Comfort on the Wall

It is said that when Martin Luther heard of his father’s death he took his Psalter and retreated to his room and was not seen the rest of the day. This news came to the great German while he was at the Castle Coburg during the Diet of Augsburg. We may wonder what such a great man did in the seclusion of his room with his heart full of emotion. And yet, we may know several things by way of the man’s habit and history.

Twenty years after Luther had been in the Castle Coburg his personal physician, Mathaeus Razeberger, visited the site.[1]  He made a point to visit the room Luther had used for his study.  There he discovered various texts written on the wall. For example, Psalm 118:17 is there and Luther even added musical notes for singing.  But this wasn’t all.  Matthaeus Flaccius, the Hebrew professor at Wittenberg in 1544 gleaned a collection of short sayings and thoughts from the time of Luther’s stay.[2] These he published in a pamphlet in 1550.

Not surprisingly, some of them have to do with the devil and the limitation of his power. Luther wrote, “Truly, God is very much stronger and more powerful than the devil, as I John 4:4 says, ‘He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.’”

Luther also reminded himself that there were other times when the gospel was in even “greater peril” than in his day.[3] He also cajoled himself to bear in mind that “this cause does not depend just on us, but there are many devout Christian people in other lands who make their common cause with us and uphold us with heartfelt sighs and Christian prayer.”[4]  Luther also counseled himself, when his faith was weak, to “pray earnestly with the apostles.”[5] He was also eager to assure himself, “Let us be calmly confident in this cause which has to do with God’s word, Christ, whose cause it is….He is greater, yes, almighty, and he will accomplish it. Amen.”[6]

These days are troublesome. I need not write you a list. I myself have found a comforting example in Luther. No, I don’t write texts on my walls.  Not yet, at least!  But I do take the spirit of what we find in this little pamphlet born of a visit to Castle Coburg. I, like Luther before me, take myself by the scruff and preach the gospel – to myself!  It’s good to take our Bible’s into our room and not be seen for the rest of the day. It is good while there to speak gospel words to our selves. We need to hear and we need to hear the confession of these things from our own mouth.

My suggestion would not be to find this little pamphlet from Luther.  Good if you have it!  But I would encourage you to take Luther’s example. What Psalm ministers to your heart? What saying from the New Testament goads your zeal? What reminder from the historical books produces confidence in God’s sovereignty? Write your own list on your own wall.  In short, do yourself a spiritual favor, preach the gospel to yourself. 

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA.  He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is also an online instructor for Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA. He is the author of From Inscrutability to Concursus (P&R), he has contributed to The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia (Eerdmans) and has published academic articles and book reviews in various journals. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth (placefortruth.org) an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. 

  



[1] Luther’s Works, vol. 43, 169.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 173.

[4] Ibid., 172.

[5] Ibid., 173.

[6] Ibid., 177.