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Johann Matthesius

Two more singers of this period must be named here, because they as distinctively connect this age with the coming one, as Hans Sachs did with the past. They were fast friends and fellow-helpers,--the pastor and precentor of Joachimsthal, Johann Matthesius and Nicolas Hermann. Joachimsthal was a large village in the mountainous border-land between Saxony and Bohemia; mines had lately been discovered in its neigbbourhood, and it was rapidly growing into a prosperous little town; it had embraced the Reformed religion, and was distinguished by its 141 good schools. Here for many years Matthesius and Hermann led such a life as, happily for Germany, has been characteristic of many of her secluded districts since the Reformation,--quiet as to outward tenor amid those eventful times, hardworking in the cause of religion and education, homely in its circumstances, yet linked to the wider world and the best life of its time by its religious thought and its culture of poetry and music. The two friends were very unlike. Matthesius had been converted by reading accidentally some of Luther's tracts, and left the grammar-school of Joachimsthal of which he was rector, to become again a student at Wittenberg, and hear the lectures of Melancthon and Luther. Justus Jonas introduced him to Luther, who invited him to become one of the regular guests at his table, and ere long admitted him to his most intimate friendship. Luther very soon urged him to take orders, for which indeed he was well qualified, for he was a man of ability, of great piety, and had a gift of singularly persuasive eloquence; but he was so self-distrustful, that on his first attempt to preach he ascended the pulpit three times without being able to bring out a single word; and it was only Luther's almost vehement insistance that induced him to make one more effort, when he gave "a capital glorious sermon," as Luther says. He sympathised with Luther too in his love and practice of music, and after Luther's death wrote a biography of him, which is still a standard work. From Wittenberg he returned as pastor to Joachimsthal, where he laboured for the rest of his life, greatly cherished by its somewhat rough and mixed population, who were very proud of their 142 pastor's eloquence and singularly pious and charitable life. Yet though outwardly smooth, life was no easy thing for him: he suffered much from the cares of a large family, especially after the death of his helpful wife; and from mental and spiritual conflicts, which at times seriously affected his health. He died as he had often wished, in harness, being seized with a fit at the conclusion of a sermon. He wrote various devotional works, and some very good and sweet hymns; of which several for the morning, for marriage, a cradle hymn, and for the miners, became very popular.

[The hymns most frequently to be met with, are of course those adapted to Church use. A morning hymn--

"My inmost heart now raises,

In this fair morning hour,

A hymn of thankful praises

To God's almighty power"--

was the favourite morning hymn of Gustavus Adolphus.]

But his influence on literature was not so great as that of his friend, who was precentor and organist of the church and master of the schools.

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