When Luther’s father, who was on his deathbed, was asked by his pastor whether he believed the consolations which Luther had written to him, he replied, “Of course! If I didn’t believe them I’d be a knave.”
Luther thought enough of his father to name one of his children after him. Indeed, his death affected Luther quite deeply:
When the news of his father’s death reached him at the Coburg, Luther took his psalter, went to his room, and was not seen the rest of the day.
We are fortunate to have a couple of letters from Martin to Hans:
- To Hans Luther, Wartburg, November 21, 1521
- To Hans Luther, Wittenberg, February 15, 1530
Luther heard of his dad’s death on June 6 and that very day wrote the following to Melanchthon:
Today Hans Reinecke wrote me that my very dear father, Hans Luther the Elder, departed from this life on Exaudi Sunday at one o’clock. This death has certainly thrown me into sadness, thinking not only [of the bonds] of nature, but also of the very kind love [my father had for me]; for through him my Creator has given me all that I am and have. Even though it does comfort me that [Reinecke] writes that [my father], strong in faith in Christ, had gently fallen asleep, yet the pity of heart and the memory of the most loving dealing[s] with him have shaken me in the innermost parts of my being, so that seldom if ever have I despised death as much as I do now.
Yet “the righteous man is taken away from calamity, and he enters into peace;” that is, we die many times before we die once for all. I succeed now in the legacy of the name, and I am almost the oldest Luther in my family. Now it is up to me, not only by chance, but also by law, to follow [my father] through death into the kingdom of Christ; may He graciously bestow this on us, for it is for His sake that we are the most miserable among men, and a disgrace for the whole world. Since I am now too sad, I am writing no more; for it is right and Godpleasing for me, as a son, to mourn such a father, from whom the Father of [all] mercies has brought me forth, and through whose sweat [the Creator] has fed and raised me to whatever I am [now]. Indeed I rejoice that he has lived till now so that he could see the light of truth. Praise be to God in all his deeds and councils for ever and ever. Amen.
A fitting tribute to what seems to have been a very good father.