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    Edited by John Nicholas Lenker Translated by John Nicholas Lenker and others


      Acknowledgment — Editor’s Introduction Dedication to Frederick, the Elector Introduction to Volumes 1 and First Sunday in Advent, Matthew 21:1-9 Christ Enters Jerusalem: or Faith; Good Works; and the Spiritual Meaning of This Gospel.

      Second Sunday in Advent, Luke 21:25-36 Christ’s Second Coming: or the Signs of the Day of Judgment; and the Comfort Christians Have from Them.

      Third Sunday in Advent, Matthew 11:2-10 John in Prison: or Christ’s Answer to John’s Question; His Praise of John; and the Application of This Gospel.

      Fourth Sunday in Advent, John 1:19-28 The Witness and Confession of John the Baptist; and the Spiritual Meaning of His Witness.

      Christmas, Luke 2:1-14 The Story of the Birth of Jesus; and the Angels’ Song.

      Second Christmas Day, Luke 2:15-20 The Fruits and Signs of the Power of the Word of God.

      Third Christmas Day, John 1:1-14 Christ’s Titles of Honor; His Coming; His Incarnation; and the Revelation of His Glory.

      St. Stephen’s Day, Matthew 23:34-39 The Christian Teaching Concerning Reason and Faith.

      Day of St. John the Evangelist, John 21:19-24 Everyone Should Honor His Calling and Be Content in It.

      Sunday After Christmas, Luke 2:33-4 Simeon; Anna; and the Childhood of Jesus.

      New Year’s Day, Luke 2:21 The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus.

      Epiphany, Matthew 2:1-12 The Story and Spiritual Meaning of This Gospel.


      In sending forth this the first English translation of Luther’s Advent, Christmas and Epiphany sermons of his Church Postil on the Gospels, we gratefully record our hearty thanks to the following and all others who have so promptly and cheerfully extended their aid in trying to give to the English speaking world “a classic translation of the classics of Protestantism”: To Rev. E. H. Caselmann, Secretary of the German Iowa Synod, for translating the sermon of the first Sunday in Advent; to Prof.

      Carl Ackermann, Ph. D., Lima, Ohio, for the sermon of the second Sunday in Advent; to Rev. E. Gerfen, Gibsonburg, Ohio, for the sermon of the third Sunday in Advent; to Prof. Hans Juergensen, of the German Department of the University of Minnesota, for the sermon of the fourth Sunday in Advent; to Rev. Geo. H. Trabert, D. D., Minneapolis, for the sermon of the first Christmas Day; to Rev. John Sander, late professor of German in Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., for the sermon of the third Christmas Day; to Rev. B. Lederer, Chicago, for the sermon of the Sunday after Christmas; and to A. G. Voigt, D. D., Pres. Theological Seminary, Mt. Pleasant, S. C., for the New Year’s sermon. The following brethren translated the Epiphany sermon or treatise: Rev. E. Gerfen, §§ 1- 79; Rev. E. H. Caselmann, §§ 80-112; Rev. S. Schillinger, West Alexandria, Ohio, §§ 113-225, and Prof. W. A. Sadtler, Ph. D., Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, §§ 226-334.

      Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 21, 1905. J. N. LENKER.


      It is in place here to give an accurate, comprehensive and chronological history of Luther’s Church Postil. In its composition and publication we are to distinguish four periods in its development. The first period is that from 1520 to 1527 when Luther himself wrote out his sermons and generally prepared them for the printer. The second period is that from 1527 to 1535 when the work of Rodt as editor is prominent. During the third period from 1540 to 1544 Creuziger is the editor. The fourth period includes all the editorial work on the Church Postil after Luther’s death.

      I. The Church Postil, which Luther himself considered “The best of all his books,” was called forth by the exigency and need of the Church at the time. The majority of the preachers in those days were incapable of working out their own sermons, and were satisfied in reading the Epistle and Gospel lessons, and perhaps besides they read a sermon of another preacher to the congregation. The sermons for this purpose were those by Tauler (d. 1361) and those by Geiler of Kaisersberg (d. 1510). But since the latter were not in all parts evangelical Luther concluded he would himself write an explanation of the pericopes of the Church year and place the same in the hands of the preachers for their use. This Luther did not only because the preachers were so incompetent, but also in order to prevent the work of the fanatics and the sects, never however in order to encourage preachers in their laziness to take their sermons from his and other good books, and then never pray, never study and never read and search the Scriptures.

      The occasion for writing this work, however, was given by the Elector Frederick the Wise requesting Luther in 1520 to prepare a Postil for all the Sundays, especially for the season before Easter. At the same time he desired thereby to draw Luther from his many disputes to the positive teaching of the Gospel and this Luther knew. In 1521 his Advent Postil appeared at Wittenberg in Latin. It was translated at once into German (but not by Luther), and it appeared in 1522 under the title: “Postil or Explanation of the Epistles and Gospels for Advent.”

      Interrupted by his journey to Worms Luther resumed the work on the Wartburg and labored there on the Christmas sermons. He was again interrupted by the Carlstadt disorder. Sept. 17, 1521, however the Postil was finished to Epiphany. This second part was “Completed in the Desert (on the Wartburg) St. Elizabeth’s Day (Nov. 21) 1521.” With it appeared that classic document “A Short Instruction as to What We Are to Seek and Expect In the Gospel.” In 1525 the sermons from Epiphany to Easter appeared. Bucer translated this Winter Postil into Latin for the friends of the Gospel in Italy, which appeared in five books in Strassburg 1525-1527.

      The complete Latin Postil was issued in 1530 and 1535 in Strassburg, and a new edition in 1617 at Frankfurt.

      Collections of sermons for the summer season and for the Church festivals were early issued which were later embodied in the Church Postil. They were: 1. “Fourteen Fine Christian Sermons, Preached at Wittenberg in 1522.

      Also, The Use We are to Make of the Sufferings of Christ,” Basel, 1523.

      2. “Twenty-Seven Sermons, Strassburg, 1523.”

      3. “Thirteen Sermons, 1523. A Supplement to the Twenty Seven Sermons.”

      4. Twelve Sermons For Certain Festivals of the Saints. 1524.

      II. Luther being engaged from 1527 by other labors Rodt of Zwickau edited the Summer Postil and the Postil for the Chief Festivals, which were printed at Wittenberg in 1527, along with Bugenhagen’s Summaries translated from the Latin. Here the Epistles are omitted. In 1528 he also prepared a new edition of the Winter Postil, further revised by Luther.

      These three books, prepared by Rodt, were reissued at Wittenberg in 1527, 1528, 1529, 1530, 1531, 1532, 1533 and 1535; the Winter Postil nine times, the Summer Postil eight times, the Festival Postil four times. In his editorial work Rodt omitted some and added other material; now and then he united two sermons into one and divided one into two sermons. For this Friedrich Francke no doubt criticised him too severely. True, later Luther was not fully satisfied with Rodt’s work, but he was not pleased with his own and hence he continually corrected it. According to Luther’s opinion Rodt corrected too little. Creuziger was appointed by Luther to prepare a new edition of the Postil with many marked changes.

      III. In an essentially changed form the Church Postil was edited by Creuziger at the close of Luther’s life work, from 1540 to 1544, under Luther’s supervision. In 1540 there was printed at Wittenberg, “The Exposition of the Epistles and Gospels from Advent to Easter. By Dr.

      Martin Luther. Revised with a Useful Index.” It was again issued in 1543.

      In 1544 appeared the new edition, revised by Creuziger, of “The Exposition of the Epistles and Gospels from Easter to Advent. Dr. Martin Luther. New Edition.” Thus the whole Church Postil was corrected and revised, and printed first at Leipsic and then at Wittenberg in 1544 under the title, “The Exposition of the Epistles and Gospels for the Whole Year.

      Dr. Martin Luther. Lately revised, with a Useful Index.” It contained Forewords by Luther and by Creuziger. The winter part was revised mostly by Luther. He corrected the text of other editions, shortened some sermons, omitted parts and added new matter.

      In the same way according to Luther’s direction and appointment Creuziger revised the summer part and as Luther says, “He enlarged and improved it.” Often he took Rodt’s editions and so thoroughly changed them that they appeared like a new production. Many other sermons either he or some one else took down in writing while Luther preached or dictated them. It is difficult to determine which sermons are from Rodt as to contents, style and rhetoric. Creuziger modified the strong language of Luther often developed the short, condensed sayings of Luther according to his own taste, and made corrections where they were, and were not, in place. These sermons of Creuziger’s summer part are easy and pleasant reading, but they bear a different stamp from the sermons Luther himself spoke word for word. What and how much of the Church Postil of originated with Luther, where the additions by Creuziger begin and end is very difficult to determine and prove.

      IV. After Luther’s death, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the Church Postil was often, and mostly according to the text of 1543, printed at Wittenberg and other places. But it was changed even more, and often twisted and altered in the interests or certain dogmatical tendencies. In the first complete edition of Luther’s works neither the Church nor the House Postil appears.

      It was Spener who resolved to give this excellent work of Luther’s into the hands of the Church in its original purity, and he prepared a new edition in order to place before the diligent reader the Postil in its most complete form, so that he might receive an idea, not only how it was published at this or that time, but that at one view it may appear in its various forms, with this difference that the reader may at the same time see what was added or subtracted at different times. Spener took as the basis for the preparation of his editions the editions of 1528, 1532 and 1543.

      It is here worthy of note that Spener (b. 1635, d. 1705), the father of German Lutheran Pietism and honored so highly in America and all Protestant lands, was the first to issue a critical edition of Luther’s Church Postil. It was printed in Berlin in 1700, the year Zinzendorf was born, at whose baptism Spener acted as godfather. And in passing we may say, as sure as the Moravians are the fathers of modern missions, so sure is Spener the spiritual father of the modern Moravians; and the reissuing of, and the revival in reading Luther’s Church Postil by preachers and laity, represent the flower and fruit of the spirit and doctrine of Spener, to whom the modern Christian world is indebted more than to any other man, Luther alone excepted. Prof. J. A. Faulkner, of Drew Theological Seminary of the Methodist Church says, Wesley’s intercourse with the German Moravians on shipboard during his trip to America “was the determining element in his whole future life. Speaking after the manner of men, if Wesley had not learned German we would never have heard of him, and if he had not fallen in with the men of the Moravian Church the Methodist movement would never have been. Herrnhut is in a true sense the real mother of the evangelical revival of the 18th century.” Wesley and Methodism are not more indebted to Zinzendorf and Herrnhut than the latter are to Spener and Halle. Since all agree that the modern heathen mission work originated with Spener in the German University of Halle and since Spener was the man God used to awaken a new interest in the circulation and reading of Luther’s writings, it seems that nothing would help the practical and missionary work of the Protestant Church of today so much as a new interest in reading the classic writings of Protestantism as God has given them to us through Luther. The relation of Spener and Francke to heathen missions during the two hundred years since their time and to Luther’s writings nearly two hundred years before their day, has a lesson for the Church at the opening of the 20th century, if the lesson could only be taught and learned in the interest of vital piety at home and of mission work abroad.

      In 1710 the second edition of Spener’s Luther’s Church Postil was again printed at Leipsic in three parts with an introduction by Gotfried Arnold, to which a fourth part was added as a supplement since some days had no sermon in the Postil. In the selection the sermons Luther delivered in the Church were considered as the most appropriate for the Church Postil, and the sources for such sermons were given in the marginal notes. The third edition, furnished with an introduction by Dr. Joachim Lange, appeared in 1732, with which is connected the circumstance that when the Leipsic Edition of Luther’s works was issued the Church Postil was printed in the 13th and 14th parts, and it was thought the Church would be served by printing extra copies of the Church Postil, to which Dr. Lange wrote an introduction and John Jacob Grieff wrote a history of the development of the Church Postil. It was compared with the editions that appeared during Luther’s life and improved, retaining the introductions and additional matter by Luther, Rodt and Creuziger. The fourth edition was that printed at the cost of Dr. John George Walch and issued in separate form at Halle in 1737. This is considered to be without doubt the most correct and complete edition. The text of Spener was the foundation of these editions, but Walch compared his work not only with the editions of 1528 and 1543, but also with those of 1522, 1525, 1527, 1535, 1540 and various readings were given either in notes or in the body of the text, and changes made in 500 places. It is human to err and Walch no doubt erred in some of his corrections.

      The editor of the Erlangen edition, Ernst Ludwig Enders (1866), chose for the winter part the text of the edition of 1540, for the summer part of the Gospel Postil the text of 1531 and for the Epistles the text of 1543; for the Festival part the text of 1527, and like Walch he noted the various readings.

      Dr. Friedrich Francke in his edition of the Gospel part of the Church Postil (1871) aimed to restore the original text. But it was impossible often for even Francke to settle which was the original text.

      The St. Louis edition says, “The Spener-Walch text is often too mechanical and arbitrary. In the Winter part the text of the Walch edition changes often without a reason the text of 1522 to 1535 for the revised text of 1540 to 1543. In the Summer part the text of 1532 was too exclusively followed. In the Festival part the edition of 1527 is compared with the one of 1532. The St. Louis edition for the Winter part follows the text of to 1535. The text revised by Creuziger in 1543 was also Luther’s work, but we must distinguish between Luther in his early and in his later life.

      The early text is stronger, more condensed and original than that of 1540.”

      In the Summer part there was a choice only between the work of Rodt and that of Creuziger and like the Walch and Erlangen editions the St. Louis prefers that of Rodt to the paraphrasing revised edition of Creuziger, and where Creuziger is the only one to report a sermon the St. Louis edition, like the Spener-Walch and the Erlangen editions, gives it as the “second” or “third” sermon, which are the thoughts as a rule of Luther in the language of Creuziger.

      We have followed for our Standard Edition of Luther the texts of the St.

      Louis-Walch and the Erlangen editions, but added the Summaries of Bugenhagen and the Analyses of each sermon from the old Walch, which are omitted in the St. Louis-Walch, which, with the numbering of the paragraphs according to the old Walch, will make the American Luther more practical, handy and serviceable; and thus make it a book of ready reference for the busy pastor or layman. Besides the excellent indexes of the German editions may be used with this English edition.

      To compare the three editions and incorporate the best features of all three editions and give a critical but complete and practical edition without any pedantic display or critical work in giving foot notes or variations in the text, which amount to nothing whatever as far as the meaning of the text is concerned and are only a hinderance in the right use of a Church Postil as a sermon and devotional book; this, along with the task of giving the full meaning of the mighty Luther in readable English has been a work that Luther would call a “Heidenarbeit.”

      Unmerciful critics will be heard from in due time. We wish to say here to all such that we would be pleased to meet you face to face and solicit your hearty cooperation in our future work of producing a complete real American Luther. We have a good conscience in that we have been as loyal to the original text and put the true Luther into as good English as it was in our power to do. True the language at places might have been a little smoother, but, as will appear, we have sacrificed this in order to preserve more of the real Luther. Our aim is not to give a transliteration of German into English words nor a paraphrasing of Luther like Creuziger did, but a translation of Luther’s complete thought. Our aim is to introduce to the English world a Rodt rather than a Creuziger Luther. A little Scotch or Irish flavor in the English language is not objectionable. Why should a little German flavor be, especially when it is the real German Luther himself who is writing or speaking? It is an absolute impossibility to make anything else out of Luther than a German. There is no other real Luther than the German Luther. If you study or learn any other, he is not the true Luther.

      Do not be discouraged or offended if you find some Germanisms in Luther’s writings in English. Some are in place and give flavor to it. Try to get Luther’s thought and you will read him, even if he is not in the best English. We would say to English Protestants about our translation as Luther said to Erasmus about his writings, judge me not according to the style of the language, but according to the thought in the language.

      The letter c stands for the edition of 1543 by Creuziger.


      Before the Postil, or the interpretation of the Epistles and Gospels of the Advent Circle was issued in Latin in 1521, and immediately translated into German.

      To the most illustrious Prince and Lord, Lord Frederick, Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Duke of Saxony, Landgrave of Thuringia, Marquis of Meissen, his most gracious Lord, Martinus Luther, Augustinian, send grace and peace from Jesus Christ, our Lord.

      I do not know, most illustrious, most gracious Lord, at whose door I should lay the fault that I, having been hindered day after day through numerous circumstances, have not been able to comply with your wishes.

      Your Electoral Grace has counseled well that I should turn from the quarrelsome, sharp, and entangling writings, with which I have been engaged nigh unto three years, and that I should occupy myself with the holy and kindly doctrine, beside the work of the interpretation of the Psalter, labor in the interpretation of the Epistles and Gospels (which is called Postil) for the benefit of the ministers and their subjects: you having been of the opinion that I, burdened with such an amount of work, would the sooner attain peace also against the attacks of my enemies. So noble is, according to the peaceful name of Your Electoral Grace, the natural soul of Your Electoral Grace that you have often plainly told me how tiresome the quarrels and useless questions concerning the goat-wool are to Your Electoral Grace.

      I myself do not wish to say how I have been affected by these storms and have been kept from my studies, so that I desired to give my flesh and blood free play, yes, have not abstained from answering these evil writings somewhat more pointedly than is becoming to a clergyman. I hope, however, just as I confess my guilt, that I may not reap the displeasure of all those who think differently what fierce Lions of Moab, what Rabsake of Assyria, what evil, poisonous Simei I alone had to endure, to the detriment of myself and of many to whom I might have been of service in the Word of God. In such storms, however, I have always firmly hoped that I would attain peace so that I could comply with the wishes of Your Electoral Grace, through which the mercy of God has, without doubt, done much good to the Gospel of Christ.

      But now when I see that my hope has been a very human thought and that, with every day, I sink deeper into the deep great sea, in which there are numberless creeping animals that help one another and are against me: then I also see that the devil with such vexations of my hope had nothing else in view but that I may finally abandon my purpose and would much sooner have to go to Babylon than to furnish my Jerusalem with armor’s nourishment. This is his wickedness. In consideration of it I have thought of the holy Nehemiah, and, forsaking the useless visions of Ezra, the scribe, have begun not to hope for peace, have prepared for peace as well as war, have taken the sword into one hand, to fight my Arabs, and wished to build the wall with the other, in order that I while applying myself to one work only, may not fail in completing both faster. For St. Jerome also says that not to withstand the enemies is just as detrimental to the church, as if we would only build. And the Apostle commands that a bishop ought to be able not only to exhort the people in the sound doctrine but also to convict the gainsayers. I do not say that I think I am a bishop, for I have neither riches nor an island, which in these days constitute the office of bishop; but that he who adminsters the office of the Word of God ought also to be able to fulfill the duties of a bishop, who must be capable with both hands, as Ehud, and able to kill the strong Aeglon with the left hand.

      Thus I have boldly stood in the midst of swords, bulls, trumpets, and horns, with which the Papists tried to terrify me, and have not been vexed thereby, but have, through the grace of God, applied myself to the work of peace, and have begun the interpretation of the Epistles and Gospels which Your Grace desires. For what could I not do to him who strengthens me?

      When, indeed, I consider my own ability, I would not trust to complete even the Psalter, even if I were a Luther seven times; so much penetration, art, diligence, spirit, and grace this book demands. And I do not wish to mention the fact that I must preach twice every day besides all the other affairs aside from the preaching of the Gospel, of which I not even wish to think.

      I fear, however, that this my work will not justify the great hopes, which others have of it. Because there is nothing holier in the hearts of all Christians than the Gospel, and that most justly: therefore perhaps many will expect a worthy and full interpretation. Thus a mountain finally bears a mouse and a big conflagration becomes a small fire. I do not speak of the fluencey and beauty of the Latin language; for, just as I am inexperienced in these things, so I have written not for those that are experienced, but for the common people and those that have the Spirit, that are highly esteemed before God, as Isaiah says, I fear their opinion, no matter how coarse they speak, and especially that of Your Grace, which not only is disposed to the Holy Scriptures and clings to them with incomparable earnestness, but is also able to test the ability of the most learned theologian to the utmost; not to speak at all of the fact that the Romanists will mock Your Electoral Grace with the deceit and lies of their bulls and catch you with the wicked laws of their false faith.

      I hope, however, that I shall do enough, if I uncover the purest and simplest sense of the Gospel as well as I can, and if I answer some of those unskillful glosses, in order that the Christian people may hear, instead of fables and dreams, the Words of their God, unadulterated by human filth.

      For I promise nothing except the pure, unalloyed sense of the Gospel suitable for the low, humble people. But whether I am able to accomplish this, I shall let others judge. Empty opinions and foolish questions, which are of no value, no one can learn from use.

      Your Grace will kindly judge this my humble service not according to my worthiness but according to your favor, and will long preserve itself, namely, the pious great Prince Frederick, in the grace of Christ, for our sake as well as for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.

      Wittenberg, March 3, 1521.


      1 AND 6. Concerning the interpretation of the Epistles and Gospels from the first Sunday in Advent to Epiphany, to Lord Albrecht, Duke of Mansfeld, of the year 1521. Together with a short instruction on what we are to seek and look for in the Gospels.

      To the noble, illustrious Lord, Lord Albrecht, Duke of Mansfeld, Lord of Schrappeln and Helderungen, etc., my gracious Lord. Martin Luther.

      Grace and peace of God, Amen. When the holy King David intended to appoint the heir to his royal throne, he established the rule that of his children the youngest son alone was to possess the kingdom, in order that the kingdom of Israel would remain whole and unseparated; and that, if the family of the youngest son should become extinct, the next youngest son was to rule in his stead. Thus he made Solomon, his youngest son, king before all the others and the kingdom remained under Solomon’s family up to King Joash, in whose days the bloody queen Athaliah, with whose son, Ahaziah, Solomon’s family became extinct, killed David’s entire family so that no one remained but Joash, 2 Kings 11, who, being of the family of Nathan, Solomon’s youngest brother, was marvelously saved by God, for Christ’s sake, who, as was promised to David, was to come from his flesh and blood. Although this may seem contrary to the law of Moses, who gives to the oldest son the rule over his brothers and two parts of the inheritance, still it was not contrary to it. For David’s oldest son, Ammon, had already been killed by Absalom, and it was necessary to establish this rule, because he saw that his sons would quarrel as to who should inherit the kingdom; and it was done especially for the sake of typifying Christ, who is the true Solomon and of all God’s children the youngest and littlest, as he himself says, Matthew 11:11, that there has not risen a greater among them that are born of women than John the Baptist, but that he who is but little in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he: and this “who is but little” is no one but Christ. No one has ever been so low and little as Christ; and therefore he alone can say: “Learn from me, I am truly meek and lowly,” which no saint could ever have said, and no one could ever have claimed for himself the mastery in lowliness and meekness. They all remain scholars under this master. Thus also, when St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Follow me,” he immediately adds the true master, and says: “Just as I have followed Christ,” so that he does not picture himself as Paul but Christ in himself and himself in Christ. Therefore Christ also has been raised, and has been made a king before all of his brethren; and we and all Christians are his brethren, as Psalm 45:7 says: “Thy God hath anointed thee,” that is, consecrated thee as king, “above thy fellows;” and therefore Solomon’s type has been fulfilled in him, yes, has not only been fulfilled, but he has also been made an example that we are to find the fundamentals of the Gospel truths typified everywhere, which is that, when Christ says: “He that shall humble himself, shall be exalted;” again: “If any man would be first, he shall be last of all.”

      And the Gospel is nothing more than the story of the little son of God and of his humbling, as St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 2:2: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

      I have mentioned all this, gracious lord, because it is my purpose to inscribe this book to the sovereign of those people who are of my blood, and that it may not be deemed peculiar that I, contrary to the usage of the world, have not begun with the oldest but with the youngest lord of the family. For the nature of this book, in which the littlest and youngest has been pictured, demands that the introduction be like the contents. And I do not only wish to talk of this doctrine of the Gospel with words of mouth, but also wish to write a booklet concerning it. For it is necessary for the lords in this world, who live continually in the prerogatives and respect of their high position, to think at times, according to the Gospel, that they are nothing before God, and that it is as necessary for them to think of this as it is for the others.

      And, indeed, I ought to have shown myself as Your Grace’s subject long before this. But still the Gospel is before me and says, without respect to the right and fancy of man: “The last are the first, and the first are the last.”

      And then I did not wish to give those that are against me any occasion or reason to think that I am striving after my own honor or that of my people; since I have put stress upon the first doctrine of the Gospel, which does not suffer, that we exalt ourselves, but that we, as was said, lower and despise ourselves.

      And as this introduction conforms in all points to the Gospel, so the writer is also a despised and cursed person. Through God’s grace I am under the Pope’s ban and have incurred his very greatest displeasure, and also the curses and hatred of his dear disciples, and I hope that it will be proper for me to speak in this despised, small, insignificant book of the Gospel of the littlest and most despised son of God and to abandon the high, great, long books of the king of Rome with his threefold crown. And even if it were not proper; since all high schools, monasteries and cloisters cling to the threefold crown and neglect the youngest, smallest book, the Gospel: still need demands and urges that at least one man labors upon the book of the despised, crownless son of God, whether he will be successful or not.

      It surely will not fail completely. Your Grace has seen the bull of Rome and the opinion of the Pharisees which undoubtedly have been permitted through a special dispensation of God that the world may comprehend how mightily the truth can be put to shame and blind its enemies, even through the very works and words of these enemies. It has not been my wish that they should act so foolishly and put themselves to shame; but still I gladly suffer it for the sake of the truth and because of the proverb, which comes nigh unto the Gospel: The learned are the perverted. The Gospel will come to the front and will prove that the wise are fools, and the fools are the wise, and that those who are called heretics are Christians, and those that call themselves Christians, heretics.

      I make mention of this, because I believe that Your Grace will have to suffer on my account, and that the highly learned and prudent disciples of the Pope will say that I am a disgrace to your land, that is, an insignificant, truly evangelical, despised Cinderella. For so diligently these holy people look for a reason to slander and revile, so that on my account the pious, innocent people of Sangerhausen have been put to shame, when it is as yet uncertain, whether Kunz Schmidt or the gray sparrow are the worse heretics or cats.

      John Huss, Jerome of Prague, and many others in the German Empire have been burned, but to this very day the Gospel remains as before. It is commonly said of the Antichrist that he will burn the Christians in fire, and this prophecy must first be fulfilled. Therefore Your Grace will again think here of the Gospel when you see that everything goes wrong and contrary to reason. What they call shame is honor, what they call honor is shame; and those that burn are worthy to be burnt, and those that are burnt ought to be the judges; and judges they will be on the last day, for then will be made manifest what the prophet says, Psalm 18:26: “With the perverse thou wilt show thyself froward;” because they act contrary to reason and judge unjustly, therefore will he justly judge them contrary to reason. And herewith I commend you and your entire land and all those that love the Gospel to the grace of God, who may save you from human teaching and keep you steadfastly in the divine doctrine in free Christian faith. Amen.

      Everything else that I have wished to say in this introduction I have said in the following instruction, so that the letter may not become too long. Your Grace will kindly judge my efforts not according to my worthiness but according to your favor.

      Written in the desert, on the day of St. Elizabeth, A.D. 1521.


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