Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

Martin Luther

It is well known that Martin Luther penned a number of Hymns, often sung in the worship of most congregations today, however, there is reason to believe, that this was neither the practice or purpose of Luther himself. Certainly, Dr. Luther held to a number of erronious notions (indeed, to be a "Lutheran" today one must cling to all of Luther's errors and follow Luther only insofar as Luther was not a follower of Christ—for the most part) and the practices of Luther did not square with those of the Reformed Churches (yet, neither did they square with his own doctrine, which in regard to worship was much like that of the Reformed Churches), and it may indeed be that Luther did enjoin the singing of his hymns on the Protestant Churches under his influence, in which case we can only suppose that "the times of this ignorance God winked at" (Acts 17.30) in the case of a reforming people very evidently led for a time in no small measure by the Spirit of God in accordance with his word—yet, whatever the case may be, there are a few bits of evidence that suggest that Luther may not have encouraged the use of his hymns for the worship of God, at least in the case of the public assembly of God's people.

First, and this needs to be looked into further, the liturgies written by Luther do contain psalms. This is not in any way to encourage or excuse the use of liturgies, nor is it to say that they only contained psalms as a matter of fact, but it is certain that the psalms were translated to be sung in German and incorporated in the public worship of God, which is more than can be said of most non-Reformed Presbyterian churches of today, although some Lutherans do still chant a psalm each Sabbath, and some Episcopalians incorporate a psalm into their liturgy. Whether hymns were included in Luther's liturgies, and, if they were, whether he ever removed them, is something which must be researched a little further.

Second, in Pennsylvania there are scattered throughout the used bookshops and antique stores a number of different editions of Luther's Small Catechism. For the most part, what one will find are editions put out by the Lutheran Churches around the year 1900 with Luther's Catechism, followed by explanations or longer catechisms on Lutheran doctrine or Bible history. Usually there is lastly appendixed a few pages of hymns. Before 1890, most of these Catechisms were still done in German, and they also contain the same additional expositions of doctrine and hymns, however, there is one older edition which does not. In Lancaster county was found an old edition of Luther's Catechism from 1815, which in the back has, not hymns, but rather - psalms - and no hymns. Whether there is any significance to this, the reader may judge from the following point—thus,—

Third, consider the following comments

taken from the Still Waters Revival Books homepage


"When the Lord brought the testimony of his witnesses out of obscurity in Piedmont, Bohemio, &c., by the ministry of Luther, his contemporaries and successors; then the psalms were restored to their place in the churches of the Reformation. Luther was skilled in music, himself composed many hymns; but he carefully distinguished between the Psalms and his hymns. An old lady in eastern Pennsylvania is said to have in her possession "a German Psalm-book, published by Luther himself." The book closes with a collection of Luther's hymns; but the old lady says that in her young days in Germany, "its directions were rigidly obeyed, and in public worship they sang only the Psalms of David." The same order, as is well known, prevailed in all the other reformed churches of Europe and the British Isles."

Cited in: David Steele, "Psalms and Hymns," The Original Covenanter Magazine (Vol. 3:1-3:16, March 1881 to Dec. 1884), p. 41. Available from Still Waters Revival Books as a cerlox bound photocopy ($13.99 Canadian) or as a hardcover photocopy ($23.00).