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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Martyrs 19: George Winkler-Luther's ltr of comfort, assassination; obedience to temporal authority

     This continues from Part 18 (Table of Contents in Part 1a and Part 1b) publishing the book of Hermann Fick on the martyrs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  —  Part 19 presents the essay on George Winkler.
      The majority of this essay is taken up by Luther's letter of consolation for Winkler's congregation and followers.  It also contains a record of the circumstances surrounding the martyr's assassination.  This is one of the few cases where the American Edition of Luther's Works published a letter of Luther relating to a martyr... it is in vol. 43, pages 145-165.  My translation borrows from this.  

Some highlighting added hyperlinks added for reference.
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by C.J. Hermann Fick
(tr. by BackToLuther)
XIX.
"Go on! I must yet remain here, and perhaps make a Christian."
(Winkler at the parting of his companion.)
In Halle an der Saale, the evangelical Lutheran doctrine had early found entrance.   Although this city was completely subjected to the archbishop Albert of Mainz, yet the same citizens did not want to live without preachers of the Gospel.  Among these  was the chapter preacher Master George Winkler of Bischofswerda, a native of  Meissen.  He dared, in the name of God, to distribute the Lord's Supper according to Christ's institution, allowing the laity or listeners to partake of the cup.  But thereby he incurred the hatred of the Papists, who could not rest any more until they had secretly killed him in May 1527. [page 138]
His congregation was put in great sorrow over this.   Wherefore Luther, who also was deeply saddened at the assassination of this faithful witness, wrote a letter to the grieving congregation under the heading: "Consolation to the Christians at Halle Upon the Death of their Pastor,  George Winkler of Bischofswerda," wherein he also brings them the circumstances of Winkler’s martyrdom.  In it he writes thus:
"Grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, Amen.  I have for a long time wanted to write to you, my beloved lords and friends, to exhort and comfort you concerning the unfortunate incident so inflicted upon you by Satan by the murder of the good pious man, Master George [Winkler], thus robbing you of your steadfast preacher and of God’s Word.  But all sorts of things have prevented me from doing this, principally my own weakness:  and even though I'm still not quite over it, I can not tarry yet longer.  And Even if we did not intend to express our sympathy immediately in this case, it would be unreasonable to remain silent in such a shameful, treacherous murder, and so let it go and bury such blood in the earth, through which the holy Word of God is testified of and is made known.
"Therefore I will bring it in writing, and help him call and cry to heaven, that so far as in us, such murder will never be concealed, until such time as that God, the Father of mercies and righteous judge, shall hear our cry, as He heard the blood of blessed Abel, and shall bring a just recompense upon that murderer and seducer, the ancient enemy.  And may He grant that Master George’s blood be a divine seed which by Satan and his member’s hands has sown in the earth, and bring forth fruit a hundredfold, so that instead of one murdered George, a hundred of other true preachers come up who do a thousand times more damage to Satan than ever this one man did, since Satan could not put up listening to many, many more like him, just as happened to the pope through the blood of John Hus.  The pope did not want to allow Hus to whisper in his little corner of the world.  Now the pope cannot prevent his shouting all over the world, until Rome itself and almost the world was too narrow for him, though it is not stopping there. Amen.
"But for you and us, dear friends, is to take comfort from this and be content.  First, that is not surprising that such murders and [page 139] misfortune happened on earth.  Because this life is not a life, but a pit of death subject to the devil, as Christ says that he was a prince of this world, and John speaks, chapter 8, that he was a murderer from the beginning and a liar.  [John 14:30, 16:11; 8:44]  When we would and must live now on earth, so we must also consider that we are guests and are located in such lodgings where the host is a rogue host, and his house has the mark or sign above the door that reads: to murder and lies. Because Christ himself has hung such signs and coat of arms over his door and attached to his house, where he says he was a murderer and a liar.  A murderer to choke the body, a liar to seduce the soul, that is his trade and his actions.  That is how he keeps house, so it goes in this hostel, because nothing is different.  And whoever are his housekeepers, they must help him; but whoever are his guests, must wait for such and carry.
"Just so he does with you even now at Halle.  There he saw that his lies should be revealed by his guest, the pious man, Mr. George, and the truth of the Holy Gospel come to the light of day, he did not know what to do otherwise, because it is his nature, than to slay him as a murderer, that only his lies would rule as all contradictions to the truth at Halle and keep the souls in perdition.
"So this is now the first piece of our comfort, that we know who is the murderer of our dear brother, Mr. George; although we can not know for certain who the squire was that commanded it, or whose fists and weapons have done the deed.  For I have heard the bishop of Mainz highly boasted as innocent, which I also wish from my heart and let it be so.  And because I well know more bishops who would do otherwise where they could or would do for their chapter tyrants, I am also truly inclined to believe, if I think anything, that I would believe that tyrants of the chapter at Mainz should have prepared the murder of Mr. George.  For they well have long since made greater slaughter because they wanted with their murderous counsel the German princes to rush at each other through the pious blood of Emperor Charles.  And so they would have Germany drowned in murder and blood, and make sure that their whorish bellows and knavish bellies are maintained in peace and joy.  But God has graciously disallowed the murderous, bloodthirsty dogs their wickedness in those days. [page 140]
"Here they are, the spiritual, holy people who hold Christianity by masses and prayers, and alongside the old murderer, their god, the Devil, with treachery and murdering have to sacrifice the whole world with intent and desire.  I suppose that it is through the same assassins that even this was done, that a lot of priests (preachers), as I hear said, have been secretly drowned in the Rhine and afterwards found dead.  I yet praise the tyrants, though they also serve the devil, who freely through the public courts daily condemn our brothers and make their deeds known.  But the assassins have not so much as an honest drop of blood in their body that they should do freely what is reserved for the power of civil authorities, but act as traitors and villains.  But go on, beloved assassins, you walk in right paths such as Cain did, who murdered his brother secretly, Ex. 4:3.  O how well this remained hidden!  So shall your murder, whoever you are, committed against Mr.George also stay secretly concealed; no one will know you, only the One who yet knew Cain.
"Well, Satan has surely done this deed, but the chapter of Mainz, I would say that I do not know for certain to accuse; but I am well aware that they have the local government, court and protection, and they have more power than the Bishop, as they have tied the hands of their bishops by oath and duty in all locations that their chapter is as powerful as Roland is of his sword, that they are called bishops but are not, and cathedral priests are bishops but are not called such: if they do not want to implement a search for such murderers and punish them with all diligence, they would surely grant such a murder and laugh in their fist that they have not ordered it otherwise; and they are to be chastised as the hijackers and highwaymen on their own road, and criminals of the imperial public peace, that they can so murder a man without investigation and prosecution, against all equity and imperial law, and do nothing.
"A second comforting fact in this murder is that the pious Mr. George was slain in obedience to his authority.  For since he was required to leave Halle and go to his superior, he had attached little importance to his own life, though he saw many evil foreshadowings, that he might be found in obedience.  In this he truly followed his Lord, Jesus Christ, so that one may say of him: he was obedient unto death [page 141] Since he acted according to the saying of St.. Paul, Rom.. 13:1-2: "be subject to temporal authority," he certainly acted in obedience to God's Word, and thus died in the Lord, that we may sing well of him, Rev. 14:13: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord."  Indeed not only has he been obedient, but also has loved his superior and proved this to him with body and life.  For I have heard remarkable things about how firmly and faithfully he supported the bishop during the riots and opposed the rebels with all his might, to the admiration and love of the bishop.  Now all that is repaid to him.  Such people should be killed by spiritual chapters, but rather it seems that whores and knaves should be honored by them.
"Thirdly, he was not only killed on duty and in obedience to temporal authority, but also for the sake of the Gospel, abundantly for the sake of the article that he had wanted to teach and extend both forms of the sacrament.  There a fire would break out: there must Satan together with his assassins defend themselves so that no further inroads would be made.  So they called him from a foreign diocese, as is Magdeburg, into another, as is Mainz, since he did not belong to their court system, and secretly and treacherously strangled him on the way.  For thus I am reporting that he was attacked by assassins through episcopal letters directing him from Halle towards Aschaffenburg.  But when he got there, he was detained alone, and his companion sent home back, and did not have much to say to him except that he should say: "Go on, I must yet remain here, and perhaps make a Christian."  He had anticipated, or perhaps had so much seen or heard from his assassins that he would have to stand and by a of Christ.
"For several days they kept his horse, and he was set on a fool's horse named Pastore, which was to carry him to the place of ambush and even gave him a riding companion as though to see him safely home.  On the way a village pastor offered to keep them overnight, but his companion did not wanted this.  After these things he wanted to take another well-known route through the woods, but his companion did not want, lest he escape the trap of the murderers in the bushes.  So about two miles from Aschaffenburg the dear heroes and papal knights ran to the good man and stabbed him, and have earned the hellish crown, as long as they [page 142] do not repent of it, and they and their masters will be crowned in hell by the devil himself.  So much is what I know about the matter." [end of Luther's letter]
The judgments of God were not made via this assassin.  An old writer, Hondorff, reports: "That afterwards not one of these, as many people well know, died a good death."
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19.  Georg Winkler. Sources: Hondorff, Promptuarium, Thl. 1, S. 199 [here ??]. Luthers Werke, Walchs. Ausgabe, Thl. 10, S. 2161 [error? more likely p. 2260,  2264-2265; see StL ed. vol. 10, pg 1964-5; Am. Ed. vol. 43, pgs 145-165]. Seckendorf  historia lutheranismi, Buch 2, S. 83.  [Note: there is a mention of Winkler in Marvin J. Newell’s book A Martyr’s Grace…]
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Strange Glory
by Charles Marsh

Winkler vs. Bonhoeffer: temporal authority
The subject of obedience to civil or temporal authorities is covered in this essay, as Luther confirms the Bible's teaching, especially Romans 13:1-2.  The now famous account of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who identified himself as Lutheran, shows that he yet imagined that this Bible passage did not apply to him in relation to his German government, and so became complicent in the plot to assassinate the leader of his country.  How this stance is at variance with Luther's account of George Winkler!!  The author Charles Marsh of the latest book on Bonhoeffer, Strange Glory, states the following on page 269:
 ...the traditional Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms: Christians must be obedient to the earthly authorities as unto God.
Marsh makes this statement in relation to the Nazi oath of 1938 for clergy to pledge allegiance to Adolf Hitler, etc.  There is a hint in Marsh's comment that the "traditional Lutheran doctrine" is wrong because it seems to be complicent with the Nazi government's requirement.  But the doctrine Marsh states is essentially the language of the Bible, Romans 13:1-2.  So there is a great disparity between George Winkler's teaching (i.e. the Biblical Lutheran doctrine) and that of Bonhoeffer and his part in an assassination plot to kill the leader of the German government. ... No, one can hardly get much Christian doctrine from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, especially from this aspect of him.
In the next Part 20 – the martyr story of "Heinrich".

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