TO THE ELECTOR FREDERICK OF SAXONY
Luther dedicates a little book of consolation to the Elector, for the comfort of believers under disappointment.
Most Serene Lord. Our beloved Savior has commanded us to visit the sick, liberate the prisoner, and perform works of mercy towards our neighbor, even as our Lord Himself set the example of marvelous love, in descending, from the Almighty Father’s bosom, to share our captivity, and take our sins and weaknesses upon Himself. Whoever despises this most blessed type and command will at the last day hear the words, “Go into everlasting fire: I was sick, and ye did not visit me.” This is my apology for compiling this small book, so that I may not be accused of ingratitude in being unable to recognize
my Lord Jesus’ image, in the illness with which your Electoral Highness has been smitten by my Lord God, and I cannot pretend not to hear God’s voice from the person of your Grace, which says, “I am sick.” For when a Christian is ill, it is not he alone who suffers, but Christ our Saviour, in whom the Christian man lives. As Christ Himself says, “What you have done unto the least of my disciples ye have done unto me.” And although this command of Christ refers to the whole human brotherhood — still, it is specially applicable to our brothers in the faith, and above all, must be exercised towards our friends and relatives. Besides, it is incumbent upon me, with all your Grace’s subjects, to sympathize
in all your afflictions, as our head on whom all our prosperity depends. But I, who for many reasons am entitled to look upon you as my protector, could, in my poverty, find nothing worthy of your acceptance, till my dearest friend, George Spalatin, put it into my head to prepare you a little book of spiritual consolation drawn from the Holy Scriptures. Therefore I present this booklet (Tafel) to your Grace, which is divided into fourteen chapters. It is not a tablet of silver, but a spiritual one, not to be placed in the churches, but in the heart. The first part consists of seven meditations upon evil, trial, and disappointment; the second part also contains seven meditations — upon prosperity and things pertaining thereto. May your Electoral Grace, with your usual princely benignity, graciously receive this my little treatise. And I humbly commend myself to you.
Your Electoral Grace’s humble servant, Martin Luther.