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The Hymns Of Martin Luther by Leonard Woolsey Bacon

Luther's Third Preface.

To the Hymn-book printed at Wittenberg by Joseph Klug, 1543. There are certain who, by their additions to our hymns, have clearly shown that they far excel me in this matter, and may well be called my masters. But some, on the other hand, have added little of value. And inasmuch as I see that there is no limit to this perpetual amending by every one indiscriminately according to his own liking, so that the earliest of our hymns are more perverted the more they are printed, I am fearful that it will fare with this little book as it has ever fared with good books, that through tampering by incompetent hands it may get to be so overlaid and spoiled that the good will be lost out of it, and nothing be kept in use but the worthless.

We see in the first chapter of St. Luke that in the beginning every one wanted to write a gospel, until among the multitude of gospels the true Gospel was well-nigh lost. So has it been with the works of St. Jerome and St. Augustine, and with many other books. In short, there will always be tares sown among the wheat.

In order as far as may be to avoid this evil, I have once more revised this book, and put our own hymns in order by themselves with name attached, which formerly I would not do for reputation's sake, but am now constrained to do by necessity, lest strange and unsuitable songs come to be sold under our name. After these, are arranged the others, such as we deem good and useful.

I beg and beseech all who prize God's pure word that henceforth without our knowledge and consent no further additions or alterations be made in this book of ours; and that when it is amended without our knowledge, it be fully understood to be not our book published at Wittenberg. Every man can for himself make his own hymn-book, and leave this of ours alone without additions; as we here beg, beseech and testify. For we like to keep our coin up to our own standard, debarring no man from making better for himself. Now let God's name alone be praised, and our name not sought. Amen.

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