Martin Luther, always stormy, became a virtual tempest in his latter days. His dogmatic outbursts and inflexible positions damaged the unity of the Reformation and troubled his friends, especially coworker Philipp Melanchthon. On June 28, 1545, John Calvin wrote Melanchthon, asking him to take Luther in hand:

[Martin] allows himself to be carried beyond all bounds with his love of thunder. We all of us acknowledge that we are much indebted to him. But in the Church we must always be upon our guard, lest we pay too great a deference to men. It is all over when a single individual has more authority than all the rest. Where there is so much division and separation as we now see, it is indeed no easy matter to still the troubled waters and bring about composure. You will say that [Luther] has a vehement disposition and ungovernable impetuosity. Let us, therefore, bewail the calamity of the Church and not devour our grief in silence. While you dread to meddle with this question, you are leaving in perplexity and suspense very many persons who require from you somewhat a more certain sound on which they can repose.

But Melanchthon was seldom able to restrain Luther, and Luther’s revered name was sullied by his obstinacy, his criticisms of other reformers, and his inexcusable tirades against Jews.

Hard times should never make us hardened people, and adversity should never make us abrasive. Psalm 92 teaches that aging saints are like palm trees and cedars—tall, stately, majestic, evergreen. Robertson McQuilkin has suggested that God planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical, and the strength and beauty of age to be spiritual. We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary so we’ll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty which is forever.

That’s a blessing that Luther, for all his merits, missed.

Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That’s why we keep our minds on things that cannot be seen. (2 Corinthians 4:16b-18)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 28.

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