Luther in Need of Every Comfort

Letter from Martin Luther to Nikolaus von Amsdorf in Magdeburg
Wittenberg, November 1, 1527

Sources

Translated from the WA Br, no. 1164; De Wette, no. 910; Enders, no. 1219. The German translation in StL-Walch, no. 1137, was also consulted.

Letter

Grace and peace. As it pleases the Lord, so it happens, my Amsdorf, that I who used to comfort everyone else up till now, am now in need of every comfort myself. This one thing I ask, and you will ask it with me, that my Christ may do with me as he has pleased, only may he keep me from becoming an ingrate and an enemy of him whom I have preached and worshiped with such great zeal and fervor up till now, though not without sins many and great have I offended him during that same time.1 Satan is asking for a Job to be given to him once again,2 and to sift Peter with his brothers,3 but may Christ see fit to say to him, “Spare his life,”4 and to me, “I am your salvation,”5 even as I continue to hope that he will not be angry at my sins to the end. I wish to respond to the Sacramentarians, but until I get stronger in spirit, I can do nothing. I will keep your copy of the book,6 but will return it in due time.

A hospital has started up in my house. Augustin’s Hanna7 has been nursing the plague inside of her, but she is getting back on her feet. Margaretha Mochinna8 caused us some fright with a suspicious abscess and other symptoms, although she too is getting better. I am very fearful for my Katy, who is close to delivering,9 for my little son10 has also been sick for three days now and is not eating anything and is doing poorly; they say it’s violence of the teeth,11 and they believe that both are at very high risk.12 For Deacon Georg’s wife, also close to delivering herself, has been seized by the plague and is now busy trying to find out if there is any way the infant can be rescued.13 May the Lord Jesus mercifully stand by her side. Thus there are conflicts without, anxieties within,14 and sufficiently rough ones at that; Christ is visiting us. There is one consolation that we set against Satan as he rages, namely that at least we have the word of God for preserving the souls of believers, no matter how he may devour their bodies. Accordingly you may commend us to the brothers and to yourself, in order that you all might pray for us to endure the Lord’s hand bravely and to prevail against Satan’s might and cunning, whether through death or through life, Amen. At Wittenberg on the day of All Saints, in the tenth year of indulgences having been tread underfoot, in memory of which we are drinking at this hour, comforted on both sides, 1527.

Your Martin Luther.

Endnotes

1 This double negative construction seems to be as awkward in Latin as it is in English. A footnote in the St. Louis edition reads: “The reading non sine is so repulsive [anstößig] to us that we have employed sane [‘certainly’] in its place. It did not seem right to the former translator either” (21/1:1028, no. 1137). However, it is highly unlikely that sane was the original reading.

2 Cf. Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5.

3 Cf. Luke 22:31-32.

4 Job 2:6

5 Psalm 35:3 (34:3 Vulgate)

6 The book Das dise wort Jesu Christi / Das ist min lychnam der für üch hinggeben wirt / ewigklich den alten eynigen sinn haben werdend / und M. Luter mit seinem letsten büch sinen und des Bapsts sinn / gar nit gelert noch bewärt hat. Huldrych Zuinglis Christenlich Antwurt. (That These Words of Jesus Christ, “This Is My Body Which Is Given For You,” Will Forever Retain Their Ancient, Single Meaning, And Martin Luther With His Latest Book Has By No Means Proved or Established His Own and the Pope’s View: Ulrich Zwingli’s Christian Answer), published in Zurich in June 1527. Cf. Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation (1521-1532), p. 313-315.

7 Hanna or Anna, the daughter of the Torgau burgomaster Matthäus Moschwitz or Muschwitz, had married Augustin Schurf, professor of medicine in Wittenberg, prior to the fall of 1522. She died on January 26 or 27, 1540. Rf. Nikolaus Müller, Die Wittenberger Bewegung, p. 332.

8 Margaretha of Mochau from Seegrehna, probably a sister of Karlstadt’s wife

9 She gave birth to Elisabeth on December 10.

10 Johannes (Hans) Luther

11 That is, teething

12 That is, of falling victim to the plague

13 Deacon Georg Rörer had married Johannes Bugenhagen’s sister, Hanna, in 1525. She had given birth to their first son, Paul, on January 27, 1527. She died from the plague the day after Luther wrote this letter, a few hours after giving birth to a stillborn child. Cf. Brecht, op. cit., p. 208-209. As far as Hanna Rörer’s efforts to save her infant, performing a cesarean section on pregnant women who had passed away was already stipulated in the Royal Law (Lex Regia) at the time of Numa Pompilius. The Medieval Church firmly adhered to that stipulation, but this operation was not performed on living women until the 16th century (Heinrich Haeser, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Medizin und der epidemischen Krankheiten, 1:803; 2:209).

14 Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:5.

An Arduous Business

Overview of 1 Timothy
By Tilemann Heshusius

Translator’s Preface

Folio 1 of Heshusius 1586 commentary on 1 Timothy

Folio 1 of Heshusius’ 1586 commentary on 1 Timothy

As a result of my recent dealings with the 16th century Lutheran theologian Heshusius (biography and overview of Isaiah 40), I also came across his commentary on 1 Timothy (Helmstedt: Jacob Lucius, 1586). The acquaintance would have probably remained a passing one were it not for the first 12 words of the Argumentum (Overview) on folio 1, and especially the first two words – Res ardua, “An arduous business.” This opening clause struck me as a masterpiece and convinced me it was a good idea to continue working through the overview (folios 1-6), especially in view of a forthcoming conference isagogical paper on 1 Timothy that has been assigned to me.

Any faithful, experienced pastor or teacher in the Christian Church will find the entire first paragraph of Heshusius’ overview below to be one of the best and most gripping summaries of the public ministry of the gospel on record. However, when one considers that he wrote it in 1586, two years before his death at age 60 and after getting kicked out of at least seven ministerial positions (one of which expulsions took place at 3 a.m. without thought for his “very pregnant wife”) and resigning from another position of his own conscientious accord, its brilliance and force come as considerably less of a surprise.

Heshusius has what many modern commentaries on 1 Timothy lack, an extremely practical “Occasion for Writing” that actually grabs at the jugular, as Luther would say. This is an overview and introduction that proceeds not just from the head and heart, but also from a lifetime of faithful adherence to the letter’s content.

I ask the triune God that he would use the overview that follows to encourage public ministers of the gospel to revisit the treasury of the Pastoral Epistles, and to spur them on to increased faithfulness and diligence in their holy calling, to the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Overview

The ministry of the gospel is an arduous business, and a task as extremely difficult as it is sublime – the ministry by which we propagate the knowledge of the true God among the human race, call sinners to repentance, and set forth the heavenly blessings of the Son of God. For this kind of teaching is unknown to human reason and is placed beyond our comprehension. The kingdom of Christ itself, whose cause we serve, is detested by the world and subject to the animosities of the mighty. Not only is our own weakness immense, so that we easily get worn out, but the adversarial spirit also never ceases in his attempts to trouble us, to deter us from duty, to impede our progress, and to dislodge us from the position of faith. Sometimes he exposes us to the violence of tyrants; other times he shrouds us in the false accusations of heretics. We are neither sufficiently safe among our own hearers, nor are we immune from great hardships among colleagues. And since perpetual dangers and all kinds of misfortunes surround the Church, instructing the simple, counseling the troubled, strengthening the faint, and comforting the weak is a considerable task. It also takes a lot of work and exceptional diligence not only to present the teaching about God and eternal life plainly and distinctly, but also to refute the authors of false opinions with firm testimonies of Sacred Scripture, after the causes of the errors have been shown, and to stabilize those who are wavering in faith. The Holy Spirit calls pastors and bishops of churches sons of mighty heroes: “Ascribe to the Lord, sons of mighty men, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength” (Psalm 29). For they must engage in constant battle, not with one kind of enemy, but with various and manifold enemies. On one occasion furious tyrants proceed against them with open force; on another poisonous heretics try to suppress them with ruses and deceptions. Sometimes arrogant and fanatical teachers make life difficult for them; other times false brothers and treacherous colleagues cause very serious dangers for them. We must also contend against our own flesh, which is easily seduced by the world’s charms, is dragged away from the path of righteousness by perverse emotions, lets its resolve in work that has been undertaken be broken by human ingratitude, and which is troubled in faith by the delusions of Satan.

Since then the difficulty of the evangelical task is so great, Paul, who had left Timothy behind at Ephesus and entrusted the Asian churches to his care, wanted to equip and fortify him with doctrine, counsel, and authority, so that he would preside over the church of God faithfully and wisely. Nor indeed does Paul have Timothy alone in mind. No, he wishes to instruct all bishops and pastors in the apostolic spirit, so that they may know what faith and good judgment, what attentiveness and moderation, what patience and mental fortitude needs to prevail in the house of the Lord and is needed for governing the Church of the Son of God.

It takes a lot of good judgment, moderation, and teaching to conduct civil government in such a way that a great number of humans are able to be held together in peace and proper discipline. But it takes far loftier wisdom and teaching to preserve the Church of Jesus Christ in knowledge of the true God, in purity of doctrine, in sincere worship of God, in confession of the truth and patience in afflictions. Therefore, in order that the universal church might have a prescribed form for this beneficial administration, and that each individual pastor might be admonished by the divine voice, the apostle Paul relates the precepts of Jesus Christ. For he had not only learned from extensive experience and years of practice what exactly was required for beneficial governance of the church, but he also had this understanding by virtue of the apostolic spirit. For the Son of God had set Paul apart as the distinguished vessel of choice for instructing the entire Church. So let us then read this epistle as if it were the voice of the Holy Spirit, and let us realize that he is issuing commands not just to Timothy, but to all bishops and pastors.

Chapter 1
He opens the letter with a serious admonition to avoid new and foreign doctrines and to guard against fables and prying questions, which are usually produced by people of ambitious nature. They indeed trouble the church more than they build it up. With this admonition he censures the fanatical teachers who were disparaging Timothy’s authority as a young man and were ingratiating themselves with the people through their inquisitive disputations. And right after that, he sets forth the summary of the whole of Christian doctrine, and he shows to what end all of Christ’s doctrine is passed down – namely, of course, that love may be manifest in us, from a pure heart, a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith. Those who deviate from this goal show that they do not understand what they profess.

He then gets down into the parts of the heavenly doctrine, and he first teaches that the law is good and how it is to be used, that it has not been put into place for the just man, but for the unjust and disobedient, to restrain them and keep them attentive to their duty. It is therefore not to be turned upside down and used for a person’s justification.

To the law he subjoins the doctrine of the gospel, and in order to present it with the utmost clarity, he establishes himself as a singular example of this doctrine: In him everyone may see that the eternal God admits sinners into his favor free of charge, out of boundless mercy, since indeed he himself had been a blasphemer, reviler, and bitter enemy of the pious and had still found mercy. In order to indicate the basis for this comfort, he teaches that Jesus the Son of God came into this world for the very purpose of saving sinners. And he testifies that his own example has been set out for the whole church, that each individual might believe in the Mediator and obtain eternal life.

Having presented the doctrine of the law and of the gospel in summary fashion, he encourages Timothy to prove himself its faithful steward and teacher, to wage the good warfare, keeping faith and a good conscience. And so that this serious admonition might strike Timothy’s heart more deeply, he brings in the tragic examples of Hymenaeus and Alexander, who had made a shipwreck of the faith and had been handed over to Satan.

Chapter 2
After the solid foundation for the doctrine has been laid, the chief point of piety, of true faithfulness in the ministry of the gospel, is arduous and constant prayer, both for all ranks and for public officials in particular. For if we are not constantly praying to the Lord, piety is not putting down roots in us and the struggles we are undergoing in the ministry of teaching are not producing any fruit at all. He explains that the will of God is that all people find salvation. Therefore the gospel of Christ should be set out for all people and we should pray for all people. And as there is one God, so there is one Mediator and one way of salvation that God has revealed from heaven, and of this doctrine he has been appointed by God as a herald and an apostle. Nor indeed does he want pastors and bishops alone to compose prayers to God, but also the hearers themselves. And he also teaches that impure emotions and doubts ought to be far removed from the prayers of the saints.

To wives [matronis] he commends the pursuit of piety through propriety, modesty, and obedience, and he shows that the task of teaching in the Church is not proper for them. He teaches that woman was deceived first, but that salvation still exists for wives if they remain in faith, love, purity, and moderation.

Chapter 3
In the third chapter he describes in many words the task of a true bishop and pastor. He explains what virtues and what gifts are required in him, what sort of men are to be elected to the position, and to what sort of men the care and governance of the Church should be commended. In so doing he indicates at the same time what sort of men should be passed over in an election. He also explains what sort of men ought to be deacons of the Church and with what kind of character they ought to be endowed, and he wants their faith and doctrine to be tested by examination first, before a public task in the Church is committed to them. He also shows what virtues are required in the wives of bishops and deacons. And in order to incite the deacons to maintain faith and diligence, he teaches that faithfulness is honored by God with a remarkable reward.

Furthermore, in order that exceptional diligence in and attention to administration in the Church might be kindled in Timothy and all other pastors, he explains how sublime the glory of the Church is: He says that it is the house1 of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. And to make this point more striking, he explains the chief article of our faith, that God was made a human, which is the foundation of our entire salvation.

Chapter 4
In the fourth chapter he prophesies in the Spirit of the unhappy times to come, in which many are going to reject the faith, how people driven by fanatic spirits are going to trouble the church with destructive teachings, prohibiting marriage, distinguishing between foods. And after he has refuted these false teachings, he urges Timothy to commend these warnings to the pious brothers and to keep away from profane and absurd fables. He incites Timothy and all pastors instead to occupy themselves with the sincere pursuit of piety, which is adorned with far greater promises than with physical exercises, which are weakened with use. He teaches that the hope of the future life has been laid away for us, and that we toil and undergo abuse for this, that we put confidence in the living God.

He urges Timothy and all bishops to be unremitting in setting forth sound doctrine; leading the way for their hearers by their good example in love, spirit, purity, and faith; being diligent in reading, exhorting, and teaching; kindling new gifts in themselves and, through the exercise of piety, augmenting the gifts they have; and constantly persisting in purity of doctrine and faithfulness of duty. For he shows that this is the way they will find salvation.

Chapter 5
In the fifth chapter he instructs Timothy what propriety and gentleness he ought to exhibit toward older men and colleagues, what kindness toward those of the same age, what modesty and purity toward married women. He then gives precepts that detail which widows are to be acceptable recipients of the Church’s ministration.2 He wants widows to be chosen who are of advanced age and have the endorsement of good works. He wants the younger ones to marry, to raise children, to manage a household, and to pursue propriety.

He then commends the elders to Timothy’s care. Timothy is to regard them with reverence, to show them every courtesy, and to see that they are given a respectable salary, since those who are keepers of doctrine are indeed worthy of every honor and of just reward. He warns that accusations against elders are not to be readily entertained without attestation; those openly doing wrong are to be rebuked so that the others fear for themselves. He charges Timothy with instruction and governance by solemnly adjuring him before God and our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy angels not to sin through prejudice or yield to his own affection, nor to share in the sins of another by laying hands on someone quickly and without examination.

Finally, he builds Timothy up with comfort, lest he torture himself excessively. He tells Timothy that he will not be able to remedy every evil all at once or to ward off every harmful pest. Though he will detect the hypocrisy and wicked schemes of some but will be unable to convict them openly, it ought to be enough for him to denounce and punish manifest crimes. The obscure ones will have to be tolerated until they are at last brought to light and to judgment by God himself, for God will not suffer them to lie hidden forever. He also shows that noble deeds get their praise in the end. Even if good and faithful pastors, who devote themselves entirely to serving the salvation of the Church, should be degraded by falsehoods, oppressed by resentment, and falsely accused, nevertheless innocence cannot be suppressed, but gets its due praise in the end.

Chapter 6
In the last chapter he commands slaves to show obedience and honor to their lords, lest their lord refuse to listen to the Christian teaching3 on their account. He forbids them from despising their masters or refusing them obedience on the pretext of religion. After he has explained the doctrine that he wants Timothy to set forth continually with the utmost faithfulness, he subjoins a warning about the false teachers to be avoided, and he describes their character and fruits so that they can be recognized and distinguished from pure teachers that much more readily. And since greediness is a special mark of false teachers, he deals with it more sharply and he urges Timothy not to let it have a place in him, but to be content with the necessities of life, which God will not deny us.

He appends an exhortation to righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness, and to fortitude in the ministry of the Spirit, so as to obtain the eternal life in Christ.

He adjures Timothy in the presence of God and of Christ to maintain faithfulness in the ministry, to keep the doctrine uncorrupted, and to comply with Paul’s admonitions. Last of all, he enjoins them not to rely on their riches nor to be proud or grow haughty on account of them, but to put all their hope in the eternal and living God and to pursue good works, to practice generosity, and to have a view toward eternal life. He once again admonishes Timothy to take great care to avoid the latest profane chatter and the tendency to dispute, and instead to faithfully guard the deposit, that is, the doctrine he has received from Paul.

Endnotes

1 I am reading domus for Dominus.

2 The Latin sentence could also be translated: “…precepts about the widows to be admitted to the ministry of the Church.” But this makes it seem as though Paul was giving stipulations for widows who would regularly serve the Church as deacons or in some other official capacity, whereas Heshusius makes it clear in his commentary proper that these widows would in fact receive care, protection, and provisions from the ministers of the Church (cf. folio 236).

3 I am reading doctrinam for doctrina.

Raising Wings Like the Eagles

Commentaries on Isaiah 40:30-31
By Tilemann Heshusius and Jerome

Translator’s Preface

I undertook the following in connection with an invitation to preach on Isaiah 40:31 at a graduation service for a Lutheran high school. I like to use such special opportunities to familiarize myself with commentary by our Christian and Lutheran fathers.

In his commentary on Isaiah 40-66 in the NICOT series, John Oswalt writes (p. 74):

The versions [i.e. ancient translations of the Bible] take [the Hebrew word אֵבֶר, pinions or wings, in Isaiah 40:31] as the object [of יַעֲלוּ], but seem to understand the verb [עָלָה] to mean “put forth” in the sense of growing new feathers (see NEB, JPS, NJB). This reading might reflect the ancient tradition that eagles grow new feathers every ten years for a hundred years (see Ps. 103:5).

While Oswalt acknowledges that this idea would nicely parallel “will renew strength” in the first part of the verse and would continue the contrast with vs. 30, he goes on to dismiss the interpretation on semantic grounds: “[T]he verb is nowhere else used in this sense of ‘put forth’ (although it is used of growing plants); and [אֵבֶר] refers to wing feathers, not feathers in general” (p. 74-75). However, with his “although” clause he weakens his first reason, and his second reason assumes that the ancient translators did not also have wing or flight feathers particularly in mind – an unwarranted assumption. (What would be the point of stressing the growth of new feathers, if those new feathers did not give the eagle renewed strength to fly?)

It seems to me unfortunate that Oswalt merely called the view that eagles grow new feathers every ten years an “ancient tradition,” and did not pursue the factuality of the tradition any further. For better or worse, serious translators today want proven science, not ancient tradition, for exegetical cruces such as this one.

The two translations that follow below verify Oswalt’s claim that this interpretation is an ancient tradition – minus perhaps the “for a hundred years” part. Heshusius’ commentary was published in 1617, though the commentary itself must have an earlier date of origin, since Heshusius passed away in 1588. (For more on Heshusius’ life, see here.) Jerome’s commentary dates to 395-400 AD.

As far as the validity of this ancient tradition for interpreting Isaiah 40:31, we must take into consideration at least the following points:

  • King Solomon (ruled 971-932 BC) was one of the wisest men ever to have lived (1 Kings 3:12), and one of the subjects he lectured on was ornithology (1 Kings 4:33). For how many years after his death was his lecture material still available, either in written form or through oral tradition?
  • We do not know which particular species of eagle, if any, Isaiah had in mind. (The Hebrew word נֶשֶׁר has also been translated griffon vulture.)
  • The modern-day bald eagle, for instance, only has an average lifespan of 20 years and its documented molting cycles do not match the every-10-years cycle of this ancient tradition. However, in addition to the previous point, the lifespan and behavior of humans have varied greatly from place to place and throughout the thousands of years of their existence. Why not also with birds and other creatures?
  • Solomon’s father David (1039-969 BC) expressly likened the renewing of one’s youth to what happens to an eagle (Psalm 103:5).

Of course, regardless of which interpretation one prefers – mounting up (Luther), soaring (modern), or growing new flight feathers (ancient) – the point is the same and must not be lost: Leaving the terms and timetable for resolution to God, patiently and willingly suffering for his sake, and trusting in his implicit goodness in Christ Jesus – all of which cannot be done without regular contact with his saving Word – results in ever-increasing and renewed strength for life here on earth and eternal life in heaven. May God always bless our study of his Word to that purpose and end.

Tilemann Heshusius’ Commentary on Isaiah 40:30-31

OVERVIEW OF CHAPTER 40

With this chapter and those that follow to the end of the book, the prophet Isaiah begins sermons that are new in a way. Every one of them is meant to confirm, repeat, and shed light on the promise concerning the coming of the Messiah, both regarding his spiritual and eternal kingdom and regarding his eternal benefits,1 and to strengthen the Church in faith as she awaits salvation from the Messiah. For he explicitly prophesied several times in chapters 3 and 5 that the people of Jerusalem were going to be led away into captivity. And in chapter 39 he plainly announced to King Hezekiah that all the treasures of the king of Judah were going to be carried off to Babylon, and that the sons of the king of Judah were going to be servants in the court of the king of Babylon. And in chapters 24 and 34 he predicted that Jerusalem was going to be so completely destroyed and overthrown at some point that it would never rise again. But if the Mosaic government would be eradicated and the Synagogue rejected from being the people of God, could not the pious begin to doubt and think that all hope of the Messiah’s coming was cut off? That God had changed his will and plan concerning the redemption of the human race and retracted the promise repeated in so many generations?

Therefore, in order that he may remove this doubt and strengthen the pious in faith in the coming Messiah, he preaches with absolute certainty about the Messiah’s coming, expounds his spiritual kingdom in exact detail, describes the distinguished person of the Messiah in many different ways, and comforts the Church with the news that she will be gloriously freed by the Messiah and brought to supreme glory and happiness, and that neither the extremely oppressive Babylonian captivity nor the other manifold misfortunes that will befall that people are going to prevent the coming of the Messiah, who is going to appear towards the end of the government. Yes, he predicts, in fact, that the people of Israel are going to be freed from the Babylonian captivity and that the entire Babylonian empire is going to be destroyed and overthrown by Cyrus the Persian, that Jerusalem is going to be restored and the government preserved until the promised Messiah is presented. Therefore he tells the pious to be of good cheer and to place all their confidence in the promised Messiah, and to expect certain righteousness and salvation from him, and far greater and superior blessings in the New Testament, with the Mosaic government abrogated, than they had ever possessed in the Old.

First he comforts the Church and predicts that the end of the Mosaic government and of the entire Old Testament is drawing near, and he expounds in summary fashion the future benefits of the New Testament, which of course include the free remission of sins.

Then he prophesies about John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who would cause people to leave the temple and, with sacrifices left behind, would proclaim in the wilderness that the New Testament was about to commence2 and would prepare the way for the Lord Messiah by the preaching of repentance, and would testify with a clear voice that the Messiah was at hand.

He teaches that the Lord himself would be the Messiah, and that the omnipotent God, having been clothed in human flesh, would live among humans and furnish himself for viewing and go about among the cities of Judah. He accuses the entire human race of sin and corruption, in order to warn all people that they need the help of a mediator. He encourages the Church by liberally publishing the good news that the promised Messiah will be presented.3

He describes the Messiah’s spiritual kingdom, that he will not rule with arms and armies the way other kings do, but will gather his Church together like a shepherd and will lead his faithful in a most agreeable and gentle way. He teaches that Christ will rule with divine and heavenly power, and that he will gather a holy church in the world through the ministry of the gospel, the gates of hell notwithstanding. Upon all his enemies, however, he will inflict eternal punishments.

He then preaches in splendid detail about the immense wisdom and infinite power of the Messiah, that he is the creator of heaven and earth, that he has all things in his hand, that he is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, that all the nations are nothing when considered in comparison with the Messiah, the omnipotent God. He teaches that idols and images are nothing, and that those who rely on them are extremely delusional, but that the Messiah is the most powerful of all, as the one who has heaven and earth in his hand, who reduces powerful kings and princes to nothing and makes the wise look like fools.

He teaches that God has not forgotten his Church, nor has he retracted his promise, nor does God grow weary with the passing of time. And so there should be no doubt as to the coming of the Messiah, nor should they abandon the hope of salvation; indeed, they should rather conclude that God will certainly fulfill and accomplish what he has promised, and that he is always supplied with strength and power, but that this kind of judgment will ensue for even the strongest young men, that their strength will let them down so that they fail. But those who wait on the Lord and steadfastly persist in faith will continually regain new powers and will be strengthened through the Holy Spirit. And in this way he instructs the pious to become partakers of Christ’s spiritual kingdom through faith and eager expectation, and to reap the fruit of the Messiah’s coming.

VERSES 27-31

27. Why therefore would you say, O Jacob, and (why) would you, O Israel, speak (this way): “My way has been hidden from the Lord, and my judgment escapes my God”?
28. Do you not know? Have you not heard that God is eternal, and the Lord is the one who created the ends of the earth? He neither wears out from fatigue nor can his intelligence wear out.
29. He (rather) gives strength to the faint, and to him whose powers have surely forsaken him, he supplies vigor in abundance.
30. Grown men are rendered tired and panting, and the choicest young men all fall down.
31. But those who wait for the Lord continually regain new powers; they will raise wings like the eagles. They will run and not wear out; they will walk and not get tired.

Grown men are rendered tired and panting, and the choicest young men all fall down.

He compares the powers of the impious to those of the pious, and he shows how the success is different in each case. The impious vaunt their powers, wisdom, righteousness, free will, courage, and vigor. They expect that they will be able to overcome all troubles and adversities by their own strength. They are confident that they will be able to endure God’s judgment and to overcome death by their own merits and to obtain eternal life. But in fact when troubles and adversities assail, when severe trials attack, when sins awake and they are overwhelmed with a sense of God’s wrath, when death exposes his powers, immediately they grow weary, are unable to hold out, and all fall down.

For human powers cannot endure the judgment of God, and the impious are all destitute of the work and help of the Holy Spirit and therefore must of necessity meet their ruin. Thus Saul met his ruin, Sennacherib fell, Balthasar perished, Goliath fell, the Pharisee in Luke 18 fell. And all the impious, who trust in their own works and powers, sink into despair in the end, destitute of all comfort. Even if they are the choicest young men, who stand out in wisdom, righteousness, vigor, and virtue, who are regarded as most holy, all these fall down too, both among the people of God and among all the heathens.

But those who wait for the Lord continually regain new powers; they will raise wings like the eagles. They will run and not wear out…

That is, the pious, who place their confidence and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, are continually bolstered with comfort, are revived through the Holy Spirit, receive the remission of sins, are flooded with new light, acquire new powers, are renewed and transformed from splendor to splendor [cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18]. They are sustained in all affliction and adversity, are assisted in every hardship, are strengthened in trials. And in the very courtroom of God’s justice and the sensing of the wrath of God, and also in the agony of death, they have the Holy Spirit as an advocate [paracletum], they receive a taste of eternal life, overcome all evils, and obtain eternal life.

He distinguishes the pious from the impious thus: “But those who wait for the Lord,” that is, those in whom true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ shines forth. For the pious have sins just as much as the impious do. And the pious in large part are weak and feeble. Yet they do not fall down, for they receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the one difference between them and the impious, that the pious wait for the Lord.

They therefore continually regain new powers. Just as eagles change their feathers every ten years and renew their strength, so the pious will blossom even in old age; they will be lush and green.

“They will run” – namely in the labors of their vocation, in the endeavor to be pious, in great dangers and trials. “…and not wear out” – namely, they will not be broken by any hardship or any adversity, since they are confirmed and strengthened through the Holy Spirit, whom they have received through faith, and in the end, with all evils overcome, they will be led into eternal life. And thus he also indicates the means through which we may apply to ourselves all the Messiah’s benefits, the remission of sins, grace and truth, an eternal reward, renewal, and eternal life.

Jerome’s Commentary on Isaiah 40:30-31

…That is why God gives sadness to those who have an impenitent heart, in order that they may recognize their sins. And since many people take pleasure in the health of the body, and think that youth and childhood last forever, he continues by saying that the flowering age of life quickly fades, and sturdy bodies waste away. But those who have confidence not in their own powers, but in God, and are always awaiting his mercy put on new strength [mutent fortitudinem] and proceed from strength to strength [de virtute in virtutem], and they take on feathers like the eagles, and they hear, “Your youth will be renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:5). They run to the Lord, and do not toil under his desire; they walk, and never grow weak. We have often said that the old age of eagles is revitalized by the exchanging of feathers, and that they are the only ones that gaze at the brightness of the sun and can look at the splendor of its rays with sparkling eyes, and they use this test determine whether their chicks are of the noble kind. So too the saints become children again, and since they have taken on an immortal body, they are not affected by the hardship of mortals, but they are snatched up to meet Christ in the clouds, and according to the Septuagint they do not get hungry at all, because they have the Lord at their side as their food.

Endnotes

1 Latin: & de spirituali & æterno regno ipsius de ipsius æternis beneficiis,… There is either an “&” missing before the second de, or the second de should be cum.

2 I am reading exorsurum (in agreement with testamentum) for exorsurus.

3 I am reading exhibiturus for exhibitus.

Life of Tilemann Heshusius

Tilemann Heshusius, taken from Leuckfeld's 1716 biography. The caption reads: "This is Heshusius, a man of great gifts | Whom few truly appreciated; many rejected him | My reader, read this work; consider it impartially | And see whether or not people have done too much to Heshusius."

Tilemann Heshusius, taken from Leuckfeld’s 1716 biography. The caption reads: “This is Heshusius, a man of great gifts | Whom few truly appreciated; many rejected him | My reader, read this work; consider it impartially | And see whether or not people have done too much to Heshusius.”

Translator’s Preface

My first introduction to Tilemann Heshusius (also spelled Heshus or Heshusen) was in either Survey of Theological German or European Lutheran German Writings – two courses I took at Martin Luther College. From time to time the professor would hold Fluffstunden or “fluff classes,” so named because we had no homework due for those classes. In the “fluff classes,” he would tell us about the life and work of various famous Lutherans, usually the Lutheran author of whichever work we happened to be working through at the time.

The detail that stuck out for myself and many students during the “fluff class” on Tilemann Heshusius was that Heshusius supposedly got kicked out of one of his positions for decking a Crypto-Calvinist. (This same professor, now retired, also likes to tell the story of the student who was unfamiliar with Crypto-Calvinism and thus erroneously thought that what the professor found so amusing about Heshusius was that he had decked a “crippled Calvinist.”)

I recently had the opportunity to glean from Heshusius’ knowledge in preparation for a sermon on Isaiah 40:31. God willing, I will post the fruits of that labor later this week. In the process, I thought it would also be a good idea to review Heshusius’ life, which was indeed characterized by battles with Crypto-Calvinism, although I was unable to confirm the story of his physical altercation. Crypto-Calvinists were Calvinists posing as Lutherans who undermined and weakened especially the biblical (and Lutheran) teaching about baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

The definitive biography on Heshusius is Johann Georg Leuckfeld’s Historia Heshusiana oder Historische Nachricht von dem Leben, Bedienungen und Schrifften Tilemanni Heßhusii (Quedlinburg and Aschersleben, 1716), available at the Post-Reformation Digital Library. Lacking the time to translate Leuckfeld, I opted to work through “Tilemann Heshusius’ Leben,” a relatively short piece that was copied from the preface of an 1862 reprint of one of Heshusius’ works and printed in the October 29, 1862, issue (vol. 19, no. 5) of Der Lutheraner (ed. C. F. W. Walther). The endnotes below are my own.

Men like Heshusius always make me as a pastor wonder just how soft we American Lutherans have become in adhering to and defending the truth. May the Lord of the Church use the example of Heshusius at the very least to urge us on to a more zealous promotion and defense of the true and pure doctrine of his Word.

Life of Tilemann Heshusius

In the last issue we advertised the little book by Heshusius, Who Has the Authority, Eligibility, and Right to Call Preachers? [Wer Gewalt, Fug und Recht habe, Prediger zu berufen?], which had just been published.1 We also promised to acquaint our readers with the turbulent life of this noteworthy man.2 We will do this by sharing the short biography that can be found in the preface of the just-mentioned little book, which we hereby strongly recommend to our readers yet again. In the preface just referred to, it reads as follows:

Tilemann Heshusius, the author of this little book, not only generally occupies a place among the most learned, brilliant, godly, and experienced theologians and among the most forceful and faithful warriors for the pure doctrine of Luther in our church, but it was precisely many of his particular experiences that taught him especially how important it is that the right to call and depose preachers be administered by those to whom God himself has awarded it in his word, namely, by the church or congregation. The entire life of our Heshusius was namely, as Heinsius notes in his church history, “an almost continual wandering,” and in fact for this reason in particular: At his time partly the secular government and partly the so-called religious leaders [Geistlichkeit] almost exclusively arrogated to themselves all ecclesiastical authority, and especially the authority to call and depose public ministers [Kirchendiener]. If this authority had been in the hands of his congregations, who mostly stuck by him as a highly gifted and zealous preacher of God’s word, then he would not have taken the walking stick in his hand as often as he did, and would not have had to experience the distress of abandoning his cherished congregations and surrendering them to false teachers.

The life and activity of our Heshusius occurred mainly in that period immediately after Luther’s death, during which the Crypto-Calvinists (that is, the secret, disguised Calvinists) were infiltrating many Lutheran churches, while the faithful followers of Luther were using all kinds of tricks in an attempt to eliminate them from their positions, and in the process were getting secular authority on their side. Now the more zealously Heshusius held tightly to the jewel of the pure Lutheran doctrine and to the church discipline that was grounded in it and continued to expose and battle for his flock the wolves in sheep’s clothing that had snuck in everywhere, those wolves were all the more furious in assailing him and causing him every sorrow one can only imagine, along with their fellow party members. One counts at least seven exiles which this valuable witness had to endure during his life for the sake of the truth.

He was born on November 3, 1527, in Wesel in the Duchy of Cleves. After he had attended various German and French universities, he became a master in 1550 at the University of Wittenberg, and a doctor of theology there in 1553, after he had already become superintendent in Goslar the year before.3 But since he would not discharge his ministry according to the instructions of the burgomaster of Goslar, he experienced his first exile here as a result of the burgomaster’s intrigues. This happened in 1556; yet he received a call to Rostock as preacher and professor of theology that same year. Here too he only had a resting-place for a short time. Controversies arose over the introduction of a better Sunday celebration and over the abolition of certain papistic ceremonies that were still being retained there. Here too Heshusius found the burgomaster to be a decided opponent, who also finally brought it about, even against the duke’s will, that Heshusius had to leave the city after only a year had passed. But still in the same year (1557) he received the honor of being a professor primarius, a president of the church council, and a general superintendent in Heidelberg. Scarcely had he taken up these positions when he got wrapped up in a harsh battle with the Calvinists who had infiltrated there, particularly with his deacon, named Klebitz, a battle which ended yet again with his deposition in 1559.

He then became superintendent in Bremen, but since the council there would not dismiss the Calvinist Hardenberg, Heshusius himself resigned and went from there to Magdeburg, where in fact he received the pastorate at the Church of St. John in 1560 and the position of superintendent in 1561. But he would not refrain from publicly testifying against the Crypto-Calvinists, Synergists, and others, and he felt compelled to pronounce the ban on the city council. So finally in 1562, after he continued preaching in spite of the prohibition he had received, one day (it was October 21) he was suddenly and forcibly conducted out of the city in the middle of the night.4 He then stayed for a while in Wesel, the city of his birth, until he also had to withdraw from this city in 1564 on account of his stern writings against the papists.

Now after he had lived for a brief period in Frankfurt, he became court preacher of the Count Palatine of Zweibrücken in Neuburg, then in 1569 professor of theology in Jena until 1573, when he was again dismissed from his position on account of his zeal against Crypto-Calvinism, but was soon thereafter chosen to be the Bishop of Samland. But this honor was also taken back away from him already in 1577 on account of a theological controversy with Wigand. After he had then withdrawn to Lübeck for a brief period, he followed a new call to be professor primarius in Helmstädt, where he then remained until his blessed end, which followed on September 25, 1588. In 1578 he had had the misfortune of falling into a cellar, as a result of which he had to limp until his death.

For those who are unfamiliar with the period in which Hehusius lived and with the intrigues of the enemies of the pure Word that were rampant within the Lutheran Church at that time, Heshusius may appear to be a quarrelsome man judging from what precedes. But anyone familiar only with Heshusius’ Little Prayer Book [Betbüchlein], for example, will soon note that, while this cherished man was engaged in a constant battle with men that was forced upon him, he was living in the peace of God and finding in God’s lap the rest that the hostile world was denying him.

Endnotes

1 The book was advertised in the October 15 issue thus: “The following little book has just been published: Who Has the Authority, Eligibility, and Right to Call Preachers? By Dr. Tilemann Heshusius. Printed unaltered according to the original edition of 1561. St. Louis, Mo. Publishing House of L. Volkening. 1862” (p. 32). The reprinted book was 40 octavo pages [Seiten] and cost 15 cents.

2 This promise was made in a footnote.

3 This accords with Leuckfeld’s biography (p. 4-5), but according to the Real-Encyklopädie für protestantische Theologie und Kirche (2nd ed.), Heshusius became superintendent of Goslar in 1553 and obtained his doctorate on May 5, 1555. A footnote at this point in the Der Lutheraner article says that around this time Heshusius married the daughter of the well-known zealous theologian Simon Musaeus, but he did not marry Barbara Musaeus until 1566 after he was widowed. His first wife was Anna Berthen, the daughter of the burgomaster of Wesel.

4 Leuckfeld says that the border warden (Marckmeister) and 30 to 40 armed citizens invaded Heshusius’ parsonage property, and they “occupied house, property, garden, and everything, so that no one could get out or in, while nearly 500 fully armed citizens had to be stationed at the door, since he [Heshusius] was then forcibly driven out of the city by them at three o’clock at night as far as the cloister [bis zur Cluß],* along with his very pregnant wife, whose developing child [Frucht] they also did not spare even in the womb” (p. 33). * Cluß appears to be a variant for Klause, which means cell, cloister, hermitage, or (narrow) mountain pass.

Strieter Autobiography: Subscribing for the Book

If you are interested in owning a hard copy of Strieter’s autobiography, please read on. (If you do not yet know anything about the autobiography, please read Part 1 here.)

The most recent installment of Strieter’s autobiography, that is, the last part of the chapter “Hardships and Happenings,” will be the last installment from that work that appears on this blog. The remaining chapters are:

  • “Battle with the Fanatics” – his encounters with the Methodists and Albright Brethren during his Wisconsin years
  • “My Departure from the Injunland”
  • “Aurora” – his time in Aurora, Illinois
  • “Snippet on Squaw Grove and Pierceville”
  • “Peru” – his time in Peru, Indiana (today St. John’s, Peru)
  • “Proviso” – his time in Proviso, Illinois (today Immanuel, Hillside)
  • “The Saloon and Ball” – his battle against drinking and dancing in Proviso
  • “The Lodge” – his battle against lodge membership
  • “Pleasant Experiences” – the stand-out joys that God gave him throughout his ministry, including his marriage, and also his retirement from the ministry
  • “Addendum”

At this point, the plan is to publish the autobiography as a hardcover book when finished, even to self-publish if necessary. If self-publishing is necessary, complimentary volumes would be given to anyone who has been helpful in this process, most notably the Concordia Historical Institute, the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library, and a select group of Pastor Strieter’s descendants. I would ask any other descendant of Pastor Strieter for a donation simply matching the per-volume cost of publication. And to anyone else interested, I would ask for a donation marginally exceeding the per-volume cost (the goal being to make up for the complimentary volumes and ultimately to break even). (If a professional publisher accepts the manuscript, then I would only see to it that the complimentary volumes were distributed.)

If self-published, the format and size of the book would tentatively be something akin to a David McCullough hardcover, minus the dust jacket – with a small, elegant, professional emblem on the cover (silhouette of a profile of a bearded man with horse and buggy), two or three groups of pages with pictures related to the content inserted at intervals (thus no picture will be by itself in the body of the text), and a section of endnotes at the end of each chapter (as opposed to footnotes on each page) so that they don’t distract the reader who simply wishes to enjoy the autobiography by itself. Regardless of how it is published, I will also see to the provision of an index of names, places, concepts, events, etc. including modern-day churches descended from or related to the congregations Strieter mentions.

I am hereby asking all interested parties – whether individuals, societies, or organizations – to provide me with their name(s), address(es), and the number of copies desired. You can email me at:

redbrickparsonage@gmail.com

I will compile these names in a subscription spreadsheet so that I have a good idea of how many copies to have printed.

The other benefit of an advance subscriber spreadsheet is that, if the number of subscribers adds up sufficiently, I may be able to use that spreadsheet to persuade a publisher to accept the manuscript and take over publishing responsibilities. While this might affect format, size, and layout, it would definitely make my life easier and most likely result in broader distribution.

Thank you for your interest in Strieter’s autobiography, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Strieter Autobiography: Civil War Draft

[Continued from Part 31. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here. If you are interested in subscribing for a hard copy of the book, read the next part here.]

Hardships and Happenings (conclusion)

Stephen A. Douglas, by Vannerson, 1859.

Stephen A. Douglas, by Vannerson, 1859.

I voted for the first time in my life for Stephen A. Douglas,68 and was thus registered in the roll of citizens. That resulted in me getting drafted [gedräfted].69 I presented myself in Berlin. The captain told me that I probably wouldn’t come up because a number of men had been drafted and only six70 were needed. I had a high number; they would probably have their number six man before they got to me. But he told me when I should report back.

The time came. Nobody knew how it would turn out. My dear Ferdinand Röske, my teacher, got the horse ready and was going to come along. Now came the terrible moment of parting. My wife fell around my neck and cried, “O Papa! O Papa!” The children grabbed me around the body at my legs and arms and cried, “O Papa! O Papa!”

I had to leave. Having arrived in Berlin, I went to the office. There I was told, “You have to go; almost everyone before you was ineligible.” He would give me two hours to find a substitute. He actually didn’t have any right to do that, but since I was a minister, he would show me the courtesy.

I go out. There stands a man who is waiting for such an opportunity. I take him inside, but the gentleman said, “He is better than you, but he has a bald head and therefore I am not allowed to take him, for I am only allowed to enlist first class men as substitutes.”

Outside I was told, “Down there are half-breed Indians who will go for cheap.”

I said, “I am not taking an Indian. I want the kind of man who knows what he’s doing.”

Then a young, impressive guy comes and offers to go for me, but says right away that he demands 725 dollars. I lead him inside. He is good.

I run to my Fischer, in whose house I held church, and ask if he would act as surety for me at the bank so that I could have 725 greenbacks for 24 hours. “Oh sure!” he says.

We head to the bank. Fischer says, “Give the gentleman 725 greenbacks in my name.” He counts them out for me.

I go over and give the person his greenbacks. He is delighted. “700 dollars I will send to my wife – I have a wife and a child – and 25 I will keep as spending money.”

I send my Ferdinand home to bring the good news and arrange for him to come back in the morning, and with my companion I take the railroad to Milwaukee, go to my friend F. E.71 and share my need with him. He goes with me to Mr. So-and-so, but he won’t help. He goes with me to Pritzlaff, whose name I will gladly share. The gentleman is in his hardware store bright and early and is in the middle of sweeping his office.72 My escort remains standing outside by the door. I go inside and bid good morning and say my situation, that I would very much like 725 greenbacks to be able to pay my banker by tonight, and he would get his money back little by little.

He said he had given Pastor N. Beyer money for a substitute, but he had been released from duty. I could go and get that money for myself.

I say, “Beyer is up on the Wolf River. That is impossible for me, to retrieve that money in time.”

P[ritzlaff] continues sweeping in silence. After a pause I say, “Mr. P[ritzlaff], if you are unable or if you are unwilling to help, please say so.”

He looks up at the ceiling. “Yeah? And what would you do then?”

“Whatever God wills,” I say.

He throws his broom into the corner, goes to his desk and writes, and hands me the slip of paper. I express my thanks and go out to my F. E. and hand him my paper. He says, “Now you’ve got help.” Off he goes with me to the bank and presents his slip, and the gentleman counts up 725 greenbacks, which I tuck away and now board the train for Berlin, give the banker the money and ask how much I owe.

“Nothing,” he says, and full of joy, I go home to my family, who laugh and rejoice with me a thousand times over.

But now we did even more saving – for we had to be frugal enough as it was in those terribly expensive times – so that the debts would be paid. All the money was supposed to be sent to Lochner.73 Everybody helped. Money was coming in from all sides. Pastor Hügli of Detroit, Michigan, sent money to Pastor F[riedrich] Lochner along with a note that, in return, Strieter had to pluck a tuft of hair from his beard and send it to him.

After I moved to Aurora I sent one more payment. Lochner sent a portion of it back to me along with a note that it was all paid up. God has surely given and will give the dear Pritzlaff his reward of grace for what he did [Luke 6:38], so too to the others who helped.

Endnotes

68 In the 1860 election

69 Cf. endnote 73. It appears that Strieter was not drafted until 1864.

70 Both here and in the next line, Strieter originally had “four,” but the correction appears to be his own and not Leutner’s.

71 Strieter originally had “N. N.” – an abbreviation meaning “[Mr.] So-and-so.” Leutner must have known the identity of Strieter’s friend.

72 Pritzlaff’s store was eventually incorporated as the John Pritzlaff Hardware Company, which has gained some fame in Milwaukee’s history. At the time of this story, Pritzlaff was at his original store on the corner of what is today N Old World 3rd Street and W State Street. Eventually he would build a new store at what is today 311 N Plankinton Avenue, where his company would become, as it has been called, “somewhat like the Amazon.com of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Pritzlaff died on March 18, 1900, a fact of which Strieter appears to have been unaware, judging from what he says at the end of the story.

73 The following “Urgent Request” appeared in the December 15, 1864, issue of Der Lutheraner (p. 62): “Of the five pastors in Wisconsin from our synodical organization who were selected by lot for military service in the most recent draft, one has been declared fit for duty and has thus been forced to buy a replacement at a high price. This is Mr. Pastor J[ohannes] Strieter. Now since Mr. Pastor Schwankovsky has been absolved of military service due to physical inadequacy and therefore no longer requires the payoff amount pledged for him by pastors, teachers, and delegates during the synod convention, the undersigned thought he could safely assume with Mr. Pastor Strieter that the respective underwriters would transfer their contribution to the latter, and so the amount of $740.00 was raised by congregation members here in a short time. In the certain hope that this request is not being made in vain, the undersigned accordingly requests that the pastors, teachers, and delegates in question would send their contribution his way immediately upon receipt of this information. It will also be noted that from the congregation of Mr. Pastor Strieter only limited assistance can be expected, perhaps even none at all. Therefore, should others who have not made any pledge also feel compelled to make a contribution, it will be accepted with that much greater thanks, and any potential surplus will be reserved for assistance of the same nature in the future and conscientiously used at the proper time. Milwaukee, November 20, 1864. F[riedrich] Lochner.”

Note that there is a $15 discrepancy in the amount – owing perhaps to Strieter’s faulty memory or to a gratuity added to the loan amount as a token of gratitude to Mr. Pritzlaff. It also remains unanswered whether the reference to “congregation members here” is an attempt to conceal Mr. Pritzlaff’s identity, or is an indication that Pastor Lochner’s congregation (Trinity, Milwaukee) paid back Mr. Pritzlaff and assumed the debt as a whole.

Strieter Autobiography: The Brimstone Boys

[Continued from Part 30. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Translator’s Note

The first time through this section, I would suggest completely ignoring the endnotes as you read. Simply enjoy the good, clean, Lutheran shenanigans.

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I attended the conventions and conferences. One time I didn’t go to the local conference because I was sick. I also was not at the 1854 convention in St. Louis because I was very poor and had no money for traveling. I also was not at one delegate convention and had my alternate go, because I was deaf and wouldn’t have been able to hear anything anyways. Otherwise, to my knowledge, I was at all the conventions and conferences from 1853 up to my retirement from the ministry. More than once I baptized my newborn baby and then departed, or it was born to me while I was gone. Never did I submit the excuse: “domestic circumstances.”50

Johannes Strieter with full beard, c. 1860s. Photo courtesy of Susan Hawkins.

Johannes Strieter with full beard, c. 1860s. Photo courtesy of Susan Hawkins.

At the beginning of the 60s I came to the convention in St. Louis with a full beard and had to put up with a lot of teasing.51 This is how it happened: I was shaving at a farmer’s place in Big Bull. He didn’t have a mirror; there was only a small triangular piece of a mirror in the house. It had been stuck into a crack in one of the beams in the log house. That was okay, but the razor was like a saw and the heavy, bitter tears ran down my cheeks.

Then I asked myself, “Did our dear God really cause the beard to grow so that we could torture ourselves with it so shamefully?” and I answered, “No.” And from then on I let everything grow as it pleased. To this day I never again had a razor put to my face.

Professor Crämer with full beard (source)

Professor Crämer with full beard (source)

In St. Louis Missionary Clöter took a liking to my beard. Later we had convention in Monroe, Michigan, and Clöter came with the full beard too.52 In the evening there was supposed to be conference, but there wasn’t a lot going on. My Jox right away nominated Strieter to conduct the meeting; I had to take the chair and Clöter was made secretary. Jox wanted to have the two bearded men up in front. Soon many people were following my example with the full beard, even my dear Prof. Crämer.

One time we had convention in Watertown and I drove there with Fanny, 75 miles.53 One time conference was in Lebanon and I also drove the 80 miles there to Babylon.54 One time conference was in Woodland, and I also drove there.55 One time it was in Freistadt, and I also drove there.56 There we camped in the late Fürbringer’s study.57 Beds were positioned on the floor on both sides. Our feet were touching in the middle. Outside58 stood a bed for two. Ruhland lingered downstairs a bit long. Stecher and Steinbach slipped into the bed, to Ruhland’s chagrin. Whether he liked it or not, he would have to join us in the camp. Strasen was lying up by the door and says, “You guys leave the last spot open for Ruhland and when he comes marching through, each of you give him a kick.” He had to get undressed outside.59 Once he’s in by us, Strasen gives him one. He turns around and starts griping. In the meantime he gets one from the other side. Then he sees the game we’re playing and strikes out for his bed, but he gets his kick from both sides all the way down. Having reached the end, he starts in: “You despicable people.” But we are laughing hysterically and he starts laughing too. Oh, Ruhland was just terrific!60

One time conference was in Mayville, where Dicke was.61 I drove there. As I was unhitching, my horse was nibbling around at the dung. Everyone was standing outside when I came. Then the dear Synod President Wyneken exclaimed, “Look! Strieter’s horse is so hungry, it’s feeding on dung, and so shamefully lean. We should take up a collection so that Strieter can buy oats.”

But my Dicke came to my aid: “That horse is not lean. It is thin and empty right now because it has run 40 miles.62 No horse looks round after doing that.”

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken in his older years

Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken

One time conference was at Jox’s place in Kirchhain.63 Dr. Sihler was also there. In the evening someone called in through the window, “Is there still room in the camp?” It was our old, dear President Wyneken.64 The joy was great. During the midday break we went under the green trees and played Plumpsack.65 Link set it up.66 The old gentlemen had to play too. Link especially had it in for Wyneken. He often had to get out of the ring and received some terrific whackings from Link. W[yneken] would laugh his head off and run. Even the old Dr. had to take his turns.

We were very brotherly together and were attentive during the sessions. Back then it never occurred to anyone to read the newspaper during that time or to tell something to the guy next to him. Our headmen were Strasen and Link, and they supplied most of the papers. Wyneken called us the Brimstone Boys [Schwefelbande].67

Endnotes

50 Leutner corrected Strieter’s “häusliche Umstände” to “Familienverhältnisse wegen.”

51 The Missouri Synod Convention was held in St. Louis on October 10ff., 1860.

52 The Northern District Convention took place in Monroe, Michigan, on May 29ff., 1861.

53 The Northern District Convention took place in Watertown on June 18ff, 1862.

54 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Lebanon from May 5-7, 1863.

55 The Milwaukee Pastoral Conference met in Woodland from April 26-28, 1864.

56 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Freistadt from September 9-11, 1862.

57 This may have been an honorary name for the study due to Ottomar Fuerbringer’s faithful service in Freistadt from 1851-1858. By the time this conference was held, Friedrich Boeling had been using this study since the beginning of 1861.

58 Leutner’s correction is probably more correct: “In the room next door…”

59 See previous endnote.

60 Something is amiss in this story, since Friedrich Carl Theodor Ruhland (1836-1879), one of the more vociferous opponents of the Wisconsin Synod at this time, had moved from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Wolcottsville, Niagara County, New York, and had been installed as pastor of St. Michael’s Church there on July 6, 1862, before the conference in Freistadt was held. (It also does not seem likely that the study in Freistadt would have been upstairs.) Since it does not seem likely that Strieter was mistaken about Ruhland, the main character in the story, perhaps he was mistaken about the location. Perhaps this occurred at the conference Ruhland himself hosted from May 11-14, 1860 (which would explain why he was irritated about not getting to sleep in the bigger bed), or at the one in MIlwaukee on May 3-4, 1861. Ruhland eventually became the first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany, today in fellowship with the Wisconsin Synod.

61 I was unable to locate any announcement for a conference in Mayville during Strieter’s years of service in Wisconsin on the pages of Der Lutheraner. However, it may have been held in early May 1862, since the Wisconsin Pastoral Conference usually met around that time in other years.

62 The distance between Strieter’s homestead and Mayville is more like 70 miles, but Strieter most likely divided the journey between two days.

63 The Wisconsin Pastoral Conference met in Kirchhayn from September 3-5, 1861.

64 51 years old at the time

65 A German version of Duck-duck-goose played with a knotted handkerchief

66 That is, Pastor Georg Link of Immanuel, Lebanon

67 According to the Grimm Brothers’ Deutsches Wörterbuch, Schwefelbande, lit. “sulfur gang,” denotes “a sorry or slipshod gathering, a rabble, especially in more vulgar parlance and used colloquially.” It supposedly originated as a “nickname for Sulphuria, a students’ club in Jena that was notorious for not giving satisfaction,” and the Grimm Brothers also suggest that the label alludes to the devil or hell.

[Read the next part here.]