'Lutherisch Ist Gut Sterben'
'It is good to die Lutheran-like', wrote Martin Boos as he lay on his death bed in the Year 1825.
In the last weeks of the illness that led to his death, the sixty-three year old Bavarian-born Roman Catholic priest, Martin Boos, was visited by Johan Stockfield, a missionary to the Jews, who conversed with the dying man. Stockfield spoke about the errors which still haunted the mind of the good 'gospel-preaching priest'. Using the original languages of Scripture, Stockfield spent many hours with Boos refuting the errors of Roman Catholicism and stripping away all the crustations under which Rome had hidden the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The dying fears and scruples of Boos were dispelled.
Nothing was left of the figments of Popery. A wonderful deliverance came to Martin Boos and the last vestige of Romanism dropped off. As never before he rejoiced in the perfect peace with God through the blood of Him whom he had preached and for whose sake he had suffered so long.
Martin Boos, the thirteenth of sixteen children, had been born on December 25, 1762. As a child he long desired to become a 'clergyman', fulfilling that ambition when as a young man he became a Carthusian friar. Martin sought, by his own strength, to live a truly pious life and, as Luther before him, gave himself,
an immense amount of trouble ... I lay for years ... upon the cold ground, though my bed stood near ... I scourged myself unto blood, and mortified my body with a shirt of hair; I suffered hunger ... I confessed or communed (took the Sacrament) almost every week ... I sought by force to live upon my good works ... yet I was continually crying in my heart wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?
Deliverance was not far away.
In the course of visiting a poor Roman Catholic woman sick in bed Martin complimented the woman on her 'good works, pious and holy life' assuring her that she may die 'very peacefully' knowing that her works would be acceptable to God. Her reply both stunned and shamed the friar:
What a pretty divine you are! What a miserable comforter! What would have become of me? How should I be able to stand before that judgment seat of God where we must give an account of every idle word? I should certainly be lost if I built ... on myself, my own merits or piety. Who is guiltless in the sight of God? Who is righteous if he were to impute sin? ... No, if Christ had not died for me, if he had not ... paid my ransom, I should have ... eternally perished. He is my hope, my salvation and my peace.
The gospel blow struck home. The arrow from God's bow delivered by the lips of a poor, unlearned woman pierced the friar's heart. Those words from one so close to death, carried the sting of conviction and were the 'starting point of Martin's conversion, his faith and loyal conduct'.
Although Martin Boos was still 'in the church of Rome, it was evident that he was no longer of it'. That obvious difference was to bring down on his head the full weight of Roman disapproval and persecution. But Martin stood firm in his new-found faith. For fully thirty-five years of his public gospel preaching ministry he was subject, at various times, to 'imprisoning, depriving and disgracing'. But thousands of Roman Catholics were brought into saving faith through the preaching and teaching ministry of this remarkable 'gospel-preaching priest'.
We may pause and ask ourselves how can a man who has been saved by grace and who publicly professes that faith, still be held by Roman error? The answer may in part lie in the fact that when a man is converted by grace his personality not only remains intact, but often his prejudices too!
There is much that needs to be unlearned when a Roman Catholic is converted. Patient, loving nurture is often needed for those who are brought out of such error into the marvellous gospel light. Should any have any doubt as to the reality of Martin Boos' conversion the Directions which he impressed upon those who had been awakened under his preaching should remove any lingering doubt:
When thou art once, in thine own eyes, utterly sinful, depraved, blind, lame, diseased, grieved and perplexed, it is then time ... to make faith thy sole concern ... thou must go, like the thief on the Cross and Mary Magdalene, just as thou art with all thy sins and shame, and at the same time with full confidence, to the Saviour, and heartily desire of Him the forgiveness of thy sins, together with the righteousness He has wrought for thee.
Lay hold of it with tears and joyfully appropriate it to thyself as thine own property. For it was on this account that God's Spirit gave thee to know and feel thy corruption, that thou mightest come and receive forgiveness from the Saviour … mightest apprehend all the riches which Jesus obtained for thee by His suffering and death. Come then and receive grace upon grace. But after thou art become a believer, thou must then apply thyself wholly to sanctification, piety, obedience, and the following of Christ. Not as if thou couldst justify thyself by good works, or ... wert able and obliged by this means to merit forgiveness of sins and heaven. No! ... do this from love and gratitude; because God, for Christ's sake, has already forgiven thy sins, and has granted thee gratuitously the Spirit and mind of Jesus, and with Him eternal life, and the power to live piously.
Therefore ... do all thou art able; but never build thy rest and peace upon it ... build and trust upon the already finished work and travail of thy Redeemer. Then thou buildest thy peace upon a rock ... Yet, urged on by love and gratitude, thou oughtest to be extremely diligent in every good work ... Thou must never think thyself just and holy on account of thy good works ... For it is of the Saviour's grace that thou art enabled to do good works...
How long ... must thou still be compelled to bear thy wretchedness and the distress of thy soul? ... Until all sinfulness and vanity become hateful to thee; until thou despondest and despairest of all human aid, and of being able in any manner to help thyself; and until it drives thee to the feet of Jesus and to lay hold of Him as thy only salvation.'
This was the gospel which Martin Boos preached: salvation by faith in Christ alone. Yet in the year of his death and at the time of his sickness, that clear view of Christ, his completed work, and the fulness of salvation in him alone, became clouded.
Suffering as he then was from great pain in his body, there was still greater suffering in his mind. Satan, the arch-enemy of men's souls, stood ready to extinguish any pleasant hope which the dying man might cling to.
The abominable doctrine of purgatory rose in his mind and obscured the grace found in Christ.
Boos' biographer writes: Spiritually enlightened and eminently conscientious, he saw clearly the depths of his own corruption ... the imperfection and pollution ... and he imagined that he needed a process of purification after death.
It was at this point that God in his goodness and mercy sent Johan Stockfield to explain more clearly to him the glorious gospel of Christ's propitiatory, substitutionary sacrifice.
When Stockfield saw that the aged and faithful saint was now fully delivered from Romanish error and Romanish bondage' he requested Martin to write something. It was then that Boos wrote in Stockfield's notebook: 'lutherisch ist gut sterben'.