Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther, Volume 7, by Eugene F.A. Klug (ed.)


The seventh and final volume of Martin Luther's complete sermons, which consists of his 'House Postils' on gospel texts for the 15th through 26th Sundays after Trinity, the Festival of Christ's Nativity, and other occasions (including the Day of Annunciation, the Day of St. John the Baptist, the Day of St. Michael and All Angels, among others).  Each sermon ranges from approximately 10-15 pages in length, and opens with the sermon text, followed by numbered paragraphs containing Luther's exposition.

By and large these sermons are fairly decent, though most of them are far from brilliant.  Luther's exposition of Isaiah 9:6 in five sermons for the Festival of Christ's Nativity were particularly good, but the remainder of the sermons ranged from merely adequate to downright problematic.  Luther's high view of Mary is clearly on display, and his hatred for 'Sacramentarians' who dare deny the transubstantiation or the transformative (as opposed to merely symbolic) power of baptism colors many of his sermons.  He takes some liberties with the texts he preaches, which is, I suppose, to be expected since he had no training in expositional preaching and it was far from common at the time.  Thus, unlike the great Puritan preachers or even later figures in the Reformation, Luther did not really have a large body of the sound expositional preaching of others from which to draw.

I should clarify that although this is the final volume in the series, it is the first and only volume I have read.  I chose this volume as my starting place based on the following criteria:  it is the shortest volume. It may be that the other volumes in the series are better.  But this particular volume was not terribly impressive.  I did enjoy some of Luther's prosaic--if not downright crude--phraseology, but it wasn't enough to overcome the generally lackluster quality of the sermons themselves.

[Disclosure:  I was reading this alongside a volume of sermons by C.H. Spurgeon, who fully deserves his reputation as the 'Prince of Preachers.'  It is entirely possible that Luther's sermons suffered in comparison to Spurgeon's excellent work.  I do realize that Spurgeon benefited from the something like 300 years of expositional preaching that preceded him following Luther's break with Rome, so the comparison is not really fair.  Still, some comparison is inevitable.]

No comments: