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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Martyrs 13: Lambert Thorn: "your fire my fire"- Luther; Which ending?

      This continues from Part 12 (Table of Contents in Part 1a and Part 1b) publishing the book of Hermann Fick on the martyrs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. –  Part 13 presents the essay on Lambert [Lampertus] Thorn, who in contrast to Voes and Esch, asked for 4 days to reflect on his situation.  Dear God! how Lambert is more in my comfort zone ... for how many thousands of times have I put off confessing my Saviour before men?  We see by this account a surprising scenario... and a mystery...

What was the fate of Lambert Thorn? Tappert said: "He died in prison five years later, in 1528, without recanting." — Dr. Albert Collver says: "The fate of one of them, Lambert Thorn, is not quite clear.  He remained in prison and was not executed until 1528."  (These may be just doing the common thing of following the editors of the German Weimar Ausgabe (WA).)  —  The St. Louis editor, Stoeckhardt, (footnote) said: "He suffered his martyrdom later than the other two (Voes & Esch)."  — Seckendorf reports that some said Lambert was murdered in prison (see Fick's "Annotations").  —  There is a discussion by both J.G. Walch (here) and De Wette (here) on this matter in the Forewords to their books of Luther's writings.

But ... now read Hermann Fick's account below for a different ending to the story than several of the above.
Some highlighting added hyperlinks added for reference. Minor edits of spelling, etc.
by C.J. Hermann Fick
(tr. by BackToLuther)
"Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
(The Lord Jesus, Rev. 2:10.)
To the place of Jakob Praepositus [Jakob Probst], where one would be frightened with persecution for the sake of the Lutheran doctrine and its office, came Lambert Thorn, a learned man, as prior of the Augustinian monastery at Antwerp. But because he also confessed the Lutheran doctrine publicly, he was thrown in a tough prison by the papists together with Heinrich Voes and Johann Esch at Vilvoorde and stripped of his priestly ordination in Brussels.  Yet he was not executed with them since he took time to reflect, and so was led back to prison.  Luther issued the following letter of consolation to him [Jan. 19, 1524 – English translation by Margaret Currie -->> here <<--, pgs 118-119; Tappert Letters snippet here; StL ed., vol. 10, col. 1924 , Letter # 702; De Wette, vol. 2, p. 462-463]:
"Grace and peace in the Lord!  Christ, who is with you my dear brother Lambert, bears witness within me that you have need of my comfort neither by word, nor by writing.  For He suffers and is glorified; He is captive and reigns; He suffers violence and nevertheless triumphs in and with you, having made you just and holy, through the knowledge of Himself, which is hidden from the world, but which He has so richly bestowed upon you. [page 112]
"Thereby you are not only strengthened inwardly by His Spirit in your affliction, but also by the true, salutary example of the two brothers, Heinrich [Voes] and Johannes [Esch] at Brussels in the year 1523 due to constant confession of divine truth.
"Thus both you and they are to me greatly comforting, indeed a sweet savor to the whole of Christendom, and are to the Gospel of Christ a wonderful adornment and jewel.  How would it be for me that I should weigh you down with my cold, feeble consolation?  And who knows why the Lord did not permit you to perish with those two.  Perhaps He spared you that He might do some mighty work through you.
"Therefore I am sincerely refreshed, and rejoice with you, with thanks to the faithful Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given me not only to confess his Word, and graciously granted to taste the first-fruits of his Spirit; but also has left for me to experience and see in the three of you such a rich, glorious prosperity of His grace.
"I might deem this a misfortune, by which one says: I was the first to bring this doctrine to the light of day, for the confessing of which these two were burned, and you are now imprisoned.  But in that I consider myself not worthy for the latter, that I such persecution and tribulation as you three (and God be praised! that others have not suffered and endured) will nevermore be found worthy to suffer persecution and disgrace for the sake of Christ’s name and Word.
"Nevertheless, I shall comfort myself thus — that your bonds are my bonds, your prison my prison, and your fire my fire.  In addition, I shall preach and confess indeed publicly before the ungodly evil world, princes and angels just the Word: for whom those two were burned, and you are imprisoned and bound: wherefore I also suffer along with you and rejoice.
"But the Lord Jesus, who has begun the good work in you, will perform it until the day of His wonderful and joyous appearing, Phil. 1:6.  Pray for me, as I do for you, and remember you do not suffer alone, but He who says, Psalms 91:14, “I will be with him in trouble; he shall call upon me, and 1 will answer him: I will set him on high, because he hath known [page 113] my name, I will protect him.”  Indeed, we all, together with the Lord, are with you, therefore you are not abandoned.  But await the Lord, be strong and courageous, and await the Lord, Ps. 27:14, who said: In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world, John 16:33.
"Do not dispute with Satan, but turn your eyes to the Lord.  Be firmly rooted upon the pure faith, and never doubt that we shall be justified and saved through the precious blood of Christ, the spotless Lamb of God. So little are our works and human commandments able to take away sin and make us just: so also neither condemn nor make guilty for some sin.
"Here in our Elector’s land is good peace, God be praised. The Duke of Bavaria and Bishop of Trier cause many to be slain, and banish some.  Other bishops and princes are indeed not bloodhounds; nevertheless they torment their people with threatenings, and do them great harm.  So Christ is now again become the reproach of men, and despised of the people, Psalm 22:7, which also you were made a member of by the holy calling of our Father in heaven,  and may He also perfect this call in you to the honor of His Word and name, Amen.
"All our people greet you, especially Jakob Probst and the brothers of Antwerp, and commend themselves to your prayers. At Wittenberg, Tuesday after St. Anthony’s, 1524."
But this letter did not any more reach into the hands of the dear martyr.  Because he remained through God's grace steady in the evangelical Lutheran doctrine, so the Papists immediately rushed him to the fire.   Four days after the execution of his brothers Voes and Esch, on July 4, 1523 he was burned in Brussels.  Before, indeed on the pyre, he held still another long sermon and triumphed thus joyfully over Satan and the Roman Antichrist.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
13. Lambert Thorn. Sources: Seckendorf, historia lutheranismi, volume. 1, p. 280.  Die heiligen Märtyrer der evangelischen Kirche by Volkert and Brock, p. 11. Luthers Werke, Walch edition (W1), Vol. 10, p. 2214. Seckendorf calls him Johannes Lambert. Some say, as he reports, that Lambert was murdered in prison.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Fick states that Thorn was burned 4 days after Voes and Esch, even adding that he gave a long sermon on the pyre.  Fick acknowledged the other reports of Thorn's fate, but chose this ending.  Who is the one to believe?  Did Thorn die 5 years later in prison?  Was he murdered in prison?  What about Luther's letter of January 19, 1524?  Could the papists have concealed his death for about 6 months so that Luther did not know that Lambert was already dead before he even wrote his letter to him? ... One thing is clear... that Lambert Thorn died later than the first two martyrs.  But Pastor Fick is so forceful in his presentation (Volkert and Brock's account, p. 17, concur with him), that I will believe him about the actual manner and time of Lambert's death, call me naive if you want.  Some might fault me for going against Theodore Tappert, to which I would answer: "So what?"  I will take Hermann Fick's judgment over Theodore Tappert on this.

I believe I am following the better Church Historian in Hermann Fick, because he not only knows the languages, not only had access to the German sources, but more importantly could better judge past Church Historians in this matter, whether they had a tendency to err in certain matters.  Dr. Colliver may take a path less firm in describing the ending for Lambert Thorn, but I will take Fick's account – Lambert Thorn was executed on July 4, 1523 by the papists, not murdered in prison or held in prison another 5 years.

Thorn did not need Luther's letter of consolation, the letter (perhaps) did not arrive before Thorn's execution.  But do you suppose Thorn read Luther's letter as he was in Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22)?  Thorn's requested time of reflection took him back to the promises of God's Word:
Ps. 50:15 – Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
And so he did... he called upon the Lord Jesus "in his day of trouble".  And so He was... the Lord Jesus was glorified in Thorn's confession and martyrdom.
In the next Part 14...

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