Daily Reformation, Psalm 22:25-31
About the Reformer
In the summer of 1505 Luther entered the Augustinian convent at Erfurt and became a monk, as he thought, for his life time. The circumstances which led to this sudden step we gather from his fragmentary utterances which have been embellished by legendary tradition.
He was shocked by the sudden death of a friend (afterward called Alexius), who was either killed in a duel, or struck dead by lightning at Luther’s side. Shortly afterward, on the second of July, 1505, two weeks before his momentous decision, he was overtaken by a violent thunderstorm near Erfurt, on his return from a visit to his parents, and was so frightened that he fell to the earth and tremblingly exclaimed: “Help, beloved Saint Anna! I will become a monk.” His friend Crotus (who afterward became an enemy of the Reformation) inaptly compared this event to the conversion of St. Paul at the gates of Damascus. But Luther was a Christian before he became a monk.
On the sixteenth of July he assembled his friends who in vain tried to change his resolution, indulged once more in social song, and bade them farewell. On the next day they accompanied him, with tears, to the gates of the convent. The only books he took with him were the Latin poets Vergil and Plautus.
His father almost went mad, when he heard the news. Luther himself declared in later years, that his monastic vow was forced from him by terror and the fear of death and the judgment to come; yet he never doubted that God’s hand was in it. “I never thought of leaving the convent: I was entirely dead to the world, until God thought that the time had come.”
This great change has nothing to do with Luther’s Protestantism. It was simply a transition from secular to religious life—such as St. Bernard and thousands of Catholic monks before and since passed through. He was never an infidel, nor a wicked man, but a pious Catholic from early youth; but he now became overwhelmed with a sense of the vanity of this world and the absorbing importance of saving his soul, which, according to the prevailing notion of his age, he could best secure in the quiet retreat of a cloister.
He afterward underwent as it were a second conversion, from the monastic and legalistic piety of mediaeval Catholicism to the free evangelical piety of Protestantism, when he awoke to an experimental knowledge of justification by free grace through faith alone.
—Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church
Pulling It Together
The old saying goes, “God is not finished with you yet.” Indeed, he is not finished with this world and so loves it that he sent both Son and Spirit to redeem and convict. Do you trust God in his purposes? Would you allow that God is at work in corners of the world that you might have considered hopeless causes? Poor Luther would have been given up on by many Evangelicals today. The lad is lost for he’s gone to the monastery. Thank God that he did not give up on Martin and continued to call and convert the one who would reform the Church. Thank God he did not give up on you and still has not, for your conversion is not yet finished.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers