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Luther's Works, Volume 59: Prefaces I: 1522-1532
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Luther's Works, Volume 59: Prefaces I: 1522-1532

Author: Martin Luther
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       This volume contains Luther's Prefaces to multiple works that he produced from 152-1532. Amid the outpouring of print in the wake of the Reformation, Luther-especially in his Prefaces--sometimes expressed the wish that his own books might disappear and give place to the Bible alone. In his Prefaces to the works of others, however, Luther developed the opposite rhetorical strategy, hailing their books as faithful guides to the Scriptures or edifices that, because of their confession of Christ, would 'surely stand secure on the on the Rock upon which they are built.'

Although he complained of the many 'useless, harmful books' with which the Gospel's opponents flooded the world, the multiplication of 'good books' in print--of which there never could be too many-was a sign of God's present blessing on the church in restoring the light of the gospel, and Luther was pleased to encourage the works of faithful colleagues and friends. Many of the works for which he wrote prefaces he declared superior to his own for their insights, style, and more refined approach. Luther was grateful for help in the shared work of Evangelical literary production in all its genres, in constructive work as well as in polemics, and his prefaces give a broad survey of the Reformation's literature.

Luther's Prefaces are varied, revealing not only his own wide personal connections with other reformers but also biblical exegesis, preaching, devotion, the reform of marriage, and many other issues. They also give Luther opportunity to hold forth on a range of subjects that are beyond the usual scope of his theological writing, such as history, astrology, and law. A number of Luther's Prefaces are for new additions of Patristic and Medieval that either upheld the Reformation's teaching or depicted enduring corruption within the papal church. The airing of old abuses was almost meant to confirm a new generation in its evangelical faith by demonstrating that the situation under the papacy really had been as bad as Luther's generation described it.

In Luther's view, the chief sign of God's working in history was the renewed preaching of God's word, marked by the successful spread of God's word, and also by resistance to it. One day, he predicted, the 'miracles of our Gospel' from Luther's own day would be recorded and received by future generations, providing 'no small volume of church history'. Luther's Prefaces scattered throughout his career, contain numerous important autobiographical reflections on his own emergence out of darkness in the accounts of his early experience as a student and monk. Most significantly, the prefaces convey a clear sense of how Luther saw the maturing of the Reformation.


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