06 June 2007

Preach Plainly and Profitably

“Many sects will still arise and Osiander will start one of them, for that fellow can do nothing but criticize others. We translated the Bible, and he took up one and another word with which to attack us. These words and the whole quarrel don’t really matter to Christendom, and he doesn’t prove anything anyhow. He offends the church. He could have taken up and debated this matter in private, but he couldn’t contain himself and curb his cleverness.

“In Smalcald I preached on a text from the Epistles of John in which it’s stated that Christ dwells in us through faith and grace, works in us, and defends and saves us. Just as I fell ill he [Osiander] rebuked me openly, though not by name, in the presence of all the learned men. Christ, he said, dwells in us essentially, etc.

"Everybody was annoyed by this, especially Brenz. Osiander possesses eloquence, follows an outline, and adheres to rules of rhetoric, but he doesn’t instruct the people. On the other hand, Dr. Link and Master Veit instruct them. Today Master Mörlin pleased me very much [when he preached]. He instructed the common people about the duties of wives and maidservants. A wife, he said, should think that she’s in a holy estate and that her husband is a gift of God; a maidservant should also think that her estate is holy and that her work is holy. The people can take this home with them, but nobody understands a sermon that is turgid, deep, removed from life.

“I spoke about this to Bucer in Gotha and suggested that he and Osiander should refrain from erudite preaching. Philip doesn’t need to be instructed, and I don’t teach or lecture for his sake, but we preach publicly for the sake of plain people. Christ could have taught in a profound way but he wished to deliver his message with the utmost simplicity in order that the common people might understand. Good God, there are sixteen-year-old girls, women, old men, and farmers in church, and they don’t understand lofty matters! If one can present fitting and familiar comparisons, as Link can do in masterful fashion, the people will understand and remember.

"Accordingly he’s the best preacher who can teach in a plain, childlike, popular, and simple way. I prefer to preach in an easy and comprehensible fashion, but when it comes to academic disputations watch me in the university; there I’ll make it sharp enough for anybody and will reply, no matter how complicated he wants to be. Some day I’ll have to write a book against artful preachers.”

Martin Luther: Table Talk

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