Evangelical Lutheran Church.
The Augsburg Confession
EXPLANATORY NOTES & REMARKS.
——“Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.”
Paul—1 Thess. v. 21.
The DOCTRINE, &c.
1. The Lutheran tenets must not be taken from the works of Luther, written before the year 1530; for before that time he held several doctrines, which he afterwards rejected. He had been an Augustine monk, and had imbibed principles laid down in the works of Augustinus; and as a violent papist, he was tenacious of many doctrines and customs which he afterwards renounced. “I entreat you,” says he, in an address written near the close of his life; —“I entreat you to read my writings with cool consideration, and even with much pity. I wish you to know, that when I began the affair of indulgences, I was a monk and a most mad papist, so intoxicated was I, and immersed in papal dogmas, that I would have been ready to assist in murdering any person, who should have uttered a syllable against the pope; and I was always earnest in defending doctrines, which I professed. I went seriously to work as one who had a horrible dread of the day of judgment, and who, from his inmost soul, was anxious for salvation. You will find, therefore, in my earlier writings, many things of which I do not now approve. This, may be called inconsistency by my slanderers, but you, my pious reader, will have the kindness to make some allowance on account of the times and my own inexperience. I stood absolutely alone at first, and certainly was very unfit to undertake matters of such vast importance. It was by accident, and not willingly, nor by design, that I fell into those violent disputes. God is my witness.” The Lutheran doctrines must therefore be taken only from the latter writings of Luther.— Their symbolical books are, “The Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the confession, the short and larger Catechism, and the Smalkalden articles. See Luther’s works and Cyclopedia, art. Luther.
2. Luther was very much opposed to his followers being called Lutheran, and so were the supporters of his cause. In an address of the elector of Saxony and others, to the emperor, we find the following words: “The doctrines of Luther we only receive as far as they agree, with the word of God. On this word we ground ourselves, and not on the person or doctrines of a man, let him be Luther or any other person; because all men may err. We will therefore be judged only by the word of God,” The name of Lutheran was given to them by their opponents; the name by which they desired to be denominated is, “The Evangelical Church.”
3. The great and leading principle of the Lutheran church, says Mosheim (Eccl. hist, vol. 4) is, that the holy scriptures are the only source, from whence we are to draw our religious sentiments, whether they relate to faith or practice. There are, indeed, several formularies adopted by the church, which contain the principal points of its doctrine; but the books, containing these formularies, have no authority beyond what they derive from the scriptures, whose sense and meaning they are designed to convey; nor are the Lutheran doctors permitted to interpret or explain these books, so as to draw from thence any propositions, that are inconsistent with the express declarations of God.
4. One of the fundamental maxims of this church, says the same author, is, that Christians are accountable to God alone for their religious principles, and that no individual could be justly punished by magistrates for his erroneous principles, as long as he conducted himself like a virtuous and obedient subject, and made no attempt to disturb the peace and order of civil society.
5. The Augsburg confession contains twenty-eight chapters or articles. Some of them however only point out the errors and abuses, that occasioned their separation from the church of Rome. Presuming that such articles would be of little use to Christians of our days, we have contented ourselves with translating and making remarks on such only as are esteemed essential and necessary to salvation. And as there are some articles, not at all mentioned in the confession, and only to be found in the other symbolical books, it was considered necessary also to lay them before the reader.
6. Luther was sensible of the defects of the reformation. “Many things,’’ said he, “are yet to be made better. We have only made the beginning, and we have retained some customs, for fear of giving offence to weak minds. They that come after us, we hope, will be enabled, by the spirit of God, to do more.” We therefore find, that the Lutheran church, since that time, has given up several customs and ceremonies, which were existing at the time of the reformation.
In the first place, we unanimously teach and hold, agreeably to the decree of the council of Nice, that there is one only Divine Being, who is called, and truly is God; but that there are three persons in this only Divine Being—equally powerful, equally eternal—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost; all three one Divine Being, eternal, without parts, without end—of unmeasurable power, wisdom and goodness—the Creator and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible.
1. In this article, Luther and Melanchton use the words which are found in the Nicean decree. They wished to deviate as little as possible from the old received and established expressions. From the other writings of the Lutheran divines, we find that they expressed themselves thus: “There is but one God, who is called Father, Son and Holy Ghost. See Ordo Salutis in the Lutheran Catechism.
2. That this article contains something above e»ui comprehension, is granted; but this does not prove that it is contrary to reason. Even in temporal matters, there are many things above our comprehension which yet agree with reason and experience. Indeed, we can fully comprehend but very little of the things which we daily see. It is enough for us to know, that God has revealed himself thus to mankind, and he certainly knows best, how and what he is, and it is our duty to believe him.
OF ORIGINAL, OR INHERITED SIN.
We teach, that after the fall of Adam, all men, who are naturally born, are conceived and born in sin; that is, that they are all, from their infancy, full of bad desires and dispositions, and can have no true fear of God, nor faith in God, by nature; and that this innate disease and inherited sin, is really to be accounted sin, and condemneth all, who are not born again of water and the Holy Ghost.
The Lutheran, catechism, gives the following definition:—Original sin consists in a propensity to things forbidden by the law of God and an aversion to his will.
In the Apology of the Confession, we find the following definition:—Original sin consists in a want of the first holiness and righteousness in paradise.
1. The last clause in the above article, contained in the words, “condemneth all,” &c. is explained by some, thus: If we suffer our depraved nature to have the rule over us, it will certainly lead us to ruin and condemnation.
2. Dr. Michaelis, has the following in his Comp. Theol. Dogm.: Original sin, or the innate moral disease, which every person feels, and on account of which he sighs, consists in a preponderance of sensuality over reason. (Uebergewicht der Sinnlichkeit uber die vernunft) Sensual things weigh more with us than the things of reason. Our scale, if I may so speak, is false, much like one which has one arm too long, and the other too short. Hence our propensity to evil is much stronger than to that which is good.
The consequences of the fall of Adam were: 1. the moral disease, which we call, in the language of theology, original sin, or innate depravity of nature; and 2. the loss of immortality. Thus far is the sin of Adam imputed to us. We have, in consequence of it, an innate natural depravity, and we are all liable to death—but further, the fall of Adam is not imputed to us.
3. Dr. Kunze, a learned modern divine of the Lutheran church, has the following observations in his History of the Christian religion:—“To derive original sin from the first man’s being the federal head or representative of the human race, seems not satisfactory to a mind, inclined to derive or expect only good and perfect things, from the good and perfect Creator. By one man’s disobedience, it is true, many were made sinners, but not on account of an imputation of this man’s sin, but because by him, sin entered into the world.”
4. Original sin, saith a pious author in his introduction to the book entitled ‘Whole duty of man,’ is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that is naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil; so that the flesh lusteth contrary to the spirit, and therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation; and this infection of nature doth remain, even in them that are regenerated.
And as man could not recover himself, nor raise himself out of his own ruin, and as no creature was able to do it, the mercy of God, pitied our misery, and his wisdom devised this expedient, to reconcile his mercy and justice, viz. that no man should on account of original sin, be eternally, miserable, except through his own fault; and his goodness resolved, that the Son of God should undertake this work, satisfy the offended justice of the Almighty, and repair the ruined nature of mankind.”
5. This doctrine of the moral depravity of mankind, was even taught by the heathen philosophers:— Plato and Socrates often speak of a moral disease— Aristotle calls it kakon suggenes, i.e. an innate evil—and a Latin author says, Video meliora, proboque sed deteriora sequor, i.e. I see the right and approve of it, and yet I pursue the wrong. Even, in nature, children inherit the natures and diseases of their parents; if parents have ruined and diseased their natures, by sinful practices, their offspring feel the consequences.
6. Zwingle’s opinion of original sin, may be taken from the following, extracted from Milner’s church history, vol. 5:— Sin is the transgression of a law, and where there is no law, there is no transgression. Our original father sinned; but who among us did eat of the forbidden tree? Original sin, as it is in us, who are the offspring of Adam, cannot justly be called our sin. It is a disease, a depraved state. So a rebel, who is taken a prisoner in battle, may be made a slave, and if so, his children may also be made slaves; but the fault was in the father. The children may be blameless and yet have to suffer on account of the sins of the father. If you wish to call their state sin, because they were brought into it by sin and rebellion, I have nothing to say against it. In this sense, we are all children of wrath, by nature.
OF THE SON OF GOD.
We also teach, that God the Son, became man, born of the Virgin Mary; and that the two natures, divine and human, inseparably united together in one person, are one Christ, who is true God and man, who was truly born, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead and buried—that he was a sacrifice, not only for original sin, but also for all other sins, and reconciled the wrath of God. Also that the same Christ descended into hell, truly arose from the dead on the third day, that he ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right of God; that he eternally rules over all his creatures and governs; that he sanctifies, strengthens and comforts, through his Holy Spirit, all, who believe in him, and gives unto them life and various gifts and blessings—and that he defends and protects them against the devil and against sin.
Also, that the same Lord Christ, will publicly come to judge the living and the dead.
In the Lutheran catechism, we find the following words:—I believe, that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord; who hath redeemed, purchased and delivered me, a poor forlorn and condemned person, from sin, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy precious blood, and with his innocent sufferings and death; in order that I might be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and happiness.— part 2, of the Creed.
1. Christ offered up himself a sacrifice for all men, and hath purchased for them God’s grace, righteousness, life, and salvation, and the holy Ghost. Freylinghausen’s Qrdo Salutis, in the Lutheran Catechism.
2. Our Saviour has made a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; he has suffered a cruel and ignominious death upon the cross for our sakes, and by his death and sufferings has purchased this grace for us, that real repentance and sincere obedience shall be accepted instead of innocence; but without this repentance and renewed obedience we shall not be accepted on any terms. The sacrifice which he offered, although of infinite value, will be of no avail to us, unless in conformity to his death and resurrection, we die unto sin, and rise again, unto newness of life. Whole duty of man, page 18.
3. When by our sins we had justly incurred the displeasure of Almighty God and were liable to eternal misery, our blessed Saviour discharged the obligation, and by shedding his most precious blood as the price of redemption, made satisfaction to God for us; he was contented to be offered a sacrifice for us, to bear our sins in his own body on the tree, and to atone for the guilt of our offences, by the one oblation of himself once offered for us all. And he died not only for our benefit and advantage, but in our place and stead, so that, if he had not died, we had eternally perished, without being able to escape the justice of an angry God. Ibidem, page 97
4. In considering the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, (says Dr. Michaelis) we must not confine our views to this our small world, which is comparatively speaking, but a grain of sand to the whole universe; no, we must consider, that the bible represents Christ as known to the whole creation, to all other worlds. And thus the satisfaction of Christ becomes an example of the justice and mercy of God to all his other subjects. In punishing his only beloved son, who had become our substitute, he proved his hatred to sin more, than if he had punished us individually, and punishment executed on so infinitely great and beloved a being, must indeed be more deterring to all his subjects, than if he had eternally punished the whole fallen race of Adam. If God spared not his only begotten son, how can they hope to be spared, if they should transgress. Mich. Com. Theol. Dogm.—art. Christ.
5. The nature and extent of the efficacy of the great atonement made by Christ, (says Dr. Blair) we are unable, as yet, fully to trace. Part we are capable of beholding; and the wisdom of what we behold, we have reason to adore. We discern in this plan of redemption the evil of sin strongly exhibited; and the justice of the divine government awfully exemplified, in Christ suffering for sinners. But let us not imagine, that our present discoveries unfold the whole influence of the death of Christ. It is connected with causes into which we cannot penetrate. It produces consequences too extensive for us to explore. God’s thoughts are not as our thoughts. In all things we see only in part; and here, if anywhere, we see also, as through a glass, darkly. Blair’s Sermons, vol. 1, page 74.
6. The infidel rejects the doctrine of an atonement, because he cannot fully comprehend it. I might ask, what can we short-sighted creatures fully comprehend? very little indeed, even of those things which we daily see. And shall we reject the plan of salvation made by omnipotent wisdom, because we cannot fully look into it? Shall the man who is sinking under a mortal disease, refuse the medicine, which shall infallibly restore him, because he is ignorant of the ingredients of which it is composed?— Shall the criminal, who is under the sentence of death, reject the pardon, which is unexpectedly offered to him, because he cannot conceive in what manner, and by what means, it was obtained for him? In short, shall we determine not to be saved, because God chooses to do it, not in our way, but in his own? This would certainly be acting very foolishly and dangerously.—Let us not, my brethren, be among the number of such deluded persons. Let us not make God a liar by disbelieving his word. Let us on the contrary believe the report that there is salvation in none other, and that, through Christs name, whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins.—Acts 10, 43.
We teach, that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sins and righteousness before God, through our own merits, works or satisfaction, but that we obtain forgiveness of sins, and become righteous before God through grace, for Christ’s sake, by faith, if we believe that Christ suffered for us, and that for his sake sins are forgiven, and righteousness and eternal life are granted to us.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Art. Epis. Church.
1. Saving faith must have a promise of God for its object. This promise is, that God will forgive us our sins, and grant us eternal life for Christ’s sake, under the condition that we penitently receive and embrace him as our Saviour. Mich. comp.th.dog. art. Faith.
He, who feels sorrow and grief on account of his sins, and truly believes that he is deserving of eternal damnation, but yet, that God will pardon his sins for Christ’s sake, will receive and embrace this promise of forgiveness and eternal life, with the greatest desire and eagerness, and at the same time be willing to perform those conditions, under which God offers them, to the utmost of his ability; so that he will endeavor, from that moment, to renounce the service of sin, for which Christ had to endure such dreadful punishments, and strive to love him with all his heart. Ibidem.
2. The faith, by and through which we are justified, consists not in a bare knowledge and assent to the truth of the gospel; but it is a certain inward persuasion, by which we sincerely, and with our whole heart, do embrace the doctrines contained in the word of God as true, and especially Christ as our Saviour, and this persuasion must penetrate the heart; and be accompanied with a suitable practice. Osterwald’s Theology.
3. The distinguishing doctrine of the reformation saith Dr. Buchanan, in his sermon, entitled “Star in the East,” was justification by faith. “This, said Luther, is the only solid rock. This rock, continues he, did Satan shake in paradise, when he persuaded our first parents, that by their own wisdom and power they might become like unto God, and thereby induced them to renounce their faith in God, who had given them life and a promise of its continuance.— The kingdom of Satan, added Luther, is to be resisted by this heavenly and all-powerful doctrine. Whether we be rude or eloquent—whether we be learned or unlearned, this rock must be defended—this doctrine must be published in animated strains.—It is “the magna charta ecclesiae stantis vel cadentis.” Luther’s preface to the Galatians.
OF THE MINISTRY.
To obtain such a faith, God hath instituted the ministry, and given us the gospel and the sacraments, through which, as means, he gives the Holy spirit, who works faith, where and when he will, in those that attentively hear the gospel, which teaches that we have a merciful God, through Christ’s merits, and not through any merit of our own.
OF RENEWED OBEDIENCE.
We also teach, that such a faith brings forth good fruit and good works, and that we must do such good works, as God hath commanded, yet not to trust in them, as if we could thereby merit grace with God.— For we obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness, through faith in Christ, as Christ himself saith, Luke 17: When ye shall have done all those things, which are commanded you, ye shall say, we are unprofitable servants. Thus the Fathers also teach; for Ambrosius saith: It is so determined by God, that he who believes in Christ shall be saved and obtain forgiveness of sins, not through works, but only through faith, without any merits of his own.
OF THE CHURCH.
We teach, that there must always be a holy Christian church, which is a congregation of the faithful, in which the gospel is purely preached, and the holy sacraments administered agreeably to Christ ordinance.
And this is sufficient to a true unity of the Christian churches, that the gospel be preached and the sacraments administered agreeably to the word of God. It is therefore not necessary to the unity of the Christian churches, that ceremonies instituted by men, should be alike at all places, as Paul saith, Eph. iv. 4, 5. There is one body and one spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and. through all, and in you all.
Of the members, which compose the Church, and of the unworthiness of Ministers not hindering the effect of the Sacraments.
Although the Christian church be a congregation of the faithful and holy; yet, whereas there are many false Christians and hypocrites in the world, and there will always be open sinners among the pious, nevertheless the sacraments are effectual, although the preachers, by whom they are administered, be not pious, as our saviour himself saith, Math, xxiii. 2; “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. ”
We teach that baptism is necessary, and that grace is thereby offered, and that children are to be baptised, who are by such baptism dedicated to God and made pleasing to him.
We therefore cannot agree with those, who reject infant baptism.
Baptism is not mere water, but it is that water, which the ordinance of God enjoins, and which is connected with God’s word. Lutheran catechism.
Again, baptism is an holy sacrament and a divine token, that God the Father, together with the son and the Holy Ghost, certifies, that he will be a merciful God to the baptised person, and pardon all his sins out of pure mercy, for Christ’s sake, and receive him as his child, and an heir of heavenly blessings. Ibidem.
Again, baptism assures us of God’s grace, of forgiveness of sins, of adoption into the family of God, and of the inheritance of eternal life, under the condition, that we renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, and strive to believe and serve God as long as we live. Ibidem.
1. In baptism we enter into a covenant with God. He promises to be our Father for Christ’s sake, and to grant us his Holy Spirit, in order to guide us into the ways of truth and holiness; and we promise to become his dutiful children. As long as we fulfil our part of the contract or covenant, we may be assured that God’s promises will stand firm.
2. Baptism is considered by the Lutheran Church, as the washing of regeneration; thus Paul calls it, Tit. 3, 5. We therefore find that in the primitive church, baptism and regeneration were used as synonymous terms. The Jews, when they baptised, heathens, who became proselytes to them, considered them, when baptised, as regenerated, that is, although they were born of heathens, yet after baptism, they were considered, as if they had been born of Jewish parents; this was the received opinion of the word regeneration among the Jews, Thus in christian baptism, although we are by nature born in sin and of sinful parents, yet in baptism God condescends in mercy, for Christ’s sake, to adopt us as his children, and to take us under his particular care.— Mich. comp, theol.
3. Original sin is forgiven in baptism, not as though it were no more, but that it is not imputed to us. Augustine and Luther—Apology of Confession.
4.In the German Heidelberg catechism we find the following words: Christ hath instituted baptism, and hath thereby promised, that I am as surely washed with his blood and spirit from the impurity of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as I am outwardly washed with water, which usually takes away the impurity of my body.
5. It is not the want of baptism, but the despising of baptism, which condemns.
6. Concerning sponsors, commonly called godfathers and godmothers, the church decrees nothing. It is entirely at the option of the parents to stand for their children themselves, or to have sponsors.
7. The Lutherans baptise by pouring or sprinkling of water, but yet do not reject immersion; they consider one way as good as the other.
8. They hold infant baptism, because,
a. Children were not excluded from the church of God in the old testament. They were circumcised, when they are eight days old. And can we imagine; that the blessed Jesus came to straiten or contract the privileges of the new testament, and put Christians into a worse state, than the Jews were under the old?
b. Christ hath declared, Math. x. 14, of such is the kingdom of God, i.e. such shall be admitted into my kingdom.
c. Because it is said, Acts ii. 38, the promise is unto you and to your children.
d. When the Jews baptised their proselytes, they at the same time baptised the children of such proselytes; this was a known and established custom.— When therefore our Saviour commanded his apostles to go into the world, and make all nations his disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the apostles could not understand him other wise, but that he wished them also to baptise children, as that was a customary thing. Indeed, had our Saviour wished to exclude the children from baptism, it would have been necessary to give the apostles an express prohibition, and to say unto them, go ye and baptise, but not as is customary among the Jews, who also baptise the children of their proselytes, no, I will have none but adults accepted into my church.
e. Because the apostles baptised whole families, Acts, xvi. 33.—and finally
f. Because parents have aright to make contracts for their children, to their advantage, as long as such children have not attained the proper use of their rear son.
OF THE HOLY SUPPER.
Of the Supper of the Lord we teach that the true body and blood of Jesus Christ is verily present, under the external signs of bread and wine, in the supper, and there communicated and received.
It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the external signs of bread and wine, given unto Christians to eat and drink, as it was instituted by Christ himself. Lutheran catechism.
The supper of Christ is an holy sacrament and divine token, wherein Christ truly offers unto us, under bread and wine, his body and blood, and assures us thereby, that we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Ibidem,
1. To understand the above expressions, it is necessary to consider, that Zwingle, the reformer in Switzerland,(who had agreed with Luther in every essential point, but this,) taught that the Lord’s supper was only a commemoration of the death of Christ, and that nothing was either offered or received in the Sacrament: with this Luther would not agree. He insisted that, agreeably to the nature of a sacrament, something must be offered and received. Hence arose that expression—true body. He wished to say that there really was a partaking of the body and blood of Christ in the supper.
2. The Lutherans therefore hold, that the bread remains bread, and the wine remains wine; but assure as the penitent communicant receives the bread and wine, so surely does he receive the body and blood of the Lord Jesus—or in other words, the benefits of redemption; that there is therefore an union or communion between the external signs, and the body and blood of Christ. 1 Cor. 10. However they do not attempt an explanation of the manner of this union. Let it be called, say they, a sacramental union, because there is nothing in the nature of things, that can illustrate it, or that is like it. Dr. Kunze’s history of the Lutheran church.
3. Calvin, saith a writer in the Cyclopedia, (art. Church) substituted, instead of the system adopted by Zwingle with regard to the eucharist, another, which appeared more conformable to the doctrine of the Lutheran church, and which, in reality, differed very little from it; for he acknowledged a real, though spiritual presence of Christ in this Sacrament.— His words, taken from his institutes, are, “I hold myself without contradiction to the promise of Christ. He commands me to take, to eat and to drink his body and his blood, under the signs of bread and wine, in the supper; and I, for my part, doubt not, but, that he really gives that which he hath promised, and that I receive it out of his hands.”
4. In the confession of the reformed church, in the Spanish Netherlands, as also of the reformed French church, we find the following words: we confess that Jesus Christ nourishes us in the holy supper, with his true body and blood, and that he really and verily communicates to us, what he therein represents. Risler’s extracts.
5. Sacrifices constituted a part of public worship; they prefigured Christ’s atoning death. The Christians ought not to be without this essential part of worship. But their sacrificing consists in partaking of the Lord’s body and blood, pursuant to the express institution of Christ. The fathers of the first centuries are unanimous in calling the Lord’s supper—-the Christian sacrifice. Neglecting this, is giving up our interest in Christ’s atoning death. Kunze’s history.
6. In the celebration of the Lord’s supper, it is left to the Congregation, whether to use bread or sacramental cakes.
7. The sacraments are means of grace, and therefore to be administered, not only to the pious and converted, but also to those who are desirous of their salvation, and willing publicly to confess their Saviour. It was not instituted for angels or the saints in heaven, but for the poor, the bungling and thirsting, and for those who desire the cure of their diseased souls. To say I dare not go to the Lord’s supper, until I am really converted, is the same as if a sick person should say, I will take no medicine before I am cured.
The passage, 1 Cor. xi. 29, hath been often used to deter poor and contrite souls from the communion, where it is said: he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. But it is to be observed that the word damnation, certainly means in this passage, judgment or temporal chastisement, as the context plainly proves. And the word unworthily is not the noun anaxios, but the adverb anaxiws, and does not refer to the state or situation of the person who receives the communion, but to the manner in which he receives it. The apostle wishes to say, “He who eats and drinks in a disrespectful and unbecoming manner, will certainly bring down upon himself the chastisements of the Lord”—If the receiving of the Lord’s supper will even not be an effectual means to save him, God cannot save him, unless it is by and through severe chastisements. —Mich. Com. Theo. Dogm.
Before I conclude this article, I will take the liberty of translating a few’ passages from a work lately published in Germany, (1814,) entitled, “Practical remarks concerning: the conduct of evangelical ministers.” This work contains the opinions of a conference of preachers assembled at Herrnhut, and composed of members of the different societies of United brethren, Reformed and Lutherans. Under the article of the Lord’s supper, they say:
“An evangelical preacher must often explain to his hearers the design and importance of the Holy Supper, and tell them what belongs to a worthy reception of the same; but he has no right to reject a person from receiving the communion, because he supposes him to be yet in an unregenerated state. Such, however, as are openly living in sin, and would dishonor the table of the Lord, he may keep back until they come to the knowledge of their sinful state and promise to reform their lives.—It is his great consolation, that he dare tender an universal offer of grace, without hesitation, to all souls to whom he gives the Sacrament, and we know not how often the Saviour makes use of this occasion, to touch their hearts, and lead them to true repentance.
“It is an erroneous opinion, that every unconverted person receives the holy Sacrament to his damnation. The passage recorded 1 Cor. xi. 29, certainly does not warrant this assertion; for Paul expressly says in the 32d verse, ‘when we are judged (punished, chastised or damned) we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.’ We therefore, draw upon ourselves temporal chastisements, if we do not receive this Sacrament with becoming reverence and respect. It must also be considered, that the apostle does not say, he who eats as an unworthy person, but he who eats in an unworthy, unbecoming, disrespectful manner.— So, that he is not speaking at all of the worthiness of the communicant, but of the respect and reverence wherewith the Sacrament is to be celebrated. If therefore, a person comes to the table of the Lord with true reference and humility, we need not fear that he receives it unworthily; and experience teaches, that most persons are powerfully moved on that occasion, and we have no doubt of its being the means, of bringing many to repentance and to Christ.”
OF CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION.
We teach, that private confession may be retained in the church; although it is not necessary in our confession to mention all our sins and transgressions, because it is not possible, Ps. xix. 12: Who can understand his errors?
In the 25th article, we find the following words: It is not necessary to force the people to mention their particular sins. Thus did Chrysostom teach: I do not say, that you shall publicly accuse yourself, but obey the words of the prophet, who says, Reveal thyself and commit thy ways to the Lord. Therefore, confess to God, the true Judge, not naming your sins with your tongue but in your conscience. Confession before or to a priest, is not commanded in scripture—it was only ordained by the church.
It was a custom before the reformation, to make confession of sins, in private, to a priest, and to obtain absolution from him. Luther and his colleagues contended, that this custom was not commanded in holy scripture, and that it was only an ordinance of the church, which might be of use, when properly conducted. However, they did not believe, that the absolution by the priest would be of any use, unless the person confessing, was in a truly penitent state; and then, it could not be considered, that the priest could absolve: all that he could do, was to declare to the penitent, the promises of God, concerning the forgiveness of sins, and to pronounce the threatenings of the law of God, to the impenitent, as long as they continued in sin.
At present, this custom is regulated thus, in the Lutheran churches: A day or two before the holy sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is to be administered in a congregation, the persons desirous of becoming communicants, go to the house of the minister, or to any other appointed place, to give in their names, so that he may have an opportunity to speak to them concerning their spiritual state; and that they also may have an opportunity to disclose their state to him, and ask his advice. The day previous to the administration of the Lord’s Supper, all, who wish to become communicants, attend at the church for divine worship. After singing an hymn and praying, a suitable discourse is delivered—the object of which, is to assist the hearers, in an examination of themselves, in order to bring them to a sense of their sinfulness and depravity, and to induce them to humble themselves before the throne of God, to seek forgiveness of sins in the blood of the Redeemer, and to make the solemn resolution to amend their lives. After this discourse, some questions are put to the audience, which are answered in the affirmative. The congregation then kneels—one of them repeats a confession of sins with an audible voice—the minister adds a few ejaculations; and, after all have stood up, he pronounces pardon and absolution to all the truly penitent; but, at the same time, he says to the impenitent, that they cannot hope for the pardon of their sins, until they sincerely turn from their wicked ways to the Lord.
This is all the Lutheran church holds concerning confession and absolution, as may be more fully seen in their liturgy.
The formule of absolution in the Roman church, (says the Cyclopedia, art. Absolution) is absolute—in the Greek church, it is deprecatory—and in the Protestant churches it is declarative.
We teach, that those who have sinned after baptism, may again obtain forgiveness of sin, at any time, if they repent, and that absolution shall not be denied them by the church. And true repentance is to have real sorrow and terror on account of sin, and at the same time, a trust or faith in the gospel, that the sins be forgiven and grace is obtained through Christ, which faith again comforts and quiets the heart; but afterwards true amendment of life must follow, so that we forsake sin;—for this must be the fruit of repentance, as John saith, Matt. iii. Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
Hence, we do not agree with those, who teach, that they who were once pious, cannot fall again.
1. We say, that repentance hath two parts: contrition and faith. However, if any person is desirous of adding a third part, viz. the fruits of repentance, which are good works, we will not dispute with him, Apol. of Confes.
2. It is certainly a false repentance, if we do not strive to render satisfaction, to the utmost of our power, to those whom we have wronged; for, if he who hath stolen or cheated, and hath other mens goods in his possession, doth not return them, his sorrow and contrition, is certainly not of a proper nature. He remains a thief or defrauder in the eyes of God and man, as long as he is not willing to make satisfaction. Therefore, restitution is to be considered a fruit of repentance. Apol. of Conf.
3. Repentance, saith Luther, consists in a knowledge of one’s errors and misery, and an amendment of life; It may be defined “An entire and zealous change of the mind and of the heart”—it teaches us to know our sins, and to become new beings—it purifies and cleanses us daily from sins. And this repentance continues until death. There are some indeed who say, (and I have discoursed with such) that all those, who have once repented and obtained faith, cannot fall. If they even sinned afterwards, yet they would still remain in a state of grace, and their sins’ would not injure them. Do what you please, say they, if you believe, your sins are all done away— faith destroys sin—once a saint, always a saint.—And, they add, if a person sin, after having repented and obtained faith and the spirit, it is a proof that he never really repented, that he never had faith nor the spirit. This is certainly a false and dangerous doctrine, a doctrine which the bible does not teach.
4. To be convinced of sin, is, to have sorrow and contrition, and to tremble on account of God’s wrath and judgment; after which true amendment of life must follow, so that we forsake and give up every sin, and strive to live agreeably to the will of God. Luther.
5. We must also take care not to delay our repentance or conversion, by thinking that we have time enough, and that death is not so near. We hold that a death-bed repentance is a very dangerous thing. He, who wishes to repent, should strive to do it immediately; otherwise there is danger that all he may do, will be vain and useless. See Tishler’s extracts from Luther’s works.
OF THE USE OF THE SACRAMENTS.
The Sacraments were instituted, not only as signs, whereby Christians may outwardly be known; but also as signs and testimonies of the divine will towards us, thereby to awaken and to strengthen our faith; therefore they require faith, and are only used rightly, when they are received in faith, and when our faith is strengthened thereby.
There are but two Sacraments, ordained by Christ, viz. Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Lutheran Catechism.
1. The Sacraments are to be considered as holy, mysterious ceremonies, commanded by Christ, in which God’s grace and blessings are offered, and communicated unto us. Michaelis Comp. Theol.
2. They are outward and visible signs of inward, and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as means, whereby we receive the same, and as pledges to assure us thereof.
3. The Sacraments are designed to preserve and perpetuate the religion of Christ to all future generations, and are necessary to salvation, for those that can have them.
Not that our blessed Lord will condemn all heathens or others, who have never heard of his name, for not partaking of the Sacraments, which never came to their knowledge, or that he will condemn innocent children, who die unbaptised; but that all, to whom the knowledge of these institutions is come, and who have it in their power to partake of them, are indispensably obliged to do so.
OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT
We hold, that no person should teach publicly, or preach in the church, or administer the sacraments, without a regular call.
1. The government of the Lutheran church is various: Where the rulers are of the same Christian confession, the church follows their direction in external matters, and for the ordination of ministers, these rulers establish councils, called Consistories; but where this is not the case, or where the government is of a republican form, the ministers together form a body for the purpose of governing the church, and examining and ordaining ministers—as in Hamburg, Frankfort and America. The ministers, however, are every where under the inspection of an ecclesiastical overseer, called Bishop, in Denmark and Sweden;—Superintendants, Inspectors or Seniors, in Germany—and Senior or Presidents, in Pennsylvania, New-York and Carolina. Their authority, however, does not extend further, than to admonish, to examine applicants, and grant licences ad interim to them, and make reports to the Consistories, Synods or Ministeriums. See Dr. Kunze’s Hist. of the Church.
2. It may be asked, saith a learned divine, whether the office of Bishops be different from the office of Presbyters, so as to constitute two distinct orders? We answer, that there is no essential difference between them, and that they both belong to the same order; for the scriptures confound Bishops and Presbyters together, Acts xx, 17, compared with verse 28— Tit. i. 5, compared with verse 7, &c. &c. Yet, it cannot be denied, that in the primitive church, there was always an Inspector, Overseer, President or Head of the ministry, who presided over others, that were, however, in a state of equality with himself. See articles of Smalkalden and the 3d part of this work, chap. 2.
OF CHURCH ORDINANCES.
Of church ordinances and regulations, we teach, that those may be attended to, which may be observed without sinning, and which may be conducive to peace and good order in the church; yet we give this instruction, that the consciences of men should not be molested or burdened therewith, as though they were necessary to salvation. And we believe, that all statutes and traditions, made by men, for the mere purpose of reconciling God, and meriting grace, are contrary to the gospel, and the doctrine of faith in Christ. Therefore we hold, that monastic vows and other traditions of the difference of meats, of days, &c. &c. whereby some conceive to merit grace, and render satisfaction for sin, are of no avail, and contrary to the gospel.
A leading principle of the Lutheran church, says Mosheim in his Church history, is, “That Christ has left on record no express injunction with respect to the external regulation and form, that is to be observed in the church; and consequently, that every society has aright to establish such a form, as seemeth conducive to the interest, and adapted to the peculiar state, circumstances and exigences of the community; provided, that such regulation be in no respect prejudicial to truth, or favorable to the revival of superstition; and further, that no political government hath, a right to compel any society or set of men, to believe or hold to any established tenets or forms of discipline, because man is amenable only to God for his religious principles.”
OF POLITICAL GOVERNMENT.
Of polity and worldly government, we teach, that the higher powers in the world, and regulations and laws conducive to good order, are to be considered as created and instituted by God. And that christians may hold either legislative, judicial or executive offices, without sinning—that they may pronounce sentence according to imperial or other rights—that they may punish transgressors with the sword;—they may also be engaged in just wars—they may buy and sell—they may take oaths when required to do so by magistrates—they may hold property—they may marry, &c.
We, therefore, do not agree with those who teach that such things are contrary to Christianity; neither do we agree with those, who say, that it belongs to Christian perfection, to forsake house and property, wife and children. For, we conceive, that this is true perfection, to have a true fear of God, and a true faith in God. The gospel doth not teach an outward temporal, but an inward eternal righteousness of the heart, and does not abolish worldly governments, polity or matrimony; but desires that we should esteem them as true and real ordinances, and that each should show Christian charity and good works, in his particular state of life. Christians are therefore bound to be subject to the higher powers, and to be obedient to their laws, in all things, which can be done without sinning. But if the laws of government cannot be obeyed without sinning, then we must hearken more to God than man. Acts iv. 19.
OF CHRIST’S COMING TO JUDGMENT.
It is also taught among us, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge, at the latter day—that he will raise up the dead, and give to all the faithful and elect eternal life an joy; but that he will condemn wicked men and devils to hell, and eternal punishments.
1. The soul of man, after death, doth not sleep, but continues to live, and enters either into paradise, or into a place of pain and torments. On the day of resurrection, our bodies will be reanimated, by the power of Almighty God, and reunited to our souls. And then we shall have to appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to give an account of our stewardship, and be introduced either into eternal life, or eternal misery.
2. There will be different degrees of rewards among the righteous, as well as different degrees of punishments, among the wicked; for God will give to everyone according to his works.
3. We also believe that all men will be judged by the law of God, and the measure of knowledge, which they enjoyed. Such as had no other law but the law of nature, shall be judged by the natural law; and they, to whom a divine revelation was given, shall be judged according to the law of revelation. Rom. ii, 9, 10,14, 15. James ii, 12.
4. It cannot he asserted, saith Osterwald, that souls after death, do immediately enter into the full enjoyment of perfect and absolute felicity in heaven; or that they immediately endure the same torments, which Christ by his last sentence will inflict upon the wicked; for the scriptures assign both remuneration and punishment, to the last judgment of Christ. Matth. xiii. 41, &c.—Matth. xxv. 46.
Besides, man cannot he perfect, as long as his body, which is an essential part of him, is under the power of death. Yet, we do assert, that the souls of the godly are now in a state of felicity, and that they are in possession of tranquillity and joy, in the presence of the Lord; and on the other hand, that the wicked are miserable immediately after death.
5. The rev. Schmucker, on the Revelation, page 56, has the following observations:—The place into which the departed spirits come, immediately after death, is called Hades. It is the Sheol of the Hebrews, the place of shades, of dawning light, of longing and silent solicitude, the place of the general congregation of the dead, the court-yard of eternal justice, where Christ appeared in the assembly of departed spirits. In this Hades, is the Tartarus of the wicked, and the Elysium of the good. See Dr. Young’s works.
OF FREE WILL.
We teach, that man hath, in some respects a free will, to live outwardly honest, and to choose among those things, which reason comprehends; but without grace and the help and operations of the Holy Spirit, he hath not the power to become pleasing to God, nor to fear God, nor to believe, nor to put the inherited bad desires out of his heart; for this can only be done through the Holy Ghost, who is given by means of God’s word; for Paul saith I Cor. ii. 14, The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, &c.
And that it may be known, that no new doctrine is taught in this particular, we quote the plain words of Augustine, concerning free will; We confess and hold, saith he, that there is in all men, a free will, for they certainly all have natural inherited understanding and reason, not however, that they are enabled to treat with God, or truly to love or fear him, but only in outward works of this life, have they liberty and power to choose good or bad.———
In the Lutheran catechism, we find the following in the explanation of the third article of the creed:—I believe, that I cannot, merely by my own reason or other natural powers, believe or come to Jesus Christ my Lord; but that the Holy Spirit hath called me by the gospel, enlightened me by his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith, in like manner, as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies, the whole Christian church on earth, &c.
From other writings of Luther and his followers, as well modern as ancient, we find the following to be the accepted opinion.
1. Man is a free moral agent; he is not a mere machine, else he could not be accountable for his actions.
2. His understanding however is become darkened, and his will depraved; and, by his own powers, he never would have been able even to find out the way to salvation, much less to save himself.
3. God however pitied him, and sent his Son into the world to save him, to enlighten him by his gospel, and to prescribe proper means for his salvation; at the same time, he offers to him the assistance of his Holy Spirit, and this Spirit is continually striving with him.
4. Now man, as a moral agent can make use of these means, if he pleases, or he may reject them—he may attend to the operations of the Holy Spirit, or he may resist them; if he reject and resist them, he cannot be saved, but it will be his own fault; but if he makes use of them to the best of his abilities, and attends to the workings of the Holy Spirit on his heart, he will first be brought to the knowledge of his sinful and depraved state—he will, secondly be led to the Saviour—he will, thirdly, obtain new dispositions and strength to walk the ways of God, with zeal, steadiness and delight—and, fourthly, if he continues faithful to the end, he will be saved. Whosoever hath, saith our Saviour, Math, xiii, 12, to him shall be given, and he shall have in abundance, &c. i.e. he that makes good use of his powers and faculties, and of the means of grace, which God hath given him, shall obtain, more grace; but he, that doth not make good use of them cannot expect that God should do more for him; for if he be not faithful in smaller things, how can he expect that God will entrust him with greater blessings.
The following sentiments of a devout and pious divine, may throw some light on the subject: “The great plea, that men do generally make, for the wickedness or carelessness of their lives, is this: that it really is not in their power to live up to such a state of holiness and virtue, as the law of God obligeth them to do. Conversion is the work of God, and cannot be wrought by a man’s self, and therefore till God shall please to come upon them with an unresistible power of his holy Spirit, they must be contented to live as they do, nay, they must unavoidably live so.” Now, it is readily granted, that without God’s grace, no man can do anything, and we grant likewise, that it is very probable their circumstances may be such, that it is not morally possible, on a sudden, to live as they ought to do; for their bad principles are really more powerful than their good ones; but yet, in the mean time we must tell them, that they are not mere stocks and stones. How much reason soever they have to complain of the infirmity and degeneracy of their natures, yet some things they can do toward the bettering of them; for instance, though they cannot, on a sudden, conquer the inward bent and inclination of their minds, so as to hate all sin, and to delight in virtue; yet they must confess, that they have a power over their outward actions—they can as well direct their feet towards the church, as to the house of gaming, or drinking, or lewdness—their eyes will serve them as well to look upon a bible, or a serious discourse about religion, as to read a scurrilous and profane book—it is as much in their power to yield their ears to the reasonable advice of their sober friends, as to the mad harangues of the dissolute company they keep.— These things they certainly can do if they will, and they can do even more than this—they may give themselves time to consider and think of what they read, or what is said to them, or what their own experience or observation of things will suggest to their minds—and they can further add to their consideration, their prayers to Almighty God to direct them, to assist them, and to strengthen them. And though it is certain, that all this, without God’s special grace, will not be effectual for their conversion, yet, if they will but do as much as this comes to, we can assure them, that in time they shall have this special grace, which they now want. In the same proportion, that they use and employ those gifts and powers, which they at present have, God will increase and enlarge them; for to him that hath, to him shall be given.’ &c.—Duty of Man, p, 20.
OF THE CAUSE OF SIN.
Of the cause of sin, we teach, that although Almighty God hath created and doth preserve all nature, yet we believe, that the perverse will, produces sin in all the wicked and despisers of God; it being also the devil’s will, to turn them from God, to that which is bad, as soon as God takes off his hands from them.
OF FAITH AND GOOD WORKS.
We have been falsely charged, with forbidding good works; for our writings on the ten commandments and our other books prove, that we have given good and useful instruction and exhortation, as to really good works, which in former times, were seldom taught, as they were only preaching up childish unnecessary works, as rosaries, worship of saints, pilgrimages, fastings, festivals, &c.
And whereas the doctrine of faith has not for a long time been truly taught, but all were preaching up the doctrine of works, we therefore give the following instruction: That our works cannot reconcile us to God, and obtain grace; but this is obtained only through faith, if we believe that for Christ’s sake, our sins are forgiven, who is the only Mediator to reconcile the Father. He, therefore, who thinks to do this through works, despises Christ and seeketh his own way to God, contrary to the gospel. This doctrine of faith, is clearly taught in the epistles of Paul, and particularly in the epistle to the Ephesians, 2d chap, where we read, “By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”————
And although this doctrine may be despised by inconsiderate men, yet it is certain, that it is very consoling and salutary to the humble and terrified conscience; for conscience cannot come to rest and peace through works, but only through faith, if we can assuredly conclude, that we have a merciful God for Christ’s sake, as Paul saith, Rom. v. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We also give instruction, that we do not speak of such a faith, as even the devils and the ungodly have, who likewise believe the history of Christ’s suffering and resurrection from the dead; but we speak of that faith, which lays hold of the promises of God, and works by love and good works.————
We therefore teach, that good works shall and must be done, not for the purpose of trusting in them, or of meriting grace by them, but for God’s sake and to the praise of God.—And it is faith which enables the heart to do works really good.————
Wherefore, the doctrine of faith is not to be inveighed against, as if it forbid good works; it is much more to be esteemed, as it teaches to do good works, and offers assistance, so that we may be able to do good works; for without faith and without Christ, human nature and strength is much too weak to perform them. John xv.
1. With true faith, there is always connected obedience to the will of God; for faith, saith James ii. 17, if it hath not good works is dead, being alone. And Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, v. 9, saith: Christ being made perfect, became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Lutheran Catechism.
2. Michaelis, in his Comp. Theol. has this observation: Good works are necessary to the obtaining of eternal salvation, not so as to merit or purchase it, but as a part of the order or way to salvation.———Eternal life was purchased by Christ’s active and passive obedience; but the degree of happiness, which we are to enjoy, and the rewards which we are to expect, depend much on our works. Mat. vi. 19, 20, Luke xix. 12–24.
3. We must not teach of faith alone, saith Luther, or else carnally minded and ungodly men will think, that works are not necessary. We must teach both the doctrine of faith and of works; for this is also true, that God judges according to our works, as St. Peter says: Just as you live, so will your state be, and accordingly will God judge you.—— And we may be assured, that there is no true faith, where there are no good works, for the works are the fruit of the tree, by which we may see, where faith or unbelief is. God will not ask you in judgment, whether you are called a Christian, and are baptized, but he will ask, are you a Christian? then show me, where are the fruits with which you can prove your faith.— — — Therefore, it is necessary to have both faith and obedience towards God. Tishlers Extracts from the latter works of Luther.
4. Where there is no terror on account of the wrath of God, but pleasure in sinful practices, there can be no faith; for faith is to console and enliven the terrified hearts. Ibidem.
5. Our Lord Jesus Christ, hath commanded us to teach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. The preaching of repentance reproves and convinces us of sin, and to him who is terrified on account of his sins, the gospel preaches forgiveness for Christ’s sake, through grace, without any merits of his own. Such forgiveness is only obtained by faith, i.e. if we believe the promise of God, which promise is, that he will most assuredly be merciful to every penitent sinner, for Christ’s sake. Ibidem.
OF THE ADORATION OF SAINTS.
Of the adoration of saints, we teach, that we should remember them, so as to strengthen our faith, by observing how God’s grace was imparted to them, and how they were saved by faith. Also, to take an example by their good works, every one according to his calling.—But by scripture it cannot be proved, that we should call on them, or seek help from them; for there is one only Conciliator and Mediator, appointed between God and man, Jesus Christ; 1 Tim, ii. 5, who is the only Saviour, the only High Priest, the only Propitiation and Advocate before God. Rom. viii. 3 and 25. And he alone hath promised to hear our prayers. Heb. xi. 11. This is certainly the highest worship, according to scripture, that we seek and call on the same. Jesus Christ, in all our needs and concerns. 1 John, ii. 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE OPERATIONS OF THE
OF THE HOLY GHOST.
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty and glory with the Father and the Son.
He worketh on the hearts of men by the means of grace and other providential events, and calls, enlightens and sanctifies them that do not resist. Lutheran Catechism.
The Holy Ghost may be resisted, and alas! his operations are too often resisted. He was striving in vain with man before the deluge.—Our Saviour complained of the people of Jerusalem, that they would not. Math, xxiii. 37.—Stephen said to the Jews, Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye. Acts vii. 51.—And we are called upon not to harden our hearts—Heb. iii. and not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Eph. iv. 30,
In the Augsburg confession, we find nothing of Predestination; because at the time of its composition, there was no dispute about this doctrine. Godshalc, it is said, was the first, who held and taught an absolute decree, about the year of Christ 847; he maintained that God, from all eternity, had pre-ordained some to everlasting life, and others to everlasting punishments: to such, whom he preordained to life, he gave his Holy Spirit and sanctified them; but with such, whom he had pre-ordained to misery, he would have nothing to do, because he had determined they should be vessels of wrath; however, this doctrine was condemned, by several ecclesiastical councils, held in the ninth century. From that time until the time of reformation, very little was said or written about it; therefore Luther and his contemporaries made no mention of it in their confession of faith. As soon as Calvin, however, revived his doctrine of an absolute predestination, the Lutherans came forward to oppose it.— Calvin’s doctrine was, according to his own words, (3d book, ch. xxiv.) “Such as God has created to misery of life and perdition of death, that they should be the organs of his wrath and instances of severity, in order that they may come to their destination, he either deprives of the means to hear his word, or renders them, by the preaching of it, more stupid and blind.” Some of his followers went even so far as to say, that children were among the reprobated, and were suffering in hell to promote the glory of God!! With this doctrine the Lutherans never could agree; for they bad expressly declared, in their confession, delivered to the diet at Augsburg, that Christ had offered up himself, as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
The Lutherans, however, do believe a conditional predestination—a predestination of characters, but not of persons; they say: That God, from eternity, determined to bestow salvation on those, of whom he foresaw, that they would persevere in their faith in Christ Jesus, unto the end; and to inflict punishments on those, who should continue in their unbelief and disobedience, and resist his divine operations unto the end. So that election was conditional, and reprobation in like manner, the result of foreseen infidelity and persevering wickedness, and therefore, had no influence whatever, on the salvation or damnation of sinners, and was not to be attributed to any pre-ordination or decree of God. Some, however, do not even go so far; they say, that these doctrines only perplex the minds of the unlearned—that it is enough for us to know, that every person can be saved, if he makes good use of the means of grace, attends to the operations of the Holy Spirit, and lays hold of the merits of Christ by faith.
1. The passages of scripture quoted in favor of an absolute decree, recorded in the epistle of Paul to the Romans and Ephesians, are considered by the Lutherans as only relating to temporal and spiritual blessings, to external privileges and advantages in the Church of God, in this world. Thus, were the Jews called a chosen people, because God made choice of them to be more immediately attached to his worship and service—He delivered them from the state of bondage and idolatry in Egypt; and therefore, they are said to be delivered, saved, bought, purchased and redeemed—He invited them to partake of the honor and happiness of his people, and therefore they are called his chosen; but all these privileges and honors, do not import an absolute final state of happiness. Although the Jews were considered the chosen, the elect of God, they were not all saved—thousands of them were cut off in their unbelief and disobedience—their election, therefore, had no particular absolute reference to their eternal salvation.
Thus it is with the Christians. They have obtained many great outward privileges and benefits, of which the heathen world is yet deprived, and therefore they are called the chosen, the elect of God; but this is not an election by an absolute decree, and purpose of God to eternal life: for thousands of those, who enjoy these privileges, ruin themselves by unbelief and disobedience.
2. The Rev. W. Paley has the following observations on this subject, in a sermon, preached on ii. Peter, iii. 15, 10: “In opposition to the Jews, who were so much offended by the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, St. Paul maintains with great industry that it was God Almighty’s intention, from the first, to substitute, at a fit season, into the place of the rejected Israelites, a society of men taken indifferently out of all nations under heaven, and admitted to be the people of God, upon easier and more comprehensive terms—this is expressed in the epistle to the Ephesians, chap, i, 9,10, as follows: ‘having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christ.’ The scheme of collecting such a society, was, what God foreknew before the foundation of the world—what he did predestinate—was the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus; and by consequence, this society in their collective capacity, were the objects of this foreknowledge, predestination and purpose: that is, in the language of the apostles, they were they whom he did foreknow; they whom he did predestinate—they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; they were elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. This doctrine hath nothing in it harsh or obscure—but what have we made of it?—The rejection of the Jews, and the adopting of another community into their place, composed an object of great magnitude in the attention of the inspired writers, who understood and observed it. This event, which engaged so much the thoughts of the apostle is now only read of, and hardly that—the reality and the importance of it are little known or attended to—losing sight therefore, of the proper occasion of these expressions, yet willing after our fashion, to adapt them to ourselves, and finding nothing else in our circumstances that suited with them, we have learnt at length to apply them to the final destiny of individuals, at the day of judgment; and upon this foundation, has been erected a doctrine which lays the ax at once to the root of all religion, that of an absolute appointment to salvation or perdition, independent of ourselves, or anything we can do: and, what is extraordinary, those very arguments and expressions, which the apostle employed to vindicate the impartial mercies of God, against the narrow and excluding claims of jewish prejudice, have been interpreted, to establish a dispensation, the most arbitrary and partial, that could be devised.”