Prudentius’ Holy Innocents Hymn

“All Hail! You Infant Martyr Flowers”
By Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-c. 413), sts. 1-4,6,7; Peter M. Prange, st. 5
Translated by Peter M. Prange

Translator’s Preface

As you prepare to celebrate the Festival of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, on Sunday, December 28, consider making use of Prudentius’ hymn below, translated by Pastor Peter Prange. Regarding his translation, Pastor Prange shares the following:

The original Latin stanzas of Prudentius’ hymn can be found here. The entire hymn can be found here, along with other hymns of Prudentius.

I produced this translation in 2008 when the congregation I serve (Jerusalem, Morton Grove, IL) was planning to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Stanza five is not part of Prudentius’ original Latin text but an original, additional stanza that I authored in order to include Matthew’s point that this event happened as a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Pastor Prange set the hymn to the tune, “O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf” (Christian Worship 22).

All Hail! You Infant Martyr Flowers

1. All hail! You infant martyr flow’rs,
Cut off in life’s first dawning hours;
Like rosebuds, snapped in dreadful strife,
When Herod sought our Savior’s life.

2. With terror does the tyrant hear
That God’s own Son to us draws near.
On David’s throne he comes to dwell
And reign as King of Israel.

3. King Herod rages at the Word:
”Go, soldier, with your ruthless sword
To Him, who stands where we have stood,
And stain the Infant-crib with blood!”

4. O, what is gained from this offense?
What profit comes from violence?
The Savior-King survived the day,
As Christ was safely whisked away!

5. A voice is heard in bitter pain,
As Rachel mourns the infants slain,
Refusing comfort – sacred lore –
Because her children are no more!

6. Of you, O little lambs, we sing,
First victims slain for Christ our King:
Beneath the heav’nly altar’s ray
With martyr-palms and crowns you play!

7. To you, the Virgin-born, we raise
Thanksgiving and eternal praise,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Alberus’ Thanksgiving Hymn

“To You, O God, Our Thanks We Give”
Erasmus Alberus (c. 1500-1553), 1537

Translator’s Preface

With this translation, I think I have finally crossed the finish line of my quest for meal-time prayer variety. I translated what follows from August Pieper’s Biblische Hausandachten (Family Meditations from the Bible), 2nd ed. (Milwaukee: NPH, 1912), p. 417.

This one-verse hymn is attributed to Erasmus Alberus, who studied under Luther at the University of Wittenberg and was an active helper in the cause of the Lutheran Reformation. Apart from his hymns, he is probably best known for his satire Der Barfuser Münche Eulenspiegel und Alcoran (Owlglass and Koran of the Franciscans), which ridiculed the Franciscan Order and was published in 1542 with a preface authored by Luther himself. After Luther’s death, Alberus sided with Matthias Flacius and the Gnesio-Lutherans.

Alberus’ thanksgiving hymn appears as hymn 458 in the current Evangelisches Gesangbuch, the official hymnal of the Protestant State Church in Germany. There it is set to an abridged version of the melody for Psalm 105 composed by Pierre Davantès and found in the 1562 Genevan Psalter. (You can hear Alberus’ German hymn sung to this setting here.) That melody is not particularly attractive or memorable, and I’m guessing these lyrics penned by a staunch Lutheran were combined with a melody from the Genevan Psalter, which was created under the supervision of John Calvin, in order to further the union agenda of the Protestant State Church, which seeks to combine the Lutheran and Reformed traditions.

In addition, the original meter – 99 88 88 99 – is quite rare, if not nonexistent, in current Lutheran hymnody. I found it easier to translate the text into 88 88 88 88 meter, but this did not help me in finding a suitable tune. (The only hymn I know with this meter is “The Tree of Life” – Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary 302, Christian Worship Supplement 754).

So this project became a unique one for me, since it prompted me not only to translate German poetry, but also to compose music.

The original German stanza with a literal English translation:

Wir danken Gott für seine Gaben,
Die wir von ihm empfangen haben,
Wir bitten unsern lieben Herrn:
Er woll’ uns hinfort mehr bescher’n,
Er woll’ uns speisen mit sei’m Wort,
Daß wir satt werden hier und dort.
Ach lieber Herr, du wollst uns geben
Nach dieser Welt das ew’ge Leben. Amen.

We thank God for his gifts,
Which we have received from him,
We ask our dear Lord:
He would henceforth bestow more upon us,
He would feed us with his Word,
So that we get satiated here [in time] and there [in eternity].
Ah, dear Lord, [we ask that] you would give us
After this world the eternal life. Amen.

The primary difference between the original hymn and my translation below is the person. In the original, the one praying addresses God in the third person until the last two lines, almost as if the speaker is not actually praying, but rather telling someone else about how he prays after meals. I am familiar with this type of prayer perspective, but I am not a fan. It’s almost as if we are asking God simply to tune in to our recitation, if he likes, and to admire our ability to memorize. So I transformed the entire prayer into a second person address.

Click here for an original two-part setting composed just for this hymn. It is arranged for one party to sing the melody, and another party to sing an alto part, which would work just as well as a bass part when moved an octave lower.

I pray that the Holy Spirit has used this series of meal-prayer translations to aid Christian families in their prayer life and to further their love for music. May the triune God continue to provide for us on earth, body and soul, that we may praise his goodness forever in heaven.

To You, O God, Our Thanks We Give
A Hymn of Thanks After Meals

To you, O God, our thanks we give
For these your gifts we have received.
Since you redeemed us with your blood,
Bestow on us much more than food:
Our souls with your pure gospel feed;
Contentment then shall death exceed.
Dear Lord, when bread no more sustains,
Grant us to dwell in heav’n’s domains. Amen.

Bless These Your Gifts

Anonymous, 1561, Frankfurt an der Oder, st. 1-2; anon., 1660, Bayreuth, st. 3

Translator’s Preface

In the continuing quest for meal-prayer and meal-hymn variety, the following is a translation of hymn #595 in the “Jahreszeiten” (Seasonal) section of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin and Other States’ old German hymnal, Evang.-Lutherisches Gesangbuch für Kirche, Schule und Haus (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal for Church, School, and Home), published by Northwestern Publishing House in Milwaukee.

The hymn is titled, “Geseg’n uns, Herr, die Gaben dein,” and was familiar enough to our German ancestors. For example, August Pieper included the first two stanzas in the “Andre Gebete vor Tisch” (Other Prayers Before Meals) section of his Biblische Hausandachten (Family Meditations from the Bible). A literal translation yields:

Bless for us richly, Lord, your gifts,
Cause (this) food to be our nourishment;
Grant that through it (may) be invigorated
The frail body on this earth.

For this temporal bread alone
Is not able to suffice for us for life,
Your divine Word feeds the soul,
Helps us for life most of all.

Therefore give us both, Lord God,
Help (us) finally also out of every need,
So let us praise your goodness
Here and also there into eternity. Amen.

The suggested tune in the Gesangbuch is “Christ, der du bist der helle Tag,” a quite unfamiliar tune. (Ironically, despite the fact that its tune is suggested, the text of that hymn does not even appear in the Gesangbuch.) Another printed suggestion is “Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht,” a popular Lutheran tune (e.g. Christian Worship 404).

In an effort to resurrect an ancient Latin hymn melody that was converted into a German Lutheran hymn that now seems to be fading from use, I have set the translation below to the tune “Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht,” which setting you can access here. A complete four-part setting of this melody can be found in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1996), no. 571.

Regarding the translation itself, the most notable departure from the original occurs in stanza 2. The original stanza begins with an explanatory “For.” In other words, the author is explaining why we are duty-bound to ask God’s blessing on our food. I did not find this connection entirely apparent, nor was I convinced that the thoughts about God’s Word in stanza 2 were parallel to the concept of God’s blessing in stanza 1.

In stanza 1, we are acknowledging that no food would do us any good if God did not also add his word of blessing to it and in effect say to the food, “Nourish this human” – a blessing which God regularly extends even to unbelievers. In stanza 2, we are acknowledging that even if God were to add this blessing to our food for the duration of our lives, but we were unfamiliar with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we would still have no true happiness in this life and in the end we would still perish eternally in hell. In other words, the food would still, in the final analysis, have done us no good whatsoever (though God would have worked our life and its activity to the advantage of his Church).

Therefore I thought that beginning stanza 2 with an adversative “But” would actually lend strength to both stanzas by clearly dividing these separate but related thoughts.

May the triune God promote a spirit of pious thanksgiving among us not only at meal times, but in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Update (11-8-14):  The title of the hymn and the first line of the first stanza were changed from “Bless Now This Food” to “Bless These Your Gifts.” My original translation simply asked God to add his blessing to the food in front of us, but was silent on the question of whence the food came. The updated translation, more closely reflecting the original German, praises God, and reminds us, that the food is there in front of us in the first place because God has graciously given it to us.

Bless These Your Gifts

1. Bless these your gifts, Lord, from on high,
That they may nourish us thereby;
Frail bodies do with strength imbue,
That we our duties well pursue.

2. But earthly bread alone would fail
To make us happy, hearty, hale;
Your Word alone does feed the soul
And make our health complete and whole.

3. So give us both, Lord God, we plead,
And help us out of every need;
Then all your goodness we shall praise
Both here and there, in endless days. Amen.

Martin Luther’s Table Prayers

Translator’s Preface

Every so often I like to translate something familiar that has already been translated. Re-translating it makes me think about the words and appreciate the content all the more.

This time I decided to return to Luther’s Small Catechism, to Luther’s Table Prayers in particular. I consulted the critical edition: Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (The Confessional Writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church), 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), p. 522-523.

This choice was inspired in part by the fact that my wife and I have been looking for some variety in our table prayers. Although I knew that these prayers existed in Luther’s Small Catechism, they were not something I was taught by my family or in Catechism instruction. (We were simply taught the “common table prayers” – “Come, Lord Jesus,” etc.) The translations in the Catechism used by our synod (Kuske ed.) are somewhat abridged and include none of Luther’s rubrics. The strength of Luther’s prayers lies especially in the Prayer of Thanks, which he uses as an opportunity to teach the children Psalm passages that highlight more general and more important scriptural truths than simply the fact that God is the one who has given them their food.

May God grant that this fresh translation, even if only in a small way, aid the Christian reader in his or her prayer life, for Jesus’ sake.

How the Father, as the Head of the Family, Should Teach His Household to Ask God’s Blessing and to Give Thanks

The Table Blessing1

The children and servants should present themselves before the table with folded hands and good manners and say:

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and gratify everything that lives with satisfaction.2 3

Then they should say the Lord’s Prayer and the following prayer:

Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these gifts you have given us, which we enjoy from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Prayer of Thanks4

So too after the meal they should likewise fold their hands and politely say:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is kind and his goodness endures forever. He gives food to all flesh. He gives the cattle their fodder, and feeds the young ravens who call on him. He does not take delight in the strength of the steed or take pleasure in anyone’s legs. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him and who wait upon his goodness.5

Then they should say the Lord’s Prayer and the following prayer:

We thank you, Lord God our Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all the favor you show us, you who live and reign forever. Amen.

Endnotes

1 Borrowed by Luther from the breviary

2 Scholia: Satisfaction means that all animals get enough to eat so that they are glad and in good spirits about it, for worry and greed hinder such satisfaction.

3 Psalm 145:15-16

4 Composed by Luther, leaning on the breviary

5 Psalm 106:1; 136:25; 147:9-11

The Necessity of Being Persecuted

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:10-13

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 63-65; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on November 3, 2014.

May the Holy Spirit use the example of the apostle Paul, especially his willingness to suffer a multitude and variety of persecutions for the sake of the gospel, to incite and inspire us so that we are willing and able to undergo similar experiences to the triune God’s honor and glory.

2 Timothy 3:10-13

10. Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει, τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Tu autem adsecutus es meam doctrinam institutionem propositum fidem longanimitatem dilectionem patientiam

  • Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει

In contrast to the corrupt teachings and practices of the heretics Paul sets down his own example, and with it he incites Timothy to discharge his office in a steadfast manner. Paraphrase: “But you have eagerly sought to imitate and have sufficiently understood my teaching, instruction, and intention, that is, when you were an inseparable companion on my travels and a partner in my activity. Therefore you are thoroughly familiar and intimately acquainted with everything about me.”

Some take ἀγωγὴν to mean a particular method of instructing, since ἀγωγή, as Aristotle teaches in Book 1 of The Art of Rhetoric, signifies a guiding and understanding of the law that happens when an instructor or professor leads, so to speak, a student who is to be instructed to the understanding of a particular matter.1 Others say it refers to how one acts in day-to-day life and a particular manner of living. Either interpretation works.

By πρόθεσιν Paul means the end and goal of his apostolic activity. That is to say, in all the activity of his ministry he had as his purpose not his own own glory or his own well-being, but the glory of God and the well-being of his neighbor.

  • τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Some take faith to mean steadfastness of the soul, but it is more correctly applied to faith’s πληροφορίᾳ or full assurance, which shows itself through firmness and steadfastness of the soul.

By μακροθυμίαν Paul means tenderness of the soul and restraint toward persecutors and enemies of the truth.

By ἀγάπην he means Christian love toward all people.

By ὑπομονὴν he means endurance in the adversities and persecutions that he had to undergo.

11. τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι, οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις, οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα, καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος.

persecutiones passiones qualia mihi facta sunt Antiochiae Iconii Lystris quales persecutiones sustinui et ex omnibus me eripuit Dominus

  • τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι

He recounts the persecutions and afflictions that he has patiently endured for the sake of the gospel, in order that he may incite and inspire Timothy so that he is able and willing to submit to similar experiences.

  • οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις

He names three cities that were all accessories to his sufferings – Antioch (Pisidian, not Syrian), Iconium, and Lystra. According to Theodoret and Theophylact, Paul recalls these particular cities because Timothy was more familiar with what Paul had suffered in those places, since Timothy was originally from Lystra, a city in the vicinity of the other two.2 Alternatively, he might be recalling these three cities because the persecutions in those places were stirred up against him particularly by the Jews, as is clear from Acts 13 and 14.

  • οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα

He is thinking of either the persecutions he has endured in the cities just mentioned or other persecutions. After all, Timothy had seen many other persecutions of Paul.

  • καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος

Paul adds these words for Timothy’s comfort. However, God does not deliver from adversities in just one way. Sometimes he removes them, sometimes he lightens them, he always works patience in the hearts of the pious, and in the end he grants a blessed ἔκβασιν or release, if not in life, then through death.

12. καὶ πάντες δὲ οἱ θέλοντες εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διωχθήσονται.

et omnes qui volunt pie vivere in Christo Iesu persecutionem patientur

Paraphrase: “If persecutions and adversities should also fall to your lot, there is no reason that this should seem strange and unusual, because this is common to all those who are truly pious.”

Question: Why does he add “in Christ Jesus,” when no one is able to live piously except in Christ?

Response: He wants to show the only way we are able to live piously, namely in Christ-centered faith.

Gregory says in Book 7, Epistle 30: “I say confidently that you would live less piously if you suffered persecution to a lesser extent.”3

13. πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον, πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι.

mali autem homines et seductores proficient in peius errantes et in errorem mittentes

  • πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

There is no reason for us to expect that persecution will cease during this age, because wicked people and seducers are always getting worse and worse, from which fact persecutions against the pious originate.

  • γόητες

Γόητες properly signifies enchanters and swindlers, then it is applied more generally to impostors and deceivers.

  • προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

These words make us think back to what the apostle had said earlier in vs. 9: οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον, “they will not progress further.” They also send us back to the just judgment of God, on account of which the false teachers and those who listen to them are being struck with blindness (Rom 1:18ff).

  • πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι

This is an elegant polyptoton4tum seducentes, tum seducti, “both seducing and being seduced.” Erasmus translates: dum & in errorem adducunt [alios], & errant ipsi, “while they are both leading [others] astray and going astray themselves.”5

The translator of the Vulgate has altered the sequence of the words, because in the natural order going astray comes first, rather than leading others astray. But we are not compelled by any necessity to have recourse to πρωθύστερον.6 For the sense is this: While they are seducing others, they themselves, by the just judgment of God, are suffering the punishment of immediately falling into more grievous errors.

Endnotes

1 Rf. Aristotle, The “Art” of Rhetoric, tr. John Henry Freese (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926), p. 154, 155. The more exact citation would be Book 1, Chapter 15, Section 10, or 1375b. Gerhard seems to have obtained this interpretation of Aristotle’s usage from Henricus Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, vol. 1 (Paris: Henricus Stephanus, 1572), col. 64. That Aristotle was actually using the word this way does not seem to be firmly established.

2 Interpretation of 2 Timothy: “[Paul] left out everything else that happened to him and called to mind only the dangers that he had met with in Pisidia and Lycaonia. For the one to whom he wrote was himself a Lycaonian, so these dangers were more familiar to him than the others” (Theodoret, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 82, Theodoreti Cyrensis Episcopi Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 847,848).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “He means the Antioch that was in Pisidia. Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. This is why he only mentions these places, since they were more familiar to Timothy. It could also be that they were the most recent places Paul visited” (Theophylact, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 125, Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 121,122).

3 St. Gregory the Great, Patrologia Latina, vol. 77, Sancti Gregorii Papae I, Cognomento Magni, Opera Omnia (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862), col. 886. The letter was addressed “To Narses, the Religious.” “The Narses here addressed as ‘Religiosus’ was probably the same as the ‘Narses Comes’ of I. 6, and VI. 14, and the ‘Narses Patricius’ of IV. 32. For it is evident from the letters that he was of high rank at Constantinople, and greetings are sent through him to the same persons as in the other letters. He had now, we may suppose, devoted himself to the service of the Church in some capacity” (www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.iii.v.vii.xviii.html, note 1710; accessed 3 November 2014).

4 A rhetorical device when several forms or cases of the same word stand together

5 E.g. Novi Testamenti Aeditio Postrema, per Des. Erasmum Roterodamum (Zurich: In Officina Froschoviana, 1541), p. 280. Gerhard incorrectly quotes Erasmus as translating inducunt instead of adducunt, but in this case the two are virtually synonymous.

6 Taking what is last and putting it first

Homily on John 15:26-27

By Johannes Brenz

Translator’s Preface

The following sermon comes from Evangelion quod inscribitur Secundum Ioannem, Centum Quinquagintaquatuor Homiliis explicatum (The Gospel Which Is Titled “According to John,” Expounded in 154 Homilies) by Johannes Brenz (Frankfurt: Ex Officina Typographica Petri Brubachii, 1559).

This volume is a compilation of two groups of sermons. The first group of 82 sermons on John 1-10 had already been published by the same publisher in 1549. A second group of 72 sermons on John 11-21 was added to and published together with the first group in 1554. The present sermon on John 15:26-27, found on pages 791-795 of the above-cited volume, is Homily 39 from the second group, or Brenz’s 121st sermon in the entire series on the Gospel of John.

Read a biography of the author here.

I prepared this translation in connection with a writing assignment for the Northwestern Publishing House-produced Meditations. It just so happened to work out that I could also submit it to the editors of a forthcoming Brenz anthology to be published, God willing, in connection with the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.

Brenz follows a clear and simple outline in this sermon. First, he reviews the doctrine of the Trinity, “the substance of the whole of Christian doctrine,” presented here so concisely by the apostle John. Secondly, he preaches on the Holy Spirit’s nature. Finally and at greatest length, he preaches on the Holy Spirit’s office, or sphere of responsibility and activity, using three of the Holy Spirit’s names, his most familiar name and the two names appearing in his sermon text – a) the Holy Spirit, b) the Spirit of truth, and c) the Paraclete.

May the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus restrain the wickedness of our flesh, confirm for us the certainty of our religion, and fill our hearts with the comfort of forgiveness and the assurance of our salvation in Christ.

Homily on John 15:26-27

Christ has said that he is fiercely hated by the world, but that his apostles were not going to be hated any less. Therefore any one of the apostles could easily wonder how these facts are going to help reveal the majesty of Christ’s name throughout the world. For the prophets preached about Christ that his majesty would be proclaimed throughout the earth. “Blessed,” says the Psalm, “is the name of his majesty into eternity, and the whole earth will be filled with his majesty” (Ps 72:19). And Isaiah says, “The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3). And Malachi says, “From the rising of the sun all the way to the place where it sets, [his] name is great among the nations” (Mal 1:11). If therefore Christ and his apostles are running up against fierce and bitter hatred by preaching about him, how will the glory of Christ be proclaimed in the world?

Christ now preaches about this matter and he repeats the promise about the Holy Spirit, which he has also previously related several times:

But when the Paraclete comes [he says], whom I will send you from my Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will furnish testimony about me. Yes, you too are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.

What he means is this: “Do not be worried about the glory of my name. For even though the world regards both me and you with fierce hatred, I will not let my name remain obscure. For I will send you the Holy Spirit, who will both reveal me and incite you to bear witness to my doctrine and majesty openly and boldly.”

We have indeed already treated this promise about the Holy Spirit. But since this passage advises us to do so, let us make a few certain points about this subject once more, that we might become thoroughly acquainted with the benefits of the Holy Spirit and may be incited to pursue them.

Plus, in the beginning of these verses the substance of the whole of Christian doctrine is contained here in very few words. This summary not only distinguishes us Christians from all the religions of other nations, but it is also the only truth by which we obtain true and eternal salvation. For although there is only one true and eternal God, Christ preaches in this passage about three persons in the one divine nature, who are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“From the Father,” he says. Here you have the person of the Father.

“I will send,” he says. Here you have the person of the Son.

“The Spirit of truth,” he says. Here you have the person of the Holy Spirit.

Yet there is but one omnipotent God, the creator of heaven and earth. Here we are distinguished from all other religions, some of which imagine that there is only one person in the divinity, namely the Jews and the Muslim Turks, while others imagine that there are many gods and many persons, namely the pagans. But all of these ideas about the true divinity are impious. For there is only one God, but in this one divinity there are three persons. This is the true and catholic1 faith about God.

Next we must give our consideration to the Holy Spirit. We want to consider his nature and his office. For by his nature the Holy Spirit is true and eternal God, not indeed from himself, but from the Father and the Son. He is not born (natus) from the Father, like the Son, nor does he proceed from the Father alone, but he proceeds from the Father and the Son. For Christ says, “I will send [him],” and he adds, “who proceeds from the Father.” And the Creed of Athanasius says, “The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son – not made by them, nor created by them, nor begotten (genitus) from them, but proceeding from them.”2 How exactly this takes place, human reason is unable to understand in this life. Nor does Scripture declare this truth that we might grasp it with reason, but that we might believe it in faith. But when we reach the heavenly kingdom, not only will we acquire a perfect knowledge of these mysteries, but we will also derive supreme and eternal happiness from them. We shall therefore defer these matters to the coming age.

And now let us learn the Holy Spirit’s office, that we might become thoroughly acquainted with his benefits. If we want to know the Holy Spirit’s office, we need look no further than his names. For in the first place, he is called “the Holy Spirit.” He is called this in contrast to the unholy, unclean, and impure spirit, who is Satan. For this spirit is the author of all impiety, foulness, shamefulness, savageness, and all evils. And when mankind sinned, this spirit became the lord and prince of the world (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). That is why he incites all kinds of impiety and evils in the world, both publicly and privately.

Consider the religious world, for heaven’s sake. Consider the sacred rites he has persuaded the pagans to pursue – how very shameful, how foul, how savage they are! They are not even able to be mentioned in church in an honorable way. The Jews used to have the true religion instituted by the word of God. Yet among them now it is not unknown with how many abominations Satan has corrupted their religion. What shall I say about the terrible and savage heresies which Satan has incited within Christianity? And who could count up the godless and manifest nonsense and deceits which Satan palms off on the Muslim Turks, modern-day Jews, and papists as facts to be embraced as absolute religious truth? This is what he has done in the religious world.

And what about in the everyday life of men? Here there is neither end nor limit of horrible evils. Here Satan incites acts of homicide, fratricide, infanticide, parricide, fornication, and adultery, and those sexual desires which is it not even proper to mention. In short, there is nothing so foul or abominable that the impure spirit will not seduce the human race to engage in it.

But the Holy Spirit sets himself against this impure spirit. For he has instituted on earth, first of all, the ministry of preaching the word of God. Through this ministry he gives those who obediently accept the word of God new birth, so that they become new humans, and he restrains the impious, foul, and abominable thoughts in their flesh, and he keeps them attentive to their duty. For unless the Holy Spirit stations himself in a person against the impure spirit, it is impossible for a person to pursue a holy vocation of God.

When Christ the Son of God was still living on earth, he drove out many unclean spirits from the demon-possessed. The apostles also did the same in Christ’s name. But even if it is not part of our vocation to drive out unclean spirits by an external miracle, the necessity of our salvation still requires us to command unclean spirits in God’s name and drive them out from our hearts. For by nature Satan rules in our flesh. Sometimes he tempts us to doubt God, to doubt the clemency and mercy God has shown us in Christ his Son. Yes, he even tempts us to deny God and Christ his Son. “The senseless person has said in his heart, ‘God does not exist’” (Ps 14:1; 53:1). At other times, he urges us on to intrigues, to deceits, to sexual desires, to jealousies, and to other evils. When this happens, it is time for us to issue a stern command to the unclean spirit and drive him out, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And how does the Holy Spirit exercise his power? Through his ministry that he has instituted, namely through the word of God. That is why we need to become thoroughly acquainted with the word of God and take it up, so that the Holy Spirit may have an instrument with which to exercise his power against the unclean spirit.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit has instituted and ordained civil government, so that, just as the ministry of the word of God keeps the pious attentive to their duty, so the civil government keeps the impious attentive to their duty, as much as is possible on this earth, lest the unclean spirit leave no place whatsoever void of foul desires, murders, and other evils. “Law,” Paul says, “was not ordained for a just person, but for unjust, disobedient people, for the impious and sinners, for the irreverent and unholy, for those who murder father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, those who sleep with others of the same sex, kidnappers, liars, and whatever else there is that is opposed to sound doctrine” (1Ti 1:9-10).

These two ministries, the ecclesiastical and political, are the divine arrangement by which the Holy Spirit restrains the unclean spirit. And these two ministries cannot be preserved unless they are preserved from heaven by the Holy Spirit. For even if the pious apply their efforts to upholding the ministry of the word of God and the civil government, so great is the power of the unclean spirit and so great is the multitude of impious men that, unless God himself upheld these ministries, they would not be able to endure among men for long.

But let us proceed to another office of the Holy Spirit. For he is not only called “the Holy Spirit,” but also “the Spirit of truth.” This name explains the Holy Spirit’s office too, and it is once again contrasted with the spirit of Satan, who is a lying spirit and the father of the liar (Jn 8:44). For this spirit has contrived the impious and deceptive religion of the pagans, the Muslim Turks, and the Jews (namely the modern day ones who are no longer the people of God, but rejected by God). He has also contrived all the heresies, and the ungodly teachings of the papists. The religion of all these people is unreliable and deceptive.

The pagans worshipped a number of different gods whose origin is either unknown or shameful. The Muslim Turks acknowledge the hollow teaching of Mohammed, who falsely asserted that he conversed with the angel Gabriel, but could not prove it with reliable arguments or evidence. The Jews acknowledge the fables of the Talmud, which even human reason cannot approve. There is no lie so shameless that the heart blinded by Satan will not embrace it as the truth.

The papists have masses for the deceased, invocations of the saints, pilgrimages to venerate the relics of saints, the cleansing fire of purgatory, and many other such things whose origin is either unknown or rests upon either a faulty interpretation of God’s word or a distorted echoing of the church fathers.

But the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. He has instituted and established a true and reliable religion, which centers on Jesus Christ the Son of God. Christ says, “He will furnish testimony about me. Yes, you too are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

For first of all, although Christ rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, few people were acquainted with this before the day of Pentecost. That is why the Holy Spirit performed such great and remarkable miracles in Christ’s name on the day of Pentecost and afterward. He wanted to demonstrate that Christ had truly risen from the dead and was ruling in heaven. Peter says, “Exalted at the right hand of God and having received the promised Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you now see and hear” (Ac 2:33). And again: “Men of Israel, why are you astonished at this? Or why are you looking at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or piety?” (Ac 3:12). And just a little later: “You all killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead. We are witnesses of this. It is through faith in Jesus’ name that his very name has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith which comes through Jesus has given him this soundness in the sight of you all” (Ac 3:15-16).

The Holy Spirit performed these and other miracles, not secretly, but in the sight of all to whom Christ’s name was thus revealed, as Peter says. He did this so that no one could deny that God himself was responsible for these things.

Secondly, The Holy Spirit not only performed miracles by which he might truly and publicly reveal the majesty of Christ, but he also incited the apostles and sent them into the world to testify publicly about Christ and his majesty. These apostles were with Christ not just for one day nor on just one occasion, but they stayed with him for the entire time that officially began, as Peter says, with the baptism of John, all the way up to the day when he was taken back into heaven (Ac 1:21-22). They also heard all his sermons and saw all his miracles, and so they had the most mature reflection on everything he had done. That it why it also says in this passage: “You have been with me from the beginning.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “If you had just come to me yesterday or the day before that, your testimony could be perceived as hollow. But now you have been my constant companions from the time I began to preach my gospel, and you have become thoroughly acquainted with all my words and works. You are therefore able to provide firm and reliable testimony about me.”

And the testimony that the apostles provided about Jesus is this: “God has made this Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, Lord and Christ” (cf. Ac 2:36). “There is no other name under heaven given to men in which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12). This apostolic testimony is so firm and reliable that it must not be yielded or entrusted to the Jews, to the Muslim Turks, to kings, to bishops, to demons, or even to angels who might tell us differently.

Enough about how the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth, has given testimony for Jesus Christ. Let us also talk about another office of the Holy Spirit. For he is called “the Paraclete,” which means comforter and advocate. This too he is called in contrast to the spirit of Satan. For even if Satan also comforts people at times – for Satan makes people secure in their sins and into those who think little of supplications – yet he only comforts that he may terrify even more. For with every thought he has, Satan is bent on this desire – to alarm and terrify mankind and to hurl them into perpetual despair and damnation.

When you think or do something sinful, he soothes you and gives you a sort of comfort: “Go ahead,” he says. “What are you afraid of? The devil is not as horrible as he is usually pictured, and the fire of hell does not blaze the way people commonly say it does.” This is the comfort that Satan provides the sinner, not in order to save him, but to destroy him.

For after the sin has been perpetrated and God’s judgment is revealed, then Satan holds before the sinner all sorts of terrifying things. “You have sinned!” he says. “All you can do now is despair. No hope of salvation remains for you. You have rejected the mercy of God so often that you no longer have any access to it. Christ has indeed atoned for sins, but not yours, because you do not believe as perfectly as you should, and you have so often denied the faith by your wicked deeds. And even if you do still believe, you are believing in vain, because you have not been predestined from eternity to be a son of God. There is therefore nothing left for you but to give up any hope of salvation.” These are the fiery darts of Satan. With them he strikes so much terror into feeble mankind that, if left to their own powers, they would have nowhere to turn.

But the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, that is, the Comforter and Advocate. Those who believe in the gospel of Christ he comforts and defends in all terrors, whether of sin, death, or hell. Indeed this Spirit is also accustomed to terrify from time to time, namely through the law, through which we become conscious of sin, as Paul says (Ro 3:20), and which kills (2Co 3:6). But he does not terrify in order to destroy. Destruction is Satan’s intent. The Holy Spirit terrifies in order to save and comfort. He does the alien work in order that he might perform his native work. He kills man in order that he might bring him to life. He leads him down to hell in order that he might set him in heaven. For the Holy Spirit’s proper office and work is to comfort and defend in all adversities.

And so if sins tempt a person to despair, the Holy Spirit puts Christ on display, the one who has atoned for sins. He teaches that the mercy of God is always accessible to those who call on him in Christ’s name. He teaches that even if our faith is imperfect, Christ, whom we have received by faith, is perfect. “A bruised reed,” he says, “he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isa 42:3; Mt 12:20). He teaches that Christ is faithful, even when we have violated our faith (2Ti 2:13). He teaches that the predestination of God is revealed in Christ, so that whoever believes in Christ may know that he is predestined by God from eternity to be his son for Christ’s sake, and that Christ therefore has atoned not only for the sins of others, but also for ours, yes, for my sins, and has chosen me to be his fellow heir.

This is the comfort of the Holy Spirit when sins and death are terrifying us. And he exercises this comfort in us through the ministry of the gospel about Christ. For he has instituted and established the preaching of the gospel of Christ on the day of Pentecost to this advantage, that he might have an instrument with which to exercise his office of comforting and defending, publicly in church and privately in pious individuals. The Bible says that Christ gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, that the number of the saints might be filled up, that the Word (of God) might be taught, and that the body of Christ might be built up (cf. Eph 4:11-13).

Let us then expend all our energy in becoming thoroughly acquainted with the gospel of Christ, that we might present to the Holy Spirit his instrument for bestowing his benefits on us and defending us in all adversities, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is God, blessed forevermore. Amen.

Endnotes

1 In the sense of universal.

2 The modern translation in Christian Worship is more concise, but perhaps less precise: “The Holy Spirit is neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.”

O God, Earth, Heaven, and Sea Proclaim

By the Bohemian Brethren

Translator’s Preface

A fellow pastor in my circuit and I decided to use the First Lesson for Holy Trinity Sunday, Genesis 1:1—2:3, to launch a four-Sunday sermon series on the creation of the world. The maxim has been attributed to St. Augustine that all of theology is either implicit or explicit in the first three chapters of Genesis, so we certainly were not going to do poorly by carefully covering one-third of that. In addition, we thought it would prove a timely series in the United States’ increasingly atheistic and evolution-saturated culture.

With a series such as this, I like to have a series hymn that the congregation can sing all four Sundays. Repetition is the mother of learning, and music can be a wonderful aid in the learning process too. A good hymn intentionally repeated can go a long way in impressing important spiritual truths on the hearts and minds of God’s redeemed people.

However, I was unable to find a good creation hymn in Christian WorshipThe Lutheran Hymnal, or the couple hymn blogs operated by confessional Lutherans to which I subscribe. I toyed with the idea of penning my own – an introductory stanza, seven stanzas highlighting the divine activity on each of the first seven days of earth’s existence, and a closing doxology. But then I came across hymn #67 in the “Schöpfung und Regierung” (Creation and Governance) section of Northwestern Publishing House’s old German hymnal, Evang.-Lutherisches Gesangbuch für Kirche, Schule und Haus (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal for Church, School, and Home).

Titled “Gott, Erd und Himmel samt dem Meer” and attributed to the Bohemian Brethren, the hymn seems to be a free paraphrase of Psalm 104, and therefore offers a number of excellent devotional thoughts and truths fueled by the creation account and creation itself.

The original German reads:

1. Gott, Erd und Himmel samt dem Meer
verkünden deine Kraft und Ehr,
auch zeigen alle Berg und Thal,
daß du ein Herr seist überall.

2. Die Sonne geht uns täglich auf,
es hält der Mond auch seinen Lauf,
so sind auch alle Stern bereit,
zu preisen deine Herrlichkeit.

3. Die Tier und Vögel aller Welt
und, was das Meer im Schoße hält,
zeigt uns frei an ihm selber an,
was deine Kraft und Weisheit kann.

4. Du hast den Himmel ausgestreckt,
mit Wolkenheeren überdeckt
und seiner Wölbung Majestät
mit goldnen Sternen übersät.

5. Du bists, der alle Ding regiert,
den Himmel und das Erdreich ziert
so wunderbar, daß es kein Mensch
erforschen noch ergründen kann.

6. Wie mag doch unsre Blödigkeit
ausgründen deine Herrlichkeit,
so wir ja Dinge nicht verstehn,
womit wir allezeit umgehn!

7. Wie lieblich ist, Herr, und wie schön,
was du geschaffen, anzusehn!
Doch wie viel lieblicher bist du,
o Herr, mein Gott, in deiner Ruh!

8. Du schließest Erd und Himmel ein,
dein Herrschen muß voll Wunder sein,
du bist ein Herr in Ewigkeit
von unnennbarer Herrlichkeit.

9. O Vater, Sohn und Heilger Geist,
dein Name, der allmächtig heißt,
sei stets von uns gebenedeit,
sei hochgelobt in Ewigkeit.

My initial literal translation:

1. O God, earth and heaven together with the sea
proclaim your power and honor,
and every mountain and valley show
that you are a Lord over all.

2. The sun rises upon us daily,
the moon also holds its course,
so too all the stars are ready
to praise your glory.

3. The beasts and birds of all the world
and all that the sea keeps in its lap,
informs us openly all by itself
what your power and wisdom is capable of.

4. You have stretched out the heavens,
covered them with hosts of clouds
and their vault’s majesty
sown over with golden stars.

5. You are the one who rules all things,
adorns the heavens and the kingdom of the earth
so stunningly, that there is not a single person
who can investigate or fathom it.

6. How in all the world may our stupidity
comprehend your glory,
if we do not even understand things
with which we are occupied all the time!

7. How lovely, Lord, and how beautiful it is
to consider what you have created!
Yet how much more lovely you are,
O Lord, my God, in your rest!

8. You enclose earth and heaven,
your ruling must be full of wonder,
you are a Lord into eternity
of inexpressible glory.

9. O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
your name, which is called omnipotent,
continually be blessed by us,
be highly praised into eternity.

The biggest danger was lying latent in st. 3. In fact, in the first draft of my translation, I had: “Just by existing teach us well | How far your wisdom does excel.” I eventually changed it because I didn’t like the lack of poetry. The potential doctrinal misunderstanding of which I was initially ignorant finally became clear in my first re-translation: “Just by existing do make known | The depths of strength and sense you own.” I was confusing the natural knowledge of God with the revealed knowledge of God. The natural knowledge of God – found in creation and in our conscience – certainly does show us some extent of God’s power and wisdom, but not anywhere close to the full extent. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ alone (Col 2:3), and Christ, though responsible for creation (John 1; 1 Corinthians 8:6), is not revealed in creation itself. He is revealed only to us by his Spirit through his Word (1 Corinthians 2:9,10). The original German was somewhat ambiguous, so I made sure to be clearer in my final product below.

The end of st. 8 might also raise an eyebrow at first: “Forever will your glory shine | Which man cannot see or define.” Obviously, all believers in Christ will one day see God as he is (1 John 3:2). However, it remains true that as we are now, we cannot see or fully define the glory of God (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16). We must first be changed, and God promises we will be (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

Finally, I made the final stanza a bit more Christ-centered than the original, for which I’m sure the Christian reader will find no need to forgive me.

As to the origin of the hymn, I only know that Michael Weisse published the first hymnal used by the Bohemian Brethren in 1531. I was unable to access a copy of that hymnal to see if this hymn traces back that far. It could also conceivably have come from their later descendants, the Moravians. The NPH hymnal suggests the tune, “Vom Himmel hoch” (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come), but I recommend and will be using “Wo Gott zum Haus” (Oh, Blest the House, Whate’er Befall).

Certainly, as Lutherans, we value the Second Article of the Creed (redemption) more highly than the First Article (creation and providence). But I pray that this hymn gives us appropriate opportunity also to express our praise to the triune God for First Article truths, which are rendered that much more glorious through the lens of true faith, created and sustained by Second Article truths.

O God, Earth, Heaven, and Sea Proclaim

1. O God, earth, heav’n, and sea proclaim
The pow’r and honor of your name;
From valleys low to summits grand,
Creation shows your vast command.

2. The sun comes up, day in, day out;
The moon still runs his monthly route;
The stars at dusk prepare to sing
The brighter glory of their King.

3. All beasts and birds on earth’s broad face,
All creatures in the seas’ embrace
Just by existing do make known
Some scope of strength and sense you own.

4. You have stretched out the sky and made
The clouds its covering and our shade,
And space, whose vault our sight exceeds,
Have sown with golden stars like seeds.

5. To search out or to comprehend
How you adorn the heav’ns and tend
To ev’ry detail on earth’s span—
This goes beyond the reach of man.

6. For we attempt, with puny brain,
To trace your glorious ways in vain,
Since e’en affairs routine and stale
We analyze to no avail.

7. How lovely, Lord, to contemplate
The masterworks you did create!
Yet lovelier and far more bless’d
To view you in your Sabbath rest!

8. The earth and heav’n, by you contained,
Awaken awe for your wise reign.
Forever will your glory shine,
Which man cannot see or define.

9. O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Who can the name Almighty boast,
Through Christ receive our endless praise
Here and through heav’n’s eternal days.

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