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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

The pastor of the church at Eisleben


Luther's

powerful constitution gradually broke down under the weight of his labors and anxieties. He became subject to attacks of bodily suffering, followed by great depression of mind. Nevertheless, the consciousness of having in a great measure performed the work which he had been called upon to do, kept up his faith, and he was accustomed to declare that he had been made "a chosen weapon of God, known in Heaven and Hell, as well as upon the earth." In January, 1546, he was summoned to Eisleben, the place of his birth, by the Counts of Mansfeld, who begged him to act as arbitrator between them in a question of inheritance. Although much exhausted by the fatigues of the winter-journey, he settled the dispute, and preached four times to the people. His last letter to his wife, written on the 14th of February, is full of courage, cheerfulness and tenderness.

Two days afterwards, his strength began to fail. His friend, Dr. Jonas, was in Eisleben at the time, and Luther forced himself to sit at the table with him and with his own two sons; but it was noticed that he spoke only of the future life, and with an unusual earnestness and solemnity. The same evening it became evident to all that his end was rapidly approaching: he grew weaker from hour to hour, and occasionally repeated passages from the Bible, in German and Latin. After midnight he seemed to revive a little: Dr. Jonas, the Countess of Mansfeld, the pastor of the church at Eisleben, and his sons,

stood near his bed. Then Jonas said: "Beloved Father, do you acknowledge Christ, the Son of God, our Redeemer?" Luther answered "Yes," in a strong and clear voice; then, folding his hands, he drew one deep sigh and died, between two and three o'clock on the morning of the 17th of February.

[Sidenote: 1546.]

After solemn services in the church at Eisleben, the body was removed on its way to Wittenberg. In every village through which the procession passed, the bells were tolled, and the people flocked together from all the surrounding country. The population of Halle, men and women, came out of the city with loud cries and lamentations, and the throng was so great that it was two hours before the coffin could be placed in the church. "Here," says an eyewitness of the scene, "we endeavored to raise the funeral psalm, _De profundis_ ('Out of the depths have I cried unto thee'); but so heavy was our grief that the words were rather wept than sung." On the 22d of February the remains of the great Reformer were given to the earth at Wittenberg, with all the honors which the people, the authorities and the University could render.

CHAPTER XXVI.

FROM LUTHER'S DEATH TO THE END OF THE 16TH CENTURY.

(1546--1600.)

Attempt to Suppress the Protestants. --Treachery of Maurice of Saxony. --Defeat and Capture of the Elector, John Frederick. --Philip of Hesse Imprisoned. --Tyranny of Charles V. --The Augsburg Interim. --Maurice of Saxony turns against Charles V. --The Treaty of Passau. --War with France. --The Religious Peace of Augsburg. --The Jesuits. --Abdication of Charles V. --Ferdinand of Austria becomes Emperor. --End of the Council of Trent. --Protestantism in Germany. --Weakness of the Empire. --Loss of the Baltic Provinces. --Maximilian II. Emperor. --His Tolerance. --The Last Private Feud. --Revolt of the Netherlands. --Death of Maximilian II. --Rudolf II.'s Character. --Persecution of Protestants. --Condition of Germany at the End of the 16th Century.

[Sidenote: 1546. HOSTILITIES TO THE PROTESTANTS.]

The woes which the German Electors brought upon the country, when they gave the crown to a Spaniard because he was a Hapsburg, were only commencing when Luther died. Charles V. had just enough German blood in him to enable him to deceive the German people; he had no interest in them further than the power they gave to his personal rule; he used Germany to build up the strength of Spain, and then trampled it under his feet.


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