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Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 40646

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Elsè's Story.

Wittemberg, August, 1524.

The slow lingering months of decline are over. Yesterday our grandmother died. As I looked for the last time on the face that had smiled on me from childhood, the hands which rendered so many little loving services to me, none of which can evermore be returned to her, what a sacred tenderness is thrown over all recollection of her, how each little act of thoughtful consideration and self-denial rushes back on the heart, what love I can see glowing through the anxious care which sometimes made her a little querulous, especially with my father, although never lately.

Can life ever be quite the same again? Can we ever forget to bear tenderly with little infirmities such as those of hers which seem so blameless now, or to prize with a thankfulness which would flood with sunshine our little cares, the love which must one day be silent to us as she is now?

Her death seems to age us all into another generation! She lived from the middle of the old world into the full morning of the new; and a whole age of the past seems to die with her. But after seeing those Bohemian deputies and knowing that Fritz and Eva were married, she ceased to wish to live. She had lived, she said, through two mornings of time on earth, and now she longed for the daybreak of heaven.

But yesterday morning, one of us! and now one of the heavenly host! Yesterday we knew every thought of her heart, every detail of her life, and now she is removed into a sphere of which we know less than of the daily life of the most ancient of the patriarchs. As Dr. Luther says, an infant on its mother's breast has as much understanding of the life before it, as we of the life before us after death. "Yet," he saith also, "since God hath made his world of earth and sky so fair, how much fairer that imperishable world beyond!"

All seems to me clear and bright after the resurrection; but now? where is that spirit now, so familiar to us and so dear, and now so utterly separated?

Dr. Luther said, "A Christian should say, I know that it is thus I shall journey hence; when my soul goes forth, charge is given to God's kings and high princes, who are the dear angels, to receive me and convoy me safely home. The Holy Scriptures, he writes, teach nothing of purgatory, but tell us that the spirits of the just enjoy the sweetest and most delightful peace and rest. How they live there, indeed, we know not, or 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 the dear angels, without fear of harm, although the devils might prowl around them; so after this life do they repose in the hand of God."

"To depart and be with Christ is far better."

"To-day in Paradise with me."

"Absent from the body, at home with the Lord."

Everything for our peace and comfort concerning those who are gone depends on what those words "with me" were to them and are to us. Where and how they live, indeed, we know not; with Whom we know. The more then, O our Saviour and theirs! we know of Thee, the more we know of them. With Thee, indeed, the waiting-time before the resurrection can be no cold drear ante-chamber of the palace. Where Thou art, must be light, love, and home.

Precious as Dr. Luther's own words are, what are they at a time like this, compared with the word of God he has unveiled to us?

My mother, however, is greatly cheered by these words of his, "Our lord and Saviour grant us joyfully to see each other again hereafter. For our faith is sure, and we doubt not that we shall see each other again with Christ in a little while; since the departure from this life to be with Christ is less in God's sight, than if I go from you to Mansfeld, or you took leave of me to go from Wittemberg to Mansfeld. This is assuredly true. A brief hour of sleep and all will be changed."

Wittemberg, September, 1524.

During this month we have been able often to give thanks that the beloved feeble form is at rest. The times seem very troublous. Dr. Luther thinks most seriously of them. Rumours have reached us for some time of an uneasy feeling among the peasantry. Fritz wrote about it from the Thuringian Forest. The peasants, as our good Elector said lately, have suffered many wrongs from their lords; and Fritz says they had formed the wildest hopes of better days from Dr. Luther and his words. They thought the days of freedom had come. And bitter and hard it is for them to learn that the gospel brings freedom now as of old by giving strength to suffer, instead of by suddenly redressing wrong. The fanatics, moreover, have been among them. The Zwickau prophets and Thomas Münzer (silenced last year at Wittemberg by Luther's return from the Wartburg), have promised them all they actually expected from Luther. Once more, they say, God is sending inspired men on earth, to introduce a new order of things, no more to teach the saints how to bow, suffer, and be patient; but how to fight and avenge themselves of their adversaries, and to reign.

October, 1524.

Now, alas, the peasants are in open revolt, rushing through the land by tens of thousands. The insurrection began in the Black Forest, and now it sweeps throughout the land, gathering strength as it advances, and bearing everything before it by the mere force of numbers and movements. City after city yields and admits them, and swears to their Twelve Articles, which in themselves they say are not so bad, if only they were enforced by better means. Castle after castle is assailed and falls. Ulrich writes in burning indignation at the cruel deaths they have inflicted on noble men and women, and on their pillaging the convents. Fritz, on the other hand, writes entreating us not to forget the long catalogue of legalized wrongs which had lead to this moment of fierce and lawless vengeance.

Dr. Luther, although sympathizing with the peasants by birth, and by virtue of his own quick and generous indignation at injustice, whilst with a prophet's plainness he blames the nobles for their exactions and tyranny, yet sternly demands the suppression of the revolt with the sword. He says this is essential, if it were only to free the honest and well-meaning peasantry from the tyranny of the ambitious and turbulent men who compel them to join their banner on pain of death. With a heart that bleeds at every severity, he counsels the severest measures as the most merciful. More than once he and others of the Wittemberg doctors have succeeded in quieting and dispersing riotous bands of the peasants assembled by tens of thousands, with a few calm and earnest words. But bitter, indeed, are these times to him. The peasants whom he pities, and because he pities condemns, call out that he has betrayed them, and threaten his life. The prelates and princes of the old religion declare all this disorder and pillage are only the natural consequences of his false doctrine. But between them both he goes steadfastly forward, speaking faithful words to all. More and more, however, as terrible rumours reach us of torture, and murder, and wild pillage, he seems to become convinced that mercy and vigour are on the same side. And now he, whose journey through Germany not three years since was a triumphal procession, has to ride secretly from place to place on his errands of peace-making, in danger of being put to death by the people if he were discovered!

My heart aches for these peasants. These are not the Pharisees who were "not blind," but understood only too well what they rejected. They are the "multitudes," the common people, who as of old heard the voice of love and truth gladly; for whom dying he pleaded, "They know not what they do."

April, 1525.

The tide has turned. The army of the empire, under Truchsess, is out. Phillip of Hesse, after quieting his own dominions, is come to Saxony to suppress the revolt here. Our own gentle and merciful Elector, who so reluctantly drew the sword, is, they say, dying. The world is full of change!

Meantime, in our little Wittemberg world, changes are in prospect. It seems probable that Dr. Luther, after settling the other eight nuns, and endeavouring also to find a home for Catherine von Bora, will espouse her himself. A few months since he tried to persuade her to marry Glatz, pastor of Orlamund, but she refused. And now it seems certain that the solitary Augustinian convent will become a home, and that she will make it so.

Gottfried and I cannot but rejoice. In this world of tumult and unrest, it seems so needful that that warm, earnest heart should have one place where it can rest, one heart that will understand and be true to him if all else should become estranged, as so many have. And this, we trust, Catherine von Bora will be to him.

Reserved, and with an innate dignity, which will befit the wife of him whom God has called in so many ways to be the leader of the hearts of men, she has a spirit which will prevent her sinking into the mere reflection of that resolute character, and a cheerfulness and womanly tact which will, we hope, sustain him through many a depressing hour, such as those who wear earth's crowns of any kind must know.

December, 1525.

This year has, indeed, been a year of changes. The peasant revolt is crushed. At Frankenhausen, the last great victory was gained. Thomas Münzer was slain, and his undisciplined hosts fled in hopeless confusion. The revolt is crushed, alas! Gottfried says, as men too generally crush their enemies when once in their power, exceeding the crime in the punishment, and laying up a store of future revolt and vengeance for future generations.

The good and wise Elector Friedrich died just before the victory. It is well, perhaps, that he did not live to see the terrible vengeance that has been inflicted, the roadsteads lined with gibbets, torture returned by torture, insult by cruel mocking. The poor deluded people, especially the peasantry, wept for the good Elector, and said, "Ah, God, have mercy on us! We have lost our father!" He used to speak kindly to their children in the fields, and was always ready to listen to a tale of wrong. He died humbly as a Christian; he was buried royally as a prince.

Shortly before his death, his chaplain, Spalatin, came to see him. The Elector gave him his hand, and said, "You do well to come to me. We are commanded to visit the sick."

Neither brother nor any near relative was with him when he died. The services of all brave men were needed in those stormy days. But he was not forsaken. To the childless, solitary sufferer, his faithful servants were like a family.

"Oh, dear children," he said, "I suffer greatly!"

Then Joachim Sack, one of his household, a Silesian, said,-

"Most gracious master, if God will, you will soon be better."

Shortly after the dying prince said,-

"Dear children, I am ill indeed."

And Sack answered,-

"Gracious lord, the Almighty God sends you all this with a Father's love, and with the best will to you."

Then the prince repeated softly, in Latin, the words of Job, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

And once more he said,-

"Dear children, I am very ill."

And the faithful Joachim comforted him again,-"My gracious Master, the Almighty God, sends it all to your electoral highness from the greatest love."

The prince clasped his hands, and said,-

"For that I can trust my good God!" and added, "Help me, help me, O my God."

And after receiving the holy communion in both kinds, he called his servants around him, and said,-

"Dear children, I entreat you, that in whatever I have done you wrong, by word or deed, you will forgive me for God's sake, and pray others to do the same. For we princes do much wrong often to poor people that should not be."

As he spoke thus, all that were in the room could not restrain their tears, and seeing that, he said,-

"Dear children, weep not for me. It will not be long with me now. But think of me, and pray to God for me."

Spalatin had copied some verses of the Bible for him, which he put on his spectacles to read for himself. He thought much of Luther, whom, much as he had befriended him, he had never spoken to, and sent for him. But it was in vain. Luther was on the Hartz mountains, endeavouring to quell the peasants' revolt. That interview is deferred to the world where all earthly distinctions are forgotten, but where the least Christian services are remembered.

So, "a child of peace," as one said, he departed, and rests in peace, through the high and only merits of the only Son of God, in whom, in his last testament, he confessed was "all his hope."

It was a solemn day for Wittemberg when they laid him in his grave in the Electoral Church, which he had once so richly provided with relics. His body lying beneath it is the most sacred relic it enshrines for us now.

Knights and burghers met the coffin at the city gate; eight noblemen carried it, and a long train of mourners passed through the silent streets. Many chanted around the tomb the old Latin hymns, "In media vit?," and "Si bona suscipimur," and also the German, "From deepest need I cry to Thee," and-

"In Fried und Freud fahr ich dahin."

"I journey hence in peace and joy."

The money which would in former times have purchased masses for his soul, was given to the poor. And Dr. Luther preached a sermon on that promise, "Those who sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him," which makes it needless, indeed, to pray for the repose of those who thus sleep.

Gretchen asked me in the evening what the hymn meant,-

"I journey hence in peace and joy."

I told her it was the soul of the prince that thus journeyed hence.

"The procession was so dark and sad," she said, "the words did not seem to suit."

"That procession was going to the grave," said Thekla, who was with us. "There was another procession, which we could not see, going to heaven. The holy angels, clothed in radiant white, were carrying the happy spirit to heaven, and singing, as they went, anthems such as that, while we were weeping here."

"I should like to see that procession of the dear angels, Aunt Thekla," said Gretchen. "Mother says the good Elector had no little children to love him, and no one to call him any tenderer name than 'Your electoral highness' when he died. But on the other side of the grave he will not be lonely, will he? The holy angels will have tender names for him there, will they not?"

"The Lord Jesus will, at all events," I said. "He calleth his own sheep by name."

And Gretchen was comforted for the Elector.

* * *

Not long after that day of mourning came a day of rejoicing to our household, and to all the friendly circle at Wittemberg.

Quietly, in our house, on June the 23d, Dr. Luther and Catherine von Bora were married.

A few days afterwards the wedding feast was held on the home-bringing of the bride to the Augustinian cloister, which, together with "twelve brewings of beer yearly," the good Elector John Frederic has given Luther as a wedding present. Brave old John Luther and his wife, and Luther's pious mother came to the feast from Mansfeld, and a day of much festivity it was to all.

And now for six months, what Luther calls "that great thing, the union and communion between husband and wife," hath hallowed the old convent into a home, whilst the prayer of faith and the presence of Him whom faith sees, have consecrated the home into a sanctuary of love and peace.

Many precious things hath Dr. Luther said of marriage. God, he says, has set the type of marriage before us throughout all creation. Each creature seeks its perfection through being blent with another. The very heaven and earth picture it to us, for does not the sky embrace the green earth as its bride? "Precious, excellent, glorious," he says, "is that word of the Holy Ghost, 'the heart of the husband doth safely trust in her.'"

He says also, that so does he honour the married state, that before he thought of marrying his Catherine, he had resolved, if he should be laid suddenly on his dying bed, to be espoused before he died, and to give two silver goblets to the maiden as his wedding and dying gift. And lately he counselled one who was to be married, "Dear friend, do thou as I did, when I would take my K?the. I prayed to our Lord God with all my heart. A good wife is a companion of life, and her husband's solace and joy, and when a pious man and wife love each other truly, the devil has little power to hurt them.

"All men," he said, "believe and understand that marriage is marriage, a hand a hand, riches are riches; but to believe that marriage is of God, and ordered and appointed by God; that the hand is made by God, that wealth and all we have and are is given by God, and is to be used as his work to his praise, that is not so commonly believed. And a good wife," he said, "should be loved and honoured, firstly, because she is God's gift and present: secondly, because God has endowed women with noble and great virtues, which, when they are modest, faithful, and believing, far overbalance their little failings and infirmities."

Wittemberg, December, 1525.

Another year all but closed-a year of mingled storm and sunshine? The sorrow we dreaded for our poor Thekla is come at last too surely. Bertrand de Créquy is dead! He died in a prison alone, for conscience' sake, but at peace in God. A stranger from Flanders brought her a few words of farewell in his handwriting, and afterwards saw him dead, so that she cannot doubt. She seems to move about like one walking in a dream, performing every common act of life as before, but with the soul asleep. We are afraid what will be the end of it. Gold help her! She is now gone for the Christmas to Eva and Fritz.

Sad divisions have sprung up among the evangelical Christians. Dr. Luther is very angry at some doctrines of Karlstadt and the Swiss brethren concerning the holy sacraments, and says they will be wise above what is written. We grieve at these things, especially as our Atlantis has married a Swiss, and Dr. Luther will not acknowledge them as brethren. Our poor Atlantis is much perplexed, and writes that she is sure her husband meaneth not to undervalue the Holy Supper, and that in very truth they find their Saviour present there as we do. But Dr. Luther is very stern about it. He fears disorders and wild opinions will be brought in again, such as led to the slaughter of the peasants' war. Yet he himself is sorely distressed about it, and saith often that the times are so evil the end of the world is surely drawing nigh.

In the midst of all this perplexity, we who love him rejoice that he has that quiet home in the Augustei, where "Lord K?the," as he calls her, and her little son H?nschen reign, and where the dear, holy angels, as Luther says, watch over the cradle of the child.

It was a festival to all Wittemberg when little Hans Luther was born.

Luther's house is like the sacred hearth of Wittemberg and of all the land. There in the winter evenings he welcomes his friends to the cheerful room with the large window, and sometimes they sing good songs or holy hymns in parts, accompanied by the lute and harp, music at which Dr. Luther is sure King David would be amazed and delighted, could he rise from his grave, "since there can have been none so fine in his days." "The devil," he says, "always flies from music, especially from sacred music, because he is a despairing spirit, and cannot bear joy and gladness."

And in the summer days he sits under the pear tree in his garden, while K?the works beside him; or he plants seeds and makes a fountain; or he talks to her and his friends about the wonders of beauty God has set in the humblest flowers, and the picture of the resurrection he gives us in every delicate twig that in spring bursts from the dry brown stems of winter.

More and more we see what a good wife God has given him in Catherine von Bora, with her cheerful, firm, and active spirit, and her devoted affection for him. Already she has the management

of all the finance of the household, a very necessary arrangement, if the house of Luther is not to go to ruin, for Dr. Luther would give everything, even to his clothes and furniture, to any one in distress, and he will not receive any payment either for his books or for teaching the students.

She is a companion for him, moreover, and not a mere listener, which he likes, however much he may laugh at her eloquence, "in her own department surpassing Cicero's," and sarcastically relate how when first they were married, not knowing what to say, but wishing to "make conversation," she used to say, as she sat at her work beside him, "Herr Doctor, is not the lord high chamberlain in Prussia the brother of the margrave?" hoping that such high discourse would not be too trifling for him! He says, indeed, that if he were to seek an obedient wife, he would carve one for himself out of stone. But the belief among us is, that there are few happier homes than Dr. Luther's; and if at any time Catherine finds him oppressed with a sadness too deep for her ministry to reach, she quietly creeps out and calls Justus Jones, or some other friend, to come and cheer the doctor. Often, also, she reminds him of the letters he has to write; and he likes to have her sitting by him while he writes, which is a proof sufficient that she can be silent when necessary, whatever jests the Doctor may make about her "long sermons, which she certainly never would have made, if, like other preachers, she had taken the precaution of beginning with the Lord's Prayer!"

The Christian married life, as he says, "is a humble and a holy life," and well, indeed, is it for our German Reformation that its earthly centre is neither a throne, nor a hermitage, but a lowly Christian home.

Parsonage of Gersdorf, June, 1527.

I am staying with Eva while Fritz is absent making a journey of inspection of the schools throughout Saxony at Dr. Luther's desire, with Dr. Philip Melancthon, and many other learned men.

Dr. Luther has set his heart on improving the education of the children, and is anxious to have some of the revenues of the suppressed convents appropriated to this purpose before all are quietly absorbed by the nobles and princes for their own uses.

It is a renewal of youth to me, in my sober middle age, to be here along with Eva, and yet not alone. For the terror of my youth is actually under our roof with me. Aunt Agnes is an inmate of Fritz's home! During the pillaging of the convents and dispersing of the nuns, which took place in the dreadful peasants' war, she was driven from Nimptschen, and after spending a few weeks with our mother at Wittemberg, has finally taken refuge with Eva and Fritz.

But Eva's little twin children, Heinz and Agnes, will associate a very different picture with the name of Aunt Agnes from the rigid lifeless face and voice which used to haunt my dreams of a religious life, and make me dread the heaven, of whose inhabitants, I was told, Aunt Agnes was a type.

Perhaps the white hair softens the high but furrowed brow; yet surely there was not that kindly gleam in the grave eyes I remember, or that tender tone in the voice. Is it an echo of the voices of the little ones she so dearly loves, and a reflection of the sunshine in their eyes? No; better than that even, I know, because Eva told me. It is the smile and the music of a heart made as that of a little child through believing in the Saviour. It is the peace of the Pharisee, who has won the publican's blessing by meekly taking the publican's place.

I confess, however, I do not think Aunt Agnes's presence improves the discipline of Eva's household. She is exceedingly slow to detect any traces of original sin in Eva's children, while to me, on the contrary, the wonder is that any creature so good and exemplary as Eva should have children so much like other people's-even mine. One would have thought that her infants would have been a kind of half angels, taking naturally to all good things, and never doing wrong except by mistake in a gentle and moderate way. Whereas, I must say, I hear frequent little wails of rebellion from Eva's nursery, especially at seasons of ablution, much as from mine; and I do not think even our Fritz ever showed more decided pleasure in mischief, or more determined self-will, than Eva's little rosy Heinz.

One morning after a rather prolonged little battle between Heinz and his mother about some case of oppression of little Agnes, I suggested to Aunt Agnes-

"Only to think that Eva, if she had kept to her vocation, might have attained to the full ideal of the Theologia Teutsch, have become a St. Elizabeth, or indeed far better?"

Aunt Agnes looked up quickly-

"And you mean to say she is not better now! You imagine that spinning meditations all day long is more Christian work for a woman than training these little ones for God, and helping them to fight their first battles with the devil!"

"Perhaps not, Aunt Agnes," I said, "but then, you see, I know nothing of the inside of a convent."

"I do," said Aunt Agnes emphatically, "and also the inside of a nun's heart. And I know what wretched work we make of it when we try to take our education out of our Heavenly Father's hands into our own. Do you think," she continued, "Eva did not learn more in the long nights when she watched over her sick child than she could have learned in a thousand self-imposed vigils before any shrine? And to-night, when she kneels with Heinz, as she will, and says with him, 'Pray God forgive little Heinz for being a naughty boy to-day,' and lays him on his pillow, and as she watches him fall asleep, asks God to bless and train the wilful little one, and then asks for pardon herself, do you not think she learns more of what 'forgiveness' means and 'Our Father' than from a year's study of the Theologia Teutsch?"

I smiled and said, "Dear Aunt Agnes, if Fritz wants to hear Eva's praises well sung, I will tell him to suggest to you whether it might not have been a higher vocation for her to remain a nun!"

"Ah! child," said Aunt Agnes, with a little mingling of the old sternness, and the new tenderness in her voice, "if you had learned what I have from those lips, and in this house, you could not, even in jest, bear to hear a syllable of reflection on either."

Indeed, even Aunt Agnes cannot honour this dear home more than I do. Open to every peasant who has a sorrow or a wrong to tell, it is also linked with the castle; and linked to both, not by any class privileges, but because here peasants and nobles alike are welcomed as men and women, and as Christian brothers and sisters.

Now and then we pay a visit to the castle, where our noble sister Chriemhild is enthroned. But my tastes have always been burgher like, and the parsonage suits me much better than the castle. Besides, I cannot help feeling some little awe of Dame Hermentrud, especially when my two boys are with me, they being apt to indulge in a burgher freedom in their demeanour. The furniture and arrangements of the castle are a generation behind our own at Wittemberg, and I cannot at all make the boys comprehend the majesty of the Gersdorf ancestry, nor the necessary inferiority of people who live in streets to those who live in isolated rock fortresses. So that I am reduced to the Bible law of "honour to grey hairs" to enforce due respect to Dame Hermentrud.

Little Fritz wants to know what the Gersdorf ancestry are renowned for. "Was it for learning?" he asked.

I thought not, as it is only this generation who have learned to read, and the old knight even is suspected of having strong reasons for preferring listening to Ulrich's reading to using a book for himself.

"Was it then for courage?"

"Certainly, the Gersdorfs had always been brave."

"With whom, then, had they fought?"

"At the time of the Crusades, I believed, against the infidels."

"And since then?"

I did not feel sure, but looking at the ruined castle of Bernstein and the neighbouring height, I was afraid it was against their neighbours.

And so, after much cross questioning, the distinctions of the Gersdorf family seemed to be chiefly reduced to their having been Gersdorfs, and having lived at Gersdorf for a great many hundred years.

Then Fritz desired to know in what way his cousins, the Gersdorfs of this generation, are to distinguish themselves? This question also was a perplexity to me, as I know it often is to Chriemhild. They must not on any account be merchants; and now that in the Evangelical Church the great abbeys are suppressed, and some of the bishoprics are to be secularized, it is hardly deemed consistent with Gersdorf dignity that they should become clergymen. The eldest will have the castle. One of them may study civil law. For the others nothing seems open but the idling dependent life of pages and military attendants in the castles of some of the greater nobles.

If the past is the inheritance of the knights, it seems to me the future is far more likely to be the possession of the active burgher families. I cannot but feel thankful for the lot which opens to our boys honourable spheres of action in the great cities of the empire. There seems no room for expansion in the life of those petty nobles. While the patrician families of the cities are sailing on the broad current of the times, encouraging art, advancing learning, themselves sharing all the thought and progress of the time, these knightly families in the country remain isolated in their grim castles ruling over a few peasants, and fettered to a narrow local circle, while the great current of the age sweeps by them.

Gottfried says, narrow and ill-used privileges always end in ruining those who bigotedly cling to them. The exclusiveness which begins by shutting others out, commonly ends in shutting the exclusive in. The lordly fortress becomes the narrow prison.

All these thoughts passed through my mind as I left the rush-strewn floor of the hall where Dame Hermentrud had received me and my boys, with a lofty condescension, while, in the course of the interview, I had heard her secretly remarking to Chriemhild how unlike the cousins were; "It was quite singular how entirely the Gersdorf children were unlike the Cottas!"

But it was not until I entered Eva's lowly home, that I detected the bitter root of wounded pride from which my deep social speculations sprang. I had been avenging myself on the Sch?nberg-Gersdorf past by means of the Cotta-Reichenbach future. Yes; Fritz and Eva's lowly home is nobler than Chriemhild's, and richer than ours; richer and nobler just in as far as it is more lowly and more Christian!

And I learned my lesson after this manner.

"Dame Hermentrud is very proud," I said to Eva, as I returned from the castle and sat down beside her in the porch, where she was sewing; "and I really cannot see on what ground."

Eva made no reply, but a little amused smile played about her mouth, which for the moment rather aggravated me.

"Do you mean to say she is not proud, Eva?" I continued controversially.

"I did not mean to say that any one was not proud," said Eva.

"Did you mean then to imply that she has anything to be proud of?"

"There are all the ghosts of all the Gersdorfs," said Eva; "and there is the high ancestral privilege of wearing velvet and pearls, which you and I dare not assume."

"Surely," said I, "the privilege of possessing Lucas Cranach's pictures, and Albrecht Dürer's carvings, is better than that."

"Perhaps it is," said Eva demurely; "perhaps wealth is as firm ground for pride to build on as ancestral rank. Those who have neither, like Fritz and I, may be the most candid judges."

I laughed, and felt a cloud pass from my heart. Eva had dared to call the sprite which vexed me by his right name, and like any other gnome or cobold, he vanished instantly.

Thank God our Eva is Cousin Eva again, instead of Sister Ave; that her single heart is here among us to flash the light on our consciences just by shining, instead of being hidden under a saintly canopy in the shrine of some distant convent.

July, 1527.

Fritz is at home. It was delightful to see what a festival his return was, not only in the home, but in the village-the children running to the doors to receive a smile, the mothers stopping in their work to welcome him. The day after his return was Sunday. As usual, the children of the village were assembled at five o'clock in the morning to church. Among them were our boys, and Chriemhild's, and Eva's twins, Heinz and Agnes-rosy, merry children of the forest as they are. All, however, looked as good and sweet as if they had been children of Eden, as they tripped that morning after each other over the village green, their bright little forms passing in and out of the shadow of the great beech-tree which stands opposite the church.

The little company all stood together in the church before the altar, while Fritz stood on the step and taught them. At first they sang a hymn, the elder boys in Latin, and then all together in German; and then Fritz heard them say Luther's Catechism. How sweetly the lisping, childish voices answered his deep, manly voice; like the rustling of the countless summer leaves outside, or the fall of the countless tiny cascades of the village stream in the still summer morning.

"My dear child, what art thou?" he said.

Answer from the score of little hushed, yet ringing voices-

"I am a Christian."

"How dost thou know that?"

"Because I am baptized, and believe on my dear Lord Jesus Christ."

"What is it needful that a Christian should know for his salvation?"

Answer-"The Catechism."

And afterwards, in the part concerning the Christian faith, the sweet voices repeated the Creed in German.

"I believe in God the Father Almighty."

And Fritz's voice asked gently-

"What does that mean?"

Answer-"I believe that God has created me and all creatures; has given me body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them to me; and that he has also given me my clothes and my shoes, and whatsoever I eat or drink; that richly and daily he provides me with all needful nourishment for body and life, and guards me from all danger and evil; and all this out of pure fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or deserving of mine. And for all this I am bound to thank and praise him, and also to serve and obey him. This is certainly true."


"I believe in Jesus Christ," &c.

"What does that mean?"

"I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human creature, has purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold, but with his own holy precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and dying, that I may be his own, and I live in his kingdom under him, and serve him in endless righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns forever. This is certainly true."

And again,

"I believe in the Holy Ghost."

"What does that mean?"

"I believe that not by my own reason or power can I believe on Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Ghost has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the right faith, as he calls all Christian people on earth, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies them, and through Jesus keeps them in the right and only faith, among which Christian people he daily richly forgives all sins, to me and all believers, and at the last day will awaken me and all the dead, and to me and all believers in Christ will give eternal life. This is certainly true."

And again, on the Lord's Prayer, the children's voices began,-

"Our Father who art in heaven."

"What does that mean?"

"God will in this way sweetly persuade us to believe that he is our true Father, and that we are his true children; that cheerfully and with all confidence we may ask of him as dear children ask of their dear fathers."

And at the end,

"What does Amen mean?"

"That I should be sure such prayers are acceptable to the Father in heaven, and granted by him, for he himself has taught us thus to pray, and promised that he will hear us. Amen, amen-that means, yes, yes, that shall be done."

And when it was asked,-

"Who receives the holy sacrament worthily?"

Softly came the answer,-

"He is truly and rightly prepared who has faith in these words, 'Given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.' But he who doubts or disbelieves these words, is unworthy and unprepared; for the words, 'for you,' need simple believing hearts."

As I listened to the simple living words, I could not wonder that Dr. Luther often repeats them to himself, or rather, as he says, 'to God,' as an antidote to the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And so the childish voices died away in the morning stillness of the church, and the shadow of the bell-tower fell silently across the grassy mounds or wooden crosses beneath which rest the village dead; and as we went home, the long shadow of the beech-tree fell on the dewy village green.

Then, before eleven o'clock, the church bell began to ring, and the peasants came trooping from the different clearings of the forest. One by one we watched the various groups in their bright holiday dresses, issuing out of the depths of dark green shade, among them, doubtless, many a branch of the Luther family who live in this neighbourhood. Afterwards each door in the village poured out its contributions, and soon the little church was full, the men and women seated on the opposite sides of the church, and the aged gathered around the pulpit. Fritz's text was Eva's motto, "God so loved the world." Simply, with illustrations such as they could understand, he spoke to them of God's infinite love, and the infinite cost at which he had redeemed us, and of the love and trust and obedience we owe him, and, according to Dr. Luther's advice he did not speak too long, but "called black black, and white white, keeping to one simple subject, so that the people may go away and say, 'The sermon was about this.'" For, as I heard Dr. Luther say, "We must not speak to the common people of high difficult things, or with mysterious words. To the church come little children, maid-servants, old men and women, to whom high doctrine teaches nothing. For, if they say about it, 'Ah, he said excellent things, he has made a fine sermon!' And one asks, 'What about, then?' they reply, 'I know not.' Let us remember what pains our Lord Christ took to preach simply. From the vineyard, from the sheepfold, from trees, he drew his illustrations, all that the people might feel and understand."

That sermon of Fritz's left a deep rest in my heart. He spoke not of justification, and redemption merely, but of the living God redeeming and justifying us. Greater service can no one render us than to recall to us what God has done for us, and how he really and tenderly cares for us.

In the afternoon, the children were gathered for a little while in the school-room, and questioned about the sermon. At sunset again we all met for a short service in the church, and sang evening hymns in German, after which the pastor pronounced the benediction, and the little community scattered once more to their various homes.

With the quiet sunshine, and the light shed on the home by Fritz's return, to-day seemed to me almost like a day in Paradise.

Thank God again and again for Dr. Luther, and especially for these two great benefits given back to us through him-first, that he has unsealed the fountain of God's word from the icy fetters of the dead language, and sent it flowing through the land, everywhere wakening winter into spring; and secondly, that he has vindicated the sanctity of marriage and the home life it constitutes; unsealing the grave-stones of the convent gates, and sending forth the religion entranced and buried there to bless the world in a thousand lowly, holy, Christian homes such as this.

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