On the second Sunday after Epiphany, the Gospel lesson being John 2:1-11 (the wedding at Cana), Luther preaches a sermon on marriage. Someone in the congregation takes notes and the sermon is quickly (and without Luther’s knowledge or approval) published.[1] Luther was not satisfied with that version and wrote a “revised and corrected” version, which was published in May. The excerpts in today’s quotation come from this “authorized (revised) version” of May, 1519.

Quotation:

Preface

There is a sermon on the estate marriage, published under my name, that I would rather had not been. Though I am well aware of the fact that I have preached on the subject, it has not [previously] been put into writing — as I am just about to do. That is why I decided to revise and improve it as much as possible. I beg everyone to disregard the first sermon published and let it be destroyed. If anyone wants to write my sermons, let him hold back, and let me have a say in the publication of my words. There is a great difference between making something clear with a lively voice [the spoken word] or with dead writing.

A Sermon on the Estate of Marriage, revised and corrected by Dr. Martin Luther, Augustinian at Wittenberg

First. God created Adam and brought all the animals before him. Among them, Adam did not find a proper companion for marriage, so God said, “It is not good that Adam is alone. I will make him a suitable helper who will be with him.” And he sent a deep sleep on Adam and took a rib from him, and shut his side again. And he made a woman from the same rib he had taken from Adam and brought her to Adam. And Adam said, “This is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she is taken from her husband. Therefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.”[Gen. 2:18-24] All this is from God’s Word and describes where male and female come from, how they were given to each other, for what purpose the wife was created, and what kind of love there should be in the married life. …

Fourth, God distinguishes different kinds of love. The love of a man and wife is (or should be) the greatest and purest of all the loves. Because he says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and will cleave to his wife,”[Gen. 2:24]  and the wife does the same, as we see every day. Now there are three kinds of love: false, natural, and married. False love seeks its own, as when a man loves money, possessions, honor, and women outside marriage and contrary to God’s commandment. Natural love is between parent and child, brother and sister, brother and sister-in-law, friend and relative, and similar relationships. But over and above all of these is marital love, a bridal love that glows like fire, and seeks nothing but the husband. She says: “I do not want to have what is yours, neither gold, nor silver, neither this nor that, but I want only you, I will have you entirely or not at all.” Every other kind of love is seeking something else (other than the loved one). But this kind wants only to have the beloved’s own self completely. If Adam had not fallen, the love of bride and bridegroom would have been the loveliest thing. But now even this love is not pure, for even though a husband [or wife] always desires to have his [or her] spouse, (even then) one seeks to satisfy one’s own desire with the other, and this falsifies even married love. For this reason, the married state is no longer pure and free from sin. The carnal temptation has become so great and consuming that the well-established state of marriage may be likened to a hospital for incurables, so that they do not fall into a graver sin.

Notes

[1] The text of this unauthorized version can be found in WA 9:213-219.

One thought on “January 16, 1519

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