Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions

III. The Augsburg Confession

18 Diet Proclaimed by Emperor.

January 21, 1530, Emperor Charles V proclaimed a diet to convene at Augsburg on the 8th of April. The manifesto proceeded from Bologna, where, three days later, the Emperor was crowned by Pope Clement VII. The proclamation, after referring to the Turkish invasion and the action to be taken with reference to this great peril, continues as follows: “The diet is to consider furthermore what might and ought to be done and resolved upon regarding the division and separation in the holy faith and the Christian religion; and that this may proceed the better and more salubriously, [the Emperor urged] to allay divisions, to cease hostility, to surrender past errors to our Savior, and to display diligence in hearing, understanding, and considering with love and kindness the opinions and views of everybody, in order to reduce them to one single Christian truth and agreement, to put aside whatever has not been properly explained or done by either party, so that we all may adopt and hold one single and true religion; and may all live in one communion, church, and unity, even as we all live and do battle under one Christ.”

In his invitation to attend the diet, the Emperor at the same time urged the Elector of Saxony by all means to appear early enough (the Elector reached Augsburg on May 2, while the Emperor did not arrive before June 16), “lest the others who arrived in time be compelled to wait with disgust, heavy expenses, and detrimental delay such as had frequently occurred in the past.” The Emperor added the warning: In case the Elector should not appear, the diet would proceed as if he had been present and assented to its resolutions. (Foerstemann, Urkundenbuch, 1, 7 f.)

March 11 the proclamation reached Elector John at Torgau. On the 14th Chancellor Brueek advised the Elector to have “the opinion on which our party has hitherto stood and to which they have adhered,” in the controverted points, “properly drawn up in writing, with a thorough confirmation thereof from the divine Scriptures.” On the same day the Elector commissioned Luther, Jonas, Bugenhagen, and Melanchthon to prepare a document treating especially of “those articles on account of which said division, both in faith and in other outward church customs and ceremonies, continues.” (43.) At Wittenberg the theologians at once set to work, and the result was presented at Torgau March 27 by Melanchthon. On April 4 the Elector and his theologians set out from Torgau, arriving at Coburg on the 15th, where they rested for eight days. On the 23d of April the Elector left for Augsburg, while Luther, who was still under the ban of both the Pope and the Emperor, remained at the fortress Ebernburg. Nevertheless he continued in close touch with the confessors, as appears from his numerous letters written to Augsburg, seventy all told, about twenty of which were addressed to Melanchthon.

19 Apology Original Plan of Lutherans.

The documents which the Wittenberg theologians delivered at Torgau treated the following subjects: Human Doctrines and Ordinances, Marriage of Priests, Both Kinds, Mass, Confession, Power of Bishops, Ordination, Monastic.Vows, Invocation of the Saints, German Singing, Faith and Works, Office of the Keys (Papacy), Ban, Marriage, and Private Mass. Accordingly, the original intention of the Lutherans was not to enter upon, and present for discussion at Augsburg, such doctrines as were not in controversy (Of God, etc.), but merely to treat of the abuses and immediately related doctrines, especially of Faith and Good Works. (66 ff.) They evidently regarded it as their chief object and duty to justify before the Emperor and the estates both Luther and his protectors, the electors of Saxony. This is borne out also by the original Introduction to the contemplated Apology, concerning which we read in the prefatory remarks to the so-called Torgau Articles mentioned above: “To this end [of justifying the Elector’s peaceable frame of mind] it will be advantageous to begin [the projected Apology] with a lengthy rhetorical introduction.” (68; C.R., 26,171.) This introduction, later on replaced by another, was composed by Melanchthon at Coburg and polished by him during the first days at Augsburg. May 4 he remarks in a letter to Luther: “I have shaped the Exordium of our Apology somewhat more rhetorical (rhehtorikohteron) than I had written it at Coburg.” ( C.R., 2, 40; Luther, St. L. 16, 652.) In this introduction Melanchthon explains: Next to God the Elector builds his hope on the Emperor, who had always striven for peace, and was even now prepared to adjust the religious controversy in mildness. As to the Elector and his brother Frederick, they had ever been attached to the Christian religion, had proved faithful to the Emperor, and had constantly cultivated peace. Their present position was due to the fact that commandments of men had been preached instead of faith in Christ. Not Luther, but Luther’s opponents, had begun the strife. It was for conscience' sake that the Elector had not proceeded against Luther. Besides, such action would only have made matters worse, since Luther had resisted the Sacramentarians and the Anabaptists. Equally unfounded were also the accusations that the Evangelicals had abolished all order as well as all ceremonies, and had undermined the authority of the bishops. If only the bishops would tolerate the Gospel and do away with the gross abuses, they would suffer no loss of power, honor, and prestige. In concluding Melanchthon emphatically protests: “Never has a reformation been undertaken so utterly without any violence as this [in Saxony]; for it is a public fact that our men have prevailed with such as were already in arms to make peace.” (Kolde, l. c., 13.) The document, accordingly, as originally planned for presentation at Augsburg, was to be a defense of Luther and his Elector. In keeping herewith it was in the beginning consistently designated “Apology.”

20 Transformation of Apology into Confession Due to Eck’s Slanders.

This plan, however, was modified when the Lutherans, after reaching Augsburg, heard of and read the 404 Propositions published by Dr. John Eck, in which Luther was classified with Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Carlstadt, Pirkheimer, Hubmaier, and Denk, and was charged with every conceivable heresy. In a letter of March 14, accompanying the copy of his Propositions which Eck sent to the Emperor, he refers to Luther as the domestic enemy of the Church ( hostis ecelesiae domesticus), who has fallen into every Scylla and Charybdis of iniquity; who speaks of the Pope as the Antichrist and of the Church as the harlot; who has praise for none but heretics and schismatics; whom the Church has to thank for the Iconoclasts, Sacramentarians, New Hussites, Anabaptists, New Epicureans, who teach that the soul is mortal, and the Cerinthians; who rehashes all the old heresies condemned more than a thousand years ago, etc. (Plitt, Einleitung in die Augustana, 1, 527 ff.) Such and similar slanders had been disseminated by the Papists before this, and they continued to do so even after the Lutherans, at Augsburg, had made a public confession of their faith and had most emphatically disavowed all ancient and modern heresies. Thus Cochlaeus asserted in his attack on the Apology, published 1534, that Lutheranism was a concoction of all the old condemned heresies, that Luther taught fifteen errors against the article of God, and Melanchthon nine against the Nicene Creed, etc. Luther, he declared, had attacked the doctrine of the Trinity in a coarser fashion than Arius. (Salig, Historie d. Augsb. Konf., 1, 377.)

These calumniations caused the Lutherans to remodel and expand the defense originally planned into a document which should not merely justify the changes made by them with regard to customs and ceremonies, but also, present as fully as possible the doctrinal articles which they held over against ancient and modern heresies, falsely imputed to them. Thus to some extent it is due to the scurrility of Eck that the contemplated Apology was transformed into an all-embracing Confession, a term employed by Melanchthon himself. In a letter to Luther, dated May 11, 1530, he wrote: “Our Apology is being sent to you, - though it is rather a Confession. Mittitur tibi apologia nostra, quamquam verius confessio est. I included [in the Confession] almost all articles of faith, because Eck published most diabolical lies against us, quia Eckius edidit diabolikohtatas diabolas contra nos. Against these it was my purpose to provide an antidote.” ( C.R. 2, 45; Luther, St. L. 16, 654.)

This is in accord also with Melanchthon’s account in his Preface of September 29, 1559, to the German Corpus Doctrinae (Philippicum), stating: “Some papal scribblers had disseminated pasquinades at the diet (at Augsburg, 1530), which reviled our churches with horrible lies, charging that they taught many condemned errors, and were like the Anabaptists, erring and rebellious. Answer had to be made to His Imperial Majesty, and in order to refute the pasquinades, it was decided to include all articles of Christian doctrine in proper succession, that every one might see how unjustly our churches were slandered in the lying papal writings. . . . Finally, this Confession was, as God directed and guided, drawn up by me in the manner indicated, and the venerable Doctor Martin Luther was pleased with it.” ( C.R. 9, 929.)

The original plan, however, was not entirely abandoned, but merely extended by adding a defense also against the various heresies with which the Lutherans were publicly charged. This was done in an objective presentation of the principal doctrines held by the Lutherans, for which the Marburg and Schwabach Articles served as models and guides.

21 Marburg, Schwabach, and Torgau Articles.

The material from which Melanchthon constructed the Augsburg Confession is, in the last analysis, none other than the Reformation truths which Luther had proclaimed since 1517 with ever-increasing clarity and force. In particular, he was guided by, and based his labor on, the Marburg Articles, the Schwabach Articles, and the so-called Torgau Articles. The Marburg Articles, fifteen in number, had been drawn up by Luther, in 1529, at the Colloquy of Marburg, whence he departed October 5, about six months before the Diet at Augsburg. (Luther, St. L., 17, 1138 f.) The seventeen Schwabach Articles were composed by Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Brenz, and Agricola, and presented to the Convention at Smalcald about the middle of October, 1529. According to recent researches the Schwabach Articles antedated the Marburg Articles and formed the basis for them. (Luther, Weimar Ed., 30, 3, 97. 107.) In 1530 Luther published these Articles, remarking: “It is true that I helped to draw up such articles; for they were not composed by me alone.” This public statement discredits the opinion of v. Schubert published in 1908, according to which Melanchthon is the sole author of the Schwabach Articles, Luther’s contribution and participation being negligible. The Schwabach Articles constitute the seventeen basic articles of the first part of the Augsburg Confession. (St.L. 16, 638. 648. 564; C.R._ 26, 146 f.)

The so-called Torgau Articles are the documents referred to above, touching chiefly upon the abuses. Pursuant to the order of the Elector, they were prepared by Luther and his assistants, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and possibly also Jonas. They are called Torgau Articles because the order for drafting them came from Torgau (March 14), and because they were presented to the Elector at Torgau. (Foerstemann, 1, 66; C.R. 26, 171; St. L. 16, 638.) With reference to these articles Luther wrote (March 14) to Jonas, who was then still conducting the visitation: “The Prince has written to us, that is, to you, Pomeranus, Philip, and myself, in a letter addressed to us in common, that we should come together, set aside all other business, and finish before next Sunday whatever is necessary for the next diet on April 8. For Emperor Charles himself will be present at Augsburg to settle all things in a friendly way, as he writes in his bull. Therefore, although you are absent, we three shall do what we can to-day and tomorrow; still, in order to comply with the will of the Prince, it will be incumbent upon you to turn your work over to your companions and be present with us here on the morrow. For things are in a hurry. Festinata enim sunt omnia.” (St. L. 16, 638.)

Melanchthon - also wrote to Jonas on the 15th of March: “Luther is summoning you by order of the Prince; you will therefore come as soon as it is at all possible. The Diet, according to the proclamation, will convene at Augsburg. And the Emperor graciously promises that he will investigate the matter, and correct the errors on both sides. May Christ stand by us!” (C.R. 2, 28; Foerstemann, 1, 45.) It was to these articles (Torgau Articles) that the Elector referred when he wrote to Luther from Augsburg on the Ilth of May: “After you and others of our learned men at Wittenberg, at our gracious desire and demand, have drafted the articles which are in religious controversy, we do not wish to conceal from you that Master Philip Melanchthon has now at this place perused them further and drawn them up in one form.” (C.R. 2, 47.)

22 Luther’s Spokesman at Augsburg.

The material, therefore, out of which Melanchthon, who in 1530 was still in full accord with Luther doctrinally, framed the fundamental symbol of the Lutheran Church were the thoughts and, in a large measure, the very words of Luther. Melanchthon gave to the Augsburg Confession its form and its irenic note; its entire doctrinal content, however, must be conceded to be " iuxta sententiam Lutheri, according to the teaching of Luther," as Melanchthon himself declared particularly with respect to the article of the Lord’s Supper. (C.R. 2, 142.) On the 27th of June, two days after the presentation of the Confession, Melanchthon wrote to Luther: “We have hitherto followed your authority, tuam secuti hactenits auctoritatem,” and now, says Melanchtbon, Luther should also let him know how much could be yielded to the opponents. (2,146.) Accordingly, in the opinion of Melanchtbon, Luther, though absent, was the head of the Evangelicals also at Augsburg. In his answer Luther does not deny this, but only demands of Melanchthon to consider the cause of the Gospel as his own. “For,” says he, “it is indeed my affair, and, to tell the truth, my affair more so than that of all of you.” Yet they should not speak of authority." “In this matter,” he continues, I will not be or be called your author [authority]; and though this might be correctly explained, I do not want this word. If it is not your affair at the same time and in the same measure, I do not desire that it be called mine and be imposed upon you. If it is mine alone, I shall direct it myself." (St. L. 16, 906. 903. Enders, Luthers Briefwechsel, 8, 43.)

Luther, then, was the prime mover also at Augsburg. Without him there would have been no Evangelical cause, no Diet of Augsburg, no Evangelical confessors, no Augsburg Confession. And this is what Luther really meant when he said: “Confessio Augustana mea; the Augsburg Confession is mine.” (Walch 22, 1532.) He did not in the least thereby intend to deprive Melanchthon of any credit properly due him with reference to the Confession. Moreover, in a letter written to Nicolaus Hausmann on July 6, 1530, Luther refers to the Augustana as “our confession, which our Philip prepared; quam Philippus noster paravit.” (St.L. 16, 882; Enders 8, 80.) As a matter of fact, however, the day of Augsburg, even as the day of Worms, was the day of Luther and of the Evangelical truth once more restored to light by Luther. At Augsburg, too, Melanchthon was not the real author and moving spirit, but the instrument and mouthpiece of Luther, out of whose spirit the doctrine there confessed had proceeded. (See Formula of Concord 983, 32-34.) Only blindness born of false religious interests (indifferentism, unionism, etc.) can speak of Melanchthon’s theological independence at Augsburg or of any doctrinal disagreement between the Augsburg Confession and the teaching of Luther. That, at the Diet, he was led, and wished to be led, by Luther is admitted by Melanchthon himself. In the letter of June 27, referred to above, he said: “The matters, as you [Luther] know, have been considered before, though in the combat it always turns out otherwise than expected.” (St.L. 16, 899; C. B. 2, 146.) On the 31st of August he wrote to his friend Camerarius: “Hitherto we have yielded nothing to our opponents, except what Luther judged should be done, since the matter was considered well and carefully before the Diet; re bene ac diligenter deliberata ante conventum.” (2, 334.)

Very pertinently E. T. Nitzscli said of Melanchthon (1855) : “With the son of the miner, who was destined to bring good ore out of the deep shaft, there was associated the son of an armorer, who was well qualified to follow his leader and to forge shields, helmets, armor, and swords for this great work.” This applies also to the Augsburg Confession, in which Melanclithon merely shaped the material long before produced by Luther from the divine shafts of God’s Word. Replying to Koeller, Rueekert, and Heppe, who contend that the authorship of the Augsburg Confession must in everv way be ascribed to Melanchthon, Philip Schaff writes as follows: “This is true as far as the spirit [which Luther called ‘pussyfooting’ Leisetreten] and the literary composition are concerned; but as to the doctrines Luther had a right to say, ‘The Catechism, the Exposition of the Ten Commandments, and the Augsburg Confession are mine."’ (Creeds 1, 229.)

23 Drafting the Confession.

May 11 the Confession was so far completed that the Elector was able to submit it to Luther for the purpose of getting his opinion on it. According to Melanchthon’s letter of the same date, the document contained almost all articles of faith, omnes fere articulos fidei.” (C.R. 2, 45.) This agrees with the account written by Melanchthon shortly before his death, in which he states that in the Augsburg Confession he had presented “the sum of our Church’s doctrine,” and that in so doing he had arrogated nothing to himself; for in the presence of the princes, etc., each individual sentence had been discussed. “Thereupon,” says Melanchthon, “the entire Confession was sent also to Luther, who informed the princes that be had read it and approved it. The princes and other honest and learned men still living will remember that such was the case. _Missa est denique et Luthero tota forma Confessionis, qui Principibus scripsit, se hanc Confessionem et legisse et probate. Haec ita acta esse, Principes et alii honesti et docti viri adhuc superstites meminerint.” (9, 1052.) As early as May 15 Luther returned the Confession with the remark: “I have read Master Philip’s Apology. I am well pleased with it, and know nothing to improve or to change in it; neither would this be proper, since I cannot step so gently and softly. Christ, our Lord, grant that it may produce much and great fruit, which, indeed, we hope and pray for. Amen.” (St. L. 16, 657.) Luther is said to have added these words to the Tenth Article: “And they condemn those who teach otherwise; et improbant secus docentes.” (Enders, 7, 336.)

Up to the time of its presentation the Augsburg Confession was diligently improved, polished, perfected, and partly recast. Additions were inserted and several articles added. Nor was this done secretly and without Luther’s knowledge. May 22 Melancbthon wrote to Luther: “Daily we change much in the Apology. I have eliminated the article On Vows, since it was too brief, and substituted a fuller explanation. Now I am also treating of the Power of the Keys. I would like to have you read the articles of faith. If you find no shortcoming in them, we shall manage to treat the remainder. For one must always make some changes in them and adapt oneself to conditions. Subinde enim mutandi sunt, atque ad occasiones accommodandi.” (C.R. 2, 60; Luther, 16, 689.) Improvements suggested by Regius and Brenz were also adopted. (Zoeckler, Die A. K., 18.)

Even Brueek is said to have made some improvements. May 24 the Nuernberg delegates wrote to their Council: “The Saxon Plan [Apology] has been returned by Doctor Luther. But Doctor Brueek, the old chancellor, still has some changes to make at the beginning and the end.” (C.R. 2, 62.) The expression “beginning and end (hinten und vorne),” according to Tschackert, is tantamount to “all over (ueberall).” However, even before 1867 Plitt wrote it had long ago been recognized that this expression refers to the Introduction and the Conclusion of the Confession, which were written by Brueck. (Aug. 2, 11.) Bretschneider is of the same opinion. (C.R. 2, 62.) June 3 the Nuernberg delegates wrote: “Herewith we transmit to Your Excellencies a copy of the Saxon Plan [Confession] in Latin, together with the Introduction or Preamble. At the end, however, there are lacking one or two articles [20 and 21 and the Conclusion, in which the Saxon theologians are still engaged. When that is completed, it shall be sent to Your Excellencies. Meanwhile Your Excellencies may cause your learned men and preachers to study it and, deliberate upon it. When this Plan [Confession] is drawn up in German, it shall not be withheld from Your Excellencies. The Saxons, however, distinctly desire that, for the present, Your Excellencies keep this Plan or document secret, and that you permit no copy to be given to any one until it has been delivered to His Imperial Majesty. They have reasons of their own for making this request. . . . And if Your Excellencies' pastors and learned men should decide to make changes or improvements in this Plan or in the one previously submitted, these, too, Your Excellencies are asked to transmit to us.” (2,83.) June 26 Melanchthon wrote to Camerarius: “Daily I changed and recast much; and I would have changed still more if our advisers (sumphradmones) had permitted us to do so.” (2, 140.)

24 Public Reading of the Confession.

June 15, after long negotiations, a number of other estates were permitted to join the adherents of the Saxon Confession. (C.R. 2, 105.) As a result, Melanchthon’s Introduction, containing a defense of the Saxon Electors, without mentioning the other Lutheran estates, no longer fitted in with the changed conditions. Accordingly, it was supplanted by the Preface composed by Brueck, and translated into Latin by Justus Jonas, whose acknowledged elegant Latin and German style qualified him for such services. At the last deliberation, on June 23, the Confession was signed. And on June 25, at 3 P. m., the ever-memorable meeting of the Diet took place at which the Augustana was read by Chancellor Beyer in German, and both manuscripts were handed over. The Emperor kept the Latin copy for himself, and gave the German copy to the Imperial Chancellor, the Elector and Archbishop Albrecht, to be preserved in the Imperial Archives at Mainz. Both texts, therefore, the Latin as well as the German, have equal authority, although the German text has the additional distinction and prestige of having been publiclv read at the Diet.

As to where and how the Lutheran heroes confessed their faith, Kolde writes as follows: “The place where they assembled on Saturday, June 25, at 3 P.M., was not the courtroom, where the meetings of the Diet were ordinarily conducted, but, as the Imperial Herald, Caspar Sturm, reports, the ‘Pfalz,’ the large front room, i. e., the Chapter-room of the Bishop’s palace, where the Emperor lived. The two Saxon chancellors, Dr. Greg. Brueek and Dr. Chr. Beyer, the one with the Latin and the other with the German copy of the Confession, stepped into the middle of the hall, while as many of the Evangelically minded estates as had the courage publicly to espouse the Evangelical cause arose from their seats. Caspar Sturm reports: ‘Als aber die gemeldeten Commissarii und Botschaften der oesterreichischen Lande ihre Werbung und Botschaft vollendet und abgetreten, sind darauf von Stund’ an Kurfuerst von Sachsen, naemlich Herzog Johannes, Markgraf Joerg von Brandenburg, Herzog Ernst samt seinem Bruder Franzisko, beide Herzoege zu Braunschweig und Lueneburg, Landgraf Philipp von Hessen, Graf Wolf von Anhalt usw. von ihrer Session auf- und gegen Kaiserliche Majestaet gestanden.' The Emperor desired to hear the Latin text. But when Elector John had called attention to the fact that the meeting was held on German soil, and expressed the hope that the Emperor would permit the reading to proceed in German, it was granted. Hereupon Dr. Beyer read the Confession. The reading lasted about two hours; but he read with a voice so clear and plain that the multitude, which could not gain access to the hall, understood every word in the courtyard.” (19 f.)

The public reading of the Confession exercised a tremendous influence in every direction. Even before the Diet adjourned, Heilbronn, Kempten, Windsbeim, Weissenburg, and Frankfurt on the Main professed their adherence to it. Others had received the first impulse which subsequently induced them to side with the Evangelicals. Brenz has it that the Emperor fell asleep during the reading. However, this can have been only temporarily or apparently, since Spalatin and Jonas assure us that the Emperor, like the other princes and King Ferdinand, listened attentively. Their report reads: “Satis attentus erat Caesar, The Emperor was attentive enough.” Duke William of Bavaria declared: “Never before has this matter and doctrine been presented to me in this manner.” And when Eck assured him that he would undertake to refute the Lutheran doctrine with the Fathers, but not with the Scriptures, the Duke responded, “Then the Lutherans, I understand, sit in the Scriptures and we of the Pope’s Church beside the Scriptures! So hoer' ich wohl, die Luttherischen sitzen in der Schrift und wir Pontificii daneben!” The Archbishop of Salzburg declared that he, too, desired a reformation, but the unbearable thing about it was that one lone monk wanted to reform them all. In private conversation, Bishop Stadion of Augsburg, exclaimed, “What has been read to us is the truth, the pure truth, and we cannot deny it.” (St.L. 16, 882; Plitt, Apologie, 18.) Father Aegidius, the Emperor’s confessor, said to Melanchthon, “You have a theology which a person can understand only if he prays much.” Campegius is reported to have said that for his part he might well permit such teaching; but it would be a precedent of no little consequence, as the same permission would then have to be given other nations and kingdoms, which could not be tolerated. (Zoeckler, A. K., 24.)

25 Luther’s Mild Criticism.

June 26 Melanchthon sent a copy of the Confession, as publicly read, to Luther, who, adhering to his opinion of May 15, praised it, yet not without adding a grain of gentle criticism. June 29 he wrote to Melanchthon: “I have received your Apology and cannot understand what you may mean when you ask what and how much should be yielded to the Papists. . . . As far as I am concerned, too much has already been yielded (plus satis cessum est) in this Apology; and if they reject it, I see nothing that might be yielded beyond what has been done, unless I see the proofs they proffer, and clearer Bible-passages than I have hitherto seen. . . . As I have always written - I am prepared to yield everything to them if we are but given the liberty to teach the Gospel. I cannot yield anything that militates against the Gospel.” (St. L. 16, 902; Enders, 8, 42. 45.) The clearest expression of Luther’s criticism is found in a letter to Jonas, dated July 21, 1530. Here we read: “Now I see the purpose of those questions [on the part of the Papists] whether you had any further articles to present. The devil still lives, and he has noticed very well that your Apology steps softly, and that it has veiled the articles of Purgatory, the Adoration of the Saints, and especially that of the Antichrist, the Pope.” Another reading of this passage of Luther: “Apologiam vestram, die Leisetreterin, dissimulasse,” is severer even than the one quoted: “Apologiam vestram leise treten et dissimulasse._” (St. L. 16, 2323; Enders, 8, 133.')

Brenz regarded the Confession as written ‘very courteously and modestly, valde civiliter et modeste." (C.R. 2, 125.) The Nuernberg delegates had also received the impression that the Confession, while saying what was necessary, was very reserved and discreet. They reported to their Council: “Said instruction [Confession], as far as the articles of faith are concerned, is substantially like that which we have previously sent to Your Excellencies, only that it has been improved in some parts, and throughout made as mild as possible (allenthalben aufs glimpflichste gemacht), yet, according to our view, without omitting anything necessary.” (2, 129.) At Smalcald, in 1537, the theologians were ordered by the Princes and Estates “to look over the Confession, to make no changes pertaining to its contents or substance, nor those of the Concord [of 15361, but merely to enlarge upon matters regarding the Papacy, which, for certain reasons, was previously omitted at the Diet of Augsburg in submissive deference to His Imperial Majesty.” (Kolde, Analecta, 297.)

Indirectly Melanchthon himself admits the correctness of Luther’s criticism. True, when after the presentation of the Confession he thought of the angry Papists, he trembled, fearing that he had written too severely. June 26 he wrote to his most intimate friend, Camerarius: “Far from thinking that I have written milder than was proper, I rather strongly fear (mirum in modum) that some have taken offense at our freedom. For Valdes, the Emperor’s secretary, saw it before its presentation and gave it as his opinion that from beginning to end it was sharper than the opponents would be able to endure.” (C.R. 2, 140.) On the same day he wrote to Luther: “According to my judgment, the Confession is severe enough. For you will see that I have depicted the monks sufficiently.” (141.)

In two letters to Camerarius, however, written on May 21 and June 19, respectively, hence before the efforts at toning down the Confession were completed, Melanchthon expressed the opinion that the Confession could not have been written “in terms more gentle and mild, mitior et tenior.” (2, 57.) No doubt, Melanchthon also had in mind his far- reaching irenics at Augsburg, when he wrote in the Preface to the Apology of the Augsburg Confession: “It has always been my custom in these controversies to retain, so far as I was at all able, the form of the customarily received doctrine, in order that at some time concord might the more readily be effected. Nor, indeed, am I now departing far from this custom, although I could justly lead away the men of this age still farther from the opinions of the adversaries.” (101, 11.) Evidently, Melanclithon means to emphasize that in the Augustana he had been conservative, criticizing only when compelled to do so for conscience’ sake.

26 Luther Praising Confession and Confessors.

Luther’s criticism did not in the least dampen his joy over the glorious victory at Augsburg nor lessen his praise of the splendid confession there made. In the above-mentioned letter of June 27 he identifies himself fully and entirely with the Augustana, and demands that Melanchthon, too, consider it an expression of his own faith, and not merely of Luther’s faith. July 3 he wrote to Melanchthon: “Yesterday I reread carefully your entire Apology, and it pleases me extremely (vehementer).” (St.L. 16, 913; Enders, 8, 79.) July 6 he wrote a letter to Cordatus in which he speaks of the Augustana as “altogether a most beautiful confession, plane pulcherrima confessio.” At the same time he expresses his great delight over the victory won at Augsburg, applying to the Confession Ps. 119, 46: “I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed,” -a text which ever since has remained the motto, appearing on all of its subsequent manuscripts and printed copies.

Luther said: “I rejoice beyond measure that I lived to see the hour in which Christ was publicly glorified by such great confessors of His, in so great an assembly, through this in every respect most beautiful Confession. And the word has been fulfilled [Ps. 119, 46: ‘I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings’; and the other word will also be fulfilled: ‘I was not confounded.’ For, ‘Whosoever confesses Me before men’ (so speaks He who lies not), ‘him will I also confess before My Father which is in heaven."’ (16, 915; E: 8, 83.) July 9 Luther wrote to Jonas: “Christ was loudly proclaimed by means of the public and glorious Confession (publica et gloriosa confessions) and confessed in the open (am Lichte) and in their [the Papists’l faces, so that they cannot boast that we fled, had been afraid, or had concealed our faith. I only regret that I was not able to be present when this splendid Confession was made (in hac pulchra confessions).” (St. L. 16, 928; E. 8, 94.)

On the same day, July 9, Luther wrote to the Elector: “I know and consider well that our Lord Christ Himself comforts the heart of Your Electoral Grace better than I or any one else is able to do. This is shown, too, and proved before our eyes by the facts; for the opponents think that they made a shrewd move by having His Imperial Maiesty prohibit preaching. But the poor deluded people do not see that, through the written Confession presented to them, more has been preached than otherwise perhaps ten preachers could have done. Is it not keen wisdom and great wit that Magister Eisleben and others must keep silence? But in lieu thereof the Elector of Saxony, together with other princes and lords, arises with the written Confession and preaches freely before His Imperial Majesty and the entire realm under their noses, so that they must hear and cannot gainsay. I think that thus the order prohibiting preaching was a success indeed. They will not permit their servants to hear the ministers, but must themselves hear something far worse (as they regard it) from such great lords, and keep their peace. Indeed, Christ is not silent at the Diet; and though they be furious, still they must hear more by listening to the Confession than they would have heard in a year from the preachers. Thus is fulfilled what Paul says: God’s Word will nevertheless have free course. If it is prohibited in the pulpit, it must be heard in the palaces. If poor preachers dare not speak it, then mighty princes and lords proclaim it. In brief, if everything keeps silence, the very stones will cry out, says Christ Himself.” (16, 815.) September 15, at the close of the Diet, Luther wrote to Melanchthon: “You have confessed Christ, offered peace, obeyed the Emperor, endured reproach, been sated with slander, and have not recompensed evil for evil; in sum, you have performed the holy work of God, as becomes saints, in a worthy manner. . . . I shall canonize you (canonizabo vos) as faithful members of Christ.” (16, 2319; E. 8, 259.)

27 Manuscripts and Editions of Augustana.

As far as the text of the Augsburg Confession is concerned, both of the original manuscripts are lost to us. Evidently they have become a prey to Romish rage and enmity. Eck was given permission to examine the German copy in 1540, and possibly at that time already it was not returned to Mainz. It may have been taken to Trent for the discussions at the Council, and thence carried to Rome. The Latin original was deposited in the Imperial Archives at Brussels, where it was seen and perused by Lindanus in 1562. February 18, 1569, however, Philip II instructed Duke Alva to bring the manuscript to Spain, lest the Protestants “regard it as a Koran,” and in order that “such a damned work might forever be destroyed; porque se hunda para siempre tan malvada obra."' The keeper of the Brussels archives himself testifies that the manuscript was delivered to Alva. There is, however, no lack of other manuscripts of the Augsburg Confession. Up to the present time no less than 39 have been found. Of these, five German and four Latin copies contain also the signatures. The five German copies are in verbal agreement almost throughout, and therefore probably offer the text as read and presented at Augsburg.

The printing of the Confession had been expressly prohibited by the Emperor. June 26 Melanchthon wrote to Veit Dietrich: “Our Confession has been presented to the Emperor. He ordered that it be not printed. You will therefore see that it is not made public.'(C.R. 2,142.) However, even during the sessions of the Diet a number of printed editions, six in German and one in Latin, were issued by irresponsible parties. But since these were full of errors, and since, furthermore, the Romanists asserted with increasing boldness and challenge that the Confession of the Lutherans had been refuted, by the Roman Confutation, from the Scriptures and the Fathers, Melanchthon, in 1530, had a correct edition printed, which was issued, together with the Apology in May, 1531. This quarto edition (“Beide: Deutsch Und Lateinisch Ps. 119”) is regarded as the editio princeps.

For years this edition was also considered the authentic edition of the Augsburg Confession. Its Latin text was embodied 1584 in the Book of Concord as the textus receptus. But when attention was drawn to the changes in the German text of this edition (also the Latin text had been subjected to minor alterations), the Mainz Manuscript was substituted in the German Book of Concord, as its Preface explains. (14.) This manuscript, however, contains no original signatures and was erroneously considered the identical document presented to the Emperor, of which it was probably but a copy. In his Introduction to the Symbolical Books, J. T. Mueller expresses the following opinion concerning the Mainz Manuscript: “To say the least, one cannot deny that its text, as a rule, agrees with that of the best manuscripts, and that its mistakes can easily be corrected according to them and the editio princeps, so that we have no reason to surrender the text received by the Church and to accept another in place thereof, of which we cannot prove either that it is any closer to the original.” (78.) Tschackert, who devoted much study to the manuscripts of the Augsburg Confession, writes: “The Saxon theologians acted in good faith, and the Mainz copy is still certainly better than Melanchthon’s original imprint [the editio princeps]; yet, when compared with the complete and - because synchronous with the originally presented copy . reliable manuscripts of the signers of the Confession - the Mainz Manuscript proves to be defective in quite a number of places.” (L. c. 621 f.)

However, even Tschackert’s minute comparison shows that the Mainz Manuscript deviates from the original presented to the Emperor only in unimportant and purely formal points. For example, in ^U 20 of the Preface the words: “Papst das Generalkonzilium zu halten nicht geweigert, so waere E. K. M. gnaediges Erbieten, zu fordern und zu handeln, dass der” are omitted. Art. 27, ^U 48 we are to read: “dass die erdichteten geistlichen Orden Staende sind christlicher Vollkommenheit” instead of: “dass die erdichteten geistlichen Ordensstaende sind christliche Vollkommenheit.” Art. 27, ^U 61 reads, “die Uebermass der Werke,” instead of, “die Uebermasswerke,” by the way, an excellent expression, which should again be given currency in the German. The conclusion of ^U 2 has “Leichpredigten” instead of “Beipredigten.” According to the manuscripts, also the Mainz Manuscript, the correct reading of ^U 12 of the Preface is as follows: “Wo aber bei unsern Herrn, Freunden und besonders den Kurfuersten, Fuersten und Staenden des andern Teils die Handlung dermassen, wie E. K. M. Ausschreiben vermag (‘bequeme Handlung unter uns selbst in Lieb’ und Guetigkeit') nicht verfangen noch erspriesslich sein wollte” etc. The words, “bequeme Handlung unter uns selbst in Lieb' und Guetigkeit,” are quoted from the imperial proclamation. (Foerstemann, 7, 378; Plitt, 2, 12.)

Originally only the last seven articles concerning the abuses had separate titles, the doctrinal articles being merely numbered, as in the Marburg and Schwabach Articles, which Melanchthon had before him at Augsburg. (Luther, Weimar 30, 3, 86. 160.) Nor are the present captions of the doctrinal articles found in the original German and Latin editions of the Book of Concord, Article XX forming a solitary exception; for in the German (in the Latin Concordia, too, it bears no title) it is superscribed: “Vom Glauben und guten Werken, Of Faith and Good Works.” This is probably due to the fact that Article XX was taken from the so-called Torgau Articles and, with its superscription there, placed among the doctrinal articles. In the German edition of 1580 the Word “Schluss” is omitted where the Latin has “Epilogus.”

As to the translations, even before the Confession was presented to the Emperor, it had been renderd into French. (This translation was published by Foersternann, 1, 357.) The Emperor had it translated for his own use into both Italian and French. (C.R. 2, 155; Luther, St. L., 16, 884.) Since then the Augustana has been done into Hebrew, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, Slavic, Danish' Swedish, English, and many other languages. As to the English translations, see page 6. {Section 1. The Book of Concord, or the Concordia, subsection 4, English translations.}

28 Signatures of Augsburg Confession.

Concerning the signatures of the Augustana, Tschackert writes as follows: “The names of the signers are most reliably determined from the best manuscript copies of the original of the Confession, which have been preserved to us. There we find the signatures of eight princes and two free cities, to wit, Elector John of Saxony, Margrave George of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Duke Ernest of Braunschweig-Lueneburg, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, then John Frederick, the Electoral Prince of Saxony, Ernest’s brother Francis of Braunschweig-Lueneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, Count Albrecht of Mansfeld, and the cities Nuernberg and Reutlingen.” (L. c. 285; see also Luther’s letter of July 6, 1530, St. L. 16, 882.) Camerarius, in his Life of Melanchthon, relates that Melanchthon desired to have the Confession drawn up in the name of the theologians only, but that his plan did not prevail because it was believed that the signatures of the princes would lend prestige and splendor to the act of presenting this confession of faith. Besides, this plan of Melanchthon’s was excluded by the Emperor’s proclamation.

Although Philip of Hesse, in the interest of a union with the Swiss, had zealously, but in vain, endeavored to secure for the article concerning the Lord’s Supper a milder form, still, in the end, he did not refuse to sign. Regius wrote to Luther, May 21, that he had discussed the entire cause of the Gospel with the Landgrave, who had invited him to dinner, and talked with him for tnvo hours on the Lord’s Supper. The Prince had presented all the arguments of the Sacramentarians and desired to hear Regius refute them. But while the Landgrave did not side with Zwingli (non sentit cum Zwinglio), yet he desired with all his heart an agreement of the theologians, as far as piety would permit (exoptat doctorum hominum concordiam, quantum sinit pietas). He was far less inclined to dissension than rumor had it before his arrival. He would hardly despise the wise counsel of Melanchthon and others. (Kolde, Analecta, 125; see also 0. B. 2, 59, where the text reads, “nam sentit cum Zwinglio” instead of, “non sentit cum Zwinglio.") Accordingly, the mind of the Landgrave was not outright Zwinglian, but unionistic. He regarded the followers of Zwingli as weak brethren, who must be borne with, and to whom Christian fellowship should not be refused. This also explains how the Landgrave could sign the Augustana, and yet continue his endeavors to bring about a union.

May 22 Melanchthon wrote to Luther: “The Macedonian [Philip of Hesse] now contemplates signing our formula of speech, and it appears as if he can be drawn back to our side; still, a letter from you will be necessary. Therefore I beg you most urgently that you write him, admonishing him not to burden his conscience with a godless doctrine.” Still the Landgrave did not change his position in the next few weeks. June 25, however, Melanchthon reported to Luther: “The Landgrave approves our Confession and has signed it. You will, I hope, accomplish much if you seek to strengthen him by writing him a letter.” (C.R. 2, 60. 92. 96. 101. 103. 126; Luther, St. L., 16, 689; 21 a, 1499.)

At Augsburg, whither also Zwingli had sent his Fidei Ratio, the South-German imperial cities (Strassburg, Constance, Memmingen, Lindau) presented the so-called Confessio Tetrapolitana, prepared by Bucer and Capito, which declares that the Sacraments are “holy types,” and that in the Lord’s Supper the “true body” and the “true blood” of Christ “are truly eaten and drunk as meat and drink for the souls, which are thereby nourished unto eternal life.” However, in 1532 these cities, too, signed the Augsburg Confession.

Thus the seed which Luther sowed had grown wonderfully. June 25, 1530, is properly regarded as the real birtbday of the Lutheran Church. From this day on she stands before all the world as a body united by a public confession and separate from the Roman Church. The lone, but courageous confessor of Worms saw himself surrounded with a stately host of true Christian heroes, who were not afraid to place their names under his Confession, although they knew that it might cost them goods and blood, life and limb. When the Emperor, after entering Augsburg, stubbornly demanded that the Lutherans cease preaching, Margrave George of Brandenburg finally declared: “Rather than deny my God and suffer the Word of God to be taken from me, I will kneel down and have my head struck off.” (C.R. 2, 115.) That characterizes the pious and heroic frame of mind of all who signed the Augustana in 1530. In a letter, of June 18, to Luther, Jonas relates how the Catholic princes and estates knelt down to receive the blessing of Campegius when the latter entered the city, but that the Elector remained standing and declared: “To God alone shall knees be bowed; In Deo flectenda sunt genua.” (Kolde, Analecta, 135.) When Melanchthon called the Elector’s attention to the possible consequences of his signing the Augsburg Confession, the latter answered that he would do what was right, without concerning himself about his electoral dignity; he would confess his Lord, whose cross he prized higher than all the power of the world.

Brenz wrote: “Our princes are most steadfast in confessing the Gospel, and surely, when I consider their great steadfastness, there comes over me no small feeling of shame because we poor beggars [theologians] are filled with fear of the Imperial Majesty.” (C.R. 2,125.) Luther praises Elector John for having suffered a bitter death at the Diet of Augsburg. There, says Luther, he had to swallow all kinds of nasty soups and poison with which the devil served him; at Augsburg he publicly, before all the world, confessed Christ’s death and resurrection, and hazarded property and people, yea, his own body and life; and because of the confession which he made, we shall honor him as a Christian. (St. L. 12, 2078 f.) And not only the Lutheran Church, but all Protestant Christendom, aye, the entire world has every reason to revere and hold sacred the memory of the heroes who boldly affixed their names to the Confession of 1530.

29 Tributes to Confession of Augsburg.

From the moment of its presentation to the present day, men have not tired of praising the Augsburg Confession, which has been called Confessio augusta, Confessio augustissima, the " Evangelischer Augapfel,” etc. They have admired its systematic plan, its completeness, comprehensiveness, and arrangement; its balance of mildness and firmness; its racy vigor, freshness, and directness; its beauty of composition, “the like of which cannot be found in the entire literature of the Reformation period.” Spalatin exclaims: “A Confession, the like of which was never made, not only in a thousand years, but as long as the world has been standing!” Sartorius: “A confession of the eternal truth, of true ecumenical Christianity, and of all fundamental articles of the Christian faith!” “From the Diet of Augsburg, which is the birthday of the Evangelical Church Federation, down to the great Peace Congress of Muenster and Osnabrueek, this Confession stands as the towering standard in the entire history of those profoundly troublous times, gathering the Protestants about itself in ever closer ranks, and, when assaulted by the enemies of Evangelical truth with increasing fury, is defended by its friends in severe fighting, with loss of goods and blood, and always finally victoriously holds the field. Under the protection of this banner the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germanv has been built up on firm and unassailable foundations; under the same protection the Reformed Church in Germany has found shelter. But the banner was carried still farther; for all Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, and Prussians have sworn allegiance to it, and the Esthonians, Letts, Finns, as well as all Lutherans of Russia, France, and other lands recognize therein the palladium of their faith and rights. No other Protestant confession has ever been so honored.” (Guericke, Kg., 3, 116 f.)

Vilmar says in praise of the Confession: “Whoever has once felt a gentle breath of the bracing mountain air which is wafted from this mighty mountain of faith [the Augsburg Confession] no longer seeks to pit against its firm and quiet dignity his own uncertain, immature, and wavering thoughts, nor to direct the vain and childish puff of his mouth against that breath of God in order to give it a different direction.” (Theol. d. Tatsachen, 76.) In his Introduction to the Symbolical Books, J. T. Mueller savs: “Luther called the Diet of Augsburg ‘the last trumpet before Judgment Day’; hence we may well call the confession there made the blast of that trumpet, which, indeed, has gone forth into all lands, even as the Gospel of God, which it proclaims in its purity.” (78.) The highest praise, however, is given the Augsburg Confession by the Church which was born with it, when, e.g., in the Formula of Concord, the Lutherans designate it as “the symbol of our time,” and glory in it as the Confession, which, though frowned upon and assailed by its opponents, “down to this day has remained unrefuted and unoverthrown (his auf diesen Tag unwiderlegt und unumgestossen geblieben) .” (777, 4; 847, 3.) myText; showPageText(); ?>