Luther, on What Comprises Proper Singing

“Wo aber ein solch faul unwillig hertze ist, da kan gar nichts oder nichts guts gesungen werden. Frölich und lustig mus hertz und mut sein, wo man singen sol. Darum hat Gott, solchen faulen und unwilligen Gottes dienst faren lassen, wie er daselbst weiter spricht, Ich habe keine lust zu euch, spricht der HERR Zebaoth, und ewer speisopffer gefallen mir nicht von ewern henden.”  – Martin Luther*

*From a monograph titled Music in Martin Luther’s Theology. Which you should be sure to read.

A Delightful Little Phrase of Luther

Whilst discussing the glories of heaven, Luther compares them to

the latrine* of this life.

Isn’t that brilliant!

*Luther’s German is a bit too crass for most public consumption, since he literally says ‘shit-house’. But that’s Luther for you. Simultaneously crude and brilliant.

Heartwarming Inspiration from Luther

I would sit still and blithely watch how you, the devil, and your sausages and your tripes vainly fret and torment yourselves, and blubber and writhe, achieving nothing except to make us laugh and make you own case worse. Indeed, I would like to see you say aloud what you write, for if you did, people would gather with chains and bars and out of sympathy would seize and bind you as demoniacs. And if people did not do this, then, perhaps at God’s prompting, oxen and swine would trample you to death with their horns and hoofs. — Martin Luther

Luther Could Barely Read Greek

“Although a doctor of divinity, Luther relied for several years almost exclusively on the Latin version of the Scriptures. Very few professors knew Greek, and still less, Hebrew.

Luther had acquired a superficial idea of Hebrew at Erfurt from Reuchlin’s Rudimenta Hebraica. The Greek he learned at Wittenberg, we do not know exactly when, mostly from books and from his colleagues, Johann Lange and Melanchthon.

As late as Feb. 18th, 1518, he asked Lange, “the Greek,” a question about the difference between ἀνάθημα and ἀνάθεμα, and confessed that he could not draw the Greek letters”.  – Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 7, Sec. 27.

Don’t be like Luther.

“Whether One May Flee in a Time of Plague”

Luther’s pamphlet on the subject is still pretty good (in spite of his weird ideas about the causes of diseases).  And his practical advice is excellent.  He writes, for instance

Others sin on the right hand. They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so without medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.

If one makes no use of intelligence or medicine when he could do so without detriment to his neighbor, such a person injures his body and must beware lest he become a suicide in God’s eyes. By the same reasoning a person might forego eating and drinking, clothing and shelter, and boldly proclaim his faith that if God wanted to preserve him from starvation and cold, he could do so without food and clothing. Actually that would be suicide. It is even more shameful for a person to pay no heed to his own body and to fail to protect it against the plague the best he is able, and then to infect and poison others who might have remained alive if he had taken care of his body as he should have. He is thus responsible before God for his neighbor’s death and is a murderer many times over. Indeed, such people behave as though a house were burning in the city and nobody were trying to put the fire out. Instead they give leeway to the flames so that the whole city is consumed, saying that if God so willed, he could save the city without water to quench the fire.*

Read the whole tract. It’s worth half an hour of your time.  With thanks to Steven Tyra for the reminder of the essay.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 131.