Sketches in the Life of the Man Who Shook the World - 6

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
THERE is no doubt the influence of Staupitz upon Luther had been very great indeed. They keenly felt the unreality of much with which they came in contact, and the insincerity of many who were leading the monastic life was a great grief to them, still he had helped his friend on many points of doctrine. Luther, however, had still many conflicts. The holiness of God and his own defilement by sin troubled his soul. One day when he was much distressed, an old monk entered his cell and spoke to him some words of comfort. Luther opened his heart to him, and told him the fears that beset him. He was not a learned man like Staupitz, but he had well learned one article at least of his creed, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” These words shed great comfort over Luther’s mind (he was then sick and ill). “‘I believe,’” he repeated to himself, “‘in the forgiveness of sins.’” “Ah” said the pious monk, “we must not only believe that the sins of David or Peter are forgiven, for that is no more than the devils believe. God’s command is that we should believe that our own sins are forgiven.” From that moment further light broke upon the mind of the young monk. The word of grace had been spoken, and he believed it. He at once and for ever renounced meriting salvation, and gave himself up to the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
But though enlightened as to the way of salvation and peace with God, he still clung to the Church of Rome. The time came for his ordination to the priesthood, which took place in May 1507. There were many rites and ceremonies observed, and much feasting and rejoicing. Jerome, Bishoc of Brandenburg, officiated. In conferring the power to celebrate Mass, he put a chalice (cup) into his hand, pronouncing these words: “Accepi Potestalion sacrificandi pro vivis et mortuis” (“Receive power to sacrifice for the living and the dead”). At the time he listened calmly to these words, conferring upon him the power of doing the very work of the Son of God, but at a later period they made him shudder. “If the earth did not then swallow us both up, it could be ascribed only to the great patience and longsuffering of the Lord.”
Following the advice of Staupitz, he made excursions on foot among the villages and monasteries of the neighborhood, with a view to mental relaxation, bodily exercise, and practice in preaching. He was called by Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, to be a professor in the newly-founded University of Wurtemberg—which was to be his battleground in many a hard-fought battle—whither he repaired in the third year of his life as a monk. He went to the monastery of his Order. His department in the university was scholastic philosophy, in which he labored with great assiduity. But his great desire was to teach theology—not the theology of the schools, but the theology of the Bible. In studying the Epistle to the Hebrews, he came upon the words quoted from the prophet Habakkuk, “The just shall live by faith.” He was struck with these words. “For the just, then,” said he, “there is a different life from that of the rest of men, and this life is received and sustained by faith.” These words revealed to him the mystery of the Christian life. Long after this, amid his many labors and cares, he often heard a voice saying to him, “The just shall live by faith.”
Luther’s lectures on theology were novel in style and matter. He drew his doctrines from the Bible, and presented them full of life, drawn from the treasury of his own experience of Divine truth. Staupitz urged Luther to preach in the church of the Augustinians at Wittemberg, but he shrank from the ordeal, yet yielded at length. The church was an old wooden structure, thirty feet by twenty, standing in the middle of the marketplace, with its partitions propped on all sides, and ready to fall. In this poor decayed structure began the preaching of the Reformation. God’s beginnings of His great undertakings have usually been a day of small things— “a handful of corn on the top of the mountains”; “a stone cut out of the mountains without hands.”
WE are never without help. We have no right to say of any good work, “It is too hard for me to do”: or of any sorrow, “It is too hard for me to bear”: or of any sinful habit, “It is too hard for me to overcome.”
IT is a grand thing to find joy in one’s work. If you have found that, you have found the heart of life. God’s service is better than great service, unless that be great too.