Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Brief History of Martin Luther, Part 1

Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise – Martin Luther

Luther’s Youth:

Although Christianity was agreeable to their instincts, the Germans were never at home under the rule of the papacy. The medieval conflict between the Emperor and the pope kept up a political antagonism against foreign rule. More than 100 complaints against Roman misrule were brought before the Diet of N├╝rnberg in 1522. The mysticism of the 13 and 14 centuries fostered love for a piety of less form and more heart. Hence, Erasmus says that when Luther published his Theses, the whole world applauded him. 1 "Totus illi magno consensu applausit." In a letter of Dec. 12, 1524, to Duke George of Saxony who was opposed to the Reformation. Cited in Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. VII, chap. 2

Luther, like all the Reformers, was a man of humble origins. Of all the Reformers Luther is the first. He is so closely identified with the German Reformation that the one would have no meaning without the other. No other Reformer has given his name to the church he reformed.

Martin Luther was born Nov. 10, 1483, an hour before midnight, at Eisleben in Prussian Saxony, where he died, Feb. 18, 1546. He was baptized on the next day and received the name of the saint of the day. His parents had recently moved to Eisleben from Mahra near Eisenach in Thuringia, where Boniface had first preached the gospel to the Germans. Six months later they settled in Mansfeld. His parents were very poor. They were, however, pious, industrious and honest people from the lower class. Luther was never ashamed of his humble origins. His mother had to carry the wood from the forest, on her back, and father and mother, as he said, "worked their flesh off their bones," to bring up seven children (he had three younger brothers and three sisters).

Luther had a hard childhood and was brought up strict discipline. On one occasion, his mother beat him until blood flowed for stealing a nut. His father once flogged him so badly that he ran away for a while. But Luther recognized their good intentions. In the Luther home, he was taught to pray to God and the saints, to admire the church and the priests, and was told scary stories about the devil and witches, stories that haunted his imagination the rest of his life.

Discipline was equally severe in school. Luther remembered being chastised no less than fifteen times in a single morning. But he had also better things to say about school. He learned the Catechism, i.e.: the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, and several Latin and German hymns. He received his elementary education in the schools of Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach. By the age of 14 he had to support himself by singing in the street. His lack of refined breeding showed its effects in his writings and actions. It limited his influence in the higher classes, but strengthened his influence over the middle and lower classes.

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