When Martin Luther entered the Augustinian monastery, he had one goal—and that was the salvation of his soul.
The picture above shows the altar where he performed his first mass, and in front of it is a gravestone upon which he knelt to say his vows of obedience and chastity. Also, I’ve included a picture of the last monastic cell in which he stayed in Erfurt, Germany.
Luther was terror stricken at the thought of Christ as Judge. He sought to lay hold of every means of grace that was available to him. He knew he could never get to heaven without the merit of Christ, but he also believed that he had to earn such merit. Therefore, the only wise course of action was to pursue religion with all of his strength so that he might be worthy of God’s grace. He committed himself to the most rigorous discipline in order that he might die with saving grace.
He obeyed all the requirements expected of him. He lived on a scant diet, wore rough clothing, had vigils by night and labored by day, mortifying the flesh by sleeping on the cold floor without blankets. But he found no peace for his soul.
Confession was of some solace to him, but he confessed his sins up to six hours at a time. He knew that the issue was not whether the sin was big or little, but whether or not it had been confessed and forgiven. And even if he could remember his sins and confess all of them, tomorrow the process would have to begin all over again.
Thankfully, his story does end well. While teaching the Bible, he discovered that salvation was a free gift given to the repentant. Jesus paid it all.
But how this came about, and what resulted later, will be the subject of my next blog. It is a story we cannot hear too often.