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.

First Missions Hymn of Lutheranism

“Es wollt uns Gott genädig sein” (Stanza 1)
By Martin Luther

Translator’s Preface

With a mission festival suddenly on the horizon, I was looking for a manageable setting of a Lutheran missions hymn. Michael Praetorius’ 2-voice arrangement of stanza 1 of “Es wollt uns Gott genädig sein,” found in Part 9 (1610) of his Musae Sioniae (The Muses of Zion), fit the bill perfectly. Based on Psalm 67, “Es wollt uns Gott” is not only considered “the first missionary hymn of Protestantism”; it is also one of the first Lutheran hymns, period. As such, it has a storied history. My favorite anecdote is retold in the Christian Worship: Handbook (Milwaukee: NPH, 1997) on p. 581 (altered slightly to fit the new translation of st. 1 presented below):

In Wolfenbüttel the Catholic prince permitted the singing of several of Luther’s hymns in his chapel. When a priest challenged him concerning this practice and told him finally that the singing of such hymns could no longer be tolerated, the prince asked, “Which hymns?” The priest answered, “My lord, it is called ‘To Us May Our God Gracious Be.'” Whereupon the prince snapped, “Well, then, should the devil be gracious to us? Who can be gracious to us but God?” Thus, the practice of singing Luther’s hymns in that particular chapel was continued.

Unfortunately, the translation of st. 1 found in hymn 574 of Christian Worship (“May God Bestow on Us His Grace”) did not lend itself well to Praetorius’ setting.

Time to translate.

First, the original text, with lines ( | | ) demarcating phrases that had to be kept intact in the translation (that is, had to contain the same number of syllables and make sense, not breaking off in the middle of a word or prepositional phrase) in order to fit the setting:

Es wollt uns Gott genädig sein
Und seinen Segen geben
| Sein Antlitz uns | mit hellem Schein
Erleucht zum ew(i)gen Leben
| Daß wir erkennen | seine Werk’
Und was ihm liebt auf Erden
| Und Jesus Christus | Heil und Stärk’
Bekannt den Heiden werden
Und sie zu Gott | bekehren |

Then, a literal translation unhindered by meter or other restrictions:

May it please God to be gracious to us
And give (us) his blessing,
May his countenance with brilliant shine
Illuminate us to eternal life,
So that we recognize his works
And what is pleasing to him on earth,
And (so that) Jesus Christ’s salvation and strength
Are broadcast to the heathens,
And convert them to God.

Lines 5-8 proved most difficult by far. I ended up having to make all the verbs passive, instead of alternating between the active voice in lines 5-6 and the passive voice in lines 7-8, as in the original. What I ended up with is the product below.

Since, instead of copying the music from an original 1610 edition, it was graciously copied for me from the Gesamtausgabe der musikalischen Werke (Georg Kallmeyer, 1929) by the staff of the Martin Luther College Library, I don’t feel comfortable sharing the music publicly here. However, I am willing to share it legally for non-profit purposes with other confessional Lutheran clergy and choir personnel upon request. Simply use the contact info on my About page to submit a request for a PDF file of the 2-voice choir setting.

I pray this fresh translation of the first stanza of Lutheranism’s first missions hymn serves to remind especially Lutherans of the high priority that the Lutheran Church has always (rightly) placed on mission work, and that, even if only in a very small way, it encourages her to continue to do so with ever-increasing zeal. I pray that it might also serve any English-speaking Christians that come across it as a fitting, and memorizable, missions prayer.

To Us May Our God Gracious Be

To us may our God gracious be
And bless us in rich measure;
May his kind face shine brilliantly,
Guide us to life forever.
To us shall God’s works then be known
And God-pleasing behavior,
And to the heathens shall be shown
The pow’r of Christ their Savior,
Which shall cause their conversion.

The Beneficial Use of the Lord’s Supper

By Carl Manthey-Zorn

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Carl Manthey-Zorn’s Handbuch für den ersten Selbstunterricht in Gottes Wort (Beginner’s Manual for Self-Instruction in God’s Word) (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1906), p. 281-285. It comprises the fourth section of Chapter 8, “The Holy Supper.”

Zorn was pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cleveland, Ohio, at the time this manual was published. Click here for a biography of Zorn, which also includes a picture of the man. You can also find a brief analysis of his significance for the Lutheran Church by one of his contemporaries in the translator’s preface here.

I undertook this translation both for devotional purposes and in preparation for an Ash Wednesday sermon on the importance of self-examination, especially before receiving the Lord’s Supper. In an age where the supporting rites and props for self-examination, such as privately announcing for Communion with the pastor the day before Communion and the “confessional service” that Zorn mentions, seem more and more to be fading into the past (at least among Lutherans in America), may the Holy Spirit use Zorn’s biblical exhortation to rouse us to practice such examination diligently and earnestly in a spirit of repentance to our ever-merciful Savior.

The Beneficial Use of the Lord’s Supper

It should be clear to you from the previous section [on the power of the Holy Supper] that it is not enough for us merely to receive this sacrament. We must also receive it in a proper and worthy manner, if we want to enjoy the great and saving benefit which is offered to us through it.

This is what Dr. Luther wants to really bring home for us, and so he adds the question:

Who then receives this sacrament in a worthy manner?

He answers:

Fasting and taking measures of physical preparation can serve as fine outward discipline, but everyone is really worthy and well prepared who believes these words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But whoever does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared. For the words, “for you,” require nothing but hearts that believe.

Let us consider what Dr. Luther is saying.

The way that Luther treats the subject of the true worthiness with which we should receive this sacrament is still entirely unique. This is no doubt due to the fact that the Holy Spirit himself does the same through the apostle Paul when he says in 1 Corinthians 11:28-29:

But a person ought to examine himself, and in this way he should eat of this bread and drink from this cup. For whoever eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment on himself by not distinguishing the body of the Lord.

See for yourself, then, just how seriously the Holy Spirit insists that we receive the Holy Supper in true worthiness! We should first carefully examine ourselves, he says, to see whether we are even really worthy for the reception of the profoundly holy Sacrament. For, he says, whoever takes the Holy Supper in an unworthy manner eats and drinks on himself the judgment of God, because there he is shamelessly and carelessly profaning the body of the Lord, which is really presented to him in the Holy Supper and which he receives under the consecrated bread, as he does the blood of the Lord under the consecrated cup.

Who then receives this sacrament in a worthy manner?

If a person fasts and takes measures of physical preparation beforehand, if he or she appears at God’s table in a composed and reverential manner, that is certainly a fine discipline and a commendable practice. But all of this only takes place on the outside; hypocrites and godless people are also capable of such things.

Who then receives this sacrament in a worthy manner?

This person, and only this person, is really worthy and well-prepared – the one who believes these words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Christ is the Savior of sinners. He has won for us poor sinners forgiveness of sins and life and salvation. He extends this grace and gift to us through the means of grace – including the Holy Supper, through the sparkling words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Now whichever poor sinner believes these words and, believing these words, comes to the Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins, comes to receive life and salvation through Christ – that person is really worthy and well prepared. There is no other worthiness. Our dear Lord does not desire any other worthiness. Rejoice, O sinner! You need only believe that the Lord Christ’s body and blood is given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins. And with such faith you should come, come to the Holy Supper, and there under the consecrated bread and wine receive the Lord Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation. Yes, with such faith you are really worthy and well prepared.

But whoever does not believe the words, “given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins,” or doubts what they say; whoever holds the Lord Christ in crude contempt; whoever thinks he can be saved just fine without the Lord Christ, through his own righteousness and good works; whoever is indifferent about his sins and about the Lord Christ; whoever says in his heart, “Who knows whether the whole story of Jesus, the Savior of sinners, is even true!”; and whoever thus comes to the Holy Supper only for show and out of hypocrisy – that person is unworthy and unprepared. For the sweet, gracious, alluring, and divine words, “for you,” require nothing but hearts that believe.

So then examine yourself before you go to the Holy Supper, to see whether you are receiving this sacrament in a worthy manner.

Examine yourself, to see whether you even feel heartfelt remorse over your sins. For if you do not have heartfelt remorse over your sins, you cannot really believe the words: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Examine yourself, to see whether you believe in Jesus Christ, who has given and poured out his body and his blood for you for the forgiveness of sins, and who gives you his body and his blood in the Holy Supper for the forgiveness of sins.

Examine yourself, to see whether you have the good and earnest intention, through the assistance of God the Holy Spirit, to amend your sinful conduct from now on. For if you do not have this intention, neither your remorse nor your faith can be genuine.

Precisely for the purpose of leading you to such self-examination, it is a practice in our churches to have a confessional service before the Holy Supper, in which you are exhorted to examine yourself in this way.

I will say it again: Examine yourself before you go to the Holy Supper, to see whether you are receiving this sacrament in a worthy manner, that is, to see whether you really believe these words as a poor sinner: “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

Now it might happen that, as a result of such self-examination, you find that your faith is weak; that you are being attacked and tormented by unbelief; that your faith is like a bruised reed, drooping over weak and withered, instead of shooting upward green and strong; that your faith is like a smoldering wick which gives little light and is threatening to go out altogether. In that case you might say in your misery and despair, “Ah, do I even dare come to the Holy Supper? I will not risk it! I am not yet worthy and prepared! Will our dear Lord actually welcome someone as wretched as I am? If only I had a really strong faith in my Savior and in his grace!”

If this is what you discover about yourself, should you come to the Holy Supper?

Indeed you should! Yes, and double yes! Those who are weak in faith should especially come to the Holy Supper so that their faith may be strengthened, for the Holy Supper strengthens faith. Just as a sick person should go to the doctor and take medicine, so those who are weak in faith should come to the Lord Jesus and take the Holy Supper.

“I believe, dear Lord; help my unbelief!” a man once said to the Lord Jesus (Mark 9:24). And the Lord Jesus helped him. That’s what you should say when you come to the Holy Supper with weak faith. The Lord Jesus will also help you – through the Holy Supper.

“The miserable should eat, that they may be satisfied,” says the Holy Spirit in Psalm 22:27(26). Apply this to the Holy Supper.

“The bruised reed he will not break, and the smoldering wick he will not snuff out,” says the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 42:3. “Whoever comes to me, I will not drive him away,” says the Lord Jesus in John 6:37. Here you have God’s answers to the question of whether those who are weak in faith may come to the Holy Supper.

But the Holy Supper may not be administered to:

  1. Those who are obviously godless and impenitent. You know this. With these people, their sins should in fact not be forgiven, but retained [John 20:23]. The Lord Jesus also says, “You should not give dogs what is sacred, nor should you throw your pearls in front of swine” (Matthew 7:6).
  2. The unorthodox, that is, those who do not confess with us the truth faith, but a false one. Please understand what I am saying. Such unorthodox people may be believing children of God. The false doctrines may be clinging to them only because they have been falsely instructed. But since the joint partaking of the Holy Supper should be a testimony that we are one in faith [1 Corinthians 10:16-17], the unorthodox cannot go with us to the Holy Supper, nor can we go with them. For example, should a member of the Reformed Church be permitted to go with us to the Holy Supper, even though he does not believe that the Lord Christ’s body and blood is given and eaten in the Holy Supper, and when he also does not believe that we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation through it? Certainly not. We do not judge and condemn such a person. He may be a child of God in spite of this false doctrine. But he cannot go with us to the Holy Supper. And by no means can we take part in the Supper of the Reformed Church. Is this clear to you?
  3. Those who have given an offense and have not yet settled it. By an “offense” we mean a scandal caused by word or deed, through which others are led astray to evil. If anyone has given such an offense, he should first settle it and get it out of the way. That is something a Christian will gladly do. A Christian will certainly not want to persist in something through which others are led astray to evil!
  4. Those who are not able to examine themselves, for example, small children, the unconscious, or the completely insane. Baptized children are certainly children of God. But they first have to learn God’s word in an orderly way so that they are able to examine themselves as the Holy Spirit commands. After that they should be admitted to the Holy Supper. And if the faith in the Lord Jesus still exists in the unconscious and completely insane, they will be saved, even if they are not in a condition to receive the Holy Supper.

The faithful and merciful God give you his Holy Spirit, so that you always receive your dear Savior’s body and blood under the consecrated bread and wine in the Holy Supper in true faith for the forgiveness of sins, for life, and for salvation, and for the great strengthening of your faith, which is still under constant attack here on earth.

Hasten as a bride to meet him,
And with loving rev’rence greet him,
For with words of life immortal
He is knocking at your portal.
Open wide the gates before him,
Saying, as you there adore him:
Grant, Lord, that I now receive you,
That I nevermore will leave you.

Jesus, Sun of life, my Splendor,
Jesus, Friend of friends most tender,
Jesus, Joy of my desiring,
Fount of life, my soul inspiring—
At your feet I cry, my Maker:
Let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from heaven
For our good, your glory, given. (Christian Worship 311:2,7)

16th Century Christmas Hymn

By an anonymous author, possibly of Finnish origin

Translator’s Preface

One of my favorite Christmas hymn settings is Michael Praetorius’ 1609 4-voice arrangement of “Parvulus nobis nascitur” from Part 6 of his Musae Sioniae (The Muses of Zion). According to John Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology, this Latin hymn first appeared in the 1579 edition of Lucas Lossius’ Psalmodia.

The now dissolved Chorus Cantans Latine of Martin Luther College, consisting of 12 male voices at its height, performed this arrangement several times, and its memory has stuck with me. I recently had an opportunity to translate it so that it could be sung by an American Lutheran church choir.

First, I pulled up my literal translation from years ago:

1. A little child is born for us,
Given birth from a virgin.
Because of him the angels rejoice
And we [his] servants give thanks:
“To the Trinity be glory without end!”

2. We have the King of grace
And the Lion of victory—
The only Son of God
Who gives light to every age.
To the Trinity be glory without end!

3. He came to bring us, [God's] dear children,
Back to God from death,
And to heal the severe wounds
Inflicted by the cunning of the serpent.
To the Trinity be glory without end!

4. To this sweet little infant
Sing you all with one accord,
[Who is] lying in a manger,
Humbled in a shabby bed.
To the Trinity be glory without end!

In undertaking a rhyming translation to fit Praetorius’ setting, I wanted to accomplish several things:

  1. The nobis (“for us“) of st. 1 was emphasized by being set to two ascended Ds (“no-bis”) after three G notes (“Par-vu-lus”). I wanted to retain that gospel emphasis on “for us” by having “us” occur with the first of the two Ds. In other words, “us” had to be the fourth syllable of the first line of st. 1.
  2. In the refrain (last line of each st.), Praetorius has the music match the concept of eternity, either by dragging out the syllables with multiple notes (soprano) or by repeating the lyrics (tenor and bass). I didn’t want my translation to get in the way of that feature; the refrain had to conclude with the concept of eternity and have lyrics that could be easily and pleasantly repeated.
  3. I wanted to have the same clear allusions to various Scripture references as the original. The “lion of victory” in st. 2 clearly alludes to Revelation 5:5, the second half of st. 2 to John 1:1-18, the second half of st. 3 to the fall into sin in Genesis 3, etc.
  4. It’s always nice if one can introduce a new theme or thread while being faithful to the original. In this case, after opening st. 1 with “See,” I thought about starting each stanza with “See” – to give the whole hymn a sort of “Behold!” or surprise-like character to match the wondrous miracle of the incarnation that is celebrated on Christmas. But when that didn’t work, I ended up going with a sort of sensory progression in the first three stanzas – sight (“See”) to hearing (“Hear”) to touch (“to snatch…From death’s firm clutches”). This also made st. 4 stand out more as a conclusion by the absence of any direct sensory reference in it.
  5. Without getting ridiculous, I like to repeat consonant and vowel sounds within stanzas and lines of stanzas. It helps to unify.

What I ended up with is the product below. You can also access the English choir score here. One suggestion is to have the choir sing “To the Trinity” in st. 4 in unison, before returning to 4 parts for the remainder of the stanza. This would audibly comply with the immediately preceding exhortation: “In unison let all rejoice.”

Unless I am mistaken, this is the first publication of a singable, rhyming translation of “Parvulus nobis nascitur” in English. May it serve to the eternal glory of the Trinity.

See, Born for Us a Precious Child

1. See, born for us a precious child,
Son of a virgin undefiled!
The angels praise him in the sky
And we on earth make glad reply:
“To the Trinity ascend
Sweet songs of glory without end!”

2. Hear now the King from Judah roar!
With all our foes he shall wage war!
The Father’s Son, the God of grace!
The light of life beams from his face!
To the Trinity ascend
Sweet songs of glory without end!

3. Sent down to snatch God’s children dear
From death’s firm clutches, and its fear,
He came to crush the serpent’s head
And heal our wounds of sin so red.
To the Trinity ascend
Sweet songs of glory without end!

4. Though in a manger poor he cries,
Though on a bed of straw he lies,
To this sweet infant raise your voice!
In unison let all rejoice:
“To the Trinity ascend
Sweet songs of glory without end!”

Michael Schulteis: Educational Setting in Torgau

By Wilibald Gurlitt

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Wilibald Gurlitt’s Michael Praetorius (Creuzbergensis): Sein Leben und Seine Werke (Michael Praetorius [of Creuzburg]: His Life and His Works) (Leipzig: Druck von Breitkopf & Härtel, 1915), p. 10-13. This is the fourth in a series of posts on Michael Praetorius.

For more on the author, click here. For more on this particular work of the author, read the Translator’s Preface here.

This section picks up after Michael Schulteis, Michael Praetorius’ father, has either obtained his Bachelor’s degree from, or dropped out of, the University of Wittenberg and has been called to teach at the Latin grammar school in Torgau around 1534, at about age 19.

Gurlitt takes much of what follows from Section 2, Part 4 of Karl Pallas’ Die Registraturen der Kirchenvisitationen im ehemals sächsischen Kurkreise (The Registries of the Church Visitations in Former Electoral Saxony) (Halle: Druck und Verlag von Otto Hendel, 1911), which is Volume 41 of the series Geschichtsquellen der Provinz Sachsen und angrenzender Gebiete (Historical Sources from the Province of Saxony and Neighboring Regions), published by the Historical Commission for the Province of Saxony and the Duchy of Anhalt. I added a couple sentences from this source that Gurlitt did not include because, based on Endnote 10, the extra sentences perhaps lend further insight into Schulteis’ life in Torgau.

Michael Schulteis: Educational Setting in Torgau

In contrast to Wittenberg, which is regarded as the “mother of the Reformation,” Torgau is rightly called the “wet nurse of the Reformation.” More than anything else, the remarkable effectiveness of the Torgau grammar school1 seems to justify this reputation. After Wittenberg, it was the best and most sought-after school in electoral Saxony, and the Reformers took particular satisfaction in it. Luther became thoroughly acquainted with it on his first church visitation to Torgau in April, 1529, and afterwards praised it again and again as an ideal model school. He was also on friendly terms with many of its teachers. In August, 1531, Melanchthon reorganized it at the request of the Torgau council.2 Information about the setup of the school in which Michael Schulteis began his career can already be found in the visitation minutes of 1529. They essentially agree with the well-known model plan for a three-level Latin school which was appended as the final chapter to the Instructions for the Visitors of the Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (Wittenberg, 1528).3

Since we have no useable presentation of Torgau’s city history pertaining to the Reformation era, permit me to compile some excerpts from the “Special articles submitted to the council in Torgau” (March 22, 1534)4 that are significant for understanding Schulteis’ teaching years in Torgau. They are arranged according to the following areas:

1) Church: “The affairs of this place pertaining to the doctrine and life of the pastor [Gabriel Zwilling (Didymus)], the chaplain, and the other church and school officers – God be praised – have been found to be in order and absent of all dissension and discord.” The good relationship between the first Protestant clergymen and teachers in Torgau is also confirmed by a note in the diary of Summer, Torgau’s city physician and a contemporary of Luther: “There was utmost harmony among them; no disagreement was ever heard among them. They were each tolerant of each other and compliant with each other.”5

“The council has also consented that henceforth the pastor shall be the one to choose which chaplains, schoolmasters, schoolmaster’s assistants, sacristans, and students who have studied in Wittenberg for several years should be obtained for service in this city. He shall do so according to necessity, not choosing the ones to whom he is partial, but those who are the most qualified, always keeping in mind that the schoolmaster’s assistants should be people who will render due obedience to the schoolmaster. The pastor and council shall also have the authority to dismiss the deacons and other church and school officers if there is just cause, and to make other fitting Christian arrangements in religious matters… Since it has also been determined that another deacon is urgently needed on account of the large number of people [and the influx of nonresidents occasioned by the temporary residence of the court]6 and for many other pressing reasons, the Visitors have also prescribed another deacon at the request issued by the council and the congregation. He shall render the same obedience to the pastor that is required of the other two deacons, and shall serve by proclaiming God’s word clearly, purely, and without error, unmixed with the word of man or idle talk; by administering both sacraments in a Christian manner, in conformity with God’s word and the prescription of the visitation; by conducting services; and by visiting and comforting the sick on the basis of God’s word. In return his annual recompense shall be: 40 florins, 1 bucket of grain,* 5 cords of wood, and 1 bushel of salt – all from the general fund.” (Michael Schulteis took over this newly created position on November 19, 1539.)

“Also henceforth, on the evening of every high festival and on the actual festival day, a vesper service shall be held in which a Christian sermon about that particular festival shall be delivered in the presence of all the students, until such time in the future as the vesper service and sermon can also be prepared every Saturday at the convenience of the people. When the third deacon is taken on, an attempt may be made to see whether a short vesper service and sermon might be held every Saturday, and especially the Small Catechism for the youth and others. As for the evening sermon on workdays during the week, it is reasonable to discontinue it once again, considering that the morning sermon is sufficient, and so that the ministers of God’s word are not loaded down with too much. Also, the sermons, both on festivals and Sundays and on workdays and normal days, should not be drawn out for too long.”

2) School: “Henceforth there shall be four paid school officers, until further notice and amendment, namely the schoolmaster [Benedikt Flemming (served 1528-1539)]7 and three bachelors. In addition, there shall be a cantor [Johann Walther, beginning in 1534]8 and custodian for our dear women. Until the general fund has greater resources, the following bachelors and other church and school officers shall in the meantime be given the annual raise hereafter specified: Bachelor Markus [Crodel; became schoolmaster in the place of B. Flemming in 1539] – 10 florins; Bachelor Georg [Wachsrink] – 10 florins; Bachelor Michael [Schulteis]9 – 10 florins. Also in the meantime, until the general fund is healthier, 10 florins shall be bestowed and given to the organist every year as his honorarium, and 1 florin to the bellows operator every quarter… In return the aforementioned church and school officers shall also, in exchange for such improvement, attend to all the aspects of their ministry [Diensts] all the more diligently, considering that they have such an important ministry. … Since also the schoolmaster and his assistants have lived at the school up until now (some of them along with their wives), the Visitors have made provision, in order to prevent any sort of impropriety, that henceforth none of the school officers shall ever again live at the school along with his wife and children. However, one of these bachelors, if he has no wife, may have living space at the school, together with the nonresident students.10 And the bachelor who lives at the school shall take good care of the fire, the windows, and the boys who live with him at the school, so that the school does not fall into ruin. The bachelor who lives at the school shall also collect the wood money and purchase wood. … Also, when necessity demands that the students be punished, the schoolmaster and his assistants shall henceforth not carry out such punishment with knocking, shoving, and undue and excessive blows, but in good moderation… In return an honorable council shall also see to it that the students render all due obedience to the schoolmaster and the bachelors…for the youth, especially in these recent, dangerous times, are very quick to seize an opportunity to disobey. … Also, since the school in Torgau – God be praised – is invested with many and learned assistants, the school officers shall accordingly apply themselves diligently to the youth, so that the poor boys who are unable to be in universities, on account of their parents’ lack of means and the lack of other people’s patronage, may learn grammar and Latin thoroughly and well in the school at low cost… The schoolmaster and his assistants shall also see to it with all diligence that the instruction takes place in simplicity, as detailed in the Visitors’ printed instructions.”

“The youth and their abilities should be exercised by reciting the comedies. This suits us well, and we know of no better place where such a performance might be put on than our city hall in the summer, and at the drinking hall in the winter, which drinking hall we have hitherto lent them for this purpose as often as they have required it and have kept the doors closed to the rabble. We are also at liberty to give the boys 1 florin for refreshment for every comedy they put on, provided that the boys also derive benefit from such performances, and that a comedy shall be performed more than just on the last day before Lent.”11

3) Library: “The council in Torgau shall also take care that the library and books in the Franciscan monastery do not get torn up, but are maintained faithfully, well, and in such a way that those who want to study and read may go there to do so. They shall also take care that this library is augmented from year to year with the best and most useful books, to be furnished by the general fund.”

4) Choir [Kantorei]:12 “Since God the Almighty has favored this city of Torgau, more than many others, with a glorious ensemble of musicians and singers, the Visitors deem that, for the people who serve in this way, it is only reasonable that a publicly funded dinner be henceforth given to compensate them [what later became the convivum musicum generale or public musical banquet], as has been done in the past. They likewise make provision that, besides this, a council should also afford such persons an advantage over others in their respective trades, as much as ever possible and feasible, in order to make them all the more willing to exercise their abilities in this Christian and honorable way, and in order to encourage others all the better in that direction, until such time as a regular yearly honorarium can be made in return for their services.”

These content-packed primary source testimonies speak for themselves, and they offer deeper insights into the educational circumstances of Torgau at that time than the paltry collection of anecdotes that Grulich cites in an attempt to characterize this period.13 All that remains for us is to become more closely acquainted with the personalities with whom the young Schulteis came into contact, both by virtue of his office and in his day-to-day life.

Endnotes

1 Cf. Friedrich Joseph Grulich, Denkwürdigkeiten der altsächsischen kurfürstlichen Residenz Torgau aus der Zeit und zur Geschichte der Reformation, 2nd ed. by J. Chr. A. Bürger (Torgau: Verlag der Wienbrack’schen Buchhandlung, 1855), p. 167ff. The information imparted here requires careful verification, since the primary sources in the Grammar School Library [Gymnasialbibliothek], on which the work is based and from which also Otto Taubert confidently draws (Die Pflege der Musik in Torgau vom Ausgange des 15. Jahrhunderts bis auf unsere Tage [Torgau: Verlag von Friedr. Jacob, 1868]), are simply far too muddied.

2 Friedrich Lebrecht Koch, De scholae Torgaviensis constitutione ac forma (Wittenberg, 1815), p. 48f.

3 Karl Hartfelder, Ph. Melanchthon als Praeceptor Germaniae (Berlin, 1889), p. 419ff. Also cf. Fr. Paulsen, Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts, 2nd ed. (1896), part 2, and the ample examples of specialized literature recorded in both places.

4 Karl Pallas, ed., Die Registraturen der Kirchenvisitationen im ehemals sächsischen Kurkreise, in Geschichtsquellen der Provinz Sachsen und angrenzender Gebiete, vol. 41, sect. 2, part 4 (Halle: Druck und Verlag von Otto Hendel, 1911), p. 19-24.

5 J. Grulich, op. cit., p. 56, note †.

6 K, Pallas, op. cit., p. 15.

* German: 1 mld. Korns. I have taken “mld.” to be an abbreviation for “Mulde.”

7 Grulich, op. cit., p. 172.

8 O. Taubert, op. cit., p. 4. Note that 1534 was only when Walther began his work as cantor in the school. See further down under “4) Choir,” where the work he had already accomplished is alluded to with the phrase “glorious ensemble of musicians and singers.” – trans.

9 Cf. the thorough study by C. Knabe, Die Torgauer Visitations-Ordnung von 1529 (Torgauer Schulprogramm, 1881), p. 9f, where indeed no distinction is made between the identity of “Schulteis” and “Michael from Bunzlau,” and his arrival in Torgau is erroneously given as 1536. Notwithstanding this small mistake, the work contains valuable reports on Torgau personalities, compiled on the basis of account ledgers and council minutes. “Donat Michael” as an identification for Schulteis can hardly be debated, since only the first names are mentioned for the other two bachelors. What probably happened was that the young Schulteis, by participating in an especially memorable way in the edition of the Donat that the Torgau faculty published for their school in 1533 (cf. Karl Hartfelder, Melanchthoniana Paedagogica [Leipzig: Druck und Verlag von B. G. Teubner, 1892], p. 49f), acquired a nickname that he could not shake – “Donat Michael.” This name does not seem to correspond to a separate individual.

10 After this, Schulteis, as the last-named (and thus probably the youngest and unmarried) bachelor, may have lived “at the school.”

11 Letter from the council to the school personnel from 1534, quoted by K. Pallas, op. cit., p. 16.

12 Cf. O. Taubert, op. cit., p. 3f.

13 Grulich, op. cit., p. 53ff.

Prayer for the Love of Christ

By Johann Arndt

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Johann Arndt’s Paradies-Gärtlein Voller Christlicher Tugenden: Wie Dieselben durch Andächtige Lehr- und Trostreiche Gebete in die Seele zu Pflantzen Seyen (Little Garden of Paradise, Filled with Christian Virtues, Showing How They Should Be Planted in the Soul through Devotional Prayers That Are Rich in Doctrine and Comfort) (Nuremberg: Joh. Andreae Endters Seel. Sohn und Erben, 1710), p. 185-188. Arndt’s original work was published in Magdeburg in 1612.

The book is divided into three “registers” of prayers. The first register is divided into five “classes.” The first class contains prayers for virtues that follow the Ten Commandments. The second class comprises prayers of thanksgiving for the benefits shown to us by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The third class has prayers for comfort in time of cross and tribulation. The fourth class contains prayers that are a sort of companion to Luther’s Table of Duties in the Small Catechism. And the fifth and final class consists of prayers of praise and joy “to the honor and praise of God’s name.”

The particular prayer that follows is #5 from the second class in the first register. It is significant for the Lutheran Church because Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), her most famous poet, penned his originally-16-stanza hymn, “O Jesu Christ, mein schönstes Licht,” on the basis of this prayer. (In hymn 479 in Christian Worship, it is reduced to four stanzas under the title, “Jesus, Your Boundless Love to Me.”)

Gerhardt’s poem inspired Philip Friedrich Hiller to transform all the prayers in Arndt’s work into German hymns in the mid-1700s. More recently, Seminarian Kent Reeder set the words of the Christian Worship translation of Gerhardt’s poem to new music, and his arrangement was chosen as the class hymn by the 2013 graduates of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

In what follows, I have retained Arndt’s original paragraph format, but have inserted numbers to correspond to the stanzas of Gerhardt’s hymn. Perhaps the right reader will stumble upon it, resulting in either a fresh translation of Gerhardt’s (entire) hymn or a new and completely original hymn.

Johann Arndt (1555-1621) is often considered to be the forerunner of the Pietistic movement, due to the extremely devotional nature of his works. Then again, a pious author of a dogmatic treatise is often labeled an orthodoxist simply because he deals in dogmas, while a doctrinally-sensitive devotional writer is often labeled a pietist simply because he deals in prayers and meditations. (There are some religious scholars who seem to think that the internal life of Johann Gerhard, who came under Arndt’s influence in his teens, was one huge contradiction, since he made considerable contributions to both dogmatics and devotional literature.) The fact is, even the title of Arndt’s work (“…Prayers that Are Rich in Doctrine and Comfort“) shows that you cannot be a true dogmatician without being devotional, and no devotional writer worth his salt is ignorant of biblical doctrine. True doctrine, rightly understood and taught, always leads to and fuels personal piety. Paul Gerhardt himself clearly appreciated and benefited from Arndt’s devotional writings, and yet this was the same Gerhardt who, while pastor in Berlin, refused to sign a promise not to preach against Reformed doctrine from the pulpit, and was consequently deposed from his office in 1666.

Having said that, the prayer below may strike the modern Lutheran reader as almost embarrassingly schmaltzy. If Gerhardt had not thought so highly of it, we might be tempted to dismiss it as emotional fluff. But such strong, poetic love language serves us well in three ways:

  1. It calls to mind the relationship between Christ and his Church, which the Bible portrays in terms of marriage.
  2. It vividly reminds us that Jesus should always be the Christian’s highest and greatest love. (If the prayer makes us uncomfortable, we do well to ask ourselves, “Am I uncomfortable simply because I don’t express my love the same way Arndt does, or is it because I don’t actually love Christ more than everything and everyone else?”)
  3. It shows us how profoundly the love of Christ can touch the emotions of certain Christian individuals. Even if we ourselves haven’t experienced that kind of emotional reaction, we can still appreciate the varied ways that the gospel affects humans.

To that end, I present what follows to the glory of the same God whom Arndt worshipped, out of love for the same Savior whom he so passionately loved.

Prayer for the Love of Christ

(1) Ah, my Lord Jesus Christ! Most noble Lover of my soul! Grant me your grace, that my love for you may ever be sincere and new, and that I may say to you: (2) Lord Jesus, my most cherished Love, let me feel nothing else in my heart but your love. Remove from my heart everything that is not your love, for I do not want to have anything else in my heart but your love. (3) Ah, how kind, how charming and sweet is your love! How it refreshes my soul! How it delights my heart! Ah, let me think of, see, desire, perceive, and feel nothing else but your love, for it is everything, it has everything, it touches everything, it surpasses everything. (4) Ah, how I desire to retain this noble treasure in me eternally! Let me keep watch over it day and night and diligently and actively guard this treasure, care for it, pray for it. For this love is the foretaste of eternal life, the portico of paradise. (5) Ah, my Lover! Out of love for me you were wounded; wound my soul with love for you. (6) Ah, your precious blood, poured out from such great love, is so noble, so penetrating, that it may well soften a stony heart. Oh, let it force its way into my heart! That way your love will permeate my heart, for your love is in your blood. (7) Oh, that my heart would open up! It would then receive and soak up your delicate and noble drops of blood, which fell upon the earth when you were in the throes of death [Luke 22:44]. Oh, that I would open the well of my eyes! I would then pour out ardent tears of love, (8) and I would follow after you crying for so long, like a child, until you came to me, took me in your arms, and united yourself with me in your spiritual, heavenly matrimony, so that I would be of one heart, one spirit, and one body with you. (9) Oh, draw me to yourself, so I may run [Psalm 119:32]. Oh, if only I could kiss you in my heart! If only I could perceive your sweet comfort from your mouth! (10) Oh, my Comfort! My Strength, my Life, my Light, my Treasure, my Salvation, my Highest Good, my Love! Unite me to yourself, for all that I have without you and apart from you is purely pain and gall, misery and sorrow, nothing but restlessness and worry. (11) You, however, are my soul’s only rest, peace, and joy.

Therefore, grant that your noble, tender love may always and eternally shine within me. Ah, let the holy fire of your charming love burn in me through and through. Let the fire of holiness, the fire of joy, the gentle, lovely little fiery flame which is without all toil, worry, and anxiety – let this fire refresh me. Let the noble fragrance of your love revive me. Let the precious balm of heaven soothe and heal my heart, that I may run after this noble fragrance of your ointment unobstructed.

(12) Ah, most beautiful Lover! What could there possibly be that I do not have in your love? It is indeed my pasture, my complete sufficiency, my food and drink, my heavenly bread, my sweet wine, my joy, my peace, my gentle rest, my life, my light, my salvation, my blessedness, my wealth, my desire, my honor, my adornment, my glory. (13) Ah, if I should lose your love, what would I have left? Would I not be naked and bare, poor and pitiful? Ah, then let me cry for you, and seek you with tears with Mary Magdalene [John 20:10-16], and never give up until I find you, (14) for you have loved me without fail. Therefore it is purely out of your goodness that you have drawn me to yourself. Ah, let your love guide me at all times! It will then remain with me (15) and bring me back when I go astray. Let it teach me in my ignorance. Let it be my wisdom in my foolishness. Let it call me back when I sin. Let it hold me steady when I stumble. Let it help me up when I fall. (16) Let it comfort me when I am troubled. Let it strengthen me when I am weak. Let it fan into flame the smoldering wick of my faith when it is about to go out. Let it take me to itself when I depart and keep me eternally at its side. Amen.

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