Funeral Sermon on the Death of Martin Luther (1) – Justus Jonas

The T. Letis collection in the PRC Seminary library contains a wonderful assortment of books on the great Reformer Martin Luther (You may also find information on this collection on the Seminary’s library webpage.).


Among them is a rare and significant first edition book containing Two Funeral Sermons on the Death of Dr. Martin Luther, Delivered at Eisleben, February 19th and 20th, 1546, by Dr. Justus Jonas and Pastor Michael Celius (Translated by Rev. E. Greenwald and published in Lancaster, PA by the Junior Missionary Society of the Church of the Holy Trinity (Evangelical Lutheran) in 1883 (cf. the title page above). At this link you may read this book online, and you will also find reprints of it on Amazon.

The Preface contains a note concerning how this book (originally in German) came into that church’s library and was subsequently translated and published by the young people in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Luther’s birth (1483-1883).

Last evening I read the first of these sermons, the one by Dr. Justin Jonas, who was “a professor at Wittenberg, an intimate friend of Luther, and accompanied him to the Diet of Worms, was at the Conference at Marburg, and at the Diet of Ausburg.” In addition, Jonas “went with Luther to Eisleben, and was present at his death. He assisted Luther in the translation of the Bible, and was eminent for his learning” (E. Greenwald in the Preface).

For this Thursday, let me give you a portion of that wonderful sermon (based on  I Thess. 4:13-18), not to praise the man Luther, but to magnify the grace of God to him, and through him to us Protestant Christians and churches.

Dr. Martin Luther also possessed many other eminent gifts. He was an extremely powerful orator. Particularly, he was a most able interpreter of the entire Bible. Even the officials of the court have, in part, learned from him to speak and write in pure German. For he has restored the German language, so that the people again read and write the German language correctly, as many in the higher ranks of society are compelled to acknowledge and testify. How eloquent a man, and eminent a writer, Dr. Martin Luther was, we often learn from little things, as from his letters. However, his numerous books and other writings sufficiently prove it. The master is known by his work. Of his extraordinary natural talents I will say nothing, only I will refer all God-fearing and devout Christians to his books, postils, and commentaries for proof. They will learn from them what an eminent orator, preacher, and bishop they have had in him. Would to God Germany had many such men and bishops, for she needs them much.

Dr. Martin Luther also possesses, in large measure, the grace of God, the illumination of the Holy Ghost, and the true knowledge of God and Christ. These gracious gifts were not permitted to decline in him, but he increased them daily, by the diligent use of the holy divine Scriptures, their careful study, and the devout reading of them for forty years. He was well acquainted with the entire Bible, which he read through so many times that the whole was clear to his mind. This habit the good, dear man, pursued steadily from his 24th until his 63rd year, and until he died (pp.8-9).


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