A LETTER “HOPE IN AFFLICTION”
by Martin Luther to his friend Justas Jonas (a) in a time of family affliction and during the prevalence of the Plague in Wittenburg.
November 10, 1527.
Grace and peace in God our Saviour! Thanks, dear Jonas, that you pray for us, and sometimes write.
I hope you got yesterday’s letter. I have not read Erasmus’s writings nor those of the Sacramentarians, except something by Zwingli. They only do right in trampling a miserable creature like me under foot thereby following Judas’s example, and making me utter my complaints to my Lord Jesus of being persecuted on all sides, and having to bear God’s indignation for having sinned against Him. The Pope, Emperor, Bishops, and the whole world attack me; and as if that were not enough, my very brethren plague me, nay, even my sins, death, and the devil with his angels, rage without measure.
So then what would become of me were Christ to forsake me because of all these my enemies? But He will not desert me, poor miserable sinner, for I esteem myself the least of all men.
Would that Erasmus and the Sacramentarians experienced for one quarter on an hour the sorrows of my heart, then I would declare they were truly converted. But now my enemies are mighty, and heap anguish on him whom the Lord chastens.
But enough of this, so that I may not seem impatient under God’s rod, who chastens and heals, kills and makes alive again.
Let His holy and perfect will be praised now and for ever! Were we of the world it would love its own. I am also anxious about my wife (b).
The Lord has done great things for me, so I must suffer great things. May Christ be my rock and my strength. Amen.
My Hans can send no greeting in his sickness, but begs for your prayers. For twelve days he has lived only upon fluids. He now begins to eat a little. The child would gladly play as he used to do, but is not able. Margaret Mochim’s abcess was opened yesterday, and she is now a little better.
I do not wish Rome (c) to be burned; that would be a marvellous sign. Would to God that we could meet again in our homes, and work at Ecclesiastes, so that it may be issued before we die. I commend myself to your prayers. We Wittenburg people are hated of all, and they are terrified on account of the pest. As
the Psalm says, “We are a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people”, but we hope a joy and crown of the angels and saints.
(a) JUSTAS JONAS was born in 1493 and took his doctor’s degree in Erfurt, then studied law in Wittenberg, and was professor and provost there. Jonas translated and defended Luther’s Ninety five Theses. This was his first service to the Reformation. Jonas was an eloquent preacher, and on Sabbaths and Fast-days preached in the Stiffs and Schloss churches. Later Jonas became superintendent in Halle. It was in Jonas’s church (in whose arms Luther may be said to have died) that Luther’s body lay over the Sabbath on the way from Eisle-ben. After Luther’s death Jonas was exiled, and died at Eisfeld, 1555. (Currie).
(b) Luther was married to Catherine von Bora, (His “Katie”), on June 13th, 1525.
(c) The reference to Rome is due to the fact that the date of this letter coincides with the sack of Rome. It is a solemn thought that this dreadful visitation, in which the city of Rome was completely spoiled and the Pope became a prisoner in the castle of St. Angelo, followed swiftly upon the great infamy of the Papacy, The sale of Indulgences by Tetzel, 1502 to 1517.