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It is usual to preface a work, submitted to the notice of the world, with reasons for its publication. The Translator however desires to say, he has no other reason to assign for making the present“offering,” than that which he has already given in his Proposals for publication“that from many particularly directing circumstances, he was led to believe it would, under the divine blessing, be useful to the church of God in the present day.”
The character which the work professes to bear is to deliver FAITHFULLY the mind of Luther; retaining, LITERALLY, as much of his own WORDING, PHRASEOLOGY, and EXPRESSION, as could well be admitted into the English version—the principles to which the Translator proposed and endeavoured to adhere, in his English version of Luther's profound and invaluable Treatise on the BONDAGE OF THE WILL, which has lately been presented to the British Church.
To these introductory observations, the Translator adds nothing more than the following appropriate extract from the Preface written by Melancthon, and prefixed by him to that edition of his beloved Luther's works, which he published at Wirtemberg, from the Press of Seitz in the year 1551, shortly after the death of his Christian brother and fellow-labourer in the ministry of Christ.
“Let us therefore give thanks unto God, the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who willed, that by the ministry of his servant Martin Luther, the mire and poison should again be cast out of the fountains of evangelical truth, and the pure doctrine restored to the church. Wherefore, it becomes us and all good men throughout the world, to think of this, and to unite in prayers and desires, and to cry unto God with fervent hearts, that he would confirm in us what he has thus wrought, for his holy temple's sake.—This, O living and true God, eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the author of all things in thy church, this is thy word and promise-—“For mine own sake will I have mercy upon you. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake will I do it, that my name be not blasphemed,” Isaiah xlviii.— I cry unto thee with my whole heart, that for thine own glory, and for the glory of thy dear Son, thou wouldst never cease to gather unto thyself from among us, by the preaching of the Gospel, an eternal church. And that, for the sake of thy dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was crucified for us and rose again, our Mediator and Intercessor, thy Holy Spirit may in all things rule our hearts, that we may call upon
thee in truth, and serve the acceptably. .“ And since thou hast created mankind to the end that thou mightest be acknowledged and called upon by all men, and hast for that intent, manifested thyself in so many eminent testimonies, who have borne witness of thee; suffer not this army of witnesses to fail, from whom thy word of truth sounds forth. And since thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, just before his final agony, , prayed for us, saying, “Father, sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth,” to these prayers of our High Priest, we desire to join ours, and to entreat thee together with him, that thy word of truth may ever shine among men, and that it may be our guide.-And these were the prayers that we used to hear Luther also put up daily, and it was in the midst of such prayers as these, that his peaceful soul, about the sixty-third year of his age, was called away from his mortal body.
“ Posterity possesses many monuments both of his doctrine and of his piety. He published first, his doctrinal works. In which he set forth that doctrine which is unto salvation, and indispensable to mån, and which instructs the upright concerning repentance, faith, and the true fruits of faith; concerning the use of the sacraments; concerning the difference between the law and the gospel, and between the gospel and philosophy; concerning the dignity of the order politic; and finally, concerning all the principal articles of that doctrine, which must be set forth and maintained in the church. He then published his works of refutation: in which he disproved and exposed many errors prejudicial to men. He published moreover his works of exposition: which contain many commentaries on the prophetic and apostolic scriptures: in which works, even his enemies confess that he surpasses all the commentaries extant.
“That these are works of great merit, all good men well know. But truly, for utility and labour, all these works together are surpassed by his version of the Old and New Testament: in which there is so much clearness, that the German reading of itself supplies the necessity of commentary.
Which version, however, is not quite alone; there are annexed to it annotations of great learning, together with descriptions of the subject-heads,
which give a summary of the divine doctrines contained in them, and instruct the reader in the kind of language which is there used; so that the honest and good heart, may draw the firmest testimonies of the true doctrine from the very fountains.—-For it was the great aim of Luther, not to let any rest in his own writings, but to lead the minds of all to the fountain head. He would have us all to hear the voice of God. He wished to see, by that voice, the fire of genuine faith and calling upon God kindled in men, that God might be worshipped in truth, and that many might be made heirs of eternal life.
“ This anxious desire of his, therefore, and these his labours, it becomes us to spread abroad with grateful hearts: and taking him for an example, to remember that it behoves each of us to strive to adorn, according to his ability, the church of God. For to these two ends especially the whole of our life, its studies and designs, should be directed.—First, to promote the glory of God. And secondly, to profit his church.—Concerning the former, St. Paul says, “Do all to the glory of God." Concerning the latter, it is said in the 122d Psalm, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” To which exhortation, there is added, in the same verse, a moșt sweet promise, “They shall prosper that love thee." These commands and promises from above, invite all to receive the true doctrine of the church, to love the ministers of the Gospel, and wholesome teachers, and to unite in desires and devoted endeavours to spread abroad the doctrine of truth, and to promote the concord of the true church of God.---Reader, farewell.-Wirtemberg, June 1, 1546.”
HENRY COLE. London, April 1, 1823.