Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Valerius Herberger: Who communicated the Ten Commandments?

NOW ONE MIGHT ASK, Who communicated these Ten Commandments? Moses says: “And God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God,” etc. And below in the same chapter, he says: “The LORD said: ‘You have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven’” (v. 22). But St. Stephen says in Acts 7:38 that an angel spoke with Moses on mount Sinai. Thus it must be our Lord Jesus, for there is no one else in heaven and earth who is at once both Lord and God and yet can also be called an angel. Yet Stephen took his words from Moses, for when the Lord Jesus spoke out of the bush above, He was called an angel there, too, not by virtue of His nature, but by virtue of His office (Ex. 3:2). The Lord Jesus is “The LORD, our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). “He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). “He is the angel of the covenant” (Mal. 3:1). He says: “I am the LORD your God,” Jehovah Elohecha, “the only God who has revealed Himself in three persons.” This plurality is likewise explained in our Baptism in the New Testament, for Jesus spoke not only for Himself, but in the stead of the entire most blessed Trinity. He indeed conveys the Word, whence He is called Logos, the Word (John 1:1). But God the Father and the Holy Spirit agree with Him. All three persons were present and active in this work, just as below God inscribes the holy Ten Commandments upon stone tablets (Ex. 31:8) by His own finger, that is, by the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:20; Matt. 22:28).

He goes on to say that He brought the Israelites out of Egypt. St. Paul clearly applies this to our Lord Jesus: He accompanied the Jews, the Jews tempted Him in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:9). Hence it is that the ancient Doctors of the church understood St. Paul’s saying in Galatians 3:19, where he says that “the Law was set down from the angels by the hand of the Mediator,” not as referring to Moses who says “I stood between the Lord and you” (Deut. 5:5), but to the Lord Jesus. (Selneccer’s Postil, Trin. XIII) They made the sounds and were the organists, musicians, and trumpeters for Jesus’ proclamation so that it would not lack for splendor. Hence many scholars understand the words spoken by the angels as the Law (Heb. 12:19). Though the angels were integrally involved in this proclamation of the Lord Jesus (while in the Gospel, Jesus alone reigns), yet the voice is that of the Lord Jesus. And thus Moses introduced one individual as speaking. He did not speak of plural, that is, of angels. And Hebrews 12:26 just says “at that time” (when the Law was given) the voice of Christ shook the earth"; and stresses this word: Yet once more it would have to happen: (Hag. 2:7). 

Origen, who lived 200 years after Christ’s birth, said, “When John says in chapter 1, verse 3, ‘All things were made by the Word,’ you should not understand that Jesus was simply the Craftsman when God created heaven and earth, but that He was also the designator of where the Law would be given.” (in his Exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians, ch. 3); “The Law was given to Moses through the angels, and this by the hand and power of the mediator Christ; He who was the Word [of God] in the beginning, and was with God, and God was the Word, served the Father in all things. All things were made through Him, that is, not only all creatures, but also the Law and the Prophets; and He is the mediator between God and man, who was in fact made the Word at the end of world, Jesus Christ. But before this manifest advent in the flesh He was the mediator of men, though He was not yet man. However, He was at the same time mediator between God and men. Whence also the Law, given through the angels, is reckoned as given by the hand of the Mediator Himself, that it may be a holy, just, and good mandate, and all these things sanctified by Christ.” Indeed, the Lord Jesus wrote Himself that He had spoken to the prophets in the Old Testament (John 8:21, 58). Justin, in Dialogue with Triphon, says: “The Son was always the one who spoke with Moses by the Father’s will. And: “Christ brought the people out of Egypt.” Irenaeus (bk. 4, ch. 11) concludes: “The Son, with the Father, was that very God who spoke to Moses from the bush. Likewise: He who was adored by the Prophets as the living God, and the God of the living, and His Word, who spoke to Moses, as well as chastised the Sadducees.” Tertullian (Against Praxeas, ch. 14): “Moses was roundly denied his request to see the face of the Father. Yet he did see the Son transfigured, and heard Him speak tenderly to him.” Likewise [ch. 16]: “Neither should you imagine that only the works of the world were made by the Son, but also whatever God causes to happen in them.” Tertullian (Against the Jews [ch. 9.22]) writes: “He who addressed and conversed with Moses was the very Son of God who had always been seen. For no one has ever seen God the Father and lived.” Also refer to Eusebius, Demonstration of the Gospel,] V., 11, 13, 15. Brenz writes in his Catechism (p. 409): “If actual truth be told, then it was Christ Himself, the Son of God, who, while not yet become Man, yet true God from Eternity, and apart from whom there is no other God, recited the Ten Commandments to Moses on mount Sinai.” And he brings it to a very apt conclusion there. Mathesius agrees with him. 

No one should stumble at the great sternness that is seen here, thinking that it contradicts the Lord Jesus’ famous good nature. After all, He was stern when He caused fire to rain down from heaven upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And verily, on the Last Day He will demonstrate great sternness toward all the impenitent who willfully sinned against the holy Ten Commandments. True, Jesus is a preacher of Grace; but you must not understand this to mean that He wants nothing to do with the Law. For the accounts of the gospels by far prove otherwise. In Matthew 22:37, He expertly summarizes the Ten Commandments with two sentences: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; this is the chief and greatest commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets depend.” In Matthew 5:21, 6:22, and 7:1, the Lord Jesus personally recounts the Ten Commandments. And in chapter 5, verse 17, He says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them,” etc. He did likewise in Luke 6:9. But He explained the Law so that the sweetness of His grace might be all the more precious. And when from the Law we come to the knowledge of our wretchedness, He brings out the comforting proclamation of the Gospel from the bosom the heavenly Father lest we despair. This is what St. John means when he says, “The Law was given through Moses, grace and truth through Jesus Christ” (1:17). 

This is very beneficial for us Christians to know. Because the Lord Jesus Himself spoke the words of the holy Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, because He Himself explained and summarized them in the New Testament, they must also apply to and be binding on Christians. Indeed, no Christian should be hesitant to learn the holy Ten Commandments and repeat them often in his house; for they alone show us whereof a Christlike and pious life consists. Moreover, it is also comforting that the same Person who uttered the Ten Commandments also fulfilled them in our stead and paid for our sins. Who could manage to fulfill the holy Ten Commandments better? And so, because this person is coming again at the Final Judgment, we have the greater consolation that He will not condemn us repentant hearts for our disobedience, but will let us partake of His full atonement. The doctor who understands the disease is able to locate the best medicine. So since Jesus knows our disease, as He proves in the Ten Commandments, He will be all the better at finding the medicine by which we ailing patients can be cured.

O Lord Jesus, I love You deeply; this You know (John 2:15). Help me, I pray You, to demonstrate my love through daily obedience according to the holy Ten Commandments. Grant me grace that I may love You and Your Father and the Holy Spirit with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself. Reside as Mayor in the little council-chamber of my heart. Direct from thence all my limbs and works, that they may be devoted to You. Let my lips sing, ring, talk, pray, and give thanks to Your glory. Help me to be devoted to You on days of rest and Sundays. Oh, Sunday is not the day of sin but the day of reconciliation. Let me have devotion then, that I may be reconciled with You. Speak to my heart every Sunday, as You spoke on the first Sunday of the world: “Let there be light,” (Gen. 1:3) that all the gloom of my sadness may disappear. Sunday is the first day when You spoke in the Bible. Let Sunday be the first day of my week in which You speak to my heart, and what I hear there from Your mouth let me apply profitably unto salvation each day. On Easter Sunday, toward evening, You said to Your disciples: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Oh, Lord Jesus, speak this comforting sentence every Sunday to my anxious heart, and the “sun of righteousness” (Mal. 3:2) shall shine upon me. Just as it was on Sunday when You poured out the Holy Spirit upon Your apostles (Acts 2:2), so let me also receive the power from on high, that I may have sincere desire to hear Your Word and to use the Holy Sacraments. Oh, what blessed Sunday-dress that would be! Direct me, that I may show glory to whom it is due (Rom. 13:7). Give me a gentle, humble heart. Guard me from impurity of body and soul. Bestow on me a desire for righteousness. Pour into my heart a distaste for all untruth. Oh, help that I may not lust after what is forbidden to my heart, that so I may leave behind me, as far as humanly possible, the reputation of having lived a Christlike life according to Your will. Amen.

Translation © 2012 Matthew Carver. From Valerius Herberger, Magnalia Dei / Die grossen Thaten Gottes (1601–1620, ed. Gleditsch, 1701).

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gerhard on the Importance of the Seminary Classroom

An interesting passage from Gerhard's Method of Theological Study on the importance of live classroom instruction and the danger of being a self-taught theologian.

But we most especially commend to him [the future theologian] the frequent and diligent hearing of public lectures, and earnestly discourage despising them:

(1) God has promised a special grace, blessing, and the working of the Holy Spirit to godly assemblies instituted in the churches and schools (Ex. 20:24, Matt. 18:20, Heb. 10:25).

(2) The examples of the saints in the Old and New Testaments show that oral instruction has been especially recommended to future ministers of the church. The patriarchs handed down the main points of heavenly teaching to their successors orally, for they had not yet been put into writing. (Luther on Genesis: “The fathers’ sermons were not written in books but in heaven. Hence the time is called “Thohu,” because there was no Law nor books but sermons were delivered orally through the fathers to their posterity.”) After the Law was written, the prophets taught the same things to their students in schools orally, and thus they are called “sons of the prophets.” Elisha was a disciple of Elijah, whom he called into his school and chose him to be successor in the prophetic office (1 Kings 19:20). In the presence of Elisha “dwelt the sons of the prophets in Gilgal” (2 Kings 4:38)—that is, there was a theological school there where the students of the prophets spent their time, and Elisha directed and oversaw their studies. The college of the priests and Levites was nothing else but a theological school where junior Levites were instructed and prepped for the ecclesiastical ministry. In the Babylonian captivity Daniel set up a theological school, lest the knowledge of heavenly doctrine should perish. After the return from captivity in Babylon, Ezra and Nehemiah also raised up schools alongside the reconstruction of the temple. Paul sat at the feet Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). The apostles were taught in Christ’s school. Pantaenus taught in the school of Alexandria and was succeeded by Clement of Alexandria, whose student was Origen. Dionysius of Alexandria was a hearer of Origen, and after him Athenodorus (Eusebius, bk. 5, ch. 9 and bk. 6, ch. 2). Tertullian and Cyprian were in the school at Carthage; at Caesaria, Origen and Gregorius Neocaesariensis; at Antioch, Malchion the Rhetor, who refuted [Paul of] Samosata; in Nicomedia, Lactantius, etc. Therefore, in this way, by perpetual succession in the school of Christ, students who will one day be charged with the ministry of the church have been instructed by teachers orally.

(3) The living voice has greater force [ζώσης φωνῆς μείζων ἐνέργεια]. “Live speech has some kind of hidden force and makes a fuller impact,” says Jerome (Letter ad Paulin.). “The live speech of a teacher has marvelous power.” Scaliger (Exerc. 308): “The voice has greater effect, but reading is mute and when overly extended becomes tiresome.  Things heard are more firmly impressed through a sense of discipline, the servants of which are the ears,” etc. For these reasons, things received by hearing stick to one’s memory better and more reliably than things gained from attention to reading.

(4) Autodidacts do not operate with as much dexterity in judgment and speak more irregularly than those instructed by others in schools. They are also more often the ones to cause disturbances in the church.

© Concordia Publishing House.  From an upcoming publication of Johann Gerhard, On Interpreting Scripture and Method of Theological Study, Theological Commonplaces I­–II.
Used by permission.  No additional permission is granted to reprint or distribute this quote.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Christliche Bet-Stunden of Sophia, Margravine of Brandenburg-Prussia

In 1628, a devotional hymnal was printed in Onolzbach (Ansbach), Bavaria, which had been Lutheran since 1528, under the auspices of Paul Böhm. It was called Horae Christianae, Christliche Bet-stunden (The Christian Hours) and, according to its title-page, reflected the use of court at the private chapel of the Margravine, Lady Sophia of Brandenburg-Prussia (then ruled in personal union), etc., Duchess,
née Duchess of Brunswick-Lunenberg.

The hymnal was designed for daily use at 3 o'clock in the evening (as stated even on the title-page), which is to say, Vespers, "for praying and singing." We are also informed by the title-page that the hymnal had already ben in use "for several years" by the time of this publication "at the gracious request of other pious Christians in these perilous times."

"Perilous times" are a theme here. The dedicatory verses are Psalm 50 ("Call on me in the time of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall praise me") and Psalm 42 ("Why are you downcast, O my soul, and so disquieted within me? Wait on God; for I will yet thank Him because He helps my countenance and is my God")

Then without further instruction we are introduced to the Hours, under the rubric "The First Week," by a General Confession:
Almighty, everlasting, and merciful God and Father, we poor sinners confess and acknowledge from the bottom of our heart that we have grieved Your high Majesty with our great and manifold sins, whereby we have disobeyed Your Word, resisted Your holy will, slandered Your name, despised the warnings wherewith You threaten the willful, and have not taken it to heart, nor been afraid, but have sinned wickedly against You with pride, despising of Your Word, disobedience, avarice, unchastity, unrighteousness, hatred, jealousy, quarreling, murder, and falsehood, and other countless sins, and thereby invited upon us Your just anger and heavy punishments, temporal and eternal, if You should enter into judgment with us : these our iniquities sorely oppress us, and overwhelm us, and are grown too heavy for us, as it were a heavy burden.
But we take refuge in Your boundless grace and mercy, and beseech You not to enter into judgment with us great and wretched sinners, nor to punish us according as we owe, but to remember Your mercy which has been since the beginning of the world. Be pleased to accept the intercession of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and only High Priest. For the sake of His holy merit and perfect obedience have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins, and graciously take away from us the distress and danger that await us, or else diminish it. Punish us not in Your wrath, nor chasten us in Your hot displeasure; for You are merciful and gracious, patient and of great goodness, and have promised to deal with us not according to our sins, and not to repay us according to our iniquities.

We also heartily beseech You to grant us true repentance and amendment of life, to incline our heart toward You, to sustain us in Your godly fear, and in Christ Jesus to grant us eternal salvation; who live and reign, one God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, most blessed forever. Amen.

This is followed by a "Prayer in Time of Need" composed largely of psalms:
O almighty, everlasting, and merciful God, You are our dear Father. We Your children lie in great distress, sorrow, and misery. With a humble heart we confess that we have deserved the present punishment by our great and manifold sin.
O Lord, dearest Father, we heartily beseech You, punish us not in Your wrath, nor chasten us in Your hot displeasure.
O Lord, hear our prayer, receive our supplication because of Your truth, hear us because of Your righteousness, and enter not into judgment with Your servants, for before You none living is righteous. From depths of woe we cry to You: hear our voice, let Your ears attend to the voice of our weeping. If you would take an account of sin, O Lord, who will stand before You? For with You there is forgiveness. We have sinned with our fathers, we have acted wickedly and have been ungodly. Yet deign not to deal with us according to our sins, nor to repay us according to our iniquities.
O Lord, we know and believe (howbeit strengthen and increase our faith!) that You will have mercy upon us, and receive us tenderly as a Father has mercy on his children: "Let him call on me and I will hear him. I am with him in trouble. I will bring him out of it." You said this Yourself, O Lord; You made Your promise certain to us. Yea, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, confirmed these Your words with a precious oath, saying, "Verily, verily, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father anything in my name, He will give it you."
Therefore, dear Father, we bend the knee of our heart before You, and cry in this trouble to You alone, for we know not what to do; our eyes look to You. You know our frailties, You remember that we are but dust.
O Lord, turn again to us and be gracious to us. Fill us early with Your lovingkindness, and we shout and rejoice all the days of our life. Make us glad according to the time that You afflicted us, after we suffered so long adversity.
O Lord, remember us, and defend us. We are called by Your name, and we are Your people. Pour out Your displeasure on the factions and sects, our enemies, and the adversaries of Your Word; for Your anger endures for a moment, and You delight in life. Weeping lasts for the evening, but in the morning joy. You will not forget the cause of the poor, and the hope of the needy will not perish forever. You comfort us in anguish, and in time of trouble we call upon You to hear us.
O Lord, say to the Destroyer, "It is enough. Remove your hand away." For with You help is found, and Your right hand can change all things. When this needy man called, the Lord heard it, and helped him out of all his troubles. When the righteous cry, the Lord hears it, and delivers them out of all their trouble. The Lord is near to those who are brokenhearted, and helps those who are contrite in spirit. Mercifully hear this the prayer of Your dear children, according to Your gracious promise, and turn away the punishment which we rightly deserve; through Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, our only Mediator, High Priest, Atoner, and Savior, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, forever and ever. Amen.

Next we find hymn texts appointed for the First Week, beginning on Sunday (I abbreviate for the sake of time):
1. O Herre Gott, begnade mich (Matth. Greit., 6 sts.) [Have mercy on me, Lord my God]
2. O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort (M. Luther, 8 sts.) [O Lord our God, Thy Holy Word]
3. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (M. Luther [et al.], 7 sts., including Ihr Anschläg…, So werden…, Verleih uns Frieden… and Gib unsern Fürsten…) [Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word]

1. Aus tiefer Not (Luther, 5 sts.) [From depths of woe I cry to Thee]
2. Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott (Anon., 7 sts., tune: Vater unser) [Remove from us, Lord, faithful God]
3. Gib Fried zu unser Zeit, O Herr (Wolfgang Capito, 3 sts.) [Grant peace, O Lord, in these our days]

1. Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott (Erh. Hegenwald, 5 sts.) [Have mercy on me, Lord my God]
2. An dich hab ich gehoffet Herr (Ad. Reisner, 7 sts.) [In Thee, Lord, have I put my trust]
3. Mag ich Unglück nicht widerstahn (M. Queen of Hung., 3 sts.) [May I my fate no more withstand]
1. Ach, Herr, mich armen Sünder (Anon., after Ps. 6; 8 sts.; tune: Keinen hat Gott verlassen) [Ah, Lord, on me, poor sinner]
2. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (M. Luther, 4 sts.) [A mighty fortress is our God]
3. Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein (Paul. Eber., 6 sts.) [When in the hour of utmost need]
1. Ach, Herr, straf mich nicht in deinen Zorn (Lud. Oler., after Ps. 6; 3 sts.) [Lord, punish me not in Thy wrath]
2. Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darerin (M. Luther, after Ps. 12; 6 sts.) [Ah Lord, look down from heaven, behold]
3. Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit (M. Luther, 3 sts.) [If God had not been on our side]
1. Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (Conr. Hubert, 4 sts.) [In Thee alone, O Christ our Lord]
2. Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält (D. Just. Jon., 8 sts.) [Were God not with us at this time]
3. Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir ([Kas. Bienemann], 3 sts.; tune: Es spricht der Unweisen Mund, or: Es ist das Heil) [Lord as Thou wilt deal Thou with me]
1. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut ([Barth. Ringwald], 8 sts.; tune: Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, or: Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl) [Lord Jesus Christ, Thou highest good]
2. Ach Herr du allerhöchster Gott ([Barth. Ringwald, asc.], 14 sts.; tune: Kommt her zu mir) [Oh Lord, of all the God most High: an alphabetical hymn on the Law]
3. Geduld sollt han auf Gottes Bahn ([Lud. Hätzer], after Rom. 5; tune: Es woll uns Gott genädig sein) [Use patience e’er, God’s ways to fare]

Thus the first Week of a Six Week cycle. The remaining five weeks will be covered in subsequent posts.

(Translation © 2014 Matthew Carver, from Horae Christianae, Christliche Bet-stunden, das ist: Etliche Christliche Gebet und Gesänge, aus heiliger göttlicher Schrift Paul Böhm: Onoltzbach, 1628.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gerhard on the Three Uses of the Law, sort of

An instructive observation from Gerhard on the three uses of the Law, but it's not quite what you think. In the very next paragraphs following the quote below Gerhard does teach the three uses of the Law according to the Formula of Concord, but here he is specifically discussing the three uses of teaching that it is impossible for us to fulfill the Law. From On the Law (forthcoming from CPH), § 202:

Now, the purpose of teaching that it is impossible to fulfill the Law is not to encourage or excuse carelessness, sloth, and intentional negligence...rather, it is so that (1) we, confessing the powerlessness of our abilities and the imperfection of our own righteousness, may flee for refuge to Christ, “who has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having been made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13); “through [Him] God has done what was impossible for the Law” (Rom. 8:3), “that He might be the end of the Law for righteousness for all who believe” (Rom. 10:4). The glory of having perfect righteousness must be reserved for Christ alone, who is “holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Those who ignore and reject His righteousness “seeking to establish their own, are not under the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). Therefore the first use of this teaching lies in the article of justification, namely, that we not set before God’s judgment our imperfect and variously stained obedience to the Law but that we may learn that we are justified by faith in Christ. (2) The second use of this teaching lies in the article on good works, that we may learn that by the natural powers of our own free choice we cannot begin the sincere and true obedience we owe the Law, but the Law of God “must be written on our hearts” through the Holy Spirit (Jer. 31:33), so that we may begin to show not merely an external obedience but also an inner one with a spontaneous spirit and from the heart. On the other hand, because this inchoate obedience is still very far from the perfection the Law requires, we cannot boast about it before the judgment of God but are forced to confess that “all our righteousnesses are as menstrual rags” (Isa. 64:6) and that, “when we have done everything, we are still but unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). (3) Lastly, it serves to teach us that the inchoate obedience of the regenerate is pleasing to God, not because it satisfies the law perfectly but because it proceeds from faith in Christ; through such faith its imperfection and remaining fault is covered.
Excerpt from On the Law (pre-publication), Concordia Publishing House 2015.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission of Concordia Publishing House.  www.cph.org.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Canticle Collects from Gesangbüchlein (Bonn, 1561)

I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE recently of looking through the expanded edition of the Gesangüchlein Geistlicher Psalmen, Hymnen, lieder und gebet . . . (Bonn, 1561). It attracts attention from the very start. Near the front of the book is a quite full Kalendar of saints and festivals, so much so that one is at first made to wonder whether or not it is a Lutheran book. Lutheran hymnals and cantionals of the period tend to be a little sparing on the Kalendar, usually preferring to keep only festivals suggested by Luther, et al., or found only in Scripture, or not too much associated with any local cult or relic. The purpose here seems to have been to have a commemoration or festival for each day of the year. The Kalendars months have phrases to the left of the arabic numerals which are meant to be used a mnemonic device. Following the months are tables and more mnemonic verses for the days and seasons, Embertides, etc. There are also nice illustrations of a dominical letter wheel and a golden number wheel.

Toward the back of the Bonn hymnal, after a very extensive collection of versified psalms set to familiar, largely Lutheran, melodies, we find the Bonn Kirchen-Ordnung, or church order, including, among other things, an Exhortation to Communion, as we often find in church orders of this earlier period. This one is followed by a number of petitions, and Luther's embolism of the Lord's Prayer, and concludes with a transition into the Words of Institution. In this way the Exhortation seems to hint at an early form of the restoration of the Prayer of the Faithful, a series of collects now familiar to us from current Lutheran liturgical practice but once regularly omitted.

Following this, we find several collects more suited to use in personal prayers, including some founded on the Evangelical Canticles that find their regular place in Matins/Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. There is a clue, however, that they were used in public services or group settings: the responsive versicle before each Collect. I include these below in my own translation. Note: a final Collect appointed for the Te Deum has no versicle, and is excluded here because it is the Collect of Thanksgiving already familiar to us in the English (O Lord God, heavenly Father, from whom without ceasing we receive. . . ).


V. Thou, O child, shalt be called a prophet of the Most High.
R. Thou shalt go before the Lord to prepare His way.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, as Thou didst bring Thy Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world that we, being delivered by Him from all enemies, might serve Thee in all holiness and righteousness : grant us that, taking hold of this with true faith and being delivered from all the power of the devil, we may attain to the true holiness and righteousness that avails before Thee; through the same Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.


V. Blessed art thou who hast believed.
R. For that will be fulfilled which is told thee from the Lord.

Almighty God, who, when the Virgin Mary's believed Thy Word, didst do to her great things, making her the mother of Thy beloved Son, our Lord, by whom we all are made partakers of Thy divine nature, and in so doing Thou didst gloriously show forth Thy merciful adoption of the poor, the worthless, and the despised : grant that we also may with true faith be devoted to Thy Word in all humility and meekness, and so become true partakers of Thy Son, and His mothers, sisters, and brethren, as He saith; through the same . . .

Nunc dimittis.

V. Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant go in peace.
R. For mine eyes have seen Thy Savior.

Almighty, everlasting God, we heartily beseech Thee, that, even as St. Simeon received Thy beloved Son bodily in his arms, and saw and knew Him spiritually : so we may be granted both to know and to worship Him; through the same Thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 (Translation © 2013 Matthew Carver. Collects may be reproduced for non-commercial use.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Who is the greatest?

Martin Chemnitz is.

So says Johann Gerhard--at least when it comes to comparing Scripture passages for the sake of drawing out their genuine meaning and harmonizing any seeming contradictions. No doubt Gerhard has in mind in the quote below all of Chemnitz's works, but especially the famed Harmony of the Four Evangelists that Chemnitz never finished and left to Polycarp Leyser. I wonder, did Gerhard know when he published these words in 1610 that he would be the one to complete the so-called Harmonia Evangelistarum Chemnitio-Lyseriana over fifteen years later?

What makes this quote even higher praise is that it is a sort of non sequitur. Gerhard blurts it out as the last sentence in a chapter on how to go about comparing scripture with scripture. He couldn't help but say it:

Now, the experts are compelled to acknowledge that Chemnitz is the great, inimitable master of comparing passages (On Interpreting Sacred Scripture§ 208, [1610 Loci Theologici, locus 2]).

Coming from one so skilled with scripture as Gerhard, I'm not sure higher praise exists among men.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Heavenly Birthday of Johann Gerhard (1582-1637), Arch-Theologian of the Lutheran Church

Johann Gerhard was a Lutheran pastor and theologian who lived about 100 years after Martin Luther. He was born in 1582, just two years after the last Lutheran confession, the Formula of Concord, had been published. He was always an excellent student in school and university, and after pursuing medicine for a while, he decided to study theology and become a pastor. In 1606, the year before Captain John Smith established Jamestown, Virginia, Gerhard received his first call—a call to be a pastor and superintendent of 26 parishes, and a lecturer at a high school. He was in his mid-twenties. Just by considering his first call, it’s obvious that his contemporaries thought very highly of the gifts God had given Gerhard. (Among us a new pastor is never made a district president or circuit counselor right off the bat.) Before he was 30, he had become a doctor of theology and had published several books. In his mid-thirties he was called to be a professor of theology at the German city of Jena, and there he spent the next 21 years, until his death. His first wife, Barbara, died after only three years of marriage, when he was 29. Three years later he married Maria Mattenberger, and lived happily with her for the rest of his life. The couple had ten children, four of whom died in early childhood, as was so common in those times.

Gerhard’s writings built up the church and Christian believers, and also defended it against attacks. His works that built up the church include his Sacred Meditations, Meditations on Divine Mercy, School of Piety, his Aphorisms, his Bible commentaries, and his many sermons, but most of all his work on the first great Lutheran study Bible, the Weimar Bible of 1640. His works that defended the church against attacks include the Theological Commonplaces and the book called The Catholic Confession. I’m happy to say that we here at CPH are doing more to make his writings known than anyone else has done for the last 300 years.

But Gerhard’s life was not just the happy life of a writer or teacher. In 1618, war broke out across Germany, a war which would continue off and on for thirty years. This Thirty Years War was especially fought between the Roman Catholic “Holy Roman Emperor” and the Lutheran Swedes, led by Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus, who did not always treat the German Lutherans any better than the emperor’s army did. Because Gerhard had been so successful in defending Lutheran teaching against the Roman Catholic Church, the emperor’s soldiers plotted to kidnap Gerhard in 1631 and bring him to Rome for trial. Yet God preserved Gerhard from their plot. On the other hand, the Swedes were angry with Gerhard because of he had been advising peace with the emperor, and so Gerhard had to face the threat of imprisonment from them, too. In 1636 the Swedish army plundered Gerhard’s estate and burned his house and farm buildings. Then in 1637 the city of Jena was raided and plundered.

That year, the year Gerhard died, he wrote to his friend Salomon Glassius, telling him about the savagery of the soldiers: “But I am enduring all these things patiently and say along with Job: ‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ He Himself, nevertheless, will look out for me and my household with the assistance necessary for life, for I see that my finish line is near.”[1] On August 12, 1637, the 54-year-old Gerhard became very ill, and he knew his death was approaching. In the next few days he spoke to friends and family, confessing the same faith that he had written throughout his life and making arrangements for his family and the university for after his death. Two days before his death he confessed his sins to his pastor, Adrian Beyer, and received private absolution and the Lord’s Supper from him. After receiving Christ’s Body and Blood he sang the common Lutheran communion hymn, “O Lord We Praise Thee, bless Thee and adore Thee.” Right after this, he arranged for money to be given to the poor people of his city, so that they could have a meal. The next two days he fell speechless, lost his eyesight, and most of his hearing. Yet shortly before giving up his spirit, on August 17, he uttered the words, “Come, come, Lord, come.”

(Source: Erdmann Rudolph Fischer, The Life of John Gerhard, trans. Richard J. Dinda and Elmer Hohle [Malone, TX: Repristination, 2001].)

[1] Cf. Fischer, Life of John Gerhard, p. 287.