Prayers of the Reformers (19)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this fourth Sunday of the new year we post another prayer from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

This is a prayer or hymn of Martin Luther and is taken from the section “A Calendar of Prayer.” The German title is “Es Wollt uns Gott genaedig sein,” taken from the first line.

You will find these words to be fitting for our worship today as well as for our life and labors in the week ahead.

May God unto us gracious be,
And grant to us His blessing;
Lord, show Thy face to us, through Thee
Eternal life possessing:
That all Thy work and will, O God,
To us may be revealed,
And Christ’s salvation spread abroad
To heathen lands unsealed,
And unto God convert them.

Thine over all shall be the praise
And thanks of every nation,
And all the world with joy shall raise
The voice of exultation.
For Thou the sceptre, Lord, dost wield
Sin to Thyself subjecting;
Thy Word, Thy people’s pasture-field,
And fence their feet protecting,Them in the way preserveth.

Thy fold, O God, shall bring to Thee
The praise of holy living;
Thy Word shall richly fruitful be,
And earth shall yield thanksgiving.
Bless us, O Father! bless, O Son!
Grant, Holy Ghost, Thy blessing!
Thee earth shall honor – Thee alone,
Thy fear all souls possessing.
Now let our hearts say, Amen.

Luther, 1524

This hymn has also been set to music by J.S. Bach, which you may find here along with a different English translation. For one version available on YouTube, see below.

Luther and the Reformation (1) – The Ninety-Five Theses

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This year being the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation (1517-2017) – its origin notably marked by Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – we intend to do a series of posts throughout the year on some of the major works of Luther.

luther-theses-1And what better place to start than the Ninety-Five Theses themselves. For today, we simply refer you, first of all, to a few of them as found at the link above (and in many other places), prefaced by Luther’s purpose in posting them.

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

I have selected these points of debate (theses) in particular:

 1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

 

Secondly, we may point you to B.B. Warfield’s fine essay, “The Ninety-Five Theses in Their Theological Significance” (found in free digital form at Monergism.com). Below is a paragraph found in the early part of that work describing the significance of Luther’s theses:

The significance of the Theses as a Reformation act emerges thus in this: that they are a bold, an astonishingly bold, and a powerful, an astonishingly powerful, assertion of the evangelical doctrine of salvation, embodied in a searching, well-compacted, and thoroughly wrought-out refutation of the sacerdotal conception, as the underlying foundation on which the edifice of the indulgence traffic was raised. This is what Walther Köhler means when he declares that we must recognize this as the fundamental idea of Luther’s Theses: “the emancipation of the believer from the tutelage of the ecclesiastical institute”; and adds, “Thus God advances for him into the foreground; He alone is Lord of death and life; and to the Church falls the modest role of agent of God on earth – only there and nowhere else.” “The most far-reaching consequences flowed from this,” he continues; “Luther smote the Pope on his crown and simply obliterated his high pretensions with reference to the salvation of souls in this world and the next, and in their place set God and the soul in a personal communion which in its whole intercourse bears the stamp of interiorness and spirituality.” Julius Köstlin puts the whole matter with his accustomed clearness and balance – though with a little wider reference than the Theses themselves – when he describes the advance in Luther’s testimony marked by the indulgence controversy thus: “As he had up to this time proclaimed salvation in Christ through faith, in opposition to all human merit, so he now proclaims it also in opposition to an external human ecclesiasticism and priesthood, whose acts are represented as conditioning the imparting of salvation itself, and as in and of themselves, even without faith, effecting salvation for those in whose interests they are performed.

“Refo Thursday”: Pope calls Luther a “wild boar”

120-calvin-ch-magThe Christian History Institute (which also publishes the magazine Christian History – issue #120 is about Calvin and the Reformation – cf. image here) has a special post each week featuring various aspects of the Reformation.

It is called “Refo Thursday” (“your weekly throwback to the Reformation” [in their words] – connected to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017), and usually features a quote from one of the major Reformers and a brief video on an aspect of Reformation history.

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Today’s post looks at Luther’s hymn writing as well as the papal bull that excommunicated him from the Roman Catholic Church for the statements Luther made in his 95 theses. I post the image they allow you to share and the video.

You may also sign up for the “Refo Thursday” at the link provided here. And, I might add, there you will also find plenty of other videos you may watch from these past Thursday posts.

Reformation Day 2016: Luther’s Conversion and “Ein Feste Burg”

MLutherThe following is a reblog from my Oct.27, 2010 post on Martin Luther’s conversion, in his own words and in connection with his personal study of Romans 1:17. To that post I have added a video of some good Reformation music. Soli De Gloria!

From the website “Reformation Theology” comes this quote (also found in Roland Bainton’s classic biography of M.Luther, Here I Stand) in which Luther himself describes how he came to see the true gospel of sovereign grace, particularly the truth of justification by faith alone. As we reflect on the wonder of salvation that God works by His grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone, may we glory in the God who showed this truth to this humble servant and who restored it to the church in the 16th century. CJT

 

In the last 1,000 years, what came to be known as “the Tower Experience” of Martin Luther might well be the most significant event in the western world for all the ramifications which ensued. Here are Luther’s own words as he describes what happened as he was studying Romans 1:17 (and reading the insights of Augustine on this verse from a fairly obscure article he had written centuries before)- “For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Rom 1:17

“I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression “the righteousness of God,” because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust.

My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage Him. Therefore I did not love a just angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the righteousness of God and the statement that “the just shall live by faith.” Then I grasped that the righteousness of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before “the righteousness of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven…” – Martin Luther

Our second Luther element today is a version of his classic “A Mighty Fortress”, sometimes also called “The Battle Hymn of the Reformation.” This arrangement is sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

“On God our salvation must depend.” Peter M. Vermigli

ref-comm-scripture-romans-2016In the recently published Romans 9-16 commentary (New Testament VIII) in the series “Reformation Commentary on Scripture” (IVP Academic, 2016), the Italian Reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli is quoted (from his own commentary on Romans) in connection with Romans 11:1-4.

In a section headed with “God Causes, Enables and Completes Our Salvation,” this is what Vermigli states (slightly edited):

This should not be understood as simple knowledge, for even those who are damned are not hidden from God. Instead this knowledge has a connection with approval. And they are said to have been foreknown who have been received by God and whom he has separated from the rest as his people whom he will save. For this reason Augustine in his book On the Gift of Perseverance alters this verb ‘he has foreknown’ to ‘he has predestined.’

Those who want election to be dependent on foreseen works say that those whom God foreknew would believe and live godly lives are picked out. But these ideas have been refuted at length above, so instead let us hold the opposite understanding. We believe therefore that we accept God’s truth and live godly lives because we have been chosen, and not that we have been chosen because we will believe.

On God our salvation must depend; it does not even have its beginning from us. Christ said (as it is written in John): ‘Those you have given to me I have not lost.’ That is, if they do not hear me, if they perish, they are not those whom you have given me.

Learning from John Wycliffe: an Interview with Douglas Bond – Redeemed Reader

In connection with some suggested Reformation reading books for children earlier this month, I referenced church history teacher/writer Douglas Bond’s novel on John Knox titled The Thunder.

the-revolt-dbond-2016But his newest one is actually on a pre-Reformer – John Wycliffe. It’s title is The Revolt: a Novel in Wycliffe’s England (P&R, 2016; for teens 12-15), a book reviewed here on the Redeemed Reader website. The publisher gives this brief summary of the book:

As a secretary at the battle of Crécy, Hugh West’all has come close to death many times in his short career. But when he leaves the war behind to enter the stone halls of Oxford, he meets John of Wycliffe and soon embarks on a mission even more exciting—and perhaps just as dangerous. Using his scribe’s quill to translate the Bible into English, the language of the common people, Hugh begins to understand the beauty of the gospel as never before. But he and his friends are not safe. The corrupt and decadent church is planning to choke Wycliffe’s translation and silence him forever.

Since the Reformation began with the “revolt” of returning to the Word of God because the Bible had been returned to the people of God through its being translated anew into their languages, – including already by Wycliffe in the 14th century – it is worthwhile looking at this important pre-Reformation figure.

Redeemed Reader recently did an interview with the author on his new book on Wycliffe, including some thoughts on his translation work. From that section we post a few lines today as well.  Find the full text of the interview at the link below.

RR: You mention Bohemian scholars getting involved in Wycliffe’s translation work.  Were other scholars in Christendom becoming interested in Bible translation at this time, or was Wycliffe a true pioneer?

DB: Very good question. Wycliffe certainly was a pioneer in Bible translation, one of the greatest, but others had gone before him, even as far back as Patrick in Ireland who was translating parts of the Bible into Old Irish so he could communicate the gospel of Jesus to the tribes in Ireland, and the Venerable Bede in eight-century England was translating parts of Scripture into Anglo-Saxon even on his deathbed (see Hand of Vengeance). So there is a long history of God raising up scholars, evangelists, pastors, missionaries who were passionate about getting the Word of God in the language of the people.

But there is a great irony here. The established (Roman Catholic) church had created Latin into a sacred language and used it as a barrier to keep the people from hearing the Word of God in their own language.  The constructed doctrine of papal supremacy–that the pope interprets what the Bible says and tells you what it means—made it heretical and unnecessary for you to read the Bible in your own language. But here’s the Spirit’s ironic touché: Latin actually served to unite scholars and students from all over Europe. A student could go from Bohemia or any other language group in Europe to study in Oxford and you didn’t have to sit in a cubicle for months with headphones on doing language training. No need to learn Middle English for the Bohemian student or any other. You showed up day one for lectures and tutorials delivered all in Latin. Wycliffe exploited this and created a conduit for vernacular Bible translation all over Europe, really, all over the world. That’s my kind of hero.

Source: Learning from John Wycliffe: an Interview with Douglas Bond – Redeemed Reader

Lewis & Clark College Student Discovers 1599 Geneva Bible | OregonLive.com

Yesterday’s Grand Rapids Press Religion section featured the story (from the Washington Post) of a wonderful recent find in the archives of a small college in Portland, Oregon. 

You know I love these kind of stores (and finds!), and because this one relates to our Reformation remembrance this year (a 400 hundred year-old Geneva Bible was found!), we will include it in today’s posts (Yes, may also find something on the Chicago Cubs in the World Series later today we are back at Wrigley Field tonight!).

This story is taken from a local (Portland, OR) paper and news site. Below is a portion of it, along with a picture of the title page. For the rest of the story, visit the link at the end of this post.

For probably half a century, a copy of one of the most historically significant Bibles ever published sat forgotten in the basement of Lewis & Clark College’s Aubrey R. Watzek Library in Portland.

Then, on Tuesday, a curious history major opened a box, and the 1599 Geneva Bible – the Bible of Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and the Mayflower Pilgrims – came back into the light of day.

“It’s quite rare,” said Hannah Crummé, the library’s head of special collections and college archivist. “It’s not the only copy of this particular book … but it is the only catalogued copy in the Northwest.”

On top of that, it could be said to have royal lineage. One page reads: “Imprinted at London, by the Deputies of Christopher Barker, Printer to the Queenes most excellent Majestie.”

The Geneva Bible was a leading symbol of the Protestant Reformation, Crummé said. It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, who by 1599 had been excommunicated by Pope Pius V.

“Elizabeth I pitted her Protestant nation against the Catholic powers in Europe, particularly Spain,” Crummé said. “She allowed her subjects to study the Bible in their native English, making not just religion but the written word newly accessible to the majority of people.”

Source: Lewis & Clark College student stumbles across Bible from 1599 | OregonLive.com

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Luther and the Church – Rev. M. McGeown

sb-oct-2016-lutherWe return today to the annual special Reformation issue of the Standard Bearer (October 15, 2016).  This year’s special issue is entirely devoted to “Martin Luther, Reformer Convicted by Scripture.”

 

One of the articles focuses on Luther’s doctrine of the church. In “Luther and the Church” Rev. Martyn McGeown (missionary-pastor laboring in Limerick, Ireland) summarizes Luther’s ecclesiology, while recognizing that he was not a systematizer like Calvin.

For example, McGeown says this about Luther’s view of the unity of the church:

Luther did not deny, or even attack (as his opponents alleged) the unity of the church. Luther never intended to create a second church to rival the Roman church. Luther denied that the Roman church was the church. It was, and had become, a wicked, degenerate counterfeit of the true church. What Luther did (and what Calvin and the other Reformers did after him) in establishing congregations on the basis of the Word of God was to continue the one church of Jesus Christ. Luther’s close friend and ally, Philip Melanchthon, wrote in the Augsburg Confession, “It is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places” (Article VII).

And when he ends his article, McGeown brings up Luther’s love for the church:

Finally, Luther loved the church. His great grief was to see what he called the Babylonian Captivity of the church, and his great desire was to see the church restored to her biblical foundations. Above all, Luther saw himself not as a mighty Reformer, or even as a great spiritual leader, but as a humble, yett thankful, member of the church:

I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the faint-hearted, the feeble, and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who believe in the forgiveness of sins, and who suffer persecution for the sake of the Word which they confess and teach purely and without adulteration.”1

That, too, is our thankful confession. We love the church, for in the church we find Christ.

1 Cited by Eugene F. Klug in “Luther on the Church” (Concordia Theological Quarterly [St Louis, Missouri, volume 47, Number 3, July 1983]).

The Reformation’s Impact on Education – Peter Lillback

reformation-educationThe tenth and final featured article in this month’s Tabletalk on the church in the 16th century (the period of the great Reformation) is on “The Reformation and Education.” Penned by Dr. Peter Lillback (Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia), the article briefly summarizes the major impact the Reformers and their biblical principles had on the field of education.

As children of the Reformation, we experience and benefit from that impact in our own homes, churches, Christian schools, and Seminaries to this day. As we do so, – and as we need to remain in that heritage – we need to be grounded in those same biblical principles of education. Reading this brief article will help.

I post a few paragraphs from Lillback’s article tonight, encouraging you to read the rest at the Ligonier link below.

The Reformation has been an extraordinary force for global education. The Middle Ages gave birth to the first European universities that trained a select cadre of scholars. But in the Protestant Reformation, the quest for universal education was unleashed. Martin Luther, a professor at the University of Wittenberg, early on called for the magistrates to establish schools so that children could learn to read the newly translated Scriptures and benefit from the learning of the ages. Later, John Calvin, in the French context, established the Academy of Geneva that became the center of Reformed theology.

The educational methods of the Reformers reflected their theology. The goal of general literacy manifested the Reformation principle of the priesthood of all believers—all Christians have the spiritual privilege to read and to study the Scriptures for themselves. Sola Scriptura—the Scriptures as the only infallible source of saving knowledge and true wisdom—was buttressed by pedagogy consistent with Scripture. For the laity, this was accomplished by biblical literacy and catechisms. For adults and church leaders, confessions of faith served as summaries and standards of biblical doctrine and practice.

…The Reformation’s educational reforms also affected university studies. Speculative medieval scholasticism was replaced by a biblically grounded systematic theology. A worldview shaped by a belief in a sovereign Creator who rules an orderly cosmos encouraged the investigation of the empirical sciences. Linguistic studies accelerated. Latin was dethroned as the only scholarly language, since the common tongues of Europe had become capable of scholarly discussion due to the elevation of these languages by the translation of the Bible. Nevertheless, the study of the languages of biblical scholarship—Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—increased as a trained clergy became a reality. The Reformation’s educational impact spurred the printing industry, spawning libraries and advanced study in various disciplines. Some of the renowned academic centers greatly shaped by the Reformation are the universities in Wittenberg, Geneva, Zurich, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh.

Source: The Reformation and Education by Peter Lillback

Special Book/Resource Offers for Reformation Week 2016

Reformation-GeneralLooking to build your personal or family library with some good Reformation resources this time of year? This is a good time to do so, and especially this week.

First, Ligonier Ministries is having a special on Reformation resources each day this week, starting today. Here is the little blurb that goes with the week’s specials:

October 31, 2016, will mark the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. To celebrate, during “Reformation Week” we will be sharing various resource offers. Stay tuned to the blog each day this week for the latest Reformation Week links to redeem these offers.

Now follow this link to get at these deals – and be sure to check back each day. Resource Offers: Reformation Week 2016

reformation-nichols-2007Second, Tim Challies called attention to some good Kindle deals on Reformation titles this morning. You will want to watch his site this week as well. Here are a few from his list along with a link to his site.

luther-scarr-2016Third, in children’s books, Reformation Heritage Books has just released the latest title in their “Christian Biographies for Young Readers” series, and it is another fine one from the pen of Simonetta Carr, this time on Martin Luther. Here is the publisher’s description and table of contents ($14 for hardcover, illustrated):

Five hundred years ago, a monk named Martin Luther wrote ninety-five questions, hoping to start a discussion about sin and repentance at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. In a few months those questions had stirred the nation; a few years later, the continent. Today we know that those questions changed the course of both the Western church and world history. In this volume for children, Simonetta Carr tells the compelling story of this father of the Protestant Reformation, tracing his quest for peace with God, his lifelong heroic stand for God’s truth, and his family life and numerous accomplishments. The Reformer’s greatest accomplishment, she writes, “has been his uncompromising emphasis on the free promise of the gospel.”

Table of Contents:

Introduction

1. From Law Student to Monk

2. Looking for Peace with God

3. A Powerful List

4. A Reluctant Rebel

5. Starting a Reformation

6. Raising a Family

7. Ready to Die in the Lord

Time Line

Did You Know?

If you don’t have Carr’s title on John Calvin from this series, now would be a good time to add that one too (also $14).

I might also add that Monergism.com has a large Reformation section with a wide variety of resources – articles, mp3s, even pictures. It is worth your time to browse there and find something of interest. And, if I haven’t mentioned this lately, be sure to check out their free ebook section, in alphabetical order by author (all 365 of them!).

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