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Wayne Rogers

Martin Luther
Was A Little Baby!
OCT. 31, 2009
By Wayne Rogers
ct. 31, 1517, the date Martin Lu-
ther nailed the 95 Teses on the
door of the Wittenberg Chapel, the
Protestant Reformation was ignited.
A few years later, in 1521 Luther had
to appear before the Diet of Worms to
defend his writings. Tere he uttered
the immortal words, Here I stand, God
help me, I can do no other. Im certain
that you are familiar with those dates.
But you may not be as familiar with
Nov. 10, 1483 - the day Martin Luther
was born and his early life. J. H. Merle
DAubigne, in his History of the Refor-
mation in the 16
Century, reminds us
of the importance of the rst stages of a
mans life. He wrote,
Te rst stage in a mans life
that in which he is formed and
molded under the hand of God
is always important, and was es-
pecially so in the case of Martin
Luther. Tere, even at that early
period of his life, the whole Ref-
ormation existed. Te dierent
phases of that great later work
succeeded each other in the soul
of him who was the instrument
of accomplishing it before it was
actually accomplished.
Te knowledge of the Refor-
mation which took place in
Luthers heart is the only key to
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5 Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 5 2009
Martin Luther Was a Little Baby!
the Reformation of the Church.
We must study the particular
work, if we would attain to
knowledge of the general work.
Tose who neglect the one will
never know more than the
form and exterior of the other.
Tey may acquire knowledge
of certain events and certain
results, but the intrinsic na-
ture of the revival they cannot
know, because the living prin-
ciple which formed the soul of
it is hidden from them.
Let us, then, listen to Martins mes-
sage to us (in the rst person based
on DAubignes History) of those cir-
cumstances which prepared him for the
events which God used to change the
face of Christendom.
My parents were from the village of
Mora, towards the forests of Turingia,
Germany, where the ancient and nu-
merous family of the name of Luther
had existed for ages.
My father, John Luther, married
Margaret Lindemann. Te eldest son, as
usual with the peasantry of Turingia,
always succeeded to the house and the
paternal plot, while the younger mem-
bers of the family set out in quest of
livelihood. My father thus moved with
his new bride from the plains of Eisen-
ach to the little town of Eisleben, in
Saxony, in order to gain their bread by
the sweat of their brow.
My father, John, was an upright,
straightforward, hardworking man,
with a rmness of character bordering
on obstinacy. Of a more cultivated mind
than usual with persons of his class, he
was a great reader. Books were rare then
but he never let pass any opportunity to
procure them. Tey were his relaxation
in the intervals of repose from hard and
long continued labor.
My mother, Margaret, possessed
the virtues which adorn honest and
pious women. She was noted, in par-
ticular, for her modesty, her fear of God,
and her spirit of prayer. Te mothers of
the town regarded her as a model which
they ought to imitate.
In the year 1483, just nine years be-
fore Columbus set sail, on the night of
the 10th of November, one hour before
midnight, St. Martins Eve, I was born.
Te rst thought of my god-fearing
parents was to take me and to dedicate
me to God in holy baptism. So, on the
following day, which happened to be a
Tuesday, my father, with gratitude and
joy, carried me to St. Peters church,
where I received the seal of my dedica-
tion to the Lord. I was named Martin,
in honor of the day, St. Martins Day.
I was not yet six months old when
my parents left Eisleben for the mines
of Mansfeld, some 15 miles or so from
Eisleben. Mansfeld was well known for
its mines and my father, a laboring man,
feeling that he might perhaps be called to
rear a numerous family, hoped he might
more easily gain a livelihood there. It
was in this town that my intellect and
powers received their rst development;
here my parents told me my rst activity
began to be displayed and my disposi-
tion manifested by what I said and did.
Te plains of Mansfeld, the banks of the
Wipper River, were the scenes of my rst
sports with my playmates.
Our residence at Mansfeld was ac-
companied with painful privations to
my honest father and mother for we
lived some time in great poverty. My
father was a poor wood-cutter, and my
mother often carried his wood on her
back to procure subsistence for us chil-
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Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 5 2009
Martin Luther Was a Little Baby!
dren (my one brother and three sisters).
Te toil they endured for us was severe,
even to blood. Te example of my par-
ents, whom I respected, and the habits
in which they trained me, accustomed
me to exertion and frugality. From their
example I inherited sturdiness of char-
acter, strong will power, steadfastness
of purpose, honesty of heart, and a re-
ligious disposition.
God promises to bless a just mans
labor, and my father eventually experi-
enced the reality of that promise. From
the fruit of his eorts, having become
somewhat more at ease in his circum-
stances, he was able to establish two
smelting furnaces in Mansfeld. Te in-
come which they provided allowed my
father later to provide for my studies at
the University. Universally respected
for his integrity, his blameless life, and
good sense, my father was made a Coun-
cilman in Mansfeld, the capital of the
county. I am grateful for Gods blessing
on my fathers labors to provide for us.
Too great a misery of our temporal and
economic circumstances might have re-
ally weighed down my spirit; the easier
circumstances of my fathers roof ex-
panded my heart and elevated my char-
acter. I was very thankful for those days.
My father availed himself of his
new situation in life to cultivate the
society of the men he preferred to as-
sociate with. He set great value on
educated men and he often invited the
clergymen and teachers of the place to
our table. Tis made an impression on
me. Te sight of men to whom so much
respect was shown in my fathers house,
on more than one occasion, awakened
in my young heart an ambitious desire
to one day become a schoolmaster or a
man of learning myself.
As soon as I was of an age to receive
some instruction, my parents sought to
give me the knowledge and inspire me
with the fear of God and to train me in
Christian virtues. Teir utmost care was
devoted to my primary domestic edu-
cation. My parents had two ambitions
which they instilled in me-to become
wise and to become good; they shunned
both sin and ignorance. Te godliness
of my parents, their activity and strict
virtue, gave me a positive spirit, helping
make me serious and attentive.
Te system of education which
predominated then employed fear and
punishment as its leading stimulants.
Tey followed that precept of Divine
Wisdom which says, He that spares
the rod hates his son. My impetuous
temper as a child often led to frequent
reproof and correction. In later life,
however, I considered that my parents
sometimes treated me too harsh which
made me very timid. My mother one
day chastised me about a hazelnut till
the blood came. Tey believed with all
their heart, I know, that they were do-
ing right, but later I realized that they
could not and did not discriminate
between dispositions. I believe this is
necessary in order to know when and
how punishments should be inicted.
Certainly, it is necessary to chastise
children; but it is necessary, at the same
time, to love them. Yes, he who loves
disciplines, but also discipline with love
and in an appropriate manner and suf-
ciency according to the infraction and
the childs nature. With such an educa-
tion, however, I did learn quite early to
despise the allurements of a life of mere
pleasure. As someone said, He who is
to become great, must begin with little,
and if children are brought up with too
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7 Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 5 2009
Martin Luther Was a Little Baby!
much delicacy and tenderness, it does
them harm all the rest of their life.
At the school to which my father
sent me I learned the Catechism, not
the Westminster Catechism, which had
not yet been written, for we were still a
part of the Roman church at that time,
the Ten Commandments, the Apostles
Creed, the Lords Prayer, hymns, forms
of prayer, and a Latin grammar. But, I
must acknowledge that the only reli-
gious feeling I had at that time was one
of fear. Whenever I heard the name
of Jesus Christ mentioned I grew pale
with terror; the Savior had been pre-
sented to me only
as an angry Judge.
I was taught that
we must atone for
our sins ourselves,
but since we can
not make sucient
amends for our sins
by our own works,
we were to call on
the saints and to
implore them to
pray for us so that
we might avert
Gods wrath. So,
perhaps you can
understand why
later I chose the
priesthood over becoming a lawyerout
of concern for my eternal soul. But even
more so, you can understand how that
as I was later reading and lecturing on
Romans that my heart rejoiced when I
read, Te just shall live by faith!
My father longed to make me a
learned man. At age 14 my father sent
me to a school of the Franciscans at
Madgebourg and then after a year there
to study in Eisenach. Tough my fathers
nancial circumstances had improved
somewhat they were still unable to give
me any nancial assistance. Tere, as in
Madgebourg, I had no nancial resourc-
es and had to do as I had done there
join my fellow-students and sing with
them in the streets before houses for a
morsel of bread. Instead of bread, I often
received only hard words for my singing.
I was often overcome with sadness, shed
many tears in secret, and was unable to
think of my future without trembling.
I was faced, from lack of food, with
the possibility of giving up study, and
going home to work with my father
in the mines at Mansfeld. Suddenly a
door opened, and
I saw a lady on the
threshold,it was
the wife of Conrad
Cotta, the daughter
of a chief magis-
trate of the town.
Her name was
Ursula. Previous
to this, I learned
that this Christian
Shunammite had
more than once
observed me in the
assemblies of the
faithful, and been
touched by the
sweetness of my
voice and devout behavior. She had just
heard the harsh language addressed to
this poor scholar, and seeing me in
sadness before her door, she came to my
assistance, beckoned me to enter, and set
food before me to quell my hunger.
Conrad, her husband, approved of
the benevolence of his wife, and was
even so much pleased with my company
that a few days later he took me into his
house. From this moment my studies
were secure! I thought, I will not be
Martin Luther
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Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 5 2009
Martin Luther Was a Little Baby!
obliged to return to the mines of Mans-
feld and bury the talent with which God
has entrusted me. When I no longer
knew what was to become of me, God
opened to me the heart and the home
of a Christian family. Tis gracious
event helped give me that condence
in God which in later life the strongest
tempests could not shake.
In the Cotta house I was introduced
to a mode of life very dierent from
that which I had ever known before. I
enjoyed for once in my life a comfort-
able existence, exempt from want and
care. Tis was a time when my mind
became more tranquil, my outlook live-
lier, and my heart more open. My whole
being expanded to the mild rays of this
charity and began to beat with life, joy,
and happiness. My prayers were more
ardent, and my thirst for knowledge
more intense. I made rapid progress in
my studies.
To the study of literature and sci-
ence I added the charms of art. It has
been said that those who are designed
by God to aect their contemporaries
are rst seized and carried along by the
culture in which they live. I learned to
play the ute and the lute. I often sang
along with the lute which comforted
and encouraged my heart in moments
of sadness. My love of music continued
to old age; God blessed me to produce
the words and music of anthems which
are still used to this day. Later in life
when speaking to a friend, I said of this
woman who had taken me into their
home, Earth has nothing gentler than
the female heart in which piety dwells.
In later years I was never ashamed of
the days when, pressed by hunger, I was
under the necessity of begging for my
studies and maintenance. So far from
this, on the contrary, I reected with
gratitude on the great poverty of my
youth. I regarded it as one of the means
which God had employed to make me
what I afterwards became, and I felt
thankful for it. Te poor youths I later
observed who were obliged to follow
the same course touched my heart: Do
not, I said, despise the boys who sing
before your houses, and ask bread for
the love of God; I have done it myself. It
is true that, at a later period, my father,
with great love and kindness, kept me
at the University of Erfurt, maintain-
ing me by the sweat of his brow; still,
I once was a poor beggar. And now, by
means of my pen, I am come thus far,
and I would not change situations with
Croesus! Nay, more, were all the goods
of the world piled up one above another,
I would not take them in exchange for
what I have. And, I know I would not be
where I am today, if I had not been in
school and learned to write.
Tus, in these rst humble begin-
nings I trace the origin of my service.
I am not afraid to remind you that that
voice, whose accents made the empire
and the world to tremble, had once
begged a morsel of bread in the streets
of a poor city. A Christian takes plea-
sure in such recollections, as reminding
him that it is in God he must glory.
My progress in school was par-
ticularly rapid in ancient languages,
eloquence, and poetry. I wrote essays
and made verses. Lively, compliant, and
good-hearted, I enjoyed the favor of
both my teachers and friends.
Among the professors, I attached
myself particularly to John Trebonius, a
learned man of pleasing manners who
showed young men those attentions
which are so well suited to encourage
them. When Professor Trebonius entered
the class, he would take o his hat, and
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9 Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 5 2009
Martin Luther Was a Little Baby!
bow to us studentsa great condescen-
sion in those doctrinaire times! Tis
made me feel that I was not a mere num-
ber. Te respect of the master had made
me rise in my own estimation. Trebonius
colleagues, who had not the same custom
of taking o their hats, one day expressed
their astonishment at his extreme conde-
scension. He replied, (and the reply made
no less impression on me as a young man)
Among these youths are men whom God
will one day make mayors, chancellors,
doctors, and magistrates; and though you
do not yet see them with their badges of
oce now, it is right, however, to show
them respect. I listened with pleasure to
these words, and even then considered
that one day I might wear a doctors cap
on my own head.
So, let me encourage you parents
do not to despise the day of small begin-
nings or small ones. Live a godly life of
good character in the world and in your
home. Work hard and instill in them
exertion and frugality. Encourage and
stimulate them to desire wisdom and to
shun ignorance; to shun sin and to love
righteousness. Seek to provide a peace-
ful and pleasant home atmosphere. Ac-
quaint them with honorable men and
women in person if you can or at least
in books. A child is known by the com-
pany he keeps and he who walks with
the wise becomes wise. Do not cease
to train and discipline them for their
crying, but neither be too harsh, taking
into account their physical, mental, and
emotional dispositions. Bring them up
in the Word of God. Teach them the
catechism, the Lords Prayer, Te Ten
Commandments, and Te Apostles
Creed and most of all to love the Re-
formed faith!
Children, young men and women,
God, in His providence, has placed you
in the home where you are. If God has
blessed you with such parents as I en-
joyed, though you may consider them
sometimes too harsh, nevertheless,
respect and honor them. As I, like the
Apostle Paul, knew poverty and ease,
be faithful and humble in your poverty.
God in that is preparing you for his
service, if you will have it. If you have
been blessed to be born and live in the
comforts and ease which I came to en-
joy, use it wisely, not to squander your
time and talents, but to prepare your-
self for the service of God through your
studies. Explore many areas of learning
for you know not what talent, gift, or
calling may emerge. Attach and attract
yourself to others who will build you up
whether in person or writing. Trough
whatever deprivation or diculty trust
God and pursue His purposes. Tis is all
a part of Gods providential preparation
of you as an individual for His service
in your age. In temptation or sensual
allurement remember who you are, to
whom you belong, be faithful, set your
heart on things above, things before
you, and things that remain. Shun igno-
rance! Shun sin! Develop your love for
wisdom, knowledge, and righteousness.
And, as God made my words to make
an empire tremble, may God use you,
too, to make your world, however small
or great, broad or narrow, to tremble
with the fear, knowledge, holiness, and
glory of God. May your name continue
and exist for ages!
(Tis message was prepared and
read by Pastor Wayne Rogers to his
congregation, the Providence Reformed
Presbyterian Church (RPCUS), Cov-
ington, Ga. at their Reformation Cele-
bration on the evening of Oct. 31, 2009.)
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