Hesperian student / (Lincoln [Neb.]) 1872-1885, May 02, 1890, Page 13, Image 13

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soul oi that wise and just, that noble and loving man, as he
ncars the close of this address the most precious because
the last. "With malice toward none, with charity for all,
let us bind up the nation's wounds, and cherish a just and
lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
What was the unifying principle of such a life? Let his
own words speak: "Here before high Heaven, and in the
presence of the whole world, I swear eternal fealty to the
just cause, as I deem it, of the land of my life, my liberty and
my love." But did he forscc the dangers he would en
counter? Listen: "Broken by the slave power I, too, may
be; bow to it I never will." But did he know the assassin
would seek his life? Listen: "I never shall live out the
years of my term: when the rebellion is crushed, my work is
The nation mourns. The procession stretches from
Washington to Springfield, The flag that so lately floated
triumphantly o'er the victorious field, droops at half mast.
No sound of the hammer is heard, nor noise of wheel in the
street. Strong men clasp each other's hands, and pass on in
sorrow and silence.
He is gone. A quarter of a century has passed. Yet
neither time nor space intervenes between us and that loving
face. May no historian's hand ever smooth the furrows from
that noble brow.
H. N. Wilson, University of Colorado, Boulder, Col.
In the city of Worms' there stands a lofty monument.
The greatest artists and sculptors of the present day have
been employed in its construction. In the midst of allegori
cal representations and statues of great men rises the colossal
figure of the hero in whose honor this grand monument was
erected the one who is truly called "the greatest man of
mo.dcrn history."
What did he do to deserve such a monument and such a
title? Was he some military commander, whose keen fore
sight and merciless disregard of human life made him victor on
many a bloody battlefield? No, he was a man of peace. Was
he some mighty ruler who by his statesmanship had gained
new possessions, and had brought nations under subjection
to foster his pride and ambition? No, he cared neither for
wealth nor power. In what, then, did his greatness consist?
He knew the truth and feared not to stand by it.
We, of the Nineteenth century, can scarcely imagine the
state of political and religious aflairs in Europe four hundred
years ago. The controlling power everywhere was in the
hands of the clergy, as it had been for centuries. But the
church, pampered by excessive wealth, had not merely degen
erated; its spirituality had so far passed away that naught re
mained but dry forms and ceremonials. The clergy, from be
ing earnest, pios,and consecrated to their work, had become
careless, avaricious and self-indulgent. The common people,
looking to those for assistance who should have been tiicir in
structors, found only bitter oppressors. He who dared to lift
his voice in opposition to such practices was silenced by a
swift and cruel death. The people, finding their leaders and
instructors careless of their interests, incapable, and cruel,
were plunged into the deepest misery. "Unfaithful shcpheuls
make a perishing flock."
Out of this darkness there came torth one who stood alone
as a champion and cnlightencr of the people against the
iniquitous priesthood, one who made his influence felt by kings
and prelates. The great reformers of the world, those who
have endeavored to overturn error and advance truth, have
come from among the common people. Few who arc endowed
with wealth, who arc of noble lineage, or hold high offices,
desica revolution, even though truth and justice arc involved.
Martin Luther was of humble birth. A hard training had he
for his work, and one which tended to develop firmness of
character and fixedness of purpose. I lis boyhood was passed
in adversity and want. Later, while engaged in the study of
law, the whole course of his life was changed by a terrible ex
perience; a friend at his side was struck down by a thunder
bolt. Startled into a consciousness of the meaning ot life and
death, he determined to forsake the world. That flash from
the clouds brought light and liberty to countless thousands.
Entering a monastery, Luther tortured, hjrnself for years wUh
the most severe bodily penance in order to gain that peace 01
mmd which he so desired.
At length, sent to Rome on a mission, he saw too clearly
the state of affairs in the church. He had expected to find
its public servants self-sacrificing, sincere, and pious; he found
them self-indulgent, hypocritical, and debased. His own
words best express his feelings. "It is incredible what sins
and atrocities arc committed at Rome. If there be a hell,
Rome is built above it; it is an abyss from whence all sins
When he returned, he took up his old work. He was not
yet prepared to break with the church. His eyes were
opened to the terrible state into which the papacy had fal
len; his sense of right and justice was violated; yet years must
needs pass by before he was ready to make a stand and
openly defy the power of Rome.
Tetzel came selling his indulgences by authority of the
pope, pardoning sins for gold. Luther could restrain him
self no longer. He posted his ninety-five theses on the
church door at Wittenberg, boldly protesting against such li
cense. The news that a monk had been so bold as to with
stand the church spread like wild fire. The, people were pre
pared for such an action. The revival of learning had
roused all minds.
The dignitaries of the church used persuasions and threats,
but to no avail. Luther, though he knew the danger in
which he stood, was immovable. Then they attempted to
corrupt this noble priest with bribes. He cared more for
the right than for high position, and prefcrcd justice
to wealth.
Luther was excommunicated. He publicly burnt the
pope's decree.
A great assembly room at Worms: on a throne is seated
the Emperor of Germany and Spain; about him arc nobles
and dignitaries of the church a loyal assemblage. Before the
emperor stands the bold heretic, summoned hither to answer
for his tcachings.knowing that in his accusers' hands lay the
power of life and death. Neither overawed by these poten
tates nor cowed by a knowledge of their power, he denounced
the dogmatism of the church and quietly, but firmly, asserted
his adherence to the liberty of the individual conscience,
closing with the ever memorable words, "Here I stand; I
cannot retract; God help me!" In these words ohe may read
his character. Luther was of a modest and retiring disposi
tion; yet when he met falsehood and error face to face, he was
as firm as granite. For his strict adherence to that which he
believed to be the truth, for his devotion to his cause, and
his fearlessness in the presence of all danger, Luther is re
spected and honored by everyone that reveres truth and
Among the reformers, Luther stands pre-eminently first.
Looking back at him through all these years, we see his no
ble form, head and front of the great and sweeping movement
that completely revolutionized the course of action and thought
throughout the world. By his translation of the Bible he es
tablished, in place of a great variety of dialects, one common
language for the German nation. His noble and inspiring
hymns still thrill and soften the hearts of many a listener.
Luther might have been content with the life of a student and
teacher but where would be his fame as a reformer? It is on
account of his self-sacrifice and consecration to duty that his
tory places him above all men of his time.
As Luther's public life commands our respect and reverence
.so must his private life win our admiration and praise. We
have seen him standing in the midst of dangers, undaunted
and fearless; we have seen him tempted with bribes and
threatened with punishment, when his noble soul spurned the
one and feared not the other; but to know him fully we must
sec him as he stood by the death bed of his little daughter,
his great soul rent with agony, yet filled with confidence and
trust that all is well.
If a man's greatness is measured by the effect of his life
and teachings upon the history of the world, what a lofty po
sition must Luther occupy! Ilis influence reaches down to us
through all the changes which time has wrought. Three cen
turies have rolled on since Luther lived and labored among
men three centuries of advance in education, religion, and
government. How much of this advance we owe to that fear
less priest we shall not fully know until that day when all
things which now are hidden shall be brought to light. The
great Greek philosopher could only cry out, "Give me a
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