Page images
PDF
EPUB

places (being but few) which might offend, "* has been followed in the Translation of the present work.

It is somewhat remarkable that the present production of Luther, together with the BondaGE OF THE WILL, and most of his other works which have been lately published in the series of Numbers, have never appeared before in the English language; though they contain matter so important and valuable. The present work, in particular, from having remained so long buried in the German and Latin, has certainly been a loss to many of the favourers of divine and experimental truth : and therefore it is hoped, that it will meet with a cordial reception from them, and be made useful unto their best interests.— With these few observations, the Reader is left to converse with Luther himself, in his Commentary.

* The Translators' Preface to the Commentary on the Galatians.

PREFACE.

MARTIN LUTHER, TO THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCE AND LORD, FREDERIC, ARCHMARSHAL OF THE SACRED ROMAN EMPIRE, ELECTOR, DUKE OF SAXONY, MARQUIS OF MISNIA, LANDGRAVE OF THURINGA, HIS MOST KIND PATRON, SENDETH GREETING, Those who dedicate their labours and the productions of their mind to illustrious personages, and send them forth into the world under the sanction of their names, seem to act prudently and rightly; because, by such means, they procure to their works both authority, and a protection against those aims of malignity which are sure to be levelled at them : for such is the state of human affairs, that, the more excellent things are, the more they are exposed to envy and to the shafts of the malevolent. Whence it comes to pass, that laudable literature, and all the productions of genius and erudition, (which are without doubt some of the best of things, and things worthy the particular and serious attention of man,) do not a little stand in need of their Mecænas, their Augustus, and also of their Ulysses, who may strike their Thyrsites with his ivory sceptre.—And some also procure the sanction of the names of illustrious personages, that they may thereby immortalize those names, and hand down to the records of fame the individuals to whom they make their dedication : with the view, that posterity may be led to love their virtues, and that many may be animated by the examples thus held before them in such praises.-Others again do it from this motive, that they may thereby express their thanks, and thus in some degree make a return for benefits received; and leave behind them a testimony of their gratitude to those by whom they have been treated with kindness.

But, most illustrious Prince, neither of these motives answer my design. For, in the first place, I am aware that none of the productions which proceed from me, deserve a patron : and so far, it is a happiness that I know my deficiency. And, even if I could produce that which should be worthy of the sanction of a patron's name, yet I should by no means be anxious to put it under a patron's protection. Nay, as soon as I learnt from the Holy Scriptures, how terror-filled and perilous a matter it was to preach publicly in the church of God, and to speak in the midst of those whom you know will one day be your judges, and that in the presence of God the beholder of all things, in the sight of angels, and in the sight and hearing of all creatures, there was nothing that I so much desired as silence; wishing also, that a sponge could deface all that ever I had in my poor foolish way published abroad. For it is a momentous and awe-striking matter to render an account unto God even for every idle word. Nor does he now keep me in the ministry of the Word, but by an overruled obedience to a will above my own, that is, his divine will : for, as to my own will, it always shrunk from it, nor is it fully reconciled unto it to this hour.

And, indeed, what fame, what praise, what eternalizing of a name, can your most illustrious Highness hope from me? being yourself such a Prince, who, not only by all those other endowments that exalt the Prince, but also by a distinguished love of learning and learned men, have procured to yourself that name and glory, that, instead of wanting an Appion to immortalize your name, you yourself immortalize the name of an Appion, and of all who attempt to give you celebrity? Who is there that knows not, that Prince FreDERIC, has given an example to all princes, by his patronage and promotion of literature ! Your Wittemberg now devotes itself to the Greek and the Hebrew with encouragement and profit. The arts are taught with greater success than ever they were before. The true theology of Christ now triumphs : while the vain imaginations and disputations of men have no scope for

thought or research. All these things flourish beneath your auspices, at your expense, and under your protection. O'that the ecclesiastical great ones, who ought themselves to be the foremost in showing forth examples in these things for the princes of the laity to imitate, would but imitate the examples that the laity thus show them.—But, such is the unhappily fallen state of the ecclesiastical power and opulence !

And again, why should I attempt to render you gratitude for the abundant kindnesses you have heaped upon me, when you have thrown them upon one who never deserved them. What cares, attentions, expenses, and indeed, perils, did that monstrous production of mine cost your Highness which owed its birth to the indulgences ! The whole of your dominion knows, that my Prince showed a much greater concern for me, than I did for myself. I, in my usual daring way, cast the die, being always ready to attempt and to expect extremities : for I hoped, upon that occasion, that, if I should be removed from teaching others, I should find out some corner of the world into which I might retire, after I had left the public life, to which I was always averse. But the persevering endeavours of your Highness prevailed; and when I was willing to suffer those things which my enemies longed to inflict upon me, neither they nor I had our will. But still

, I am glad that such was the issue of matters, if it were only on this account:—there is not a Christian that ought not to feel a serious grief and concern, that the impudence of a certain set of fellow's proceeds to such a pitch of audacity in the church of Christ, that they presume to ensure themselves success in their filthy purposes and lusts, under cover of the venerable name and authority of the church. And the more kind, good, and learned the Pope happens to be, the greater enormities these monsters promise to themselves, by effecting them under the cloak of his authority. For, with what numberless and manifest lies did they profane and defile the sacred name of Leo X. in this one little point, the indulgences, in order to terrify

the conscience of one poor brother, and to establish their own horrible tyrannies ? — Though it is not a thing so much to be wondered at, that there should be found such characters to prostitute the name of the high Pope, and to abuse it: for the patriarchs of such fellows, that is, the false prophets, false apostles, and false christs, did the same; who made the holy name of God and of Christ to serve their lies. Of the holy name of that God and Lord, I say, even our Lord Jesus Christ; whose are all those things which we admire in you, most illustrious Prince; and may he acknowledge, increase, and preserve the same to all eternity.---This prayer I offer up, which is all I can do, as a return for the favours I have received at your hands.

Hence, the reason why I wished to send forth these my productions, such as they are, (for productions they certainly are, though I cannot find confidence enough to call them interpretations or commentaries, from a consciousness of my poor ability betrayed in them,) under the sanction of the name of your most illustrious Highness, was none other, than because I greatly love you. For I am fully persuaded of the pure and chaste love' which your heart hath for the Holy Scriptures : and my heart (to use the words of Deborah)" is toward” such Princes.

And why should I not here declare at full my thoughts concerning you, and the cause of this my love for

you, that those who boast themselves in the holy Scriptures may see how far a hypocrite differs from a true theologian ?--My very good and reverend father in Christ, John Stupitius, told me, upon a certain occasion, that once, while he was staying with your Highness, the conversation turned upon those who preach publicly to the people; and that, according to the wonderful penetration of your judgment, you said, Those sermons which are made up of the canning and traditions of men, are but frigid things, and too weak and ineffectual to persuade us to our best interests ; for nothing of that kind can be brought forth so acute, that may not be subverted and rooted up by the

« PreviousContinue »