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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Martin Luther

  • [Born at Eisleben, Saxony, Nov. 10, 1483; studied at Erfurt, where he became an Augustinian monk; professor of philosophy at Wittenberg, 1508; visited Rome, 1510; opposed the sale and doctrine of indulgences, 1517; appeared before the Diet of Worms, April 17, 1521; concealed in the Wartburg until March, 1522; translated the Bible, 1522–1534; died Feb. 18, 1546.]
  • Were there as many devils in Worms as tiles upon the roofs of the houses, still would I enter (Wenn so viel Teufel zu Worms wären als Ziegel auf den Dächern, so wollt’ ich hinein).

  • To the messenger of Spalatin, the secretary and confidential adviser of the Elector Frederick, Luther’s protector, exhorting the reformer on no account to enter Worms, even with the emperor’s safe-conduct. Luther wrote from Eisenach in 1521: “We shall enter Worms in spite of all the councils of hell, and all the powers of the air” (Intrabimus Wormatiam invitis omnibus portis infernis et potestatibus aëris). He also wrote to the Elector Frederick after leaving the Wartburg, in 1522, that he would have entered Worms had there been as many devils as tiles on the roofs.
  • As Luther entered the Diet, his friend George von Freundsberg said to him, “My poor monk, thou hast a march and a struggle to go through, such as neither I nor many other captains have seen the like in our most bloody battles. But if thy cause be just, and thou art sure of it, go forward in God’s name, and fear nothing.”—“God will be my defence,” was the monk’s answer.
  • When asked in the Diet if he would not retract his opinions, he replied, “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise: God help me.” These words are inscribed upon the monument erected to him in Worms in 1868. His position before Charles V. was the same which he had taken in the year 1516, when he said of Tetzel’s method of attracting attention to his sale of indulgences, “I will make a hole in that drum.”
  • He bore impatiently the friendly imprisonment to which he was subjected by the Elector of Saxony, saying, “I would rather be stretched on burning coals than stagnate here half dead” (Mallem inter carbones vivos ardere, quam solus semivivus, atque utinam non mortuus, putere).
  • I fear two things, epicurism and enthusiasm, two schisms yet to come.

  • Of the reaction and excesses of reform.
  • He exclaimed when Pope Clement VII. summoned the Council of Augsburg, in 1526, “O Pope, if I live I shall be a pestilence to thee, and if I die I shall be thy death!” But he could also say, “When I am dead the papists will find out how temperate an adversary I have been to them;” and the Emperor Maximilian I. wrote to the Elector of Saxony: “Take care of the monk Luther, for a time may come when we may have need of him.”
  • To pray well is the better half of study (Fleissig gebet ist über die Hälfte studirt).

  • This, and the following, are from Luther’s “Table Talk.”
  • To rise betimes, and to marry young, are what no man ever repents of doing.
  • It is no more possible to do without a wife than it is to dispense with eating and drinking. [Thales, being asked at what time a man should marry, replied, “Young men, not yet; old men, not at all.”]
  • God knows all trades better than the most accomplished artisan here below.
  • If a man be not handsome at twenty, strong at thirty, learned at forty, and rich at fifty, he will never be. (A Spanish proverb.)
  • God made the priest: the Devil set about an imitation; but he made the tonsure too large, and produced a monk.
  • That little bird has chosen his shelter, and is quietly rocking himself to sleep without a care for to-morrow’s lodging, calmly holding by his little twig, and leaving God to think for him.
  • The human heart is like a millstone in a mill: when you put wheat under it, it turns and grinds and bruises the wheat to flour. If you put no wheat, it still grinds on; but then ’tis itself it grinds and wears away.
  • An idle priest, instead of reciting his breviary, used to run over the alphabet, and then say, “O my God, take this alphabet, and put it together how you will.”
  • There is no gown or garment that worse becomes a woman than when she will be wise.