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Luther "Caught" on "Tape": The Table Talk of Martin Luther

Religious Celebrity. That phrase may sound odd. Religious people do not (for the most part) seek after celebrity from within their spiritual journeys, whereas those who seek after celebrity usually diminish other aspects of their lives. Yet of all those who could be grouped under that title, few shone brighter than Martin Luther. He grew to become such a walking phenomenon that his every action and word were considered special. Once, while preaching, he asked some in the congregation not write his sermons down and publish them before he had a chance to do so himself! Upon reaching this status, some of his followers began to write down answers to questions and even off-handed remarks he made. These were eventually collected in a book called "Table Talk." This was first published in 1566 in German and in 1646 in English. What follows are excerpts from Lutherís everyday conversations and responses.

-Gregory says, well and rightly, that the Holy Scripture is a stream of running water, where alike the elephant may swim, and the lamb walk without losing its feet.

-He who loses sight of the Word of God falls into despair; the voice of heaven no longer sustains him; he follows only the disorderly tendency of his heart, and of world vanity, which lead him on to his destruction.

-When God contemplates some great work, he begins it by the hand of some poor, weak, human creature, to whom he afterwards gives aid, so that the enemies, who seek to obstruct it, are overcome. As when he delivered the children of Israel out of the long, wearisome, and heavy captivity in Egypt, and led them into the land of promise, he called Moses, to whom he afterwards gave his brother Aaron as an assistant. And though Pharaoh at first set himself hard against them, and plagued the people worse than before, yet he was forced in the end to let Israel go. And when he hunted after them with all his host, the Lord drowned Pharaoh with all his power in the Red Sea, and so delivered his people.

-I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching, for the delight of hearing vanishes therewith, and the preachers hurt themselves.

-Philip Melanchthon demanded of Luther: how it was, that though David was instituted and ordained a king immediately of God, yet he had many tribulations and plagues, as his psalms show? Luther said: David was not acquainted with many good days; he was plagued by the ungodly and false teachers, he saw that his people banded against him, he endured and suffered many insurrections and tumults, which taught him his lesson to pray. When he was without tribulation, he grew giddy-headed and secure as we see in his adultery, and his murder of Uriah.

-When two goats meet upon a narrow bridge over deep water, how do they behave? Neither of them can turn back again, neither can pass the other, because the bridge is too narrow; if they should thrust one another, they might both fall into the water and be drowned; nature, then, has taught them, that if the one lays himself down and permits the other to go over him both remain without hurt. Even so people should rather endure to be trod upon, than to fall into debate and discord one with another.

©2005 Mark Nickens

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