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KATHERINE VON BORA.

15 died at the age of fourteen, to the intense grief of both father and mother. To comfort his wife and himself Luther said, as the girl lay in her coffin, “You, dear Lena, will rise again and shine like a star, yea, as the sun. We, dear Katherine, should not lament as those who have no hope ; we have dismissed a saint for heaven. O that we could so die! Such a death I would willingly accept this very hour."

Days and years passed and the time came for Katherine to be left a widow. In February, 1546, Luther had gone on a journey to Eisleben, at some distance from his home, and his wife was very anxious about him, partly because he was in a somewhat feeble state of health, and partly because the floods were out and travelling dangerous. Wishing to cheer her, he wrote the following characteristic letter :-"To the gracious dame, Katherine Lather, my dear spouse, who is tormenting herself quite unnecessarily, Grace and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ. Dear Katherine, you should read St. John, and what the Catechism says respecting the confidence we ought to have in God. You afflict yourself as if God were not all-powerful and able to raise up new Doctor Martins by the dozen, should the old Doctor Martin be drowned in the Saale or perish in any other way. There is One who takes care of me in His own manner, better than you and all the angels could ever do. He sits by the side of the Almighty Father. Therefore tranquillise yourself.”

But Katherine had only too much reason for her fears. About a week after writing this letter Luther became very ill, and in four days more, before his wife could reach his dying bed, had fallen asleep in Christ.

Luther had made what appeared likely to be a comfortable provision for Katherine and his four surviving children; and whilst the remembrance of his noble career was fresh, they also met with much sympathy from the Protestant princes of Germany and others. But within a year war broke out, and that in the very district where Lather's property was situated, -Wittemberg was besieged, Katherine and her family had to flee, and the Elector, her late husband's great friend, was made a prisoner.

It is very painful to read of the distress and poverty with which for several succeding years the once happy wife of Martin Luther had to contend. As soon as permitted she returned to her home in Wittemberg, and there tried to support herself and children by letting apartments, and boarding students. But finding this insufficient she addressed the following letter to Christian III., King of Denmark, who had shown himself a friend to her late husband :

“Grace from God, through His only begotton Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and true helper hitherto. Most serene, most mighty, most gracious king and lord, I humbly pray your royal majesty graciously to receive this my letter, in consideration that I am a poor widow, and that my late dear lord, Dr. Martin Luther, of blessed memory, faithfully served the church, and especially because your royal majesty had conferred on my dear lord for some years the gracious assistance of a yearly gift of fifty dollars for which I humbly thank your royal majesty. But since I and my children have now less help than before, and since the

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DUTIES OF THE PRESENT. commotion of this time brings many troubles, I humbly beseech your royal majesty to be pleased graciously to appoint me this assistance for the future. Your royal majesty is the only king upon earth to whom we poor Christians may betake ourselves, and God will doubtless testify His approbation of such acts of kindness shewn to Christ's poor preachers and to their poor widows and orphans by bestowing his gifts and blessings. I therefore will faithfully and earnestly pray Almighty God to be pleased graciously to preserve your royal majesty and your royal children.

KATHERINE, WIDOW OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER. Wittemberg, October 6th, 1550.”

This letter, so pathetic in its humility as coming from the once high-spirited Katherine, did not at once obtain for her the assistance

By mortgaging her little property and pawning her plate she struggled on for eighteen months longer; but at length another appeal having been made to the King of Denmark, supported by the intercession of Dr. Bugenhagen, her husband's former friend, she received from him a gift of money.

This was in March, 1552. But not much longer did Katherine need help from earthly friends. The plague had broken out at Wittemberg, and on her way thence to Torgau she met with a serious accident. The horse in the waggon in which she was travelling with her children took fright when passing part of the road skirted by a lake, and she leaping out fell into the water severely bruised. This accident brought on an illness from which she never recovered. She lingered for three months, displaying much Christian patience and resignation, and supported by that faith in the Saviour of which her husband had been 80 zealous and successful a preacher. “I will cleave to my Lord Christ," said she, in these last days, “ as the bar to the cloth.”

She died at the age of fifty-three and was buried in the parish church of Torgau, the students of the university attending the funeral. A tombstone, still to be seen, was erected near the spot where she lies. On it her effigy is sculptured at full length, and she is represented with an open Bible in her hands. The inscription runs as follows:

“ In the year 1552, the 20th of December, here in Torgau, fell asleep, blessed in God, Katherine von Bora, the blessed widow of Doctor Martin Luther."

W. R. STEVENSON.

Juties of the Present. .

What is our duty here? To tend

From good to better—thence to best:
Grateful to drink life's cup—then bond

Unmurmuring to our bed of rost;
To pluck the flowers that round us blow,
Scattering our fragrance as we go.

And so to live, that when the sun

Of our existence sinks in night, Memorials sweet of mercies dono [light,

May shrine our namos in memory's And the blest seeds we scattered, bloom A hundred-fold in years to come.

-BOWRING.

Our Pulpits.

THE HANDS THAT HANG DOWN.

Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”—HEBREW8 xii. 12, 13. The metaphor ased in the beginning of this chapter, to illustrate the nature of the Christian's course, is pre-eminently Pauline, and is found in several other Epistles.

The stadium, or place of contest, here called the "agon," was not simply an arena of strife, but a scene of suffering. The race set before the Christian Hebrews involved severe effort, and no small amount of courage and constancy was required to bear the strain pat upon them. In urging them to bear it bravely the Apostle based his counsel on the firmest grounds. . He reminded them first of the Model Sufferer, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, If He had endured so much for them, they should be willing to suffer for Him. And by looking to, and considering Him, the necessary power to suffer might be derived. They had been sorely tried already ; yet none of them had lost their lives; and anything short of martyrdom might be deemed a mercy. Their tribulation was part of the discipline appointed by their divine parent, who chastens, and even scourges all His children; not in anger but love; not for His pleasure but their profit. Those who forget what is spoken to them "as unto children" may fret and faint; but those who ponder in their hearts the paternal admonition will become content and courageous. These considerations, suggested the inference which forms our present text. The particle "wherefore" begins this inferential counsel, and several parts of it are worthy of present day attention.

This passage is an almost literal quotation from the Old Testament. The words in Isa. xxxv. 3, 4, are an address to the ancient pastors requiring them to strengthen the feeble, and to fortify the fearful. But Paul employs them as a call to self-invigoration. We are exhorted to lift ap our own hands, when they hang down; to bandage our own knees, if they are palsied; and to beware lest our own feet should diverge from the line of duty laid down for our guidance.

In all gymnastic exercises, more especially in racing, the chief strain is put on the hands, the knees, and the feet. Were the hands allowed to droop, or the knees to be relaxed, or the feet to go awry, the race would be inevitably lost. The need for the threefold exertion here prescribed is obvious and urgent.

The drooping hands and palsied knees are signs of mental depression and moral debility. Godly people have entered the good and right way, and are pursuing a heavenward course. For a time they “run well,” and nothing may daunt or diepirit them. But the arduousness of the race begins to be felt, and before long the fleetest runner slackens his pace, and is almost ready to pause.

In the spiritual life we are prone to depression and languor. constitutional temperament may be unfitted for incessant religious duty. Where there is one person naturally brave and buoyant, there

are at least two of an opposite disposition. In any band of pilgrims, setting out for the celestial city, we are certain to find Bunyan's ideals, Timorous and Mistrust, who meeting trials they had not expected, lost all heart, and hastened back to their old place and state. All souls are liable to become “discouraged because of the way." What is foreseen to be formidable may be wholly declined, or if undertaken may not be long endured. Courageous spirits have been overcome by continued hardships, and the strongest nerves are unstrung by over tension. Even Atlas is said to have been weary under his fabled weight. But it is no myth to say that “men of might,” when heavily burdened, sink and succumb. Their strength is brought down to the earth, and their glory is laid in the dust.

Lassitude and languor are contagious in Christian communities. They spread secretly from one member to another, until the people as a body are permeated by their subtle influence. Then comes about that condition of "the Cause” which is called "low," and which it is so difficult to elevate and improve. Well would it be if this spiritual epidemic were early arrested, and quickly stamped out. The older Hebrews were commanded to employ precautions against a desponding spirit, in a time of war. “When thou goest to battle, the officers shall say to the people, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted ? Let him return to his home, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart.” The spies who came back from Canaan with an evil report of the land, especially of the gigantic foes to be confronted there, did much to demoralise the heroes who were waiting to march into it. Caleb uttered no calumny when he said, “My brethren, who went up with me, made the heart of the people to melt.” He wholly followed the Lord, thus keeping up his own courage, and infusing new life into the sinking souls of others. This animating action is what the text recommends. Instead of fearing what was formidable, and fainting in what was arduous, the writer tells these contemporary Hebrews to raise their hopes and renew their energies. In doing this a fresh start might be made in their way heavenward.

To the ancient athlete the stadium must be rendered as perfect as possible. That stadium was a select piece of ground, without bend or baulk in it: a line being drawn from end to end, the mark" along which the athlete was to press. Proper attention to the course answered to what is here advised: it was tantamount to the making of straight paths for the feet. The Apostle, in his further counsel, keeps up his favourite figure. To make any new departure in the Christian course prosperous, that course must have no obliquity in it. And if impediments are not removed, as far as possible, they may bring our running to a fatal issue. The lame foot may stumble. Dislocation may be the consequence of carelessness : while due attention to a limb diseased may result in its being "healed.” In the religious life our paths are appointed and prescribed, and so are made straight for us. "What is needful to be known is divinely revealed.

Every doctrine is dictated by the Spirit of truth. Every duty is plainly commanded. And the ordinances to be kept are of easy observance. In learning, believing, and obeying, we carry out the idea of the apostle ; whereas by following our own fancies, by being self-willed,

as

THE HANDS THAT HANG DOWN.

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and by putting any stumblingblock of iniquity before our eyes, we should be doing the opposite to what he advises. His exhortation would remind these Christian Hebrews of their erratic ancestors, of whom it is written, " Their feet run to evil; wasting and destruction are in their paths: they have made them crooked paths; whoso goeth therein shall not know peace.” And the better course here recommended is in agreement with Paul's own example. For having advised the Corinthians “so to run that they might obtain,” he described his own way of conducting the contest. “I therefore so run as not uncertainly; so fight I, not as beating the air ; but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage, lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” It is very evident that, either constitutionally, or from the pressure of circumstances, Paul suffered from despondency—“perplexed, yet not unto despair; cast down, yet not destroyed. The means by which he had counteracted his own infirmities could be wisely commended to others. With a firm trust in the living God, who comforts those who are cast down, they must invigorate themselves. Timothy was told to stir up, or inflame, the gift of God which was in him.

The same act of self-invigoration may be urged on all Christian workers. Young men, whether in the higher ministry, or some lower sphere, and young maidens among their own sex, in schools or homes, should be sanguine as to the success they desire. Juvenile ardour needs constant fanning or its heat will soon abate. The quick recarrence of laborious duties; the slow progress of costly undertakings; and the long delay of expected rewards are sore trials of faith and patience ; so that of those who begin the work of the Lord only a few persevere and become permanent co-operators therein. The diffidence which Jeremiah manifested in his early days was commendable; but he required the remonstrance which was conveyed in the question: "If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses ?

Those whose natural force is abated by frequent sickness or advancing age greatly need this uplifting of the pendent hands and palsied knees. Bodies, in whose flesh there is no soundness, are as unsuited for spiritual, as for secular service. Yet some, like Richard Baxter, who never knew what it was to be thoroughly well, have been among the most useful of mankind. As to old men and fathers, their only means of persistence in labour is their self-renewal in the strength of the Lord. If there is not a daily use of their jaded faculties and a gentle rallying of their diminished energies, nothing remains for them but the most complete prostration. As their bodily powers may be sustained by more frequent refreshment from food and sleep, so may their spiritual vigour be insured by a more assiduous appropriation of the provisions of divine grace.

“The Lord opholdeth the righteous." He “keepeth the feet of His saints." He orders their steps, and delights in their way. He establishes their goings, and guards them from stumbling. To assure ourselves of these divine dealings is the most effectual method of lifting up drooping hands, and nerving palsied knees, and making straight paths for our feet.

W. UNDERWOOD.

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