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Good Words 1860
Nuremberg Stories


I. THE VETERAN OF SALZBURG.

If you have ever seen Nuremberg, with its quaint houses and beautiful churches, or if you have even only read Longfellow's vivid description of it, you cannot but feel a great and affectionate interest in this ancient city. And when you remember what Nuremberg was in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,—the centre of German commerce, art, and Christian culture—the place where the doctrines of the Reformation were most cordially welcomed—where Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet, whose greatness and simplicity were concealed for a long time from an artificial and God-estranged generation, till Gothe explained his depth and genius, and Albrecht Durer, the greatest German painter of his age, dedicated their heaven-bestowed powers to the service of God,—you cannot but regard it with veneration, as a place endeared to your heart by many elevating and hallowed associations. But, to descend from great things to small, were I a Nuremberg citizen I should feel proud of the Nuremberg toys!—of all the Noah's arks, and all the ingenious, instructive, grotesque, tasteful little works of art, which have gone forth into the nurseries of many countries, and given so much delight to dear little children! How much latent poetry, ye honest, good-hearted toymakers, have you packed in these tiny wooden boxes! The peaceful occupation of toymaking belonged, to a large extent, to a very remarkable class of people— viz., the Salzburg evangelical emigrants. In the beautiful mountain-valleys of the Salzburg district there were many God-fearing people, who had embraced the pure doctrine as preached by Luther; and for a long time they escaped persecution, led a quiet, blessed, and holy life, and thus spread the knowledge of the gospel. In the year 1685, a whole congregation of these worthy men was exiled; and, forty years after, the evangelical Salzburgers were cruelly persecuted by the Archbishop Leopold, who is described by historians as a man who was haughty as Hainan, hard-hearted as Caiaphas, and relentless as Philip II. About 30,000 of these inoffensive people—the very salt of the earth—were compelled to leave their much-loved homes, and to seek a country where they could worship, serve, and confess their Saviour. It is well known that they were most cordially welcomed in Prussia, where the king shewed a deep and truly Christian interest in these faithful witnesses of Christ. But many of them had remained in Nuremberg, and settled there; and among them not a few were toymakers. It was one of these strangers, "unknown, yet well known," Matthias Klaumbauer, a poor, simple man, whom God sent as a messenger of peace and light to a youth, who afterwards became a blessing to hundreds, especially among the Protestants of the Austrian provinces, where his name is still held in affectionate and grateful remembrance by many who are his children in the faith. Young Kiessling, (born in 1742,) the son of pious parents, was an earnest and God-fearing youth, and, doubtless, held up as a model young man; for he kept himself unspotted from the pollutions of the world, and led a pure and noble life. But he had no peace in his soul; for Christ did not, as yet, dwell in his heart. He noticed the old Salzburg stranger, whom he met often in the meetings of Christian brethren, and was forcibly struck with his manner of praying. It seemed to him that old Matthias prayed differently from other people. The one seemed to him like a conversation between two living friends, who, hand in hand, earnestly and affectionately look into each other's face; the other, like words addressed to a portrait of a beloved and revered monarch, who is, however, not personally known or present to the speaker.

He sought the acquaintance of this Nathanael —true Israelite, without guile. Old Matthias was poor and infirm, and the young disciple shewed him much kindness, and ministered liberally and tenderly to his wants. The old man did not exhort and rebuke severely or urgently. He said little; but what he said came out of a Christ-loving heart. And, when his last hour came, Kiessling stood weeping by his side, and heard the last words of the veteran—"Lord, I will not let thee go except thou bless me!"

The good seed, however, did not spring up in Kiessling's heart till some time afterwards. One Sabbath afternoon he heard his pastor explain to the children of the congregation the way of life, not by works, but grace. He tells us himself, in his diary, what he then felt. "'What!' I said, ' all my praying, reading, visiting of the sick, almsgiving, to go for nothing, and I am no better than any other poor sinner, who has led a wicked life!' I shed tears, but not of sorrow—tears of anger and mortified pride; and I could not but feel angry with the pastor, whom I had hitherto loved tenderly." But immediately afterwards the darkness was dispersed. He had led an ascetic life after Matthias' death; but felt that "he lacked one thing," and that he did not possess the mysterious, clear, heavenly peace of his sainted friend. But now he awoke, and the Sun had risen unto him, bringing life, and light, and warmth; and the darkness, and gloom, and fear of night were gone, and all was peace and safety, confidence and love.

It is a simple story; but one over which angels and saints rejoice.

II. THE CONVERSION OF AN ELOQUENT PREACHER.

Many years after Kiessling's conversion, a young and very amiable preacher of the gospel came to Nuremberg, as tutor in the family of a nobleman. He was so distinguished by erudition, attractive kindness, and thrilling eloquence, that the unusual honour of the offer of a pastorate to a stranger was shewn to him by the old city. He accepted the call, and at once became the most popular preacher of Nuremberg. The church in which he preached was crowded, the refined and cultivated families of the town rallied round him. He was eloquent, no doubt; but, as he afterwards described it, ''My sermons were Christian, according to the outward appearance and sound; but, in reality, I preached myself, and not Christ; for I did not look simply for the approbation of God, but thought the applause of the world very desirable and sweet."

Kiessling knew the young pastor, and visited him often; and one evening, as was his wont, he brought some old, simple, evangelical books, and offered them to his friend. The learned theologian looked at them, and said—"My dear Kiessling, these books are very good for plain, ignorant people; but men of learning have neither time nor inclination to read them." "Never mind," replied Kiessling, "let them lie on your study table ; a time may come when you might like to look into them."

It came indeed, and that very soon. The pastor was delivering a sermon, which he regarded as extremely earnest, touching, and persuasive. He concluded with a pathetic appeal and solemn warning—"Flee to Christ," he said, "unless the clouds of the wrath of God are to remain over your souls for ever." Scarcely had he uttered the words, when a voice in his soul said to him—"You yourself are without true faith in Christ, and, therefore, under the wrath of God !" He was unable to proceed ; without having uttered the usual concluding prayer he fainted in the pulpit, and was carried home by some of his friends. He entered his study, and wept before God—tears of repentance, of anguish, of love. And, behold, the books left by his old friend now proved to be the very message he stood in need of. He found Jesus. Kiessling saw him a few days afterwards, and rejoiced.

But the young pastor had to receive a baptism of fire. A fortnight after the eventful day he stood again in the pulpit; but he had not spoken many sentences when he was so overcome and overwhelmed, that, weeping and trembling, he had to return home. For nine months he was obliged to be silent, and serve the Lord in solitude.

The world was astonished. "Poor Schoner!— (That was his name.)—What a pity! Such a pulpit orator! But his health and mind have given way, and he has become a Pietist!" And at first, indeed, the church was not so crowded as before. There were not so many aristocratic and learned people to be seen there; but soon another audience was gathered—the poor in spirit, the meek, the contrite, the broken-hearted, found in Schoner one who was anointed by the Spirit to preach unto them glad tidings.

Now no longer mere sounding brass and tinkling cymbal, but constrained by the love of Jesus Christ; no longer seeking to magnify himself, but to magnify the Saviour of sinners; utterly indifferent to the applause of man, his heart glowed with love to Jesus and perishing souls. And God blessed him abundantly. He saved himself and others.

III.—A True Barnabas.

Again, dear reader, I must take thee into the pulpit of St Lawrence in Nuremberg, where Schoner stood now, not without holy fear and trembling, but also with great joy and confidence, preaching the blessed evangel of peace. He had noticed for many Sabbaths a woman on whose countenance was depicted intense anxiety, who listened to the sermon with eager attention, and over whose pale and wan cheeks tears frequently ran down. Her whole appearance impressed him with the conviction that her sorrow was of the soul, and that her sufferings were of the heart. Schoner communicated his observation to Kiessling; and one Sabbath afternoon the latter followed the mournful listener, who, according to her custom, was among the last in leaving the church. He entered into conversation with her, asked her whether she had been hearing Pastor Schoner, and whether she had understood him. She replied briefly in the affirmative. Kiessling then said—"Have you also had such hours of sorrow as the pastor described in his sermon?" She looked at the strange questioner, and read in his countenance that it was no idle curiosity which prompted the inquiry. She took courage, and said she had experienced the grief of which the evangelist had spoken. Thereupon Kiessling exhorted her to trust in God, not to doubt His love, and to pour out her heart before Him in prayer ; and now the woman began, with many tears, to tell to this kind, unknown friend her story. She had been thoughtless and vain in her younger days; and one Sabbath, at the communion-table, such blasphemous thoughts had passed through her mind that since then she had no rest by night or day. She had drawn nigh unto despair, and hated life ; and this sore distress had often driven her to earnest, wrestling prayer, beseeching God to take from her the burden which was weighing her down. But notwithstanding all her earnest seeking and praying, she had not obtained peace.

With the calm assurance of a humble believer, Kiessling heard her story, and spoke to her of that perfect peace which Jesus purchased and bestows; he shewed her that her sorrows and grief and broken heart were sent by God to be healed and comforted by the Saviour; and the words, as they came from a heart in which the Spirit had His abode, entered into the heart of the troubled woman.

But Kiessling did not rest satisfied with this. He brought his own heavenly-minded sister, Feli-citas, to this bruised reed, and soon the mourner rejoiced; and for the spirit of heaviness she received the garment of praise. She lived for many years a sincere Christian, an affectionate mother, a pilgrim through this valley of tears, sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.


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