A Father's Last Embrace
Martin Luther was the German reformer who reclaimed, after centuries of religious darkness, the light of Scripture and the Christian doctrine of justification by faith alone-"the truth by which the Church either stands or falls." Against kings and councils, to the peril of his own life, he raised the banners of the Protestant Reformation: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), and Sola Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory). "Here I stand," said Luther. "I can do no other; God help me."
Luther's resolve and constant devotion to biblical truth may also be seen in the story of the death of his daughter Magdalene in September of 1542:|
As his daughter lay very ill, Dr. Luther said: "I love her very much, but dear God, if it be Thy will to take her, I submit to Thee." Then he said to her as she lay in bed: "Magdalene, my dear little daughter, would you like to stay here with your father, or would you willingly go to your Father yonder?" She answered: "Darling father, as God wills." Then he said, "Dearest child, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." Then he turned away and said: "I love her very much; if my flesh is so strong, what can my spirit do? God has given no bishop so great a gift in a thousand years as he has given me in her. I am angry with myself that I cannot rejoice in heart and be thankful as I ought."
Now as Magadalene lay in agony of death, her father fell down before the bed on his knees and wept bitterly and prayed that God might free her. Then she departed and fell asleep in her father's arms. As they laid her in the coffin he said: "Darling Lena, you will rise and shine like a star, yea, like the sun. I am happy in spirit, but the flesh is sorrowful and will not be content, the parting grieves me beyond measure. I have sent a saint to heaven."
The death of his daughter did not dampen Luther's love and fervent devotion to God. Later during his last illness, though he felt great pain, he talked with his friends to the last about the happiness of the future world and of meeting again hereafter. When his pain began to increase and death approached, he called for Justus Jonas, a fellow reformer, who heard him repeat three times, "Father, into Thy hand I commend my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me, O God of Truth!" and say the following prayer:
My dear heavenly Father, eternal, merciful God! Thou hast revealed unto me thy beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; him have I taught and confessed, him I love and honor as my dear Savior and Redeemer, whom the wicked persecute, despise and revile. Take my soul to thyself!
When the marks of approaching death appeared in his face, Jonas asked Luther, "Reverend father, will you stand firm in Christ, and upon the doctrine which you have preached?" Luther answered, "Yes!" and fell into a soft sleep and died. His daughter did not return to him, but he went to her.