Here comes the English Luther in his twelfth visit to your home. In peasant boots, decorated by no star of worldliness nor even by the cross of churchliness, but by the Book from heaven pressed to his heart in a firm attitude of earnest prayer, he comes as the man of prayer and of the one Book, a familiar friend, to help you to live the simple Christian life.
This volume of twenty-four practical sermons from Trinity Sunday to Advent marks an epoch in that it completes in an unabridged form one branch of Luther's writings, the eight volumes of his Gospel and Epistle Postil. They are bound in uniform size, numbered as in the Erlangen edition from the seventh to the fourteenth volume inclusive, paragraphed for convenient reference according to the Walch edition with summaries of the Gospel sermons by Bugenhagen. The few subheads inserted in the text are a new feature for American readers.
These eight volumes of 175 sermons and 3,110 pages are the classic devotional literature of Protestantism. They were preached by its founder to the mother congregation of Evangelical Christendom in the birth-period of the greatest factor in modern civilization. No collection of Evangelical sermons has passed through more editions and been printed in more languages, none more loved and praised, none more read and prayed. They will be a valuable addition to the meager sermon literature on the Epistle texts in the English language. English Protestants will hereafter have no excuse for unacquaintance with Luther's spiritual writings.
What Luther's two Catechisms were in the school room to teach the Christian faith to the youth, that these sermons were in the homes to develop the same faith in adults. They have maintained their good name wherever translated until the present and their contents are above the reach of critics. These Epistle sermons especially apply the Christian truth to everyday life. The order in developing the Christian life with the best help from the prince of the Teutonic church fathers, should be from the Small to the Large Catechism and then to his Epistle sermons. Blessed the pastor and congregation who can lead the youth to |Church Postil Reading| -- to read in harmony with their church-going. Blessed is the immigrant or diaspora missionary who finds his people reading them in the new settlements he visits.
Next to the Bible and Catechisms no books did more to awaken and sustain the great Evangelical religious movements under Spener in Germany, Rosenius in Sweden, and Hauge in Norway, than these sermon books devoutly and regularly read in the homes of church members.
The transition of a people and church from a weak language into a stronger, is easy and accompanied by gain; while the opposite course from a strong into a weaker tongue is difficult; and accompanied by loss. While in our land the Germans and Scandinavians lose much in the transition ordeal, all is not lost; they have something to give.
It is a good sign that two-tongued congregations are growing in favor. Familiar thought in a strange language is not so strange as when both language and thought are foreign. A church whose constituency is many-tongued should avoid becoming one-tongued. Church divisions are often more ethnological than theological. If exclusively English pastors learned one-tenth as much German and Scandinavian as these people do English, unity would be greatly promoted. As Protestantism is far more divided in the English language than in German or Scandinavian, the enthusiasm over the unifying influence of English is misleading. The hope is rather in the oneness of teaching and of spirit. This treasure, given first in Hebrew, Greek and German, can be translated into all languages. Who equals Luther as a translator? May his followers be inspired by his example and translate the Evangelical classics of this prophet of the Gentiles into all their dialects! That these volumes may contribute to this end is our prayer.
The history of the writing of these sermons is found in volumes 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Gospel sermons of the |Standard Edition 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 9th volume of the Erlangen edition of Luther's works.
Grateful acknowledgment is hereby made for translations to the following: To Pastor H. L. Burry, the first sermon for Trinity Sunday; Pastor W. E. Tressel, Third Sunday after Trinity; Prof. A. G. Voigt, D. D., the Fifth and Twenty-fourth Sundays; Dr. Joseph Stump, Sixth, Eighth and Thirteenth Sundays; Prof. A. W. Meyer, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Sundays; and to Pastor C. B. Gohdes for revising the Second Sermon for Trinity Sunday and the sermons for the Second, Tenth, Twelfth and Sixteenth Sundays after Trinity.
Next volumes to appear will be Genesis Vol. II, Psalms Vol. II and Galatians.
Heartily do we thank all parts of the church for their complimentary, suggestive and helpful cooperation and earnestly hope our work may be worthy of its continuance.
J. N. LENKER.
Home for Young Women,
Minneapolis, Minn., Pentecost, 1909.