In the Spring of 1529, Luther wrote a preface for a book, published by his friend, Justus Menius, under the title, Oeconomia Christiana. The book dealt with the duties of married folk and the Christian training of children.
Luther’s preface emphasized the duty of Christians to provide their children with an education, and concluded as follows: “Thus, even in temporal government, you can serve your lord or your city better by training children than by building him castles and cities and gathering the treasures of the whole world; for what good does all that do, if there are no learned, wise, godly people? I shall say nothing of the temporal benefit and eternal reward that accrue to you before God and the world, if you have thus raised your child better than was in your shameful, hoggish counsel and intention. I shall give an exhortation on this subject another time in a separate book, God willing! and write against the shameful, dangerous, damned parents, who are not parents but shameful hogs and poisonous beasts, who devour their own children.”
Luther carried out this intention in the Summer of 1530. The diet was in session at Augsburg, and he spent the time at the castle of Coburg, where he had greater leisure than in Wittenberg. It was there that he wrote the Sermon. We do not know the date when the work was begun, but it was completed July 15th and the first edition came from the press August 1st, 1530.
The work is described in the title as “a sermon,” and was intended to furnish preachers with arguments that could be used to persuade people to provide their sons with an education, but it grew into a book, of which he says, in the dedication, that he has had to restrain himself by force, to keep it from getting too big. In a letter to Melanchthon, dated July 5th, he had referred to this and remarked, “I was never so verbose as I seem now to have become; perhaps it is the garrulity of old age.” f114 This Sermon should be read alongside the letter To the Councilmen of all the Cities of Germany. The two works are complementary. The earlier argues for the establishment and maintenance of schools; the later for the use of the schools thus established. The two together enable the reader to form a clear conception of Luther’s ideas on education.
The text of the Sermon is found in Weimar Ed. 30 2 :517 ff.; Erlangen Ed. 1 , 20:1 ff.; Erlangen Ed. 2 , 17:378 ff., St. Louis Ed. There is an English translation in F. V. N.PAINTER, Luther on Education (1889). The following translation is from the text of Clemen, 4:144 ff.
For literature, see the Introduction in Weimar Ed. and the introduction to the letter To the Councilmen, above, pp. 101 f.
CHARLES M. JACOBS.
MOUNT AIRY, PHILADELPHIA.