4. The divine service was popularized by substituting the vernacular for the Latin language in prayer and song,—a change of incalculable consequence.
5. The number of church festivals was greatly reduced, and confined to those which commemorate the great facts of our salvation; namely, the incarnation (Christmas), the redemption (Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter), and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Ascension and Pentecost), with the concluding festival of the Holy Trinity. They constitute the nucleus of the Christian year, and a sort of chronological creed for the people. The Lutheran Church retained also (at least in some sections) the feasts of the Virgin Mary, of the Apostles and Evangelists, and of All Saints; but they have gradually gone out of use.
Luther held that church festivals, and even the weekly sabbath, were abolished in principle, and observed only on account of the requirements of public worship and the weakness of the laity.636 The righteous need no laws and ceremonies. To them all time is holy, every day a day of rest, and every day a day of good work. But "although," he says, "all days are free and alike, it is yet useful and good, yea, necessary, to keep holy one day, whether it be sabbath or Sunday or any other day; for God will govern the world orderly and peacefully; hence he gave six days for work, and the seventh for rest, that men should refresh themselves by rest, and hear the word of God."637
In this view all the Reformers substantially agree, including Calvin and Knox, except that the latter made practically less account of the annual festivals, and more of the weekly festival. The Anglo-American theory of the Lord’s Day, which is based on the perpetual essential obligation of the Fourth Commandment, as a part of the moral law to be observed with Christian freedom in the light of Christ’s resurrection, is of Puritan origin at the close of the sixteenth century, and was first symbolically sanctioned by the Westminster standards in 1647, but has worked itself into the flesh and blood of all English-speaking Christendom to the great benefit of public worship and private devotion.638
§ 82. Beginnings of Evangelical Hymnody.
I. The "Wittenberg Enchiridion," 1524. The "Erfurt Enchiridion," 1524. Walter’s "Gesangbuch," with preface by Luther, 1524. Klug’s "Gesangbuch," by Luther, 1529, etc. Babst’s "Gesangbuch," 1545, 5th ed. 1553. Spangenberg’s "Cantiones ecclesiasticae," 1545. See exact titles in Wackernagel’s Bibliographie, etc.
II. C. v. Winterfeld: Luther’s geistl. Lieder nebst Stimmweisen. Leipz. 1840. Ph. Wackernagel: Luther’s geistl. Lieder u. Singweisen. Stuttgart, 1848. Other editions of Luther’s Hymns by Stip, 1854; Schneider, 1856; Dreher, 1857. B. Pick: Luther as a Hymnist. Philad. 1875. Emil. Frommel: Luther’s Lieder und Sprüche. Der singende Luther im Kranze seiner dichtenden und bildenden Zeitgenossen. Berlin, 1883. (Jubilee ed. with illustrations from Dürer and Cranach.) L. W. Bacon and N. H. Allen: The Hymns of Luther set to their original melodies, with an English Version. New York, 1883. E. Achelis: Die Entste-hungszeit v. Luther’s geistl. Liedern. Marburg, 1884. Danneil: Luther’s geistl. Lieder nach seinen drei Gesangbüchern von 1524, 1529, 1545. Frankf. -a-M., 1885.
III. Aug. H. Hoffmann von Fallersleben: Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenlieds his auf Luther’s Zeit. Breslau, 1832; third ed., Hannover, 1861. F. A. Cunz: Gesch. des deutschen Kirchenlieds. Leipz. 1855, 2 parts. Julius Mützell: Geistliche Lieder der evangelischen Kirche aus dem 16ten Jahrh. nach den ältesten Drucken. Berlin, 1855, in 3 vols. (The same publ. afterwards Geistl. Lieder der ev. K. aus dem 17ten und Anfang des 18ten Jahrh. Braunschweig, 1858.) K. Müllenhoff and W. Scherer: Denkmäler deutscher Poesie und Prosa aus dem 8ten his 12ten Jahrh. Berlin, 1864.
*Eduard Emil Koch (d. 1871): Geschichte des Kirchenlieds der christlichen, insbesondere der deutschen evangelischen Kirche. Third ed. completed and enlarged by Richard Lauxmann. Stuttgart, 1866–1876, in 8 vols. (The first ed. appeared in 1847; the second in 1852 and 1853, in 4 vols.) A very useful book for German hymnody.
*Philipp Wackernagel (d. 1877): Das deutsche Kirchenlied von Luther his N. Hermann und A. Blaurer. Stuttgart, 1842, in 2 vols. By the same: Bibliographie zur Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenliedes im 16ten Jahrhundert. Frankf. -a-M., 1855. *By the same: Das deutsche Kirchenlied von der ältesten Zeit his zu Anfang des XVII Jahrhunderts. Leipzig, 1864–77, in 5 vols. (his chief work, completed by his two sons). A monumental work of immense industry and pains-taking accuracy, in a department where "pedantry is a virtue." Vol. I. contains Latin hymns, and from pp. 365–884 additions to the bibliography. The second and following vols. are devoted to German hymnody, including the mediaeval (vol. II.).
*A. F. W. Fischer: Kirchenlieder-Lexicon. Hymnologisch-literarische Nachweisungen über 4,500 der wichtigsten und verbreitetsten Kirchenlieder aller Zeiten. Gotha, 1878, ’79, in 2 vols. K. Severin Meister and Wilhelm Bäumker (R. C.): Das katholische deutsche Kirchenlied in seinen Singweisen von den frühesten Zeiten his gegen Ende des 17ten Jahrh. Freiburg-i. -B. 1862, 2d vol. by Bäumker, 1883. Devoted chiefly to the musical part.
On the hymnody of the Reformed churches of Switzerland and France in the sixteenth century, Les Psaumes mis en rime franaçaise par Clément Marot et Theodore de Bèze. Mis en musique à quatre parties par Claude Goudimel. Genève, 1565. It contains 150 Psalms, Symeon’s Song, a poem on the Decalogue and 150 melodies, many of which were based on secular tunes, and found entrance into the Lutheran Church. A beautiful modern edition by O. Douen: Clément Marot et le Psautier Huguenot. Paris, 1878 and 1879, 2 vols. Weber: Geschichte des Kirchengesangs in der deutschen reformirten Schweiz seit der Reformation. Zürich, 1876.
On the hymnody of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren, see Wackernagel’s large work, III. 229–350 (Nos. 255–417), and Koch, l.c. II. 114–132.
Comp. the hymnological collections and discussions of Rambach, Bunsen, Knapp, Daniel, J. P. Lange, Stier, Stip, Geffken, Vilmar, etc. Also Schaff’s sketch of "German Hymnology," and other relevant articles in the forthcoming "Dictionary of Hymnology," edited by J. Julian, to be published by J. Murray in London and Scribner in New York, 1889. This will be the best work in the English language on the origin and history of Christian hymns of all ages and nations.
The most valuable contribution which German Protestantism made to Christian worship is its rich treasury of hymns. Luther struck the key-note; the Lutheran Church followed with a luminous train of hymnists; the Reformed churches, first with metrical versions of the Psalms and appropriate tunes, afterwards with new Christian hymns.
The hymn in the strict sense of the term, as a popular religious lyric, or a lyric poem in praise of God or Christ to be sung by the congregation in public worship, was born in Germany and brought to maturity with the Reformation and with the idea of the general priesthood of believers. The Latin Church had prepared the way, and produced some of the grandest hymns which can never die, as the "Dies Irae," the "Stabat mater," and the "Jesu dulcis memoria." But these and other Latin hymns and sequences of St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, Fortunatus, Notker, St. Bernard, St. Thomas Aquinas, Thomas a Celano, Jacobus de Benedictis, Adam of St. Victor, etc., were sung by priests and choristers, and were no more intelligible to the common people than the Latin Psalter and the Latin mass.639 The reign of the Latin language in public worship, while it tended to preserve the unity of the church, and to facilitate literary intercourse, kept back the free development of a vernacular hymnody. Nevertheless, the native love of the Germans for poetry and song produced for private devotion a large number of sacred lyrics and versified translations of the Psalms and Latin hymns. As there were German Bibles before Luther’s version, so there were also German hymns before his time; but they were limited in use, and superseded by the superior products of the evangelical church. Philip Wackernagel (the most learned German hymnologist, and an enthusiastic admirer of Luther) gives in the second volume of his large collection no less than fourteen hundred and forty-eight German hymns and sequences, from Otfrid to Hans Sachs (inclusive) or from a.d. 868 to 1518. Nor was vernacular hymnody confined to Germany. St. Francis of Assisi composed the "Cantico del Sol," and Jacopone da Todi (the author of the "Stabat Mater ") those passionate dithyrambic odes which "vibrate like tongues of fire," for private confraternities and domestic gatherings.640
German Hymnody before the Reformation.
In order to form a just estimate of German Protestant hymnody, we must briefly survey the mediaeval German hymnody.
The first attempts of Teutonic church poetry are biblical epics, and the leader of the Teutonic Christ-singers is the Anglo-Saxon monk Caedmon of Whitby (formerly a swineherd), about 680, who reproduced in alliterative verse, as by inspiration, the biblical history of creation and redemption, and brought it home to the imagination and heart of Old England.641 This poem, which was probably brought to Germany by Bonifacius and other English missionaries, inspired in the ninth century a similar production of an unknown Saxon (Westphalian) monk, namely, a poetic gospel harmony or life of Christ under the title "Heliand "(i.e., Heiland, Healer, Saviour).642 About the same time (c. 870), Otfrid of Weissenburg in the Alsace, a Benedictine monk, educated at Fulda and St. Gall, versified the gospel history in the Alemannian dialect, in fifteen hundred verses, divided into stanzas, each stanza consisting of four rhymed lines.643
These three didactic epics were the first vernacular Bibles for the laity among the Western barbarians.644
The lyric church poetry and music began with the "Kyrie Eleison" and "Christe Eleison," which passed from the Greek church into the Latin as a response of the people, especially on the high festivals, and was enlarged into brief poems called (from the refrain) Kirleisen, or Leisen, also Leichen. These enlarged cries for mercy are the first specimens of German hymns sung by the people. The oldest dates from the ninth century, called the "Leich vom heiligen Petrus," in three stanzas, the first of which reads thus in English: —
"Our Lord delivered power to St. Peter,
That he may preserve the man who hopes in Him.
Lord, have mercy upon us!
Christ, have mercy upon us!"645
One of the best and most popular of these Leisen, but of much later date, is the Easter hymn,
"Christ is erstanden
von der marter alle,
des sul [sollen] wir alle fro sein,
Christ sol unser trost sein.
Penitential hymns in the vernacular were sung by the Flagellants (the Geisslergesellschaften), who in the middle of the fourteenth century, during a long famine and fearful pestilence (the "Black Death," 1348), passed in solemn processions with torches, crosses, and banners, through Germany and other countries, calling upon the people to repent and to prepare for the judgment to come.647
Some of the best Latin hymns, as the "Te Deum," the "Gloria in excelsis," the "Pange lingua," the "Veni Creator Spiritus," the "Ave Maria," the "Stabat Mater," the "Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem," St. Bernard’s "Jesu dulcis memoria," and "Salve caput cruentatum," were repeatedly translated long before the Reformation. Sometimes the words of the original were curiously mixed with the vernacular, as in the Christmas hymn, —
"In dulci jubilo
Nun singet und seit fro!
Unsres Herzens Wonne
Leit in praesepio
Und leuchtet wie die Sonne
In matris gremio
Alpha es et O."648
A Benedictine monk, John of Salzburg, prepared a number of translations from the Latin at the request of his archbishop, Pilgrim, in 1366, and was rewarded by him with a parish.649
The "Minnesänger" of the thirteenth century—among whom Gottfried of Strassburg and Walther von der Vogelweide are the most eminent—glorified love, mingling the earthly and heavenly, the sexual and spiritual, after the model of Solomon’s Song. The Virgin Mary was to them the type of pure, ideal womanhood. Walther cannot find epithets enough for her praise.
The mystic school of Tauler in the fourteenth century produced a few hymns full of glowing love to God. Tauler is the author of the Christmas poem, —
"Uns kommt ein Schiff geladen,"
and of hymns of love to God, one of which begins, —
"Ich muss die Creaturen fliehen
Und suchen Herzensinnigkeit,
Soll ich den Geist zu Gotte ziehen,
Auf dass er bleib in Reinigkeit."650
The "Meistersänger" of the fifteenth century were, like the "Minnesänger," fruitful in hymns to the Virgin Mary. One of them begins, —
"Maria zart von edler Art
Ein Ros ohn alle Dornen."
From the middle ages have come down also some of the best tunes, secular and religious.651
The German hymnody of the middle ages, like the Latin, overflows with hagiolatry and Mariolatry. Mary is even clothed with divine attributes, and virtually put in the place of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit, as the fountain of all grace. The most pathetic of Latin hymns, the "Stabat mater dolorosa," which describes with overpowering effect the piercing agony of Mary at the cross, and the burning desire of being identified with her in sympathy, is disfigured by Mariolatry, and therefore unfit for evangelical worship without some omissions or changes. The great and good Bonaventura, who wrote the Passion hymn, "Recordare sanctae crucis," applied the whole Psalter to the Virgin in his "Psalterium B. Mariae," or Marian Psalter, where the name of Mary is substituted for that of the Lord. It was also translated into German, and repeatedly printed.652
"Through all the centuries from Otfrid to Luther" (says Wackernagel),653 we meet with the idolatrous veneration of the Virgin Mary. There are hymns which teach that she pre-existed with God at the creation, that all things were created in her and for her, and that God rested in her on the seventh day." One of the favorite Mary-hymns begins, —
"Dich, Frau vom Himmel, ruf ich an,
In diesen grossen Nöthen mein."654
Hans Sachs afterwards characteristically changed it into
"Christum vom Himmel ruf ich an."
The mediaeval hymnody celebrates Mary as the queen of heaven, as the "eternal womanly," which draws man insensibly heavenward.655 It resembles the Sixtine Madonna who carries the Christ-child in her arms.
German Hymnody of the Reformation.
The evangelical church substituted the worship of Christ, as our only Mediator and Advocate, for the worship of his virgin-mother. It reproduced and improved the old Latin and vernacular hymns and tunes, and produced a larger number of original ones. It introduced congregational singing in the place of the chanting of priests and choirs. The hymn became, next to the German Bible and the German sermon, the most powerful missionary of the evangelical doctrines of sin and redemption, and accompanied the Reformation in its triumphal march. Printed as tracts, the hymns were scattered wide and far, and sung in the house, the school, the church, and on the street. Many of them survive to this day, and kindle the flame of devotion.
To Luther belongs the extraordinary merit of having given to the German people in their own tongue, and in a form eclipsing and displacing all former versions, the Bible, the catechism, and the hymn-book, so that God might speak directly to them in His word, and that they might directly speak to Him in their songs. He was a musician also, and composed tunes to some of his hymns.656 He is the Ambrose of German church poetry and church music. He wrote thirty-seven hymns.657 Most of them (twenty-one) date from the year 1524; the first from 1523, soon after the completion of his translation of the New Testament; the last two from 1543, three years before his death. The most original and best known,—we may say the most Luther-like and most Reformer-like—is that heroic battle- and victory-hymn of the Reformation, which has so often been reproduced in other languages, and resounds in all German lands with mighty effect on great occasions: —
"Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott."
(A tower of strength is this our God.)658
This mighty poem is based upon the forty-sixth Psalm (Deus noster refugium et virtus) which furnished the key-note. It was born of deep tribulation and conquering faith, in the disastrous year 1527 (not 1521, or 1529, or 1530), and appeared first in print in 1528.659
Luther availed himself with his conservative tact of all existing helps for the benefit of public worship and private devotion. Most of his hymns and tunes rest on older foundations partly Latin, partly German. Some of them were inspired by Hebrew Psalms. To these belong, besides, Ein feste Burg" (Ps. 46), the following: —
"Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir" (1523).
(Out of the depths I cry to Thee. Ps. 130.)
"Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein" (1523).
(Help, Lord, look down from heaven above. Ps. 12.)
On the second chapter of Luke, which is emphatically the gospel of children, are based his truly childlike Christmas songs, —
"Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her" (1535),
(From heaven high to earth I come,)
"Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schaar" (1543).
(From heaven came the angel hosts.)
Others are free reproductions of Latin hymns, either directly from the original, or on the basis of an older German version: as, —
"Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (1543).
(Te Deum laudamus.)
"Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, heiliger Geist" (1524).
(Veni, Creator Spiritus.)
"Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" (1524).
(Veni, Redemptor gentium.)
"Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ" (1524).
(Grates nunc omnes reddamus.)
"Mitten wir im Leben sind" (1524).
(Media vita in morte sumus.)
"Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist" (1524).
(Now we pray to the Holy Ghost.)
"Christ lag in Todesbanden" (1524).
(In the bonds of death He lay.)
"Surrexit Christus hodie.")660
Among his strictly original hymns are, —
"Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein" (1523).
(Rejoice, rejoice, dear flock of Christ.)
Bunsen calls this, the first (?) voice of German church-song, which flashed with the power of lightning through all German lands, in praise of the eternal decree of redemption of the human race and of the gospel of freedom."
"Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort,
Und steur des Papsts und Türken Mord" (1541).
This is directed against the Pope and the Turk, as the chief enemies of Christ and his church in Luther’s days.661
The stirring song of the two evangelical proto-martyrs at Brussels in 1523, —
"Ein neues Lied wir heben an." —
is chronologically his first, and not a hymn in the proper sense of the term, but had an irresistible effect, especially the tenth stanza, —
"Die Asche will nicht lassen ab,
Sie stäubt in alten Landen,
Hie hilft kein Bach, Loch, Grub noch Grab,
Sie macht den Feind zu Schanden.
Die er im Leben durch den Mord,
Zu schweigen hat gedrungen
Die muss er todt an altem Ort
Mit aller Stimm und Zungen
Gar frölich lassen singen."662
(Their ashes will not rest and lie,
But scattered far and near,
Stream, dungeon, bolt, and grave defy,
Their foeman’s shame and fear.
Those whom alive the tyrant’s wrongs
To silence could subdue,
He must, when dead, let sing the songs
And in all languages and tongues
Resound the wide world through.)
Luther’s hymns are characterized, like those of St. Ambrose, by simplicity and strength, and a popular churchly tone. But, unlike those of St. Ambrose and the Middle Ages, they breathe the bold, confident, joyful spirit of justifying faith, which was the beating heart of his theology and piety.
Luther’s hymns passed at once into common use in church and school, and sung the Reformation into the hearts of the people. Hans Sachs of Nürnberg saluted him as the nightingale of Wittenberg.663 How highly his contemporaries thought of them, may be inferred from Cyriacus Spangenberg, likewise a hymnist, who said in his preface to the "Cithara Lutheri" (1569): "Of all master-singers since the days of the apostles, Luther is the best. In his hymns you find not an idle or useless word. The rhymes are easy and good, the words choice and proper, the meaning clear and intelligible, the melodies lovely and hearty, and, in summa, all is so rare and majestic, so full of pith and power, so cheering and comforting, that you will not find his equal, much less his master."
Before Luther’s death (1546), there appeared no less than forty-seven Lutheran hymn- and tune-books. The first German evangelical hymn-book, the so-called "Wittenberg Enchiridion." was printed in the year 1524, and contained eight hymns, four of them by Luther, three by Speratus, one by an unknown author. The "Erfurt Enchiridion" of the same year numbered twenty-five hymns, of which eighteen were from Luther. The hymn-book of Walther, also of 1524, contained thirty-two German and five Latin hymns, with a preface of Luther. Klug’s Gesangbuch by Luther, Wittenberg, 1529, had fifty (twenty-eight of Luther); Babst’s of 1545 (printed at Leipzig), eighty-nine; and the fifth edition of 1553, a hundred and thirty-one hymns.664
This rapid increase of hymns and hymn-books continued after Luther’s death. We can only mention the names of the principal hymnists who were inspired by his example.
Justus Jonas (1493–1555), Luther’s friend and colleague, wrote, —
"Wo Gott, der Herr, nicht bei uns hält" (Ps. 124).
(If God were not upon our side.)
Paul Ebert (1511–1569), the faithful assistant of Melanchthon, and professor of Hebrew in Wittenberg, is the author of
"Wenn wir in höchsten Nöthen sein,"
(When in the hour of utmost need,)
"Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’r Mensch und Gott."
(Lord Jesus Christ, true man and God.)