When Luther lost his daughter

Lucas_Cranach_d.Ä._-_Der_Tod_der_Magdalena_LutherLuther was called to part with his daughter Magdalena at the age of fourteen.

She was a most endearing child, and her personality united the firmness and perseverance of the father with the gentleness and delicacy of the mother. When she grew very ill Luther said, “Dearly do I love her; but, O my God, if it be Thy will to take her hence, I resign her to Thee without a murmur.” He then approached the bed, saying to her, “my dear little daughter, my beloved Magdalena, you would willingly remain with your earthly father; but if God calls yon, you will also willingly go to your Heavenly Father.” She replied,.“Yes, dear father, it is as God pleases.”

“Dear little girl!” he exclaimed; “oh how I love her! The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He then took the Bible, and read to her the following passage: —“Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust, for the earth shall cast out the dead.” He then said, ”My daughter, enter thou into thy resting-place in peace.” She turned her dying eyes toward him, and said, with touching simplicity, “Yes, father.” When her last moments were near, she raised her eyes tenderly to her parents, and begged them not to weep for her. “I go,” said she, “to my Father in heaven,” and a sweet smile irradiated her dying countenance.

Luther threw himself upon his knees, weeping bitterly, and fervently prayed God to spare her to them. In a few moments she expired in the arms of her father. Katherine, unequal to repressing the agony of her sorrow, was at a little distance, perhaps unable to witness the last long-drawn breath.

When the scene was closed, Luther repeated fervently, “The will of God be done! Yes, she has gone to her Father in heaven.” Philip Melanchthon, who, with his wife, was present, said, “Parental love is an image of the Divine love, impressed on the hearts of men; God does not love the beings He has created less than parents love their children.” When they were about putting the child into the coffin the father said, “Dear little Magdalena, I see thee now lifeless, but thou wilt shine in the heavens as a star. I am joyous in spirit, but in the flesh most sorrowful. It is wonderful to realize that she is happy, better taken care of, and yet to be so sad.”

Then turning to her mother, who was bitterly weeping, he said, “Dear Katherine, remember where she has gone. Ah! She has made a blessed exchange. The heart bleeds, without doubt; it is natural that it should; but the spirit, the immortal spirit, rejoices. Happy are those who die young. Children do not doubt, they believe; with them all is trust; they fall asleep.”

When the funeral took place, and the people were assembled to convey the body to its last home, some friends said they sympathized for him in his affliction. “Be not sorrowful for me,” he replied, “I have sent a saint to heaven.”  

Later, Luther wrote to a dear friend, “I believe the report has reached you that my dearest daughter Magdalena has been reborn into Christ’s eternal kingdom. I and my wife should joyfully give thanks for such a felicitous departure and blessed end by which Magdalena escaped the power of the flesh, the world, the Turk and the devil; yet the force of our natural love is so great that we are unable to do this without crying and grieving in our hearts, or even without experiencing death ourselves. The features, the words and the movements of the living and dying daughter remain deeply engraved in our hearts. Even the death of Christ… is unable to take this all away as it should. You, therefore, give thanks to God in our stead. For indeed God did a great work of grace when he glorified our flesh in this way. Magdalena had (as you know) a mild and lovely disposition and was loved by all… God grant me and all my loved ones and all my friends such a death – or rather such a life.”