Quote of the Week – Rubbing God’s Ears

Philip Melanchthon traveled to a colloquy in Hagenau after Philip of Hesse’s bigamy became known and was causing a scandal for the Lutherans. (Luther had actually recommended this bigamy for pastoral reasons—definitely not his finest moment.) The sensitive Melanchthon was so troubled by the scandal that by the time he reached Weimar he had already become so sick that he could not continue the trip. He contracted a bad fever and was bedridden.

Luther personally went to see him and arrived in Weimar on June 23, 1540. He found Melanchthon deathly ill, unrecognizable, and unable to hear or speak. Luther later said in one of his table talks that Melanchthon’s eyes had already dimmed like a dead person’s. After Luther expressed his shock, Matthaeus Ratzeberger, court physician for Duke John Frederick I of Saxony and eyewitness to what happened, says that Luther went to the window in the room and prayed an especially bold and earnest prayer. Luther himself seems to have felt the need to explain the boldness of the prayer afterwards either to everyone in the room or privately to Ratzeberger:

Our Lord God had to stand there and take it from me there, for I threw the sack at his door and rubbed his ears with all the promises to hear and answer prayers that I could recount from Holy Scripture, so that he had to hear and answer me if I was going to trust his promises in other matters too.

Luther then took Philip by the hand and said, “Cheer up, Philip, you are not going to die.” He then gave him a short address.

Philip seemed to regain his breath at this. When Luther ran to get him something to eat, Philip refused it, so Luther threatened him: “Listen here, Philip, here’s how it is: You are going to eat for me or I am going to put you under the ban.”

Melanchthon gave in, and from then on he began to recover.

Sources
Christian Gotthold Neudecker, ed., Die handschriftliche Geschichte Ratzeberger’s über Luther und seine Zeit (Jena: Druck und Verlag von Friedrich Mauke, 1850), pp. 103,104

Weimarer Ausgabe, Tischreden 5:129, no. 5407

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.

Strieter Autobiography: Winter Trips to Wausau

[Continued from Part 26. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

It was winter, I’m riding to Big Bull, it starts to snow and keeps on snowing and snowing. The snow gets deeper and deeper. I can’t ride fast any more, stay overnight halfway to Steven’s Point.9 Gets terribly cold. I’m lying in the bed and freezing, finally get up, go out, open a door and, on a hope and a prayer, call out in English, “Landlord!”

“Huh?” is the answer I get. I ask him to get up. He comes.

“I have to go,” I say.

He accompanies me out to the stable, puts the saddle on. I pay and take off; it was two o’clock. But now how cold it is under the bright sky and in the air! Around 7 I come to my Everay, who tries to take off my shawl, but shawl and beard are one icy clump there. I first have to hold my head by the stove for a while until it thaws. I eat and get back on my pony to go to Big Bull. Again cannot ride hard; the snow is too deep and too loose. Around 8 in the evening I finally arrive in Wausau. I head for the inn and have my little horse brought into the stable. “I will take care of the pony,” says the hostler.

I say, “No, I will take care of the pony,” have him make a straw-bed for him, stick some hay in, give him water – he was not warm – and 4 quarts of oats. That done, we now go into the house. I let them give me something to eat, then go to bed.

Bright and early I get on my horse and head out into the bush and still make it on time for church, according to the arrangements I had made.10

Another time I take the sled.11 The neighborlady [Mrs.] K[ohnke] also sends a sackful of buckwheat groats with me to give her mother, and I had my box with books that I always brought along – hymnals, Bibles, postils, catechisms, prayer books, Bible histories – and a basket with my Communion paraphernalia and a traveling bag with my robe. I preach and hold Lord’s Supper here and there. I have to drive a long stretch through the beautiful virgin forest. There lies a tree stem across the path. 4 feet off the ground it had broken off and is lying on the stump and, on the opposite side, on its branches, 3 feet high or so off the ground. I cannot go around; there is thick underbrush both left and right. I undo my Rocky from the sled and draw him around to the other side and cover him up and now work at getting my sled onto the stem. It was heavy, and I have to exert myself tremendously. Finally I have it on top. But what now? I have no other choice but to let it go. Down it slides, but somewhat crooked. I crawl through underneath and try to lift the shaft up, but oh boy, it must have gotten stuck under something there. I cannot get it up and have to push my sled backwards onto the tree again so that I can get the shaft loose finally. I hitch my pony, but I had shoes on – my feet were wrapped in a wool cloth and I had fur shoes over that. The snow gets into my shoes, melts, and it’s getting cold now, for night was falling.

I hitch my horse and continue on to my destination. I arrive, my horse is taken off my hands and I go inside, sit down in front of the stove and try to take off my shoes and also my stockings, to rub my cold feet and warm them up. But the stockings are frozen tight to the skin, and I first have to stick my feet in the stove to thaw the ice.

Soon I lie down. I was lying for a while when I get a bed partner. He lay for a while, then he called out, “Yes, yes, Father Luther said so.” After a short pause: “Yes, yes, Father Luther said so.” Again after a while: “Yes, yes, Father Luther said so.”

I say, “What exactly did Father Luther say?”

He doesn’t say a word.

When I woke up in the morning, my bed partner was gone. I ask my hostess what sort of man that was. Then she told me that he was a follower of Grabau.12 He had come here with a bundle of money, had bought himself a bunch of land and had used his money to help others get land. He said that we were not the true Lutheran Church; he and his adherents were. Those he had tied to his purse strings stuck with him and he would read to them from Luther and act as their pastor.

We now drove through the bush over to the gardener, which is what he had been in Germany, and held church in his house. After church I say to the people, “Keep an eye on your pigs; there is a bear in the area. Back there in the woods I saw his tracks.”

When I came back,13 they told me that scarcely had I left when one day the sun had shone nice and bright and after that it had frozen again. Then the snow had frozen hard, and way up yonder stood a beech tree that had still had nuts that now fell down. Then they had lured the mother pig over there to glean the beechnuts. Pretty soon the pig had started squealing terribly, and the bear was sitting by it and wolfing down its flesh from its living body. The father had loaded the old shotgun, and since he didn’t have any shot, put stones in. The boy grabbed the axe and the father the gun and they went to meet the bear.

When they got close to him, he growled, and the father had aimed and lowered the gun again. The son yelled, “Father, shoot already!”

But the father said, “Yeah, if I don’t hit him right, then he’ll go off on us.”

The son said, “I’ve got the axe here; I’ll chop him on the head.”

The father aimed again and lowered the weapon again.

Then the boy said, “Father, give me the weapon. I’ll shoot,” and the bear lay down on his side. Shot him in the ear. They brought their pig home on the hand-sled and laid it in front of the stove and tended to it. Its whole side had already been eaten away down to the ribs. But it recovered again. They sold the bear’s hide, oil, and meat and made, if I’m not mistaken, 16 dollars.

When the story came to an end, the father exclaimed, “If only another bear would come!”

I drove home.14 It was cold. Between Steven’s Point and Wautoma I come to a place where I had previously turned left. I can see just fine how high the snow is, but think that the pathway still must be firm, for we would often go on trips 6 feet high above ground. The freshly fallen snow would always get trampled down firm again. But look, my pony sinks so deep into the snow that I can only still see his head and tail. I undo the horse, pull the sled back, and now trample around in the snow so that my horse can get some air, and I bring it out of there and hitch it back up. At this point a man comes who tells me that I had to turn left further down.

I make it through the woods back onto the open prairie. Then I come to two sleds loaded down with sacks. On the front sled were three yoke of oxen, on the back sled two yoke. The back sled driver lets his sled stand, comes to the front sled, and now one man beats on the oxen on this side, the other on the other side, until they have dragged the sled forward several rods or so [about 20-30 yards]. Then they go and get the back sled that far in the same manner. I’m finally able to pass the sleds and I come to my inn15 and think, “You should stay overnight.”

I have my little horse unharnessed and go inside. After a while two Jews come, one younger and one older, with a sled full of pelts which they had obtained from the Indians by trade. When they had warmed up and were about to leave, I ask where they were still planning on getting to tonight. “To Berlin,” was the answer.

To Berlin – that was at least another 30 to 40 miles! “Why,” I thought, “if they can do that, you can still make it home too.” I have my little horse hitched back up and I follow the Jews. The snow was dug out on the right side and so we could sled through along the fence and the snowbank. All at once my Jews disappeared. Then I reach the corner. The snow was dug out across the path to the other side and was so high that I couldn’t see the Jews any more when they turned the bend. Further along it bends back to the right, with the fence on the left and the snowbank on the right.

Then, all at once: Stop! There stood my Jews and I behind them, with a sled loaded with sacks in front of us that wants to come this way. Right away a troop of oxen comes, driven by two men, who also want to go up the way we were going. After briefly consulting, it was decided: “The big ox there in front must create a pathway.” The ox now gets some beatings and he burrows through the snow. When he makes it forward a few feet or so, then he is given a rest again, then they lay into him again, until he is finally around the sled in front of us. The others now had it easier. Once the oxen were gone, the driver in front of us also wants to turn out and go around, for we could not; we had a snowbank 6-8 feet high on the right. But his white horses won’t draw one trace tight. He had to unload all of his sacks and they then drew the empty sled around. Now there is a clear pathway and my Jews now try to get going, but now one of their horses won’t budge. They had a big old yellow horse on the right, and a young little animal on the left, four years old or so, who won’t budge. They now lash at the tired little animal mercilessly. The younger man goes and stands in front and beats him between the ears with the thick end of the whip handle. But the animal takes the beating and doesn’t move a muscle. I ask them to please not beat the animal like that. They should grab the big horse by the bridle and talk to him nicely to get him to draw the sled tight first. They did that and it worked. Away they go now, with me following along.

In Wautoma they turn left to go to Berlin, and I turn right to go to my homestead. I still had 12 miles. For a stretch it was going well, for I had a pathway, but now I had to leave the pathway and turn left. The snow is deep there. My Rocky is almost knee-deep in the snow. It’s not long before I have no idea where I am any more. I’m freezing terribly, throw the reins over my head and wrap myself in the buffalo. It is getting colder and colder. I think, “This night you will freeze to death.” I start praying that my dear God would please take my poor soul to himself if my final hour had arrived. Then the thought of the wife with her 4 little children occurs to me. “No,” I said to my dear God, “you cannot let me freeze to death. Bring me home alive to my family once more.” Sleep wants to overpower me. But I keep moving my arms and legs over and over and keep praying unceasingly to my God to please have mercy on me.

All at once I come upon a track and also see a house on the left. I look at it and recognize it; it’s the Bursak16 schoolhouse. I say, “Gid up, Rocky!” and in fifteen minutes I am in my yard. I go inside. My wife gets out of her warm nest and lies down with the children, and I get in. She throws everything we have on me, also gives me something warm to drink, but I am freezing so badly that my teeth are chattering. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. I had been sitting on the sled and had eaten nothing from 7 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the morning.

I finally fall asleep and don’t wake up until around 10 and now I want to go and get my mail, which we would get 3 times a week. I had 3 miles to travel and think, “The poor Rocky is so tired; just go on foot.” But that won’t work. The snow is so deep and so loose that I can’t make any headway. Then I think, “Go and get Rocky and put the saddle on and ride slowly.”

I go and get my Rocky and retrieve my mail items, let my little horse in through the small gate and have the wooden nail in my hand that gets pegged in front. My Rocky doesn’t quite go through far enough. I give him just a few taps in the rear and say, “Rocky, a little further.” He whinnies and turns right – two acres were fenced in – down along the fence, then up along it over there, and 3 times or so around the yard going along the fence, so that the snow and the halter strap were flying in the air. Oh, was I glad to see that!

Endnotes

9 I.e., in Plainfield. He appears to have stayed there on Monday night, November 26, 1860.

10 Namely, on Wednesday, November 28. He baptized one baby on Thursday, three on Friday, three on Sunday, and three on Tuesday.

11 He departed on this third and final mission trip to Wausau on Monday, January 14, 1861. He baptized three children that evening in Stevens Point. He stayed overnight in Wausau on Tuesday, and arrived at his destination on Wednesday morning, January 16. He baptized two children that day, two on Thursday, four on Saturday, and one on Tuesday.

12 Johannes Andreas August Grabau (1804-1879) was imprisoned in Erfurt in 1837 for opposing the Prussian Union (union of Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Prussia). With the help of friends he escaped and went to Berlin, where he continued his ministry secretly. He was arrested and imprisoned again in 1838. He was permitted to emigrate in 1839 and did so with about one thousand other Prussians. A small group stayed in Albany, while Grabau and the majority settled in Buffalo, where he served as a pastor for nearly 40 years. In 1845, he helped organize what came to be called the Buffalo Synod, a distant ancestor of today’s ELCA. Grabau butted heads with the Missouri Synod over his extreme views on ordination and the authority of the ministry, among other things.

13 Most likely for J. J. Hoffmann’s installation on Sunday, August 25, 1861.

14 Strieter is resuming his previous story, before the incident with the bear and the pig.

15 The inn in Plainfield he has already mentioned twice

16 The correct spelling appears to be Bursack.

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