Charity

Luther led with Catharine a very peaceful and happy domestic life. It
would be doing him great injustice and placing him in the rank of common
men, to judge of his conjugal and domestic demeanor from his public
character. Here there was no trace of that severity and violence which
can only find an apology in the frequent insulting conduct of his
enemies, the unrefined spirit of the times, but, above all, in his
burning zeal for the glory of God and the truth of the Gospel. No! in
the circle of his family he was an affectionate husband and tender
father; kind and condescending to all his household, and benevolent to
the poor. In writing to Stiefel (Aug. 11, 1526), he playfully says: “My
rib, Kate, salutes you. She is well, with God’s help; she is amiable,
obedient, and obliging in all things to a greater degree than I could
have hoped for, thank heaven, so that I would not exchange my poverty
for the wealth of Crœsus.” When he had finished his commentary on the
Epistle to the Galatians, he cried out, “This is my letter to which I am
betrothed; it is my Katy von Bora!” On the 31st of August, 1538, he thus
writes to Bernard von Dohlen: “If I were a young man again, now since I
have experienced the wickedness of the world, if a queen were offered to
me after my Catharine, I would rather die than marry a second time.” “I
could not have a more _obedient_ wife unless I would have one hewn out
of stone.” Many such expressions occur in his table-talk. Among other
things, he says, “I hear that there are much greater faults and
occasions of disagreement among married people than I find in my wife.
This is an abundant reason that I should love and esteem her, because
she is _sincere_ and _upright_, as a _pious_ and _discreet_ wife should
be.” “I have a _pious_ and _faithful_ wife in whom the heart of her
husband doth safely trust.” Prov. 31; 11. “I value her more highly than
I would the whole kingdom of France and the sovereignty of Venice; for
God has given me a _pious_ wife.” “The best and most valuable gift of
God is a pious, affectionate, godly, domestic wife, with whom you can
live at peace, to whom you may entrust all that you possess; yea, your
very body and life.”

But Catharine had in Luther not only an affectionate husband, but a man
who, on account of his enlightened understanding, his widespread
usefulness, and his undaunted heroism, deserved all the veneration he
received from all the truly pious of his generation.

From this time forth, Catharine was totally and forever weaned from the
monastic life, and all the anxieties for the future which may have
distressed her on her first escape, had now vanished. Though Luther’s
worldly circumstances were not the most flourishing, yet he was aided by
the liberality of the princes and other noble-minded men to such an
extent, at least, that he did not absolutely suffer for the necessaries
of life.[8] In this respect, Catharine’s circumstances were much
improved. However, many dangers threatened the bold champion of truth,
right, and liberty, which were calculated to disturb the happy serenity
of his wife. He had several alarming attacks of sickness, which
occasioned her painful solicitude. In the first year of his marriage
some noblemen conspired against him because he effected the escape of
thirteen nuns out of a cloister in the territory of Duke George. He
himself acknowledges this in a letter to Stiefel, and says of it, “I
have chased away Satan from this booty of Christ.” Hence, with tears,
she entreated him not to leave Wittenberg at such a perilous time when
he was invited to the wedding of Spalatin, and he yielded. But he was
not accustomed to be alarmed at the thunder-clouds which rolled over
him. Even as early as 1526, he undertook a journey in company with
Catharine, and yet that was the time he had most to fear. But he was
never free from danger. In 1530, when his father was lying on his
death-bed, he dared not venture to visit him, but wrote an affecting
letter, stating that his friends positively forbade his leaving
Wittenberg, lest he might be murdered. A Jewish physician of Posen was
hired for two thousand golden guilders to poison him. In 1541 he was
waylaid by an assassin, but escaped. Notwithstanding his vigorous
constitution, which seemed to promise extreme old age, yet from early
youth he was subject to frequent severe attacks of sickness, and under
such circumstances we may well wonder, that besides his numerous
professional labors, he was able to prepare so many theological works,
to conduct so extensive a correspondence with men of every class of
society, and accomplish so many journeys, which must have consumed much
time.[9] His master-piece, The Translation of the Bible, was a work
which scarcely any learned man of the present day could have
accomplished in the same space of time, under similar circumstances. Let
it be remembered that the first time he ever saw the whole of the Bible
in the Latin language he was already twenty-two years of age; that he
had few of the preliminary aids essential to such a work, and that the
German language was at that time still very imperfect. In twenty-eight
years the translation of the whole Bible was finished and printed.[10]
He suffered most from hæmorrhoidal affections, the treatment of which
was little understood at that time. These attacks appeared mysterious to
him, and in his depression of mind occasioned by them, and in the
indulgence of a lively imagination, he ascribed the painful anxieties
which he felt, agreeably to the notions of that day, to the temptations
of the devil, who tried to hinder him in prosecuting his good work by
assuming various forms and appearances. Attacks of sickness, which were
in part the result of his severe fastings during his monastic life, were
aggravated by his extraordinary mental labors, by his sedentary habits,
and the numerous painful mortifications of spirit to which his
unconquerable love of the truth exposed him. Above all, it was the
unhappy sacramentarian controversy in 1525 which had the most injurious
influence on his health. Hence these corporeal sufferings could never be
entirely removed. Yet amid all his painful and melancholy hours
Catharine was to him a ministering angel. By her affectionate sympathy,
her tender nursing, and prudent accommodation to his whims, she greatly
relieved his bodily and mental sufferings. She had frequent occasion to
display these amiable qualities, for her husband had often recurring
attacks of sickness. To notice but a few instances, we will state that
as early as 1526 he suffered with hæmorrhoids, accompanied with severe
oppression of the breast. But it was particularly in 1527 that he was
attacked in a manner that brought him to the very borders of the grave.
In July, he was so suddenly and dangerously seized that his wife and
friends trembled for his life. But both of them displayed a greatness of
soul and dignity of deportment which were truly admirable. Christian
fortitude, perfect resignation to the will of God, and unshaken
confidence in an all-controlling Providence, animated them both in the
highest degree. They endured their present trials with pious submission,
and with comfortable security they anticipated future dangers. Luther
did not think that he would recover, but believed that he should have to
part with the wife whose husband he had been but two years. Catharine
was full of terrible apprehension of being left a poor widow and mother
of one child, without being able to count much on human aid, and having
no means of support. He was to leave the sacred work which he had begun,
and for which he would have sacrificed his all, and she was to be
dependent on the kindness of some real and many equivocal friends. Yet
Luther prayed with a submissive heart, and commended his wife to God’s
paternal care. “My loving and most benevolent Father! I thank thee from
my heart that it was thy will I should be poor on the earth, and hence I
can leave neither house, field, money, nor any other property, to my
wife and son. As thou hast given her to me, so I restore her to thee,”
&c. He also consoled his wife with these words; “My beloved Kate, I
beseech you to submit to God’s gracious will, if it should please him to
take me to Himself this time. You are my faithful wife, let the blind,
ungodly world say what it may. Let your conduct be governed by the word
of God, and hold fast to it, and thus you will have certain and constant
comfort against all the temptations and blasphemies of Satan.” When, at
his request, they brought his infant son to him, he said, “O you good,
poor little child! now I commend your beloved mother and you, poor
orphan, to my good and faithful God. _You have nothing_; but God, who is
the father of the orphan and the judge of the widow, will richly provide
for you.” Here he again turned to his wife, and said, “You know that,
excepting the silver cups, we have nothing.” These, and similar
expressions, awakened the most painful emotions in the heart of
Catharine, and yet she tried to conceal her grief, and to encourage him,
“My dear Doctor,” said she, “if it is God’s will, I would rather you
should be with Him than with me. But it is not only I and my child who
must be taken into account, and for whom your life would be valuable,
but there are many pious and Christian souls who have need of your
presence and services. Do not distress yourself about me; I commend you
to His divine will. I trust he will graciously preserve you.” Eight days
after, Luther recovered, to the great joy of his wife and all his
friends.

Not long after, in the same year, a contagious disease broke out in
Wittenberg, which created so much alarm that the students precipitately
fled, and the University was transferred to Jena. The Elector, John the
Constant, advised Luther to repair to Jena also; but this main pillar of
the new-born church would not leave Wittenberg, although there were
cases of the contagion in his own family. Bugenhagen also remained at
the post of duty. Nov. 1, Luther wrote to Amsdorff, “My house is an
hospital. I begin to feel anxious about my wife, who is in a delicate
condition. My infant son has been sick these three days; he eats nothing
and is extremely unwell.” But these attacks were not contagious, and
their alarm soon subsided. In the following year, Luther suffered from a
pulmonary affection and constant headache. In 1532, he was so severely
attacked with vertigo that apoplexy was apprehended. He also
occasionally suffered from obstinate boils; in his later years, symptoms
of calculus were also apparent. In 1536, an affection of the hip-joint
confined him to bed a fortnight. But in 1537, Catharine had especial
occasion to display her affectionate solicitude, for her husband was
again brought to the very brink of the grave. During this year he was
commanded by John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, to proceed to Smalcald
on important church business. Although he suffered severely from
calculus, and the weather was extremely cold, he set out on his journey
on Feb. 1. But he had scarcely arrived at Smalcald, when the pains
increased to such an extent, to which an obstinate ischury was
super-added, that everybody was doubtful of his recovery. The Elector,
who was present, contributed everything in his power to his restoration.
He visited and consoled him. On his departure, he thus addressed him:
“If it should please God to take you away, be not concerned about your
wife and children. I will take them into my protection.” He recovered
sufficiently to enter on his journey home on the 26th. Dangerous as
travelling appeared to be under the circumstances, yet it was of
immediate service. On the way, he was relieved of the principal cause of
his intense suffering, and communicated the joyful event to his wife and
the sympathizing Melanchthon. To the former he wrote, “Yesterday I left
Smalcald. I was not well three days whilst there; in a word, I was dead,
and I had commended you and the children to God and my gracious Elector,
for I never expected to see you again; but God had mercy on me. Most
fervent prayers to God were offered for me, and many tears were shed on
my account. God heard these prayers, and last night I was relieved. I
now feel like a new-born man. Thank God for this; and let the dear
children, with Aunt Magdalena, thank the Heavenly Father, for you had
almost lost me, the earthly father. God performed wonders towards me
last night through the intercession of pious persons. This I also
ascribe to you, for I presume the Elector ordered word to be sent to you
that I was dying, so that you might come and speak to me, or at least
see me before I died. That is not necessary now, you may remain at home,
for God has so mercifully helped me that I expect soon to meet you
happily in our own house. To-day we are stopping at Gotha.” Something
similar to this he wrote to Melanchthon: but, unfortunately, he had a
relapse at Gotha, and anticipated death so certainly, that he requested
Bugenhagen to administer to him the Lord’s Supper. As soon as Catharine
heard of this she could be no longer restrained from setting out to meet
him. She remained with him all the time, and accompanied him home. Thus
Luther, for the present, had escaped all apparent dangers, but every
year, for the ensuing nine, he was attacked by some disease. Dysentery,
Rheumatism, fever, violent vertigo, and headache, painful cutaneous
eruptions, and pulmonary affections, embittered all his days.

The affectionate sympathy, faithful watching, and tender nursing which
he received from his wife, not only on these occasions, but always when
bowed down under the immense weight of his other cares, moved him
deeply. He frequently alluded to it in the most touching language. On
his sick bed at Gotha, on Feb. 28, 1537, he commended Catharine, who had
enlivened twelve years of his life, to Bugenhagen, and bore this
favorable testimony to her character: “She has served me not only as a
wife, but with all the fidelity and industry of a servant.” Afterwards,
he said, “I inconsiderately look to Catharine and Melanchthon for
greater benefits than to Christ, and yet I know that neither they nor
any human being on earth can or will ever suffer for me as he has done.”
Soon after, he said, “How intensely I longed after my family when I was
lying at Smalcald, almost dead! I thought I should never see them again.
How painful the idea of separation was! I now believe that this natural
inclination and love which a man has for his wife, and children for
their parents, are most intense in dying persons.” In his last will,
(Jan. 6, 1542,) he said of her “that she had always been a pious and
faithful wife, and she always conducted herself handsomely and worthily,
as became a pious and faithful spouse.”[11]

But Catharine’s love for her husband was extended also to his parents.
The most striking proof of this she gave, when, in Feb., 1530, Luther’s
father was lying very sick. She most heartily wished that he might be
conveyed to Wittenberg, where she could nurse him. “Dear Father,” wrote
Luther to him, “my brother Jacob has informed me that you are
dangerously sick. I wished most eagerly to go and see you, but my
friends dissuaded me from my purpose, fearing the danger to which I
would expose myself, for you know that the Peasants are so violently
opposed to me.[12] But it would rejoice me greatly if it were possible
for you and mother to come to us. My wife also, with tears, expresses
her desire that you should come. We will here nurse you most tenderly.”
But the father was unable to go, and died in a few months after, whilst
Luther was residing at Coburg, where he had concealed himself during the
diet of Augsburg. As soon as Catharine heard of the event, she was very
solicitous about the effect of the intelligence on her absent husband,
of whose affectionate attachment to his father she was well aware. She
wrote to him a letter full of consolation, and in order more effectually
to calm his troubled heart, she sent him a likeness of his favorite
child, Magdalena, at that time an infant of a year old. She was not
disappointed in her hopes. His secretary, Veit Dietrich, answered the
letter, and said, “You have done a good work in sending the likeness to
the doctor; he forgets many troublesome things in looking at it. He has
hung it on the wall opposite the table at which we dine. When he first
saw it, he did not recognize it. ‘Why,’ said he ‘Lena’s complexion is
dark!’ But now he is remarkably well pleased with it, and the more he
looks at it the better he likes it. * * * I pray you, do not be troubled
about the doctor; he is, thank heaven, well and in good spirits. For the
first two days he was much depressed respecting his father’s death, but
has now recovered his usual vivacity.” When, in the following year,
Luther’s pious mother was attacked with a dangerous sickness and his
numerous engagements did not allow him to visit her, he wrote her a
consolatory letter, the conclusion of which expresses in a very striking
manner the cordial affection which Catharine and her children
entertained for this excellent woman. “My wife and children are praying
for you. They weep and say, ‘Grandmother is very sick.’” She also died,
to Luther’s most profound regret, on June 30, 1531.

It was not only in seasons of affliction and distress that Catharine
deeply sympathized with her husband. In times of prosperity and
rejoicing she equally displayed her interest, and was ever proud of his
growing reputation and of the honors conferred on him.

These are proofs sufficient that their matrimonial life was happy; yet
the foulest slanders were heaped upon them by the enemies of the cause
of which Luther was now the acknowledged champion.

Luther awarded to his wife the praise of unconditional obedience, and
agreeably to the custom of the times she always saluted him as _Herr
Doctor_. During the first years of his matrimonial life particularly,
when he had recovered from his attacks of melancholy, and his general
health had improved, he was almost always in excellent spirits. He
treated his domestics in the kindest manner, and his whole household was
conducted in a way which contributed to the happiness of every member.
He acceded to Catharine’s supreme control over the affairs of the
family, and never interfered, except when he deemed it absolutely
necessary. He often playfully addressed her as _Mrs. Doctor and
Professoress_, and sometimes as _Master Catharine_. All the world knew
that this was but the outpouring of a sportive disposition and an
affectionate heart.

Luther’s income was disproportionate to his expenses. He has often said
“that he gave more out than he took in.” His pay at this time amounted
to but 200 guilders, and his own family expenses to 500. Besides, he
aided his poor relatives, and was obliged to perform many expensive
journeys on business relating to the Reformation. His eminent position
in society often subjected him to invitations to assume the relation of
godfather, and this always levied contributions on his purse. He was
also obliged to make numerous marriage presents, and almost daily to
entertain strangers, which compelled him to keep a corresponding number
of servants. His expenses were so great that sometimes he was
embarrassed with considerable debts. He says, “I am unfit for
housekeeping; I am made quite poor by the necessary support of my
destitute relations and the daily demands of strangers.” In writing to
another friend, he says, “You know that I am quite oppressed by my large
domestic establishment, for through my thoughtlessness I have, during
this year, made debts to the amount of more than 100 guilders. I have
pledged three silver cups at one place for 50 guilders; but the Lord,
who chastises my folly, will deliver me. Hence it is that Cranach and
Aurifaber will no longer take me as security, for they observe that I
have an empty purse. I have given them my fourth cup for 12 guilders,
which they have loaned to Herrman. But why is it that my purse is so
completely exhausted—no, not quite exhausted; but why am I so deeply
immersed in debt? I believe that no one will charge me with parsimony,
avarice,” &c. He sometimes had the honor of entertaining persons of
exalted rank. Elizabeth, the sister of Christian II., King of Denmark,
who had fled from her husband on account of his cruel treatment of her
because she had abandoned popery, and the Duchess Ursula of Münsterberg,
an escaped nun, had often been his guests for upwards of three months at
a time, and it is no small matter for a poor man to entertain a
princess. Many monks and nuns who had escaped from convents had often
imposed themselves on his hospitality, and sometimes shamefully deceived
him. In 1537 he took into his house his relative and countryman,
Agricola, with his wife and family, and kept them for a long time, until
Luther procured a professorship for him. Luther’s five children were now
growing up, and their education was by no means neglected, and even the
fields which his wife owned, near Wittenberg and Zoldorf, demanded no
little outlay. To all this was superadded that peculiar disposition
which has, however, characterized many great minds, which is, a perfect
contempt of all earthly possessions. The grounds of this he sought and
found in the Bible. When with scorn he rejected all offers of gold and
dignities on condition of renouncing his faith, which his enemies made,
he did right; but it must be confessed that as a father of a family he
was too careless about their wants. Thus, when some one reminded him
that he might, at least, lay up a little property for his family, he
replied, “That I shall not do; for otherwise they will not trust to God
or their own exertions, but to their money.” Thus he presented all his
manuscripts to the printers, who were at that time also booksellers, and
when they offered him 400 guilders annually for the privilege of
printing and selling his books, he rejected the offer, and said, “I will
not sell the grace of God. I have enough.” Only occasionally he asked
for a copy of his books as a present to a friend. He charged no fee for
his lectures. “It was my intention,” said he, “after I was married, to
lecture for pay. But as God anticipated me, I have all my life sold no
copy of my books, nor read lectures for money. And if it please God, I
will carry this honor to the grave with me.” When the Elector, John the
Constant, in 1529, designed to honor him with a share in a productive
silver mine at Schneeberg as a compliment for his translation of the
Bible, he replied, “It much better becomes me to pay the amount of my
share with a _pater noster_, that the ores may continue productive and
the product may be well applied.” This he confirmed soon after, (Sept.
8, 1530,) with these words, “I have never taken a penny for my
translation, and never asked it.” And at another place he says, “If I
did not feel such a painful concern _for his sake who died for me_, the
whole world could not give me money enough to write a book or translate
any portion of the Bible. _I am not willing to be rewarded by the world
for my labor; the world is too poor for that!_” Melanchthon promised him
1000 guilders compensation if he would finish the translation of Æsop,
begun in 1530, and dedicate it to some great personage; but Luther
desired to labor exclusively for the diffusion of the Gospel, and write
theological works, for which he would receive no pay. Another friend
made him a present of 200 guilders, which he generously divided among
poor students. When, in 1529, Bugenhagen brought him a gift of 100
guilders from a rich gentleman, he gave Melanchthon the half of it. As
early as 1520, he received a bequest of 150 guilders from Dr. Heinrich
Becke of Naumburg, and in 1521, a person named Marcus Schart presented
him with 50 guilders, which he divided with his prior, Breisger. When
the Elector, John the Steadfast, in 1542, ordered a tax to be levied to
raise money to carry on the war against the Turks, and exempted Luther’s
property, the latter would not consent to it, but for the sake of the
example had property to the amount of 610 guilders assessed.[13] Many
other similar instances of his remarkable disinterestedness, which,
however, were not always worthy of imitation, might be mentioned. He was
liberal and benevolent as even few rich men are, and hence it is that
his children received no large inheritance from him. Thus on one
occasion a very poor man applied to him for help. He had no money at
hand, and his wife was sick; but he took the donation which had been
made to his infant at its recent baptism, and gave it to the applicant.
The sick wife, who soon missed the money out of the savings-box,
expressed her displeasure, but Luther meekly replied, “God is rich; he
will provide in some other way.”

At another time, a young man who had finished his studies, and was about
to leave Wittenberg, made a similar request. Luther was again destitute
of funds. With sincere sympathy he deplored his inability to aid the
youth; but when he observed his deep distress, his eye fell on a silver
cup which had been presented to him by the Elector. He looked
inquiringly at his wife; her countenance seemed to reply, no! But he
hastily snatched the cup and gave it to the student. The latter was much
astonished, and was unwilling to take it. Catharine also, by winks and
looks, intimated to her husband not to press the acceptance of it on the
stranger. But Luther, with a great effort, pressed the sides of the cup
together and gave it to the young man, saying, “I have no use for a
silver cup. Here, take it; carry it to a goldsmith, and keep all you can
get for it.”

Luther was indebted to the punctuality, thrift, and economy of his wife,
for the small property in land, furniture, and books, which he left at
his death. She has been charged with parsimony as well as with a
multitude of other sins by Luther’s enemies, but there is no evidence to
sustain the accusation. If she was economical when her husband had no
guests in his house—which was not often the case—it rather redounded to
her credit, and arose from necessity. This course was pursued with his
sanction. He was always temperate in his diet. Sometimes, even when he
was in good health, he partook of no substantial food for four days
together. At other times a little bread and a herring sufficed for a
day; or, that he might study the more intensely, bread and salt
constituted his meal. Of course, at other times, he lived more
generously, but always within the bounds of moderation.

Catharine not only sympathized most sincerely with her husband in all
his joys and sorrows, but she herself suffered severe afflictions, some
of which were calculated to fill a mother’s heart with inexpressible
anguish. Some of these have been already alluded to. In August, 1538,
they were both attacked with fever, and in July, 1539, they
providentially escaped a violent death. Luther had had a new cellar
constructed, which he went to inspect in company with his wife. They had
scarcely left the cellar, when the ground caved in with a terrible
crash. In loud thanksgivings to God they expressed their sense of this
miraculous deliverance. In January, 1540, Catharine was brought nigh to
death at the birth of a child. To Luther’s great joy, she gradually
recovered. The death of their second daughter, Magdalena, in 1542, at
the age of fourteen—the first, Elizabeth, had died in 1528—bowed her
heart deeply, and overwhelmed her with sorrow. Scarcely had the pious
sufferer endured these severe visitations with the resignation becoming
a true Christian, when she was called on to deplore the death of her
most intimate and valuable friend, the wife of Dr. Jonas. This
unexpected event was so much the more painful to Luther, inasmuch as
when in secret he reflected on his own departure out of this world, he
always reckoned on the wife of Dr. Jonas as the comforter of his widow
and children.

In 1545, the three sons of Luther and his yet surviving daughter,
Margaretta, were all at the same time attacked with the measles, and the
latter also suffered in addition, from a severe and dangerous fever.

About this time, Luther, very unexpectedly to his friends, determined to
leave Wittenberg. His strength was exhausted by disease, and by his
numerous literary labors. He was disappointed and chagrined also on
various accounts, and longed for repose. As soon as this became known,
Bugenhagen and others were sent to him on the part of the University and
the town, whose tears and entreaties prevailed on him to remain for the
present. But in July, 1545, he was bent on carrying out his
determination, and travelled in company with his eldest son, John, by
way of Löbnitz and Leipzig to Merseburg, where he visited Prince George,
of Anhalt, whom, on this occasion, he solemnly consecrated to the office
of Coadjutor of the Chapter of the Cathedral. During his stay in
Leipzig, he wrote (July 28), to his wife, “I should like to arrange it
so that it would not be necessary for me to return to Wittenberg. My
feelings are so alienated that I do not care any longer about being
there. I also wish that you would sell our house and other property. I
wish you would return the large house to my gracious master,[14] and it
would be better for you to settle at Zallsdorff whilst I yet live; for
after my death you will hardly find a support in Wittenberg, hence you
had better do it during my lifetime.” Catharine was extremely surprised
at this determination; but as her husband had enjoined it upon her to
inform Bugenhagen and Melanchthon of his purpose, and to request the
former to take leave of the congregation in his name, she, at least,
complied with this wish. But not so the University. As soon as the
members had learned the purport of his letter, they sent not only a copy
of it to the Elector, and a letter to his Grace, beseeching him to
influence Luther to return; but they and the town council also sent
Bugenhagen and Melanchthon, and some other deputies, as a committee to
see him. The Elector himself wrote to him, promising to render his
condition at Wittenberg more comfortable, and summoned him to appear at
his palace at Torgau for further conversation on the subject. Luther
instantly obeyed the summons, and appeared at Torgau. The Elector
persuaded him to return to Wittenberg. Sick and depressed in heart he
arrived there on the 18th of August, where he was received with open
arms by all his friends.

But this gratification was of short duration for them and Catharine; for
in January, 1546, completely debilitated by the effects of protracted
sickness, he entered upon a journey of another character, from which,
alas! he never returned. His youngest sister, Dorothea, was married to
Paul Mackenrot, who was in the service of the Elector. The family of
Mackenrot possessed productive silver-mines in the duchy of Mansfeld,
which excited the envy of the dukes of Mansfeld, and led them to the
determination of securing to themselves the entire products of the
mines, for before they had received only the tenth and some other
perquisites. As soon as Luther heard of this unjust proceeding, he
undertook to maintain the rights of his brother-in-law, and in 1540
wrote to Duke Albert on the subject; but his intercession was fruitless.
In 1542, he renewed his attempts, but without any favorable result. In
1545, he travelled to Eisleben and to Mansfeld on the same mission, but
all to no effect. Soon after, Luther was urgently entreated by the Dukes
themselves (of whom, Albert was a Protestant, and the other two, Philip
and John George, were still Catholics,) to appear personally at Eisleben
in order to settle this difficulty as well as some others existing among
them. Although his health was in a wretched condition, he promised to
go. After he had preached in Wittenberg, the last time, on January 17,
1546, he took leave of his friends, and on the 23d, he departed,
accompanied by his three sons; John, 19 years of age, Martin 14, and
Paul 13. He passed through Halle, where he visited his friend, Dr.
Jonas, at that time pastor in that city. Jonas accompanied him to
Eisleben; but as he approached that city, he was so exhausted that he
fainted, and they were apprehensive of his death; but he was conveyed to
a house where they rubbed him with warm cloths, and he was soon
restored. He arrived safe at Eisleben on the 28th, but a violent attack
was soon renewed. Catharine, who on the departure of her husband could
easily have anticipated these attacks, on having been informed of them
by the eldest son, John, who had been sent back, forwarded some remedies
from her own domestic medicine-chest, the good effects of which he had
often experienced. On the 1st and 6th of February he communicated to her
the state of his own health and of the affairs at Mansfeld, and
entreated her to lay aside any undue anxiety about himself. But he soon
expressed an intense desire to return home. He wrote to that effect on
the 10th, and again in a jocose style besought her not to be uneasy on
his account. But he was never to see her again. As he anticipated, he
was destined to die in the place of his birth.[15] Although he suffered
keenly from pulmonary affection, he not only preached four times, but
performed much other important business. But his end had come, and he
died on February 18, 1546, in the 63d year of his age. Dr. Jonas and the
court preacher at Mansfeld, Michel Coclius, who, with others, were
present at his death, immediately communicated the melancholy event to
the Elector, and requested his Grace to issue orders respecting the
funeral, as well as to have a letter of consolation written to his
bereaved widow. The intelligence was conveyed so rapidly to Torgau, that
the Elector, on the same evening of the day on which Luther died,
answered the letter, and gave immediate orders in relation to his
funeral.

No one was more deeply distressed at his death than the mourning widow.
For more than twenty years she had lived with him in uninterrupted
harmony; had sought to alleviate his sufferings, and had shared his
joys; and she was not permitted to see him die nor minister to his last
wants! Even if he did die among friends, yet she was not there to smooth
his pillow and to perform those tender offices which an affectionate
wife alone knows how to do. When on the 22d of February the corpse was
conveyed to Wittenberg and deposited in the castle church, and all the
inhabitants of the city went to meet the melancholy procession, there
stood Catharine weeping, and with her children looked on her deceased
husband.

She survived him nearly seven years, and cherished his memory most
affectionately. Though his enemies assailed him most virulently when he
was no longer present to defend himself, yet she never allowed her
affection to cool nor her interest in his work and reputation to abate.

The black velvet cloth which had covered the funeral car came into the
possession of the widow, and for many years it was preserved among
Luther’s posterity as a valuable memento. Neither did the Elector forget
her. He wrote her a letter of condolence, in which he sought to comfort
her on the grounds of the happy death of her husband, and the secret,
wise councils of God. At the same time, he repeated his assurances of
his protection of her and her children.

Although Luther had expressed a desire that Catharine should remove from
Wittenberg, fearing that after his death she might not be able to
support herself there, yet induced by good reasons, she resolved to
spend the remainder of her days in that place; for where could she
expect to find better friends than in Wittenberg? Bugenhagen, Cruciger,
Melanchthon, and others, were still living, who were her counsellors and
comforters; and Wittenberg was also the place where her sons had already
begun their education, and where they could most advantageously finish
it.

Luther had, some time before his death, made ample provision, consisting
of various kinds of property, for his wife,[16] which she was to hold
independent of her children, in the event of her remaining a widow. In
the document conveying it to her he speaks of her in the most exalted
terms as a pious woman, a faithful wife, and an affectionate mother. The
property thus left was far from being sufficient to maintain the widow
and her children. The Elector of Saxony, agreeably to his promise,
contributed to her support. The dukes of Mansfeld and the King of
Denmark also liberally came to her help. The Elector, John Frederick, of
Saxony, who had already paid the funeral expenses, thus wrote to Dr.
Schurf, Professor of Medicine and Rector of the University: “And as we
have heard that the widow of the sainted Luther is in need of pecuniary
assistance, … we send you by this messenger 100 gold Groschen for her
use.” He also wrote to Cruciger and Melanchthon, the guardians of the
children, to select a teacher for the two younger sons, Martin and Paul,
with whom they should also board. He directed that with regard to the
oldest son, John, they should wait six months longer, to ascertain
whether he was inclined or qualified to study a learned profession, and
if not, the Elector promised to give him employment in his palace as a
clerk or secretary.[17] To enable the guardians to execute his wishes
with regard to the children, the Elector sent them 2000 guilders. He
likewise afterwards sent the same sum to the widow. The dukes of
Mansfeld, for whose benefit Luther had undertaken many journeys and
suffered much trouble, were not behind; in the same year they
established a fund of 2000 guilders for the benefit of the widow and
children, from which they drew an annual interest of 100 guilders. Part
of the capital only was paid, for when Catharine died, in 1552, 1000
guilders still stood to her credit. The year after Luther’s death,
Christian III., King of Denmark, transferred for her benefit 50 dollars,
the remainder of a sum which he had previously granted to Luther and
several of his friends. Catharine wrote to the King, expressing her
profound gratitude for this act of benevolence.

But she was soon called on to experience additional sorrows. The
Smalcald War had already broken out in 1546, which brought desolation
into many peaceful and happy families. Catharine did not escape the
general calamity. The Elector, John Frederick, who would certainly have
done more for her, was taken prisoner at the battle of Muhlberg, April
24, 1547; Wittenberg was besieged on the 5th of May, and on the 25th,
Charles V., with his Spanish troops, entered the city as conqueror. All
the faithful subjects of the Elector, and many persons who had embraced
the doctrines of the Reformation, had left before the siege. The widow
of the Reformer, with her children, could not possibly remain behind.
She accompanied Dr. George Major, Professor of Theology, to Magdeburg,
and thence, sustained by the town council of Helmstadt, she went under
Melanchthon’s protection to Brunswick, from whence Dr. Major was to
conduct her to Copenhagen. Here she expected further protection and
support from the King of Denmark, as her illustrious benefactor, the
Elector of Saxony, could no longer assist her. But she did not proceed
farther than Gifhorn, near Brunswick; for a proclamation appeared
promising a safe return and the secure possession of their property to
all who had left the country. It seemed best to her, as well as to
Melanchthon, to return to the home she had abandoned. But her life, from
this period, was an unbroken series of sorrows. The assistance she had
formerly received from the liberality of the Elector was withdrawn; the
annual contribution of the King of Denmark—although he had promised
further help—had not been sent since 1548, and her small real estate was
loaded with taxes. It would have been difficult for her to support
herself and four children if she had not, some time subsequently,
mortgaged her little farm at Zillsdorff for 400 guilders, and pawned
some silver-ware for 600 guilders. She also rented out several rooms in
her house, as her husband had done, and boarded the occupants, and thus
she contrived to gain a meagre subsistence.

In the beginning of the year 1548, she travelled with Melanchthon to
Leipzig, in order to solicit from the imperial assessor some diminution
of the oppressive war tax. Melanchthon also wrote to the King of
Denmark, entreating him to continue the annual contribution which he
made during Luther’s lifetime. Bugenhagen wrote similar letters to his
Majesty, begging him, for Luther’s sake, to come to the help of “the
poor widow and her children.” But as these repeated appeals were
fruitless, she herself wrote to him, October 6, 1550. In this letter,
she calls to his mind the services which her illustrious husband had
rendered to the cause of Christianity, and his Majesty’s former
liberality to him. In pathetic terms she represents her destitute
condition and the severity of the times, occasioned by the existing
wars. She says, “Your Imperial Majesty is the only king on earth to whom
we poor Christians can fly for protection, and God will doubtless richly
reward your Majesty for the kindness you have bestowed on poor Christian
preachers and their widows and children.” This letter did not
immediately produce the desired result. Two years afterwards, when most
sorely pressed by want, she repeated her entreaty, and wrote again. In
this letter she complains of her forsaken condition, and declares that
she had been more unkindly treated by professed friends than enemies.
She writes in a deeply desponding tone, and seems to be on the brink of
despair. Bugenhagen seconded this appeal to the King, and it was
successful; a contribution was received which relieved her immediate
wants and comforted her desponding heart.

Luther’s exalted merits were not always recognized, at least, not in the
way in which they should have been. The widow of the man who conferred
favors on thousands at the expense of extraordinary self-sacrifice,
often pined in misery, and paid the severe penalty of his
disinterestedness and liberality. With much truth could it be said in a
discourse commemorative of her virtues: “During the war she wandered
from place to place with her orphan children, enduring the most trying
privations and perils, and, besides the numerous trials of her
widowhood, she also encountered much ingratitude from many, and she was
often shamefully deceived by those even from whom she had a right to
expect kindnesses on account of the inappreciable services of her
husband to the Church.”

After the peace of Passau (July 31, 1552), security was re-established
for the Protestants, and the former elector of Saxony was restored to
liberty.

About this time a contagious disease broke out in Wittenberg, and all
the members of the University removed to Torgau. Catharine also
determined to leave the place with her two younger sons, Martin and Paul
(John was studying at Konigsberg), and her only daughter, Margaret, was
to follow them a short time after. On the journey the horses became
unmanageable and ran away with the carriage. Catharine, more concerned
about the children than her own safety, and with the hope of
facilitating their escape, leaped out of the vehicle and fell violently
into a ditch full of water. This painful accident gave such a severe
shock to her system that she was conveyed to Torgau in a very weak
condition, where she took her bed and never left it alive. Her illness
increased from day to day, and soon assumed the decided character of
consumption. Two months after, December 20, 1552, she died in the 54th
year of her age. Her funeral was attended by an immense crowd of
persons. The professors, students, and citizens, united in
demonstrations of respect for the deceased widow of the illustrious
reformer.

During the whole period of her sickness, she comforted herself with the
promises of God’s word. She heartily prayed for a peaceful departure out
of this vale of tears. She frequently commended the Church and her
children to the continued protection of God, and her daily supplication
was that the true doctrine, which the Lord had given to the world
through her deceased husband, might be transmitted uncorrupted to
posterity.

A plain monument in the _city church_ of Torgau designates the place
where her remains repose. On the monument or tombstone there is a
recumbent statue, the size of life, with an open Bible pressed to the
heart. The inscription is, Anno 1552, den 20 December. Ist in Gott selig
entschlaffen alhier Zu Torgau Herrn D. Martin Luther’s Seligen
hinterlassene Wittwe Katharina von Bora.

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