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Friday, January 2, 2015

Martyrs 4: Johannes Heuglin– as he was a Lutheran; Strong out of weakness

Johannes Heuglin

      This continues from Part 3 (Table of Contents in Part 1a and Part 1b) publishing the book of Pastor Hermann Fick on the martyrs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. In this Part 4 is the story of the German Johannes Heuglin.  —  A point that may be emphasized is that Heuglin wanted to speak the language of the people, German, but was prevented this by his papist interrogators.  I would assume that he had been allowed only to speak Latin so that the laymen could not understand.  But this blog post is dedicated to Heuglin's desire that the people may understand his words, in German to his people, but now to the English speaking world... my native language.  And this account of Heuglin is authentic as it is brought to us by Hermann Fick of the old (German) Missouri Synod.  And so by the hearing of Heuglin's faith, a faith that came alive by the truth of Luther's writings, by the unshakable truth of the Holy Scriptures, a faith that ended in martyrdom... so our Christian faith may be strengthened, here and now.
Some highlighting added; hyperlinks added for reference.
by C.J. Hermann Fick
(tr. by BackToLuther)
"What Scripture says, I want to remain there."
(Heuglin before his judges.)
Johannes Heuglin of Lindau was the early priest at Sernatingen.  He was captured by the authorities at Ueberlingen with three other priests and delivered to the Bishop of Constance towards Mörsburg [Meersburg] because they were suspected to have taken part in the peasant riots.  While dismissing the others, Heuglin was retained in the prison as he was a Lutheran.
When asked about his faith, he replied as a Christian and modestly, confessing the eternal divine truth, and [Page 13] let himself not be turned away by them either by good words, nor by severe punishment and torment.  Then the Papists hit on another way because they left no stone unturned to demolish the people of Christ.  The bishop's scholars were in fact prescribed to overcome him with his Scriptures and did not fail to boast of victory.
But the dear Heuglin resolutely refused to accept the Mark of the Beast.  Therefore the servants of Antichrist proceeded further against him. On May 10, 1527 a scaffold was built at Mörsburg in the open market on which sat the Bishop in his mass vestments (or chasuble), two abbots and several sacred and secular judges.  Then the pious Heuglin was brought forward and charged as a heretic.  He replied that it should never be found that he was a heretic since he had never taught otherwise than the doctrine of Christ and Paul, and still held to it.  But where he was erring, he would not hesitate to be shown and directed by the divine Scripture to make amends, as he had often requested.
After his indictment was read, he said that he wanted to speak German, so that everyone may understand him. But the Vicar replied, he is not entitled to dispute before the laymen much, but he should respond to each item with a short answer: I believe, or: I do not believe it.  But Heuglin desired that they let him talk, because his words would be changed and falsified, and if he were interrogated, then he would expect divine and imperial right.  "Let happen herein," he said, "the will of God, which I herewith want to have commended for my case."
At first he was accused that he had rejected the secular authorities. He replied:  "Venerable, high scholars, this is not true. For I otherwise never believed, nor have taught, since we should be obedient to one in authority, as all Scripture teaches.  I have held to the government even to this hour, as a Christian man should; also recognizing my gracious Lord of Constance as my superior.  It is surely true and held by all Christians who are free, they shall understand me rightly; for I am speaking here namely of freedom of conscience, as you scholars well know, if, otherwise, you wanted to know it."
In this he confessed, that he had written the articles of the peasants in a document, but otherwise did not strengthen them.  Whether and how far Heuglin [Page 14]  had sinned, this is known only to God, the Knower of hearts.  But we should not get angry when we see the saints of God sin, but rather take comfort that the merciful God who forgave them, will not deny his grace to us.
When he answered that he recognized only two sacraments, namely baptism and communion, the judge commanded him to silence.  Because of this the martyr rebuked him: "O dear sir, gaachen nit to me (i.e, do not thou rush at me), I say to you there stands a great judgment of God over it.  For it is written: You children of men, judge righteously." [ref. Psalm 58:1]  He remarked to him by the way: "In my great torment you came to me and you said: Luther writes that there are only two sacraments, and I probire (proved) it with the Scriptures.  There have I answered: What Scripture says, I want to remain there; whether Luther writes it or not."
Of good works he confessed that only works done out of true faith are good, otherwise they are a hypocrisy.  On church customs, fasting and the like he said: I believe they should not bind the conscience, so one should do such things without offense, and herein everyone each do once he knows to answer to God.  Otherwise, I do not reject the good customs."  On the accusation that he had read Lutheran writings, he replied: "I have believed it would not be against the authorities what one reads, forasmuch as it is written: Test all things."
Thereupon he was accused: "He has heard Lutheran and unlutherische sermons; but he liked the Lutheran better than the unlutherischen."  Humbly but firmly, he replied: "You may call a thing as you want.  The Word of God is for me not Lutheran.  No doctrine of Luther suits me except for the reason that it is the truth as I believe it from the heart.  Luther is a learned man, and I a poor man, yet neither I nor Luther nor any other can shield his doctrine.  Only I will answer for it, thereby I desire to keep my conscience free before God.  Hope – it is for my life no disadvantage."
On the sacrament of Communion he testified, "I say here that I do not know otherwise than that Christ our Lord in the Supper has taken wine and bread, and said: That is my body, that is [Page 15] my blood.  By these words will I remain, and meanwhile there is no evidence of a purgatory, so may it not be sacrificed for the dead."
With the further discussion of purgatory, he said: "As I was judged evilly (to be martyrerd) when you came unto me, so the Scriptures say nothing of purgatory.  On this I have said: Oh God, I've got enough purgatory in this great pain, so I suffered in prison. What should I say therefore of that which the Scripture says nothing about?  I have not taught it, nevertheless would be as an ignorant to be informed in this article.  O pious Christians, is that not enough of purgatory, so it had to be complained of God."  Here he wept miserably and some upright citizens with him.
While he lamented in his agony, the hard-hearted judge sat there and laughed. When the martyr saw this, he said: "O dear sir, why are you laughing at me?  I'm a deserted, wretched man that is not worth laughing at. Laugh at yourself and God forgives you. You know not what you do."   This word so went through the vicar's heart that he blushed, nevertheless he was not otherwise so easily ashamed of his sins. Then everyone had pity on the poor person.
But Heuglin often sighed heavenward and asked everyone for the love of God that they pray for him.  He ended his responsibility with the explanation that he had surrendered completely into the will of God, which should be also all his hope and confidence.  Then he was condemned as a heretic and deprived by the auxiliary bishop of the papal ordination, whereby he said: "God be praised that I have kept until now as a pious priest before the world, because before God I boast about nothing at all." Then he spoke some verses from the Psalms: In you, Lord, I have hoped.
When he was condemned now to death by fire, the dear martyr looked to heaven and said, "Oh, God forgive you, you know not but what you do."  Till then he had still been apprehensive; now the Word came to him in fulfillment: "They have become strong out of weakness, became mighty in war" (Hebrews 11:34.). Then he started preparing himself to die so courageously that all people were surprised at it and wept with him.  Among other things he said: "To you be praise and thanks eternal God, that thou hast found me worthy for thy holy Name's sake to suffer this day death and torture."  [Page 16]  He also thanked all his benefactors and the bishop that had supplied him in prison with food and drink, and prayed for his condemners that God will forgive them.
While he was led away, he spoke several Psalms and others.  When he had to go into the fire, he said this: "Glory to God in the highest; Lord God, we praise you; My soul doth magnify the Lord" and the like. Then he blessedly gave up his spirit in the fire with invocation of the name of Jesus, and so obtained by cross and suffering for the sake of Christian truth the imperishable Crown of martyrs in eternal joy and blessedness. Thereto may God help us all. Amen.
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4. Heuglin. Sources: Rabus thl. 2. pg 141.
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There is an article on Heuglin in the German Wikipedia here (translate it to English in Chrome browser).  Perhaps there are more details about Heuglin's life there, but the above account by Pastor Fick does not gloss over spiritual matters.   Heuglin is known for his writing for the peasants in their dispute with the authorities that led up to the Peasants War, and Fick admits that Heuglin may have sinned in this matter:
Whether and how far Heuglin had sinned, this is known only to God, the Knower of hearts. 
Then Fick adds the following spiritual insight:
But we should not get angry when we see the saints of God sin, but rather take comfort that the merciful God who forgave them, will not deny his grace to us.
Now do you see why I say to trust Hermann Fick in his presentation of true Church History?  —  In the next Part 5a is the story of Leonhard Kaiser, Lutheran martyr.

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