To Valentine Bapst's Hymn-book, Leipzig, 1545.
The xcvi Psalm saith: |Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.| The service of God in the old dispensation, under the law of Moses, was hard and wearisome. Many and divers sacrifices had men to offer, of all that they possessed, both in house and in field, which the people, being idle and covetous, did grudgingly or for some temporal advantage; as the prophet Malachi saith, chap. i., |who is there even among you that would shut the doors for naught? neither do ye kindle fires on my altars for naught.| But where there is such an idle and grudging heart there can be no singing, or at least no singing of any good. Cheerful and merry must we be in heart and mind, when we would sing. Therefore hath God suffered such idle and grudging service to perish, as he saith further: |I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of Hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand: for from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered in my name and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts.|
So that now in the New Testament there is a better
service, whereof the psalm speaketh: |Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth.| For God hath made our heart and mind joyful through his dear Son whom he hath given for us to redeem us from sin, death and the devil. Who earnestly believes this cannot but sing and speak thereof with joy and delight, that others also may hear and come. But whoso will not speak and sing thereof, it is a sign that he doth not believe it, and doth not belong to the cheerful New Testament but to the dull and joyless Old Testament.
Therefore it is well done on the part of the printers that they are diligent to print good hymns, and make them agreeable to the people with all sorts of embellishments, that they may be won to this joy in believing and gladly sing of it. And inasmuch as this edition of Valtin Bapst [Pope] is prepared in fine style, God grant that it may bring great hurt and damage to that Roman Bapst who by his accursed, intolerable and abominable ordinances has brought nothing into the world but wailing, mourning and misery. Amen.
I must give notice that the song which is sung at funerals,
|Nun lasst uns den Leib begraben,|
which bears my name is not mine, and my name is henceforth not to stand with it. Not that I reject it, for I like it very much, and it was made by a good poet, Johannes Weis* by name, only a little visionary about the Sacrament; but I will not appropriate to myself another man's work.
Also in the De Profundis, read thus:
Des muss dich fuerchten jedermann.
Either by mistake or of purpose this is printed in most books
Des muss sich fuerchten jedermann.
Ut timearis. The Hebrew reading is as in Matthew xv.: |In vain do they fear me teaching doctrines of men.| See also Psalms xiv. and liii.: |They call not on the Lord; there feared they where no fear was.| That is, they may have much show of humiliation and bowing and bending in worship where I will have no worship. Accordingly this is the meaning in the place: Since forgiveness of sins is nowhere else to be found but only with thee, so must they let go all idolatry, and come with a willing heart bowing and bending before thee, creeping up to the cross, and have thee alone in honor, and take refuge in thee, and serve thee, as living by thy grace and not by their own righteousness, etc.
*Luther's mistake for Michael Weysse, author of a Moravian hymn-book of 1531.