Lament and Exhortation
January 11, 1548 — Funeral of Matthäus Zell, St. Lawrence Cathedral, Strasbourg
Dear friends: Although this burial and sad occasion most closely concern me, namely, to bury the body of my dear and upright husband after his departure from this temporal life (as all people must depart), still, out of the overflow of my grieved heart, yes, which the Lord has grieved, I must say something about it to you, something I cannot hold back. I thank all of you with my whole heart for the love and faithfulness that you have now all shown to my dear husband and the diligent way you have followed him, your upright, simple, but faithful shepherd. I see that today the thoughts of the hearts are revealed and love that was hidden for a time now breaks forth. Where I also can serve all of you in your needs and each one individually, I will gladly do that according to the measure of my ability.
Second, I cannot fail further to exhort you who are here present (for my heart is full). Yes, I cannot fail to remind you and myself of the teaching and life that my good husband led and exhort all of us not to disregard the witness of his death or forget his teaching; as the Lord laments in the prophet Isaiah and says, “The upright will be taken away and no one takes that seriously, or pays attention.” God does not measure things that way at all; for He also says in the psalm how faithful and valuable before Him is the death of His great saints. You have now heard an exhortation and prayer from Mr. Martin Bucer (do not forget it!). These preachers will be taken away for their good and profit to rest in their Lord Christ, but for us their departure is our great chastisement.
But first I ask you not to take it wrongly and not to be irritated with me for what I am doing, as if I now wanted to place myself in the office of preachers and apostles: not at all! But it is only as the dear Mary Magdalene without any prior thought became an apostle and was charged by the Lord Himself to tell His disciples that the Christ was risen and was ascending to His Father and our Father. So I also now speak, without any prior intention; when I went out of my house I had not thought to be able thus to say something but only planned to follow to the grave this, my dearest treasure on earth, with silent but great pain — as also the mother of Jesus together with the others from Galilee performed their love to the Lord Christ and followed Him to the cross and grave, knowledge and consideration, my heart and mouth have opened to all of you and I cannot restrain myself.
This my upright husband was seventy years old, in his thirtieth year as pastor in the cathedral here in Strasbourg, a servant of his Lord Jesus Christ. He was simple, faithful, and truthful; he believed the holy scriptures, taught them and held to them purely as to the word of God ordained through the Holy Spirit for our light on this pilgrimage [He was not involved in worldly matters and practiced no hypocrisy in his spiritual office, nor could he have done so; therefore I could well say of him as it is written of the holy Job, “There was a man in the land, simple and upright and fearing God.” Yes, he loved and feared God and behaved according to the simplicity and faithfulness of his means and ability. He was ready to serve everyone and highly valued love; he was quick to forgive the sins of his neighbors and gladly covered them (so long as they were not public sins against God and His Spirit. Anything he failed to do was not out of wickedness or unfaithfulness or laziness but from inability and simplicity. He ordered his household without pride or arrogance or other faults and led a simple and quiet and austere life; indeed he disciplined his body in all things. He was frugal in his use of food and drink but opened his home and gladly kept a free table for all refugees (foreigners), the poor, and good friends in the faith.
It is well known how he began to preach the holy Gospel of Christ our crucified and resurrected Lord here in Strasbourg, after the blessed dear Dr. Luther had also preached and fought and sent out his writings in all the lands. He also learned from him how to teach rightly, and, as soon as he knew it, he preached and taught the truth of God eminently and happily, with great effort and in danger of his life. He also diligently protected those who came to him in his field of work. It is now twenty-four years since he and I took each other in marriage, in the Lord and in His word, without any evil motivation (God knows), acting against the wicked pope’s lying and devil-spawned prohibition of marriage. In these years I have been his helper according to my means and ability: in his house and also in his office and service. He and I have received much insult and infamy for the sake of the Lord Jesus; in that experience, however, he was always happy and patient, despising the abuse. This was not the less so when he was brought before the court by the bishop and much insulted; as many who are still alive know, he conspicuously carried on teaching the truth.
And, from the beginning to his death, his teaching was that the eternal word of God became flesh, and now through such flesh He took away the curse of our father Adam (which had come upon us all); that He paid for our sins in His body, and washed us in His own blood; that He lifted up on the cross the written accusation of our sins and the law of our damnation. He Himself became the true Easter lamb that was appointed by the Father from eternity for our sins, as was testified about Him in the prophets and psalms. After He was killed in the flesh and made alive in the Spirit, He went down to prison and took prisoner the whole prison and led the prisoners out with Him and rose alive again. After He thus laid down His life as a guilt offering, and took it back again to Himself by His own power, He obtained all of us from His Father as the spoil He deserved, as the prophet Isaiah witnessed. Thus He won the victory and triumph over the enemy, death, and hell for us all and with divine power drove the devil out chained at the neck and swallowed up death in life. Then He set Himself at the right hand of God His Father until all His enemies are made into footstools for His feet, according to the word of the Father, who gave Him a name above all names, that in the name of Jesus all knees in heaven and hell should bow and all tongues should confess that Jesus Christ alone is God. In His name repentance and forgiveness of sins should and must be preached, for He has obtained the seat, lordship, power, and might in heaven and earth, since He is now our Lord and Christ; true God and true Man in one person, of the same power and being with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Christ has power to save us from sins, death, and hell and to give us eternal life. In Him is all salvation, and in no other creature or work in heaven and earth, for no one comes to the Father, or dares to think of coming to Him, except through this living Son of God, who should be honored as the Father is. The one who has Him has everything; He is the way, the truth, and the life. The one who does not have Him has nothing but distress and error, lies and eternal damnation. So He alone is the savior of all flesh that believe in Him, and there is no other name (I repeat) by which one may be saved, but all who believe in Him have the power to become children of God. That is the sum of the teaching and preaching of my upright and now blessed husband, which all of you have heard from him up to his death, teaching against all sanctification by works and false worship. That is why for long years he so greatly applied himself in all his doing and speaking, for he wanted to make known to the world this Lord Jesus of Nazareth (to whom Moses and all the prophets have testified), to make known that God the Father has made Him Lord and Christ. On this account, my good husband acknowledged this throne of grace, and from that acknowledgment came a great confession. With great zeal, like a forerunner of Christ, he opposed and cast out of the way everything that set itself up against this Lord and Christ (whom the Father anointed and on Mount Zion gave to His church as a head). All such things did he oppose and cast out of the way, namely and especially, the wicked pope with his whole kingdom and all who follow him with false teaching and wicked action, secretly and openly.
His own light and action, however, were always entirely open and sincere, through and through, up to the end, against all the wicked crowd (whether they made an outcry or behaved quietly). God compelled him with His zeal, as [you know] happened and as you heard from him. Also now in many — no, all — of his last sermons he could do almost nothing else or more than confess his faith in this, His Christ, so well that (from the beginning of his teaching until the end) the saying in the psalm was fulfilled in him: “I have believed and therefore have I spoken.” Indeed, he also spoke in such a way that he might say with Saint Paul, “I have not withheld anything from you, but have proclaimed to you all the counsel of God that He has revealed to me.” He also always demonstrated the unbelief of the pope and all his followers and so sincerely warned you away from it that once again the saying of Saint Paul lived in him: he believed with the heart and confessed with the mouth in an eminent and manly way to his own salvation and that of every one.
As also he happily left his house last Sunday morning, the eighth of this month January, to magnify the name of Jesus his Lord]. Yes, his purpose was the same: to confess his faith to the people to the last (as also some people heard him say that), to comfort his people, and to warn them against false teaching and godless acts of all the abomination that might soon be promoted and set up again, as he had always warned against and greatly opposed the pope and all those who wanted to follow him. These he opposed: even if indeed all the mighty (no one on earth excepted) wanted to reestablish this antichrist of sins here in the place and temple of God, which are the hearts of people! This is the antichrist’s work, whatever fine appearance and form it wants to take. For he was much concerned for his people, to whom he had hitherto taught the truth through the inspiration and teaching of the Holy Spirit, that after his death these same people might not be seduced through the inspiration and teaching of the devil, who has possessed the man of sin and who still carries on his business in the children of unbelief. But the Lord will make an end of him (the man of sin) at His coming: that day will be horrifying, a great and terrible day to the unbelievers.
On that Sunday the eighth his zeal and distress in his sermon on the Lord Christ became so great that he could no longer really speak for weeping, and it was hard on his heart. Yes, in this and other sermons, such ardor came from his heart and disfigured him that some people judged that he was expressing an inappropriate furious rage. However, he could in good truth have said to the Father with his Lord Christ, “The zeal for Your house has eaten me up.” As the same zeal brought Christ to the cross, so I might well say, the zeal for the house of God has also eaten up my dear husband and brought him to this sickness and death — so eagerly and greatly did the only savior compel him to speak against the teaching of the false apostles, who would not allow Christ to be the sole savior. They indeed confess Him with their mouths, but they deny His power and disown Him [by their actions], as Saint Paul laments.
After his last sermon, he was again alert that day; he went to a good friend and had a good conversation about godly matters and death. Also that night he was able to go to sleep without any special pain. In the night, however, he had so much pain in his chest that he got up from bed and suffered greatly during the night, so that about two or three in the morning he and I prepared ourselves for his death. Then he began to confess his sins before God and prayed the Lord’s Prayer and then said, “I think indeed that this is Martin Luther’s [last] illness.” And then he said, “O God, let me not see any abomination against You and Your word. As I think that You will take me hence like him [Luther], so I say with him that You have revealed Your dear Son Christ to me, and You have used me along with others as a witness to preach to the spiritual ones of the world. That I have done faithfully. Still I confess Christ against the gates of hell, I love and honor Him also for my own Lord, savior, and God. Again I pray, let me not see any abomination against Him, You, and Your word. I seek to come to You through Him and in Him, with whom You are well pleased.”
Thus he continued with many other words and prayers until four in the morning. Then he felt completely well again, sought his bed, and lay down and slept peacefully and well until into the day. Monday he appeared well and happy, had much conversation with dear friends, read and wrote until into the night. His last writing was the text of his sermon on John [where Christ says, “Truly I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” That night he ate dinner happily, lay down to sleep and thanked God that it was well with him; he hoped to sleep well and did so until eleven. Then the pain in the chest came on him again, he quickly got up, dressed himself, went into his study, and experienced great distress; he fell down on his knees, weeping and praying to God. And he said to me, “I know this is the illness of our dear Martin Luther; my end will be like his and I will accept my death as he did.”
Then he began to repeat his first prayer and said: “O my dear Lord and God Jesus Christ, I have faithfully preached and proclaimed what You have done for us and taught us. Miserable as I am, let me also experience what I have preached and do not leave me behind; grant me a good ending and let Your people who have believed through my preaching be commended to You. Love them and give them again a man who will love them as I have loved them; do not set over Your inheritance a coward or someone who will suborn them, so that the building that I have built on You may not be destroyed again. Oh, remain Yourself the chief shepherd over them! I give up my office and entrust to You my spirit.” Then he sat down in his armchair, soon became silent, closed his eyes and mouth himself with all quietness. Thus with my words of lament and confession of faith, he expired in my arms between one and two in the morning.
Then in my great anguish, fear, and pain of heart, I cried to our God from my heart to receive His servant and receive his spirit into the number of His prophets and apostles and give him communion with all the elect in Zion; to bless his going forth from this perishable body, lay His hand over him, and let the going forth of his spirit be fruitful and happy, that he might lay aside the mortal and perishable and put on the immortal and imperishable kingdom and eternal life. I also thanked the Lord that he died in my arms and did not fall into the hands of the godless, so that they could not enjoy mocking him as they did the Lord Christ and others. Indeed, I still give thanks on account of him and his great age, that he was not afflicted with shame, but that the saying in the Thirty-first Psalm was fulfilled in him: “You will hide him secretly from everyone’s arrogance.”
But with what great pain of heart I lose our companionship! and lament to God that He has exacted this of me so quickly and made me an afflicted widow! His death is so unbearable to me, speaking from the viewpoint of my flesh: I will mourn it to my grave. And I ask, in the name of Jesus Christ, that God may be merciful to me and graciously forgive me where I have hurt this His devout servant and when I have not rightly served or helped him. For I know that he loved me and gladly forgave me everything before I asked and as much as it lay in him showed me friendly and Christian fellowship. And so, without God’s help, I cannot bear and endure this parting and loss of our housefather (whom many a distressed person visited for counsel and protection).
In the meanwhile, however, I also see this wicked time and distress in the whole land, and it is also before our door [the Interim]. So I once more thank God my Lord with my whole heart (according to my inner being), that He has brought him to the rest that he long sought and, as the prophet said, has taken him away from calamity and received him in the number of his many brothers who had gone before him in the same confession of Christ. I also thank our most dear God for all the gifts and good deeds that He granted to him in many ways and that He let him come to a fine and honorable age (though with many weaknesses that he had in his old age, and now with great pain of his flesh he has paid the highest price of the serpent, the debt of earthly death). That is what I wanted to exhort you about, dear friends, that you should not so quickly forget this your faithful shepherd. Not for the sake of his body (which will now be committed to the earth), but because of his teaching that he so faithfully preached to you and because he was so zealous for your salvation, that the abomination and idolatry might not come again (like a bad weed) into his work and field through the enemy (the devil) that his work in you might not be muddied and trampled down — the way a reckless blockhead tramples on the grain in the field and muddies it, right when people are supposed to be harvesting it.
O dear friends, what a great concern this man had for the honor of Christ and the salvation of the poor little sheep! For he heard from foreigners in several places that again the false worship has begun, to the shame of Christ and His word; because of that many honest people, preachers, and servants have died for sadness. (What God will allow to happen to us we do not yet know!) Such things in the midst of God and His word caused him such pain day and night that he could well have said with the psalmist, “The insults of Your house, with which they insulted You, break my heart,” and with Jeremiah in the book of the prophets, “I am an afflicted man, who sees now the rod of Your wrath.”
Yes, it broke his heart and brought on his death, so great were the care and pains that he bore for the honor of Christ and the salvation of all of us. As a faithful shepherd he also sought to give all that he had, even his life, for his teaching and his little sheep, and he never buried his pound as the lazy and bad servant did. He taught the sole salvation in Christ like a faithful householder and wise scribe, for the feeding of all the hungry, and strove earnestly against the enemies of Christ for that. For more than twenty-five years now he has with great earnestness steadfastly worked to keep himself and us pure in faith in his Lord Christ (faith that alone purifies the heart), as also Paul requires. Yes, God knows and I also, what great work he had day and night, and how bitter and hard his studies, preaching, and all became to him in his old age. He wanted to lead us all and keep us in all truth through the Spirit of God so that he could well have said, as did Christ the Lord, “With what great earnestness have I sought to gather you before the face of the enemy, as a hen gathers her chicks before the kite, but you would not have it.”
Our dear apostle Dr. Martin Luther has for long years gathered Germany, taught and indeed warned. In his day he had peace: what has followed his death we see now. This my upright husband has long taught here in Strasbourg and warned everyone in the temple of Jerusalem: what will follow his death, we will now see. For Moses and Joshua are dead, their hands are lowered, so that they cannot still pray for us. The king of Assyria has come before the gates of Jerusalem so that he can lead the people away from their God. That is why he bore such care day and night. How often did he say to me, “As the Gospel began here with me, I worry that it will also cease with me.”
But now, all of you who have gladly heard the teaching of this your faithful shepherd and believed it, and who have shown your love to him today in his burial, such a great crowd! I exhort and beg you with great earnestness, as upright little sheep, to honor your shepherd by keeping his teaching and acting according to it, that you never allow it to be torn from your hearts but rather allow your life to be taken instead. So that on the great judgment day of the Lord, when the chief shepherd Christ will appear, he may also lay his pound there before Christ with great profit. So that he may joyfully bring what he has sown here with great effort and faithfulness, that is, the fleeces (of his flock), the fruit that we (his flock) are, and may pay them over to the Householder Christ, so that, as the apostle Paul also says, we may be his honor, joy, and crown. Consider and hold on to his last teaching, what he taught with the dear John, that is “guard yourselves from idolatry,” a text that the whole papacy cites and yet partially manipulates against the sole redemption and salvation of Christ our Lord. My good husband openly rejected that papacy and died as an enemy to it, but as a zealous confessor and friend of the Lord Jesus Christ and of all who believe in Him.
And so I stand here today by the holy body of my husband and confess with him and all believers the forgiveness of our sins only through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ the spotless Lamb, who was with the Father from eternity and was killed in the flesh for us. Likewise I confess the only righteousness that counts before God: our inheritance of eternal life through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. And so I say today, with and in the place of my dear husband, with Mary Magdalene, “The Lord is truly risen and lives for us all! And on the contrary the devil and eternal death have died and are dead to us all and have no further power over all those who are in Christ Jesus.
And so, with my devout husband I reject and disavow the pope with his followers and kingdom and worship as the living devil. Those who will not recognize or learn this likeness [of pope and devil] do not allow the Lord Jesus to be the sole shepherd and savior in Israel, but by their works, unbelief, and false teaching they insult His Passion, death, and the righteousness of His resurrection. Yes, again I reject and proclaim to all those who will not let the Lord Christ be the sole Christ and the one who takes away sin, death, and eternal destruction, that they will die in their sins as thieves and murderers — those people who (in spite of the fact that they bawl the name of Jesus) do not go in through the right door but come in some other way.
He is none other than a savior who wills to save His people from their sins: He Himself, and not by any creaturely work. But only those will be saved who receive the Lord Jesus as their sole righteousness, recognizing that He is the true shepherd and Son of the living God, also the sole sanctifier and minister of whom Moses, David, and all the prophets spoke and whose name “Jesus” the angel foretold. He is the sustainer and savior of all those who enter through the right door and believe that no one comes to the Father but through Him: all who receive and accept this will find in Him good pasture, as Christ Himself says in John 10.
And in John 5 He says that those who honor Him will not come into any judgment but will pass from death to life. That is what this my devout husband has done, believed, and taught, and the kingdom of heaven, which must suffer force, he has drawn to himself with force, as Christ said. Therefore I know that he has not come into any judgment, but he lives in and with Christ and sees His glory, according to the word of the Lord Jesus to Martha, “Have I not told you? If you believe you will see the glory of God.” How this man believed and confessed is well attested this day by such a crowd, more than six thousand people. I hope that this testimony here stands before God and may be a foretaste of the last day, when his little sheep will also stand around him and with him acknowledge Christ, the chief shepherd, and they will enjoy together the eternal pasture that they have received from that same Christ. Meanwhile, I was with him from the beginning in a confession of Christ like his and still hope for a blessedness like his with him after this sorrowful life, in spite of all my sins and misdeeds, which will all be washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ, whom I confess with sure hope.
I want to stand by that confession through the grace of our God, and I will, with force under the cross, draw to myself the kingdom of heaven, which must suffer force. Let there come pope or devil, the prince of darkness also all the powers of earth! I should never, I hope, be driven away from the pure knowledge of the Lord Christ that I heard and learned from my devout and God-sanctified husband and that he as an apostle and servant of the Lord Jesus received and learned from the Holy Spirit Himself. Let this stance cost me body, honor, or goods, in fire or water, whatever God the Lord wants to send me — or (if God chooses for me) the same quiet death as my dear husband. Whatever it may be, I want to hold to his knowledge and confession that we at Strasbourg have so long heard from him, through the one who can strengthen me and who did strengthen him.
For the sake of this confession now there is all the distress on earth, and all the opposition to the holy Jesus Christ, as Simeon prophesied. As you have indeed heard this same thing from my devout husband in past days: that everyone dashes his head against this target, the Lord Jesus Christ. Even if the world should be senseless, on the last day they will have to confess that they have to do with this Jesus of Nazareth, that He alone should be the shepherd and Christ. He will be established and preached as the sole savior, against all their teaching and doing, and that they do not want and cannot endure. Because of their anger all of us will be judged before the godless crowd for the sake of the confession of Christ and the hope of the resurrection in Jesus, on account of which we suffer everything, as those who went before us also suffered.
With my husband and all believers, I hope to obtain that costly resurrection of Jesus, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who could not experience corruption. We must experience corruption, but we will not remain in it. For the Spirit of God will bring our flesh and bones together again, signal the dawn, and make us alive, as the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel and also our holy Christ Himself have testified: that the hour will come when the dead who are in the grave will hear the voice of the Lamb of God and go forth. Saint Paul also says this. I hope to obtain and see that resurrection with my dear husband, along with our dear children. (Together we had two, and they lie in this place.) It is now in the twenty-first year since — with great pain! — we carried out our first child and trod this place with him; he was the first person buried in this graveyard, where with such fitting earnestness he so often longed to come. Therefore just as he desired to be buried in this place with his and my children, so I hope that this place will also be my abiding place until the trumpet and voice come: “Rise up, you dead, for the judgment.” Then my good husband and all the believing dead will hear the happy voice of our worthy Lord Jesus Christ: “Come here, you blessed, into the kingdom that was prepared for you from the beginning; you have fed me, sheltered me, given me drink, clothed me, and comforted me.” But to the godless He will say, “Go hence into the eternal fire that is prepared for the devil and his angels; you did not feed me, shelter me, or comfort me.” Then they will all say, “When have we seen You thus?” He will answer, “What you did to the least of mine, you did to me.” My husband has taught, and demonstrated in action, works of the faith like these and not the pope’s hypocritical works. Dear friends, may you maintain and do such things, to honor him and for your own salvation.
And you youths, who today have seen this amazing burial — the like as has never been seen in Strasbourg, so that I remember and must cite once more what the prophet said, “His righteousness will break forth like the morning star” and again where it is written, “His burial will be honorable.” These things were written about Christ, who was honorably buried, and His righteousness broke forth in His resurrection. However, it is also nonetheless prophesied to us about His members, to whom He gives all that was His. For who would have thought that the honor of my dear husband and the love of the people would break forth this way! And that his burial would have happened in such a way, that so many sheep have followed their shepherd with earnestness and tears for the sake of the wholesome pasture that they have received from him. I hope that today many of you will beat your hearts and chests, repent, and say, “This one has taught rightly.” But God grant that his death may not bring along with it the saying of Zechariah, “I will strike the shepherd and the sheep must be scattered,” because that was fulfilled in the Lord Christ.
Let all you who have now followed him take this to heart. Many of you stand there weeping, and many tears were poured out over him, today and yesterday, with kissing his dead body. Along with those signs, however, love and honor him above all in this way: keep his teaching and act on it, that teaching that you—also you young people here present — received from him in his very diligent catechism classes. Hold onto that, devote yourself to it, and learn to bear the Lord’s yoke from youth on. Also, henceforth love and honor the other remaining leaders whom you have (who knows for how long!). Listen to them, follow them insofar as they teach and offer you God’s word, so that all of us too may come to a blessed end and be found in the confession of our God and His Son Jesus Christ. That confession the Holy Spirit (the third Person of the godhead) must teach us, and He will lead us in all truth — He, and not the abomination at Rome, whom today we want to deny and oppose as the worst enemy of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we want to confess our God, in three Persons but in one eternal divine being, and want also to say and confess that “we all believe in one God, Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth . . .”
This is the sum of our faith, which we have received from our elders the apostles, that there is one God, who has made everything by His word; and one Christ, His eternal Son, who redeemed all through His blood; and one Spirit, who makes all alive through His power. Through the same Spirit a church and communion of the believing will be gathered, and in this church He gives and works love and fellowship in the blood of Jesus Christ, forgiveness of sins through the key of David, who is Christ, who opens and no one can close, where He closes, however, no one can open. The same way we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, where the perishable will put on the imperishable and the mortal will put on the immortal, and the flesh will also have life eternal in the one and only divine being God when God will be all in all. For the sake of that we suffer, do, and hope everything here. We want to call upon that same only true God, to seek from Him everything that we need, and to pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ His dear Son, who has taught us to pray thus, “Our Father, who art in heaven, Your name be hallowed.” Here I will once again thank God, and also explain the Our Father a little, and then want to go hence.
O almighty eternal God, You who have now set on me this my great cross — on account of my sins You have so quickly incited Your Spirit and allowed Your rebuke to fall on me. You have taken this man so quickly from me just as You did Elijah in the fiery chariot, ones of whom I and the world were not worthy. But Your judgment and deed are just and right: no one can or may reproach You. I, a poor, submissive, miserable person, stand now before You over this dead body of Your servant, who in his zeal for Your honor and people was a successor of Moses and Elijah, with John the Baptist and the preaching about Christ (the Lamb who bears the sins of the world. I praise and thank You from my inner being that You have created him according to Your image and have adorned him with many good gifts. You have also allowed him to confess and preach Christ among Your people and to confirm and testify this with his life. You have made him proof against everyone, when the authorities cast off those who confessed the Lord Christ; You have given him a sense of peace up to the end. Finally also now You have called and taken him away to Your grace even as he was praying and confessing Your name. You have not allowed him to fall into the hands and insults of the revilers, that he also should not see any abomination against You and Your Son — as he had asked You. You have now reclaimed him from all his work and released him from his sorrows and will keep him eternally with You in the fellowship of Your Son and all the elect.
Yes, I thank You from my heart for all the love that You have shown him and that You have made him worthy to bear Your name before Your people and also to bear abuse from unbelievers for Your name. You have also called him to death in a special way, as You commanded and so died alone, without all the people being present. Did You not also say to this man. “Call your people, bless them in the name of Jesus, go hence, sit in the armchair and die without all the people, alone with only your poor wife”? He obeyed You in that; right after his prayer to You he closed his eyes — not as if dying but as if in a healthy sleep — and his spirit went to You and Your will was done. But my flesh, O Lord, my inner being, cannot understand that or endure it because of great sorrow and pain of heart! But I beg You, through Your dear Son Jesus Christ, that You may make me submissive through Your Spirit, so that I may humble myself under Your mighty hand — which no one can resist, and its action is always just.
Through Your name, O holy Father in heaven, also now in this work may Your will be hallowed, known, and magnified, that in it we may know and praise You. May Your kingdom of the knowledge of Christ come to us poor people in our hearts — that kingdom You have now bent down and favored him with; in Christ You have called and drawn him to Yourself. And do not let us come again to the kingdom, abuse, and prison of Egypt and the Assyrians. Give us also a good will, which (with Christ on the Mount of Olives) may make itself submissive to Your will, which should always fully and rightly come off victorious in heaven and on earth — the good will that the angel from heaven wished us.
And give us today our daily bread, peace, comfort, and joy of our consciences, battle weary before You — yes, give us the living bread and word, Your Son, whom I now need so much, O God! You have grasped me in my sins and afflicted me severely; You have chastised and struck not only my body but also my whole heart and conscience, and You know how I suffer. Just Father, feed me and give me drink now with Your comfort and peace, in my great cross, through Your Holy Spirit; also with right teaching and wisdom keep me henceforth according to Your will.
And forgive us our faults, as we also forgive the faults against us. O God, we never forgive rightly! Yet do not look at us but at Your dear Son Jesus Christ, who forgave His enemies from the heart and on the cross prayed to You for them; and so He fulfilled everything for us. O God, let the repentance and goodness effected by Christ be mine, and graciously forgive all my sins. Also forgive my sins against this Your servant whom You commended to me. He was also so dear to me — You know that! — but even so, through my lack of understanding I did not honor or serve him or do as I ought and was obliged to do. O God and Father, You will forgive me all and cause all this to be forgotten, and You will comfort me, for I have no doubt of Your grace. You also forgave him everything that he in his flesh did against Your commands and prohibitions, forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ Your child, the blood in which he believed. So also, dear God, forgive those who seek forgiveness of You, through Him who took all our sickness upon Himself.
And lead us not into temptation. Do not let me, a poor miserable (armen) person, become fainthearted toward You in my great affliction or forget Your promises. Do not take away from me and from us all the knowledge of You and Your dear Son Jesus Christ; that loss would bring us to eternal evil. From that protect us! For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours alone. They do not belong to the devil, the pope, the antichrist, or all false teachers — because the kingdom, power, and glory are spiritual, but the devil, the pope, the antichrist are carnal. The kingdom, power, and glory are Yours, You good and faithful God. To that let us all say “Amen!”
Now then, dear friends, I keep you all too long. Do not be irritated with me: my heart is entirely full of great trouble — the mouth speaks what overflows from the heart. I still had much to say, but you yourselves have known him and heard his teaching; keep it, and follow his teaching and faith. He was faithful, upright, true, and simple. He troubled no one but was much troubled by others, which he quickly forgave. He gladly helped everyone, including many of those present; and there, with tears, stand some poor orphans who were supported by him and who, having lost him as a good patron, now have trouble. For the Lord Christ has said that He will not leave us orphans but will come to us again to comfort us and take us to Himself; let us go home relying on that same help and grace. We commend the body of my good husband to the earth from which it came, from which, with all honorable and angelic glory he will rise again in the general resurrection to eternal life, as I also commended his spirit to Him from whom he came (that is God). Yes, he himself commended himself to the Lord Jesus, who will bring his flesh and spirit together again and make him alive with His Spirit so that he and we may say with the dear Job, “in my flesh and with my eyes I will see God, my sustainer.”. May God strengthen us all in such faith and hope, with love. And may He help me, a poor miserable (armen) person, as I now make my way home: the hard way of the cross. My offering, O God, is my husband, the highest and best treasure that I have on earth (humanly speaking), whom I received from You and now leave behind me. Lord Jesus Christ, make him alive again in Your coming; You have said that You are the resurrection and the life, that whoever believes in You will live even though he dies. You are the eternal truth: grant that I may believe You.
Now then, dear friends, let us finally close with a little saying out of a booklet that was dear to my good husband, a booklet in which are many fine songs, teachings, and prayers. Among others is this one about how we should commend the dead to the Lord. (To use the whole thing would be much too long here; the one who wrote it tells the story from the beginning of man and to the end of his life.) From all this let us take the last verse, which is this,
Now let us bury the body, about which we have no doubt that
It will at the last day arise, and go forth immortal.
It is from the earth and must return to earth again,
But from the earth will rise again when God’s trumpet goes forth.
His soul lives eternally in God. He was here by His grace
From all sins and misdeeds purified through His blood.
His work, trouble, and exile have come to a good end,
He has borne his Lord Christ’s yoke. He has died here and yet lives there.
The soul lives in God without any lament, the body sleeps until the last day.
Then God will glorify it and keep it safe with eternal joy.
Here he was in great affliction, there he should have profit from that,
In eternal joy and dwelling to shine like the stars and sun.
So now we want to leave him here and go our ways,
And order our lives with all diligence, for death comes to us all in like fashion.
O God, You who are gracious to all flesh who come before You in prayer, have mercy also on me, take me under Your protection and grant that I may be one of those widows who will receive their own loved ones again from the dead on the day of resurrection.
Translation by Elise McKee.
Source: “Lament and Exhortation of Katharina Zell to the People at the Grave of Master Matthew Zell,” from Church Mother: The Writings of a Protestant Reformer in Sixteenth-Century, edited and translated by Elise McKee. (c) 2006 The University of Chicago. Published by The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.