Introduction to Johann Gerhard’s LOCI
The Preuss’ edition of Gerard’s works has not been translated, until now. Preuss was the 19th century Lutheran scholar who assembled editions of Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent and then proceeded to prepare an edition of Gerhard’s Loci. You’ll find his introduction interesting! Kudos and thanks to Rev. Benjamin Mayes for this.
[Preuss’s preface to his edition of Gerhard’s Loci.]
To the readers, greetings in the name of Jesus.
After having prepared the new edition of Chemnitz’ Examen in the years 1861 and 1862, we now proceed to the great work of publishing Joh. Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces. What moved me to publish them was not only the bookseller’s encouragement, not only the consensus of very illustrious theologians who agreed, but above all my very ardent love and zeal for the evangelical Church and for pure doctrine. But since I am indeed the lowliest and newest servant of God’s church, and it scarcely seemed that I could offer anything of use by my own forces, I considered it to be of advantage that I deliver the Commonplaces of Joh. Gerhard once again to the living members of the church, those zealous for sounder doctrine, in order that, instructed by the custom of the orthodox fathers, they might come out to battle against the innovators. For however much the church since the year 1817 has accomplished through the Holy Spirit, in however many places she has overthrown rationalism, however many souls she has rescued from Satan’s mouth; all these things will neither suffice nor last for long, unless the very doctrine of God’s Word, purged from corruptions, will make the hearts of the pastors obedient. We are not speaking of that doctrine, or rather quasi-doctrine, which each one has fashioned for himself according to his taste from the mangled sayings of Holy Scripture. Instead, we are speaking of the doctrine which the prophets announced, the apostles taught, the disciples handed down, the reformers revived, the fathers confessed, according to the analogy of faith. For we are not, like the rationalists, always learning but never arriving at the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7). Yes, we know rightly and hold with the heart what St. Paul said, not to Timothy alone, but to us as well: Th;n paraqhvkhn fuvlaxon, ejktrepovmeno" ta;" bebhvlou" kenofwniva" kai; ajntiqevsei" th’" yeudwnuvmou gnwvsew". “Keep the deposit,” he said. What is the deposit? That which has been entrusted to you, as St. Vincent says, not invented by you; what you received, not what you thought up; a thing not of genius but of doctrine; not of private assertion, but of public tradition; a thing brought to you, not advanced by you; in which you are not permitted to be an author, but only a custodian; not a founder, but an adherent; not a leader, but a follower.
Behold this paraqhvkhn, drawn from the infallible Word of the living God, fortified by a father’s decisions, defended against the enemies of truth, arranged aptly into commonplaces. He who wants to know what Holy Scripture teaches about something, let him open this book. He who desires to understand a more obscure sacred text, let him find it in this book. He who seeks weapons with which he may subdue the enemies of the church, here they are collected. Not only did the ancient fathers draw from this well; but also those who, in our memory, after the errors of rationalism, recovered the sound doctrine; for example, not to speak of the living, both Sartorius and Stahl.
As to the plan by which I undertook once again to copy Gerhard’s work, I add these things. There are three principal editions of it: The first, printed in quarto in ten volumes at Jena in the years 1610-1625. The second, under the care of his son, Joh. Ernst Gerhard, was published in Frankfurt and Hamburg in 1657, in three volumes in folio, and to it notes were added which the blessed Gerhard Sr. wrote in the margin of his edition, and the editor added the notes with an asterisk to the text of his edition. The third, edited by the Tübingen theologian J. Fried. Cotta, was produced at Tübingen from 1762-1789 in quarto, divided into 22 volumes. From these three editions—for others are of less value—one had to be selected as the basis of our edition. We selected the first edition, printed at Jena, revised only by Gerhard himself. But from the edition edited by Gerhard Jr., we then used those commonplaces in which the editor put a healing hand to the text, then we selected the posthumous notes of Joh. Gerhard, and joined the selections to our edition. The text of Cotta’s edition helped us but little. For he seems not to have followed the first edition, but rather the Hamburg edition. Nevertheless, we consulted it where a place seemed to be more obscure than the genuine context. Nevertheless we did not consider all the notes written on many topics by Joh. Fr. Cotta to be especially helpful. For in the first place, they do not illustrate all of doctrine, but only parts selected here and there. In fact, the notes of that very learned man do not progress past the third section of the eighth chapter of the 27th commonplace. Only one article on Leibnitz’ exile of death was added to illustrate the rest of that commonplace. The 28th commonplace was adorned with only two observations; the last four commonplaces with neither dissertations, nor observations, nor any notes. Next, the aforementioned notations, even where they give a fuller illustration of Gerhard’s text, suffice too little for the desires of our time, so that they desire a continuation, which the most learned of men could hardly furnish in less than twenty years. Third, although Cotta’s labors serve the interests of the history of dogmas laudably, nevertheless they are not so free of vices and errors that one could reprint them unchanged. Finally, the price of our edition would be increased so much by their repetition, that they would cause the publication of such a large book to be impeded. But since many things are found both in Cotta’s notations and in the dissertations which can be useful to readers, we, being persuaded by Professor A. Twesten, p[rofessor] o[rdinarius] etc. etc., a highly revered man, will do this: First we will provide Joh. Gerhard’s text alone (with only blessed Gerhard’s own posthumous notes added). Then, if God with His grace helps the work to proceed, we will add the important parts of Cotta’s additions. He who knows the great fame and value of the Tübingen edition—we will provide for that very copious and very accurate index to be reprinted, and we will also add to it.
One thing remains, which ought not be passed by: The first four commonplaces of the whole system—On Holy Scripture, On the nature of God, On the mystery of the holy Trinity, On the person and work of Christ—are found twice in Gerhard’s work. The first commonplaces are more concise, the second, more accurate and flowing. Joh. Gerhard published the first, shorter commonplaces in 1610, and the more accurate commonplaces finally appeared in 1625, after the whole work had already been completed. But since it would be superfluous to set forth the same questions to our readers twice, and the price of the book by this repetition would grow unnecessarily, A. Twesten suggested that we omit the shorter commonplaces and produce only the more flowing ones.
At the end of our edition, finally, we will add the life of blessed Gerhard, described after the labors of Fischer and others, with his effigy.
Therefore this book, rising now from its seventy-year sleep, we return to the Church, and pray that God would again consider it worthy of His grace, and that through it He would restore and confirm the sound doctrine of His Word. To whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever.
Written in Berlin, Misericordias Domini Sunday, 1863.
The Editor [Ed. Preuss]