Illustrations of the life of Martin Luther - THE SCHOOL

(The Scene takes place before the Mansfeld Grammar School.) 1488 - 1497.
Autor: Labouchere, P. H. (?-?), Erscheinungsjahr: 1862
Enthaltene Themen: Reformation, Reformationszeit, Reformatoren, Martin Luther, Melanchthon, Wittenberg, Wartburg, Eisenach,

*) The persons are mentioned in the situation they occupy in the engraving, beginning at the left-hand side.

About the year 1488, a woodman was busy cutting wood in the mountains of Mansfeld. This man, whose name was John Luther, was a hardy labourer, his wife Margaret gave him a helping hand, and a lad four or five years old was playing about them, striving also to make up a small bundle of sticks. John was poor, of a firm, open, and upright character, passionately fond of reading, and of a more enlightened mind than people of his standing in life usually are. God had blessed his work, and at a later period he established in Mansfeld two iron-smelting furnaces. Margaret, chaste, honest, and pious, derived as much comfort from prayer as her husband found pleasure in reading. “Take Margaret as your example", the matronly dames of the place used to say to the young women. Young Martin was born at Eisleben on the 10th November, 1483, and his father, kneeling before the cradle where the child slept, used often to exclaim: "God, grant that he may become a real Luther in thy Church!” (Lauterer, a refiner).

The sun having gone down, and darkness beginning to spread over the forest, "Let us hie home", said Margaret; but John, carrying his firmness of character to obstinacy, would not leave off work before the night closed in. "We must put that child to school", said he to his wife, as they were wending their steps homewards; "I wish him to become a learned man!" Margaret used to suffer from her husband's harshness towards the boy, who was violent and self-willed, but of an amiable and affectionate disposition; and oftentimes had she opened her maternal arms to him, and wiped off his tears ; she therefore resigned herself to the separation. On reaching their poor dwelling, the parents prayed with Martin, as they were wont to do, and strove to inspire him with the fear of God.

Next morning they all rose early, and little Martin, whom his mother had told, on putting him to bed, that he was going to school, was the first to wake up. "Take a load of wood for the master", said John to his wife, "and I will take the boy." Although John was severe, yet had he a tender heart, and even later he took pleasure in carrying Martin to school. The father walked with a firm step, the child clapped his hands, and the mother followed, heaving bitter sighs. "They say that George Emilius the schoolmaster is so harsh", whispered she at last to her husband. "The only way to bring children up properly", answered John, “is by fear and chastisement."

School had not yet begun, and the master was sitting on a stone bench in front of his house, one of his own children leaning on his lap. John doffed his cap respectfully, and informed him that he had brought his son. George Emilius, without condescending to rise, or to return the bow, cast a severe glance on the child, wishing at once to inspire him with awe and respect; and young Martin, intimidated, turned towards his good mother, who came forward to kiss him, letting a tear drop down her cheek.

Martin remained at school in Mansfeld until he had attained his fourteenth year, giving himself much pains with but little profit. Later he worried himself considerably on questions of tenses and cases, temporalibus et casualibus, as he used to say, but could not succeed in getting them into his head. George Emilius would storm, threaten, and chastise him for the least fault: once the poor boy was whipped no less than fifteen times in the same forenoon. His parents had likewise used the rod with him, but at the same time they loved him, whereas at school he met with nothing but blows and scolding.

The more he grew, the more his independent nature revolted against this rod-rule. "The master is a tyrant", said he to his mother sometimes, "school is a hell!" All his mother's tenderness was requisite to induce him to return thither. The master never spoke of the Lord but as an angry judge, so that when the child heard the name of Jesus Christ, he grew pale with dread. Fear was, at that time, Luther's only religious feeling. At school he learnt the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, Donatus's Latin grammar, the Cisio Janus, and more especially some Christian canticles; and these sacred songs, which he delighted in, often soothed him in his afflictions.

But Luther's severe education bore still better fruit; at a later period he felt deeply the necessity of increasing the number of schools, and of bettering them. The time he spent in George Emilius's house had thus great influence on the work of the Reformation; the increase and the dissemination of human knowledge became one of the principles of that great renovation of the sixteenth century. "Schools are far better than councils", the Reformer used to say; and in 1524, when addressing the counsellors of all the Imperial cities, he exclaimed: "Germans! you spend so much money yearly for roads, dykes, and crossbows, why cannot you spend a little in giving schoolmasters to the children of the poor?" In a short time Germany and the neighbouring countries were covered with schools, the chief purport of which was to lead children to the knowledge of Jesus.

This was the admirable work of the poor schoolboy of Mansfeld. To the wise and mighty of the age, who used to ask how the future improvement of humanity was to be prepared, Martin Luther made the following simple reply:
"Instruct the People and give them the Gospel."

Luther, die Schule

Luther, die Schule