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SERMONS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
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Ft1 We are to remember that when Luther did not protest against the dance at a wedding he had in mind the dance of his day. The round dance in vogue among us was not then the general custom of the country. The dancers touched one another only with their hands and moved about in the room in measured time or sprang here and there, especially when in the open air. To be sure at that time also there were connected with dancing all kinds of immorality. But “all intemperance and whatever was unchaste” Luther did not approve, but forbade and chastised it.
And we know that he considered the round dance as unchaste, and condemned it with sharp words.
In Luther’s Letters by De Wette, 6 vol., 435P. in his “Send-schreiben und Bedenken,” he gives his judgment on the conduct at dances thus: “Dances are gotten up and allowed that politeness in conduct may be taught and that young men may learn to honor the female sex and that friendship may be formed between young men and refined young ladies in order that later they way be the more sure of that friendship. The pope condemned dances because he was the enemy of the true and natural marriage festival. Therefore certain honorable women and men were invited to the wedding festivals to see that every thing was done in a becoming way. But there is one thing that does not please me in the con ducting of dances, and I would that it might be prohibited by the government; namely, that the young men swing the girls around in a circle, especially publicly, when many are looking on.” And as a result many governments, especially city councils in the days of Luther and later, passed public ordinances against “Dancing in a circle without a cloak.” In these ordinances “the swinging and whirling of the girl in a circle” was forbidden. Consequently, the round dance in vogue today does not belong to the unchaste dances, and not to dances that are allowed, and Christians should avoid them. See St. Louis Ed. vol. II, 467.
Walch says in his II vol. p. 2: Luther’s books have been subject to gross misuse, especially his Church Postil. Those who advocate the modern dance think they have here found a strong argument. Those who conclude from these words, however, that the modern dance is not sinful and it is not to be avoided and condemned, have no ground for their conclusion. Those who quote Luther to support the modern dance, because he had so deep an insight into the things of faith and life and is so highly esteemed in our church, accomplish nothing. For you can quote Luther against Luther. How if you cite the places in his writings where he clearly condemns the dance in general, as his explanation of the third commandment, in his short explanation of the ten commandments and his exposition of Genesis 4:21, etc. Then the passage here will give you no support in your defense of the sinful lust of the dance. For what you find here in Luther’s words, you imagine. When I take this passage in its entire connection I find something entirely different.
Luther is not speaking, of the dance here in general, but of the chaste dance that is conducted in childlike simplicity. Luther opposed sourfaced hypocrites and self-grown saints, who like the Pharisees could tolerate nothing, not even a child to dance. Luther, like Christ in this miracle, kept the middle way.
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