look up to God, keep firm hold of Patience, and she will bring all the rest."

"And yet," I said, "peace comes before patience, peace with God through faith in Him who was delivered for our offences. All these graces do not lead us up to God. We have access to him first, and in his presence we learn the rest."

Yes, indeed, the changes in the Wittemberg world since I left it, have been wrought by the hand of life, and not by that of death, or time, which is his shadow. For have not the brightest been wrought by the touch of the Life himself?

It is God, not time, that has mellowed our grandmother's character; it is God and not time that has smoothed the careworn wrinkles from Aunt Cotta's brow.

It is life and not death that has all but emptied the Augustinian convent, sending the monks back to their places in the world, to serve God and proclaim his gospel.

It is the water of life that is flowing through home after home in the channel of Dr. Luther's German Testament and bringing forth fruits of love, and joy, and peace.

And we know it is life and not death which is reigning in that lonely prison, wherein the child heard the resurrection hymns, and that is triumphing now in the heart of him who sang them, wherever he may be!

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