PART 21: LUTHER CONTINUES TO STRENGTHEN THE CHURCH
When the Lutheran theologians and princes left the city of Augsburg, they all realized that there was much work left to do. They needed to fill Luther in on the details. They needed to revise and fine-tune the hastily written documents that had been used at Augsburg. They needed to ensure that the effort to reform the church so that the Gospel could be clearly taught and preached would continue. While at the Coburg during the discussions at Augsburg, Luther had worked on explanations of the first 25 psalms. Psalm 118 was Luther’s favorite psalm. When he could find no other help, “this psalm,” he wrote, “proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles.”
In spite of a slowly healing leg injury, he also continued translating the Old Testament into German. In the sermons and writings he completed at the Coburg, he urged parents to keep their children in school, advocated more frequent participation in the Lord’s Supper, and praised music as next to theology in importance in being able to bring peace and happiness to the soul.
His aide Veit Dietrich reported that Luther spent much time in prayer; it was evidence that his confident faith sprang from his deep devotion to God, which was nurtured by the Scriptures. He used his recently completed catechisms as guides for his prayers and meditations. All of these activities gave hints of what Luther would be doing in the years to come.
Luther and his party left Coburg castle on October 4, 1540, and returned to Wittenberg. In spite of ill health, he continued working to strengthen the churches.
He was now sure that the Roman Catholic Church in which he had grown up could not be reformed. He was convinced that the evangelical churches that he worked with were the true church because they taught the Gospel clearly and administered the Sacraments as they had been instituted by God.
Years before Augsburg, Luther had begun writing materials to help pastors prepare sermons. These aids were called postils. In 1520 Frederick the Wise, who was impressed with Luther’s preaching of the Gospel, had suggested that he prepare such materials. While at the Wartburg Luther completed his postils for the Christmas season, and they we reprinted in 1522. He had the postils for the Lenten season ready in 1525. One of Luther’s students took notes on Luther’s sermons and published them in 1526 and 1527 to provide ideas for pastors to use during the other parts of the church year. Several printers gathered these postils together and printed them in their own one-volume editions. Because of mistakes he found, Luther prepared editions of his postils throughout the1530s and in 1540 and 1543. Each time he included the revisions he had made in his translation of the German Bible or ideas he was addressing at the time.
Pastors, some of whom had little training, scholars, and leaders of the new churches used the postils. Luther’s scholarly explanations of Scripture and the sound doctrine that he taught helped many people understand that Jesus was the only way to salvation. Through them Luther planted the seeds of Lutheran teaching throughout Germany. Even now, his postils influence scriptural teaching throughout the world.