The Evangelization of the World is being accomplished more rapidly than we think. Three mighty movements are constantly at work -- Reformation, Heathen Missions and Emigration or Colonization. By the Reformation Europe was evangelized; by Heathen Missions Asia and Africa are being evangelized and by Emigration or Colonization North and South America and Australia have been to a large extent evangelized. In |Lutherans In All Lands,| published in 1893, and in the introduction to the volume on St. Peter's Epistles of the English Luther, we emphasized the relation of the Evangelical-Lutheran church and of Luther's writings to the evangelization of the world through these three movements. In view of the recent marvelous growth in interest in Heathen Missions and the false ideas about Luther's relation to this theme, the following may be in place here in this volume of Easter and Pentecost sermons:
The Christian religion being preeminently missionary the Reformation of the Christian Church would necessarily be missionary. Protestant missions began with Protestantism.
Herzog's Encyclopedia says: |Luther himself already seizes every opportunity offered by a text of the Divine Word in order to remind believers of the distress of the Heathen and Turks and earnestly urges them to pray in their behalf, and to send out missionaries to them. In accord with him all the prominent theologians and preachers of his day, and of the succeeding period inculcated the missionary duty of the Church. Many also of the Evangelical princes cherished the work with Christian love and zeal.|
Luther's interest in the work of true evangelization is seen in the name he designedly chose for the church of his followers. He did not call it Protestant nor Lutheran, but conscientiously insisted upon it being called the Evangelical, or in plain Anglo-Saxon, the Gospel church, the Evangelizing church. Because of Luther's emphasis on the word evangelical there are properly speaking no Lutheran, but only Evangelical-Lutheran churches. He is the evangelist of Protestantism in the true sense.
Of the library of 110 volumes of which Luther is the author, 85 of them treat of the Bible and expound its pure evangelical teachings in commentaries, sermons and catechetical writings. He popularized the word evangelical. With his tongue and pen he labored incessantly for the evangelization of Europe. That Europe is evangelized is due more to his labors and writings than to those of any other. What those writings did for Europe they may do, and we believe, will do, for the world in a greater or less degree. The greatest evangelist of Europe has a God-given place in the evangelization of the world. His most evangelical classics should be translated into all the dialects of earth as soon as the Bible is given to the people in their native tongue.
Dr. Warneck says: |By the Reformation the christianizing of a large part of Europe was first completed, and so far it may be said to have carried on a mission work at home on an extensive scale.| Further he says: |The Reformation certainly did a great indirect service to the cause of missions to the heathen, as it not only restored the true substance of missionary preaching by its earnest proclamation of the Gospel, but also brought back the whole work of missions on Apostolic lines. Luther rightly combats, as Plitt insists, 'the secularizing of missionary work.'|
In explaining the 117th Psalm Luther says: |If all the heathen shall praise God, he must first be their God. Shall he be their God? Then they must know him and believe in him, and put away all idolatry, since God can not be praised with idolatrous lips or with unbelieving hearts. Shall they believe? Then they must first hear his Word and by it receive the Holy Spirit, who cleanses and enlightens their heart through faith. Are they to hear his Word? Then preachers must be sent who shall declare to them the Word of God.| So in his familiar hymn, |Es wolle Gott uns gnaedig sein.|
|And Jesus Christ, His saving strength
To Gentiles to make known,
That thee, O God, may thank and praise
The Gentiles everywhere.|
In commenting on the words of the Second Psalm, |Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance,| Luther says: |Christ, therefore, being upon earth and appointed king upon Mount Zion, receives the Gentiles who were then promised unto him. The words 'of me' are not spoken without a particular meaning. They are to show that this kingdom and this inheritance of the Gentiles are conferred on Christ, not by men, nor in any human way, but by God, that is, spiritually.|
All who retain the good old custom of the fathers in reading Luther's Postil sermons on the Gospel and Epistle texts for each Sunday know what deep missionary thoughts are found in the sermons for Epiphany, Ascension Day and Pentecost.
In one sermon for Ascension Day on |Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation,| we read, |these words of the Sovereign Ruler commission these poor beggars to go forth and proclaim this new message, not in one city or country only, but in all the world.|
For the history of the writing of these sermons the reader is referred to volumes 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Gospel sermons of Luther's works in English.
The German text will be readily found in the 12th volume of the Walch and of the St. Louis Walch editions, and in the 8th volume of the Erlangen edition of Luther's works.
Due acknowledgment is hereby made of aid received from the translation of Pastor Ambrose Henkel, and published in 1869, at New Market, Virginia. Also to Pastor C. B. Gohdes, for comparing the manuscript from the Third Sunday before Lent with the German text and making valuable improvements.
J. N. LENKER.
Home for Young Women,
Minneapolis, Minn., March 22, 1909.