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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Martyrs 3: Peter Spengler ("Who knew?")

Peter Spengler

This continues from Part 2 (Table of Contents in Part 1a and Part 1b) publishing the book of Pastor Hermann Fick on the martyrs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Part 3 brings the story of the German Peter Spengler.  –  As I read these stories, I am reminded of Jesus' "hard saying":
Matt. 10:28 – Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Some highlighting added; hyperlinks added for reference.
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by C.J. Hermann Fick
(tr. by BackToLuther)
III.
"I will also boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Spengler before his death.)
Master Peter Spengler was pastor to Schlatt, a village in Breisgau, and dean of the Breisach chapter, a learned, pious man, blameless in his life, wherefore he was beloved and dear to the bishop of Constance.  Even in his old age he continually learned.  For when God's glorious gospel did shine in the German nation by His grace, Spengler read with the greatest seriousness the evangelical writings including the interpretations of the holy Fathers.  Also he visited such places in which the truth was publicly preached.  [Page 10]
Often he would say: "Oh who yet could have thought that so many scholars, admirable people for so many years had erred from the purpose of the true doctrine and had put in so many terrible mistakes?  Indeed, who yet would have supposed that the Holy Scriptures would have been darkened and defiled through man’s trinkets, that by so few people the righteous way would have been understood?"  
He confessed of himself that he had never previously held the Gospel to be true.  For the same speaks much of cross and persecution; on the other hand, he saw that happiness was always gone from the priests, and that no one had charged anything against them even in a just cause without receiving the highest adversity.  But now that the power of the Gospel was shown in fact, then the cross and persecution were now in place and the enemies of the Word raved and raged most cruelly against the godly.
The dear Spengler now testified to the truth with determination.  For the love of marital chastity, he joined with his servant woman in holy matrimony.  He preached God's Word pure and clear, and openly showed his parishioners the atrocities and diverse idolatry of a tiresome papacy.  As often as he was Dean to the chapter of his fellow priest, he chastised them faithfully for the practice of proud resplendent clothes for themselves and their women to the offense of many, and exhorted them to turn such expense to good books.  It would be better, he said, to sell one’s coat than do without the Bible; because the present time required in the highest degree that one should diligently study the holy divine Scriptures day and night.
In 1525, the Peasants War raged throughout Germany, and a wild gang fell into the house of our Spengler.  What they found there, they stole or picked out like senseless animals.  As they withdrew, the pious man exhorted with tearful eyes: "Dear friends, I declare to you a certain downfall will finally come over you.  You apply and pray for the holy Gospel, and nevertheless you have neither in your mouth, nor in the heart some Gospel.  This is the devil's gospel, thereby one teaches to bring unrest to everyone, and to rob the neighbor what he has against God and all fairness, or but shreds and destroys it.  The true gospel of Christ teaches that one should do good to all people [Page 11] to escape turmoil and do not forswear."  But he earned only scorn and derision from the rough mob.
But because Spengler took up the Gospel with great zeal, he therefore was charged when referred to the bishop of Constance, and there took place the command to capture him.  In the middle of the dark night he was torn from his poor wife and children, seated with his hands bound upon a horse, and under cruel invectives and blasphemous words led to Freiburg.  There he was placed in a heavy prison, heavily tortured and embarrassingly interrogated.
After some time he was turned over to the government at Ensisheim and also by them charged that he was a Lutheran, he had and read Lutheran writings, was found with a Lutheran hymn in his pocket, he wanted to make his fellow priests Lutheran, etc.  Therefore he was condemned by the government, that he should be drowned.
As he was led to the place, a barefoot monk admonished him that he should desist from the Lutheran doctrine.  But the dear martyr asked to read to him some passages of consolation from the New Testament, which he did.  Thereby he gave all joyful response to those which came to him to comfort him.
But the priests and monks toiled incessantly with their hypocritical speeches to him, who was now in agony of death and inwardly cried to God the Lord with earnest prayers, also directing his thoughts into everlasting life.  Then he asked them that they would be silent, for he had daily confessed his sin to his Savior Jesus Christ and received the Absolution in which he had no doubt.
Then he spoke with kind words: "Today will I become an acceptable sacrifice to my Savior Jesus Christ.  I have indeed done nothing in this matter, by reason of which I have been condemned to death, that could displease the Lord.  God has given me peace of mind.  Those who thirst so after shedding innocent blood, they do well to watch out, what they do, who they offend.  Let that all people will direct the heart in truth and judge; for He says: Vengeance is mine, I will punish it. [ref. Deut. 32:35]
"I would soon throw away this skin but that it barely sticks to the legs (for he had a lean body and was nearly seventy years old).  I am well aware that I am a [Page 12] mortal man, a worm and unsteady [unbleiblich], also born to death. So I've long ago wished for death and sincerely desire to be dissolved and to be with the Lord Christ.  I have to die rather indebted for many and serious sins, so I have done and committed against my Lord and God. So also Christ, my Savior, the Cross has borne and died on the cross.  Therefore I will boast myself in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
But the wretched Papists could no longer tolerate the last confession of the blessed martyr.  Therefore, they waved to the executioner that he should throw down the pious old man from the scaffolding, on which he was bound in anticipation of death, into the water.  In the water, which at that time there was only a little, he had not moved for a long time; it was finally blood-red, no doubt as a sign that on the same day the blood of a just and innocent man was shed.
All who were present were astonished at it with a sad heart and steady sigh.  But they could not speak, because at that time everyone was handled quite cruelly and tyrannically.  This occurred in the year of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 1526.
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Annotations

3. Spengler. Sources: Rabus thl. 5., pg. 155 and Crocius pg. 179.  Some have his death in 1525.
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A statement by Spengler struck me, for it had been a thought of mine as I came back to my old faith and considered Church History through the centuries.  Who would have thought...  Why did it happen...  Who knew...  :
"Who yet could have thought that so many scholars, admirable people for so many years had erred from the purpose of the true doctrine and had put in so many terrible mistakes?  Indeed, who yet would have supposed that the Holy Scriptures would have been darkened and defiled through man’s trinkets, that by so few people the righteous way would have been understood?"  
  • so many scholars... 
  • for so many years... 
  • had erred from the true doctrine... 
  • so many terrible mistakes... 
  • the Holy Scriptures darkened and defiled... 
  • so few people understood the righteous way?
It appears that modern theology has gone back to the religion of the "Medieval tradition", as the moderns suppose that they are way too smart to ever allow this to happen again...   Indeed, Spengler speaks to us today, "here and now"! —  In the next Part 4 is the Lutheran martyrer Johannes Heuglin.

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