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In offering this selection of Sermons to the public, the publishers have not been governed by Sectarian principles, but have selected Sermons upon various subjects, that the reader may understand the general doctrine held forth by this eminent divine. When we consider the mental darkness which enveloped the world in the days of Luther, under Popish superstition and idolatary, and that he was the first who attempted to emancipate the human intellect from more than “ Egyptian darkness,” the reader will undoubtedly censure lightly any defects that may appear in his discourses ; considering his great object to have been, the removal of that servile yoke of Papistry under which nations were groaning, and of bringing mankind into the liberty of the gospel.
Luther's Sermons, after having been translated, were published in the year 1581, and re-published in 1649. In consequence of the imperfection of the English language, when these Sermons were formerly published, it was found necessary to revise them, and correct the language ; but in so doing, particular care has been taken to preserve precisely the original meaning.
Southern District of New York, 9s. BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the seventh day of January, A. D. 1831, in the fifty-fifth year of the Independence of the United States of America, S & D.A. Forbes, of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as proprietors, in the words following, to wit :
• A selection of the most celebrated · Sermons of Martin Luther, minister of the gospel, and principal leader in the Protestant Reformation. (Never before published in the United States.) To which is prefixed, a biographical history of his life.”
In conformity to the act of Congress of the United States, entitled," an act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the time therein mentioned.” And also to an act, entiiled,“ an act, supplementary to an act, entitled, an act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints.”
FRED, J. BETTS,
PROX.H. ffrutas 7.27.70
EXTRACTED FROM THE WRITINGS OF J. G. BURCKHARDT, D. D.
BEFORE we give an account of Luther's life and character, some general observations will be made on the state of the christian church before his time. What Isaias said of the state of the world before the advent of the Messiah, that darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, may be equally applied to the darkness of ignorance, idolatry and superstition, eclipsing the light of the gospel, many hundred years after our Lord's ascension. (The state of the church, in the centuries preceding the reformation, was indeed deplorable.
Since the time of Constantine, who declared in favour of christianity, introducing the distinctions of the state and civil government into the discipline of the church, there had been a perpetual contention for supremacy or superiority between the bishops of Constantinople and Rome; till in the ninth century, the Eastern or Greek church was entirely separated from that of the West; and the pope of Rome, in the eleventh century, established his authority so prejudicial both to church and state.
From that time the popes of Rome, as the pretended vicars of Christ, assumed a power little short of Omnipotence itself; and showed their despotick and domineering spirit in political as well as ecclesiastical concerns; presuming to have the sovereignty over men upon earth, over the angels in heaven, and over the devils in hell. They dictated to the world a system of doctrine and morality suitable to their selfish views, but contrary to the word of God, which was forgotten, and forbidden to be read by laymen.
The authority and infallibility of the pope was the first article of the christian belief; and the false opinions of indulgences, purgatory, relicks, pilgrimages, celibacy, &c. were more respected than the essential doctrines of the gospel. The bible was pot read by the laity, nor understood by the clergy.
The people were imposed upon by the fictitious relicks of persons and things which never had existed : viz. a piece of earth from which the first man was made ; bones of the calf from which a meal was made at the joyful reception of the prodigal son; a step of the ladder which Jacob saw in a dream ; a lamp of one of the foolish virgins; the skeleton of a child killed at Bethlehem, &c. and many instruments used at the crucifixion of Christ.
The history of the popes and clergy in those times, is a history of the most horrid crimes : Rome was the school of political intrigue, and the seat of falsehood, adultery, avarice, lewdness, and homicide. There was nothing which could not be bought for ready money at the court of Rome: even the gifts of the Holy Ghost were sold to the highest bidder; and it was as customary to buy, sell, or exchange prebendaries and livings as any other estate. The lower clergy being forbidden to marry, were, however, allowed to violate their vows of celibacy by paying a certain
which was called the milk tax. These,
and many other errors and abuses were brought into the church by the papal system or hierarchy, which Roman writers do not deny.
The necessity of a reformation of the church, of the pope, and of the clergy, was acknowledged and wished for on every side; and four general convocations and diets of the empire were held for that purpose : the first at Pisa, in Italy, 1409 ; the second at Constance, in Switzerland, from 1414 1418, where John Huss, that celebrated martyr, was burnt alive in the most unjust and cruel manner; the third at Siena, 1423; and the fourth at Basil, 1431
The popes, however, always found means to elude that salutary design: and though in all the national assemblies the necessity of a reformation was proved and felt, the work itself, and the manner in which it was to be begun or effected, was a task too difficult for the wisest and best men of that age; till God, in mercy to his church, sent Luther to deliver the world from a darkness and bondage more oppressive than that of Egypt, and no less detrimental to society than destructive to religion.
Some steps indeed had been taken before, preparatory to it. The simplicity and purity of the evangelical doctrine had been preserved by few, in the midst of horrid persecutions, and the blood of martyrs was a seed from which more professors sprung. When Constantinople, the residence of the christian emperors, was taken by the Turks in the year 1453, many learned men were driven to the western parts of Europe; where, particularly in Italy and Germany, they found an asylum for the study of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, so necessary and useful in translating and explaining the literal sense of the sacred writings.
About the year 1440, the important art of printing was invented, to which the work of the reforma
tion owes its more rapid progress; for by these means, printed bibles, the writings of Luther and other eminent reformers, were dispersed among thousands. The foundation being laid, the great work itself begun, it was carried on with such evident marks of a divine interposition, that we have reason to give thanks unto the Father, who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.
What so many powerful and wise men, during centuries before, had tried in vain to accomplish, was suddenly effected by an Augustinian Friar, Martin LUTHER; whose great work, from an inconsiderable beginning, spread to an immense extent. The more enemies he had to oppose, the more he was encouraged to go on, till the good cause was victorious, and true religion restored to, and established in, the visible church of Christ.
Luther's birth and education.
LUTHER was born Nov. 10, 1483, at Eisleben, a town formerly belonging to the county of Mansfield in Thuringia, but at present subject to the elector of Saxony. His father, who was a miner, took particular care of the education of his son: during the progress of his study, he gave many indications of uncommon vigour and acuteness of genius.
While attending school at Magdeburg, the attention of an elderly rich lady, of the family of Cotta, was directed to him ; who, his parents being poor, supported him in his literary pursuits. In the eighteenth year of his age, he was sent to the university at Erford to finish his education. His father had designed him for the law; but God directed it otherwise. His mind being naturally susceptible of serious impressions, and somewhat tinctured with that religious turn which delights in the solitude and