TO HERZOG JOHN FREDERICK, AFTERWARDS ELECTOR March 10, 1521.
To the Serene High-born Prince, John Frederick of Saxony, Gracious Lord. I have received your Serene Highness’s gracious letter, with its comforting contents, with great pleasure. As I have been so long hindered through my opponents’ attacks in expounding the “Magnificat,” I now take the opportunity of sending these few lines with the little book. I need not enlarge upon the causes of the delay, which I acknowledge with shame, for it might wound the tender susceptibilities of your Highness, whose heart is inclined to all that is good, for the furtherance of which may God grant His grace. How important it
is that so great a prince, upon whom the welfare of so many depends, should be graciously directed of
God, for how much mischief may one left to himself do! For although the hearts of all men are in
God’s hands, it is not without cause, we are told, that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water, He turneth it whithersoever He will. The actions of other men mostly affect only themselves, at most bringing joy or sorrow to a limited number, but lords are set over us who are intended to be useful or prejudicial to a larger or smaller number of people according to the size of their land. Hence God-fearing princes are called “angels of God” ( 1 Samuel 29:9) in the Bible — nay, even “gods” ( Psalm 82:6). On the other hand, wicked princes are called “roaring lions” ( Zephaniah
3:3), “dragons” ( Jeremiah 51:34), which God Himself numbers among His four plagues: pestilence, famine, war, noisome beasts ( Ezekiel 14:13-19). Therefore it is most necessary that all rulers should fear God, seeing they do not require to fear men, and should recognize His works, and walk circumspectly, as St. Paul says. Now, I know nothing in the Bible so well adapted for the instruction of the kings and rulers of the earth, as well as for all, than this sacred song of the holy Mother of God. It sings so sweetly of the fear of the Lord, and of His great power, and of His mode of dealing with high and low. Let others delight in worldly songs, but let princes and lords listen to this pure maiden
singing her spiritual, pure, and salutary song. It is not inappropriate that this grand hymn should be daily sung in all the churches at vespers, and should frequently at other times be substituted for other hymns. May this tender Mother of God have imparted to me of her spirit, so that I may be able to expound in a practical manner her song, from which your princely Grace, and all of us, may derive assistance to lead a praiseworthy life, and afterwards to all eternity praise and sing this everlasting “Magnificat.” So help us God. Amen. I herewith humbly commend myself to your princely Grace, begging your Highness will graciously accept my poor effort. Your Electoral Grace’s humble chaplain, MARTIN LUTHER . WITTENBERG. (De Wette.)