Page images

and the schoolmen with great power, appealing to primitive Christianity and the right of free thought.

The climax in the making of the great reformer was approaching. Several events hastened the crisis. Among them was a commissioned journey to Rome which opened his eyes to conditions that fairly staggered him. An official visitation to Meissen and Thuringia added to his grief. Finally, when Tetzel invaded his parish with his “indulgences” the cup of Luther's woe was full, and he nailed the memorable "ninety-five theses” on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, and thus (1517) challenged the learned class, in the usual way, to a great debate. The “die was cast," and after his contest with Eck, Luther found himself irrevocably committed against the church as custodian of the Holy Book, and thus became the champion of the “open Bible," which he loved because it brought him peace, and he wished mankind to find what he had found.

Luther's Services to Education.-Luther saw, as we see to-day, that an open Bible would conserve the rights of the individual to think for himself in those matters which are of the highest personal importance, and that superior reason and superior conscience, touched by the divine in this open book, would adjust all essential claims of the individual, not only with the just demands of the social whole, but also with the claims of God, placing God's claims above all others in these adjustments.

Paganism, being without a “revelation," had never succeeded in making these adjustments; and the Christian Church, in her zeal to curb the extreme individualism of Græco-Roman paganism, had gradually, on becoming the sole custodian of education (529), arrogated to herself all rights of interpretation. She accomplished this by refusing to give the Bible to the laity in living languages, thus compelling both reason and conscience to submit to prescriptions, until she had defeated the very ends of Christ's coming. Luther, catching the Master's spirit anew, was the first to rebel against these prescriptions successfully, and, by giving the people the open book, and thus adjusting all rightful claims to each other, he ushered in the modern ages.

Luther hoped to accomplish his educational ideals through a reorganized church and state, co-operating with each other and with the home. All his educational activities and ideas command profound attention, and serve as ideals to-day.

Writings.-Luther frequently referred to education from the pulpit, in his letters, and in his addresses, but the contributions which give him such a high rank as an educator are his translation of the Bible, his catechisms, his appeal to the cities, and his sermon on the duty of sending children to school.

He translated the New Testament into German at Wartburg, where in 1521, after his memorable trial at Worms, powerful friends secreted him for his personal safety; and he completed his translation of the Bible in 1534. He did this to get it before the masses, using their simple and expressive vocabulary with such marvellous selection and correctness of expression that, in a few years--thanks to the printing-pressnearly half a million copies were in circulation, and this in spite of the fact that there were other German translations extant. Here was an educational, as well as literary, achievement, whose worth can hardly be overestimated. It produced the common schools of Germany, for if the masses are to read the Bible, and thus think for themselves, they must of course learn to read, and Luther soon persuaded the Protestant congregations and princes to establish such schools. That this purpose was in his mind in the translation of the Bible appears from the fact that his friend and admirer, John Bugenhagen (1485-1558), who reorganized the churches in the cities and the states of northern Germany, ordered, as early as 1520, as at Hamburg, in every parish, not only a Latin school, but also a German school for boys and one for girls.

In 1524 Luther wrote his celebrated “Letter to the Mayors and Aldermen of All Cities in Behalf of Christian Schools.” It bore fruit at once, for the following year he was commissioned by the Count of Mansfield to found a model German school at Eisleben. This was done by Luther's coworker, Melanchthon. It was out of these separate foundations by churches and rulers that the present “Volksschulen” of Germany developed in course of time.

In his parish visitations Luther found the people exceedingly ignorant, and therefore in 1529, to bring Bible study within the scope of their understanding, and to help them interpret it when he should translate it, he produced two German catechisms, one for children and the other for adults, thus in effect organizing the home into a catechetical school and furnishing the schools a suitable summary of religious instruction.

In 1535, the year after he had completed his translation of the Bible, he wrote his celebrated “Sermon on the Duty of Sending Children to School.” This production, like his "Letter to the Mayors,” is an extended treatise on education, in which he touched with a master-hand on practically all the great subjects of school organization, educational purposes, suitable courses, teachers, methods, discipline.

Ideas.--Experience had early convinced Luther, as in harmony with all we know about the man we might have expected, that education based on the Bible was the surest safeguard of the high and holy interests of the home, the church, and the state, and, inasmuch as they were all beneficiaries, they were to be jointly held responsible for the establishment and maintenance of schools, together with the training and employment of teachers. On this point he said: “Even if there were no soul, and men did not need schools . . . for the sake of Christianity, . . . society, for the maintenance of civil order and the proper regulation of the household, needs accomplished and well-trained men and women.”

Luther saw, as we do to-day, how greatly the welfare of church and state depends upon our homes. Accordingly he advocated that education should begin at home through elementary instruction in the catechism, which instruction by the parents he had made possible, and for which he held them sacredly responsible. On this point he says: “No one should become a father unless he is able to instruct his children in the Ten Commandments and the Gospel.” He loved music, and encouraged the singing of hymns in the home circle.

Recognizing that most parents, much as they might wish to serve the church and state, were not in position to do so, especially since they were not professionally trained, he proposed German schools for both boys and girls, where, as we have seen at Hamburg and Eisleben, in connection with instruction in the catechism, other studies such as singing, reading, writing, arithmetic, history, physical culture, and even "nature” should be taken up under trained teachers. “We see indeed how it goes with this teaching and training,” said he in a passage addressed to parents who thought they could teach their own sons and daughters.

While Luther did not advocate long school hours, seeing that these might encroach too seriously upon the home life and occupational pursuits, he was so thoroughly convinced about the importance of education to both church and state that he insisted on compulsory attendance. He said: “If the government can compel such citizens as are fit for military services ... to perform martial duties," it ought “to compel the people to send their children to school, because in this case we are warring with the devil,” and because “Those that enjoy the privileges of a country are to contribute toward everything that the common interests of the country require.

Luther esteemed the office of teaching very highly, asserting that if he were not a minister of the gospel he would like to be a teacher, and calling attention to the fact that in many respects the teacher has the advantage, seeing that children can be shaped for good while adults are often past shaping. “It is hard,” said he, "to make old dogs docile and old rogues pious, yet that is what the ministry works at; but young trees, though some may break in pieces, are more easily bent and trained.”

To Luther the personality and professional equipment

« PreviousContinue »