Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions

VII. The Smalcald Articles and Tract concerneing the Power and Primacy of the Pope

61 General Council Demanded by Lutherans.

In order to settle the religious controversy between themselves and the Papists, the Lutherans, from the very beginning, asked for a general council. In the course of years this demand became increasingly frequent and insistent. It was solemnly renewed in the Preface of the Augsburg Confession. The Emperor had repeatedly promised to summon a council. At Augsburg he renewed the promise of convening it within a year. The Roman Curia, however, dissastisfied with the arrangements made at the Diet, found ways and means of delaying it. In 1532, the Emperor proceeded to Bologna, where he negotiated with Clement VII concerning the matter, as appears from the imperial and papal proclamations of January 8 and 10, 1533, respectively. As a result, the Pope, in 1533, sent Hugo Rangon, bishop of Resz, to Germany, to pose that the council be held at Placentia, Bologna, or Mantua. Clement, however, was not sincere in making this offer. In reality he was opposed to holding a council. Such were probably also the real sentiments of his successor, Paul III. But when the Emperor, who, in the interest of his sweeping world policy, was anxious to dispose of the religious controversy, renewed his pressure, Paul finally found himself compelled to yield. June 4, 1536, he issued a bull convoking a general council to meet at Mantua, May 8, 1537. Nothing, however, was said about the principles according to which it was to be formed and by which it should be governed in transacting its business. Self-evidently, then, the rules of the former councils were to be applied. Its declared purpose was the peace of the Church through the extinction of heresy. In the Bull Concerning the Reforms of the Roman Court, which the Pope issued September 23, he expressly declared that the purpose of the council would be “the utter extirpation of the poisonous, pestilential Lutheran heresy.” (St. L. 16, 1914.) Thus the question confronting the Protestants was, whether they could risk to appear at such a council, and ought to do so, or whether (and how) they should decline to attend.

Luther, indeed, still desired a council. But after 1530 he no longer put any confidence in a council convened by the Pope, although, for his person, he did not refuse to attend even such a council. This appears also from his conversation, November 7, 1535, with the papal legate Peter Paul Vergerius (born 1497; accused of Lutheranism 1546; deprived of his bishopric 1549; defending Protestantism after 1550; employed by Duke Christoph of Wuerttemberg 1553; died 1564.) Koestlin writes: “Luther relates how he had told the legate: ‘Even if you do call a council, you will not treat of salutary doctrine, saving faith, etc., but of useless matters, such as laws concerning meats, the length of priest’s garments, exercises of monks, etc.’ While he was thus dilating, says Luther, the legate, holding his head in his hand, turned to a near-by companion and said: ‘He strikes the nail on the head.’ The further utterances of Luther: ‘We do not need a council for ourselves and our adherents, for we already have the firm Evangelical doctrine and order; Christendom, however, needs it, in order that those whom error still holds captive may be able to distinguish between error and truth,’ appeared utterly intolerable to Vergerius, as he himself relates. He regarded them as unheard-of arrogance. By way of answer, he asked, whether, indeed, the Christian men assembled from all parts of the world, upon whom, without doubt, the Holy Spirit descends, must only decide what Luther approved of. Boldly and angrily interrupting him, Luther said: ‘Yes, I will come to the council and lose my head if I shall not defend my doctrine against all the world’; furthermore he exclaimed: ‘This wrath of my mouth is not my wrath, but the wrath of God.’ Vergerius rejoiced to hear that Luther was perfectly willing to come to the council; for, so he wrote to Rome, he thought that nothing more was needed to break the courage of the heretics than the certain prospect of a council, and at the same time he believed that in Luther’s assent he heard the decision of his master, the Elector, also. Luther declared that it was immaterial to him where the council would meet, at Mantua, Verona, or at any other place. Vergerius continued: ‘Are you willing to come to Bologna?’ Luther:‘To whom does Bologna belong?’ Vergerius: ‘To the Pope.’ Luther: ‘Good Lord, has this town, too, been grabbed by the Pope? Very well, I shall come to you there.’ Vergerius:‘The Pope will probably not refuse to come to you at Wittenberg either.’ Luther: ‘Very well, let him come; we shall look for him with pleasure.’ Vergerius: ‘Do you expect him to come with an army or without weapons?’ Luther: ‘As he pleases; in whatsoever manner he may come, we shall expect him and shall receive him.’ - Luther and Bugenhagen remained with Vergerius until he departed with his train of attendants. After mounting, he said once more to Luther: ‘See that you are prepared for the council.’ Luther answered: ‘Yes, sir, with this my neck and head."’ (Martin Luther, 2, 382 sq.)

62 Luther’s Views Regarding the Council.

What Luther’s attitude toward a general council was in 1537 is expressed in the Preface to the Smalcald Articles as follows: “But to return to the subject. I verily desire to see a truly Christian council, in order that many matters and persons might be helped. Not that we need it; for our churches are now, through God’s grace, so enlightened and equipped with the pure Word and right use of the Sacraments, with knowledge of the various callings and of right works, that we on our part ask for no council, and on such points have nothing better to hope or expect from a council. But we see in the bishoprices everywhere so many parishes vacant and desolate that one’s heart would break, and yet neither the bishops nor canons care how the poor people live or die, for whom nevertheless Christ has died, and who are not permitted to hear Him speak with them as the true Shepherd with His sheep. This causes me to shudder and fear that at some time He may send a council of angels upon Germany utterly destroying us, like Sodom and Gomorrah, because we so wantonly mock Him with the council.” (457.)

From a popish council Luther expected nothing but condemnation of the truth and its confessors. At the same time he was convinced that the Pope would never permit a truly free, Christian council to assemble. He had found him out and knew “that the Pope would see all Christendom perish and all souls damned rather than suffer either himself or his adherents to be reformed even a little, and his tyranny to be limited.” (455.) “For with them conscience is nothing, but money, honors, power, are everything.” (455.477.) The Second Part of his Articles Luther concludes as follows: “In these four articles they will have enough to condemn in the council. For they cannot and will not concede to us even the least point in one of these articles. Of this we should be certain, and animate ourselves with the hope that Christ, our Lord, has attacked His adversary, and He will press the attack home both by His Spirit and coming. Amen. For in the council we will stand not before the Emperor or the political magistrate, as at Augsburg (where the Emperor published a most gracious edict, and caused matters to be heard kindly), but before the Pope and devil himself, who intends to listen to nothing, but merely to condemn, to murder, and to force us to idolatry. Therefore we ought riot here to kiss his feet or to say, ‘Thou art my gracious lord,’ but as the angel in Zechariah 3, 2 said to Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, 0 Satan.” (475.) Hence his Preface also concludes with the plaint and prayer: “O Lord Jesus Christ, do Thou Thyself convoke a council, and deliver Thy servants by Thy glorious advent! The Pope and his adherents are done for; they will have none of Thee. Do Thou, then, help us, who are poor and needy, who sigh to Thee, and beseech Thee earnestly, according to the grace which Thou hast given us, through Thy Holy Ghost, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Father, blessed forever. Amen.” (459.)

63 Elector Opposed to Hearing Papal Legate.

From the very beginning, Elector John Frederick was opposed to a council. And the question which particularly engaged his attention was, whether the Lutherans should receive and hear the papal legate who would deliver the invitation. Accordingly, on July 24, the Elector came to Wittenberg and through Brueck delivered four (five) articles to the local theologians and jurists for consideration, with instructions to submit their answer in writing. (C.R. 3, 119.) August 1, Melanchthon wrote to Jonas: “Recently the Prince was here and demanded an opinion from all theologians and jurists. . . . It is rumored that a cardinal-legate will come to Germany to announce the council. The Prince is therefore inquiring what to answer, and under what condition the synod might be permitted.” (106.) The articles which Brueck presented dealt mainly with the questions: whether, in view of the fact that the Pope is a party to the issue and his authority to convene a council is questioned, the legate should be heard, especially if the Emperor did not send a messenger along with him; whether one would not already submit himself to the Pope by hearing the legate; whether one ought not to protest, because the Pope alone had summoned the council; and what should be done in case the legate would summon the Elector as a party, and not for consultation, like the other estates. (119 f.)

In the preparation of their answer, the Elector desired the Wittenberg scholars to take into careful consideration also his own view of the matter, which he persistently defended as the only correct one. For this purpose he transmitted to them an opinion of his own on Brueck’s articles referred to in the preceeding paragraph. In it he maintained that the papal invitation must be declined, because acceptance involved the recognition of the Pope “as the head of the Church and the council. According to the Elector the proper course for the Lutheran confederates would be to inform the legate, immediately on his arrival in Germany, that they would never submit to the authority which the Pope had arrogated to himself in his proclamation, since the power he assumed was neither more nor less than abominable tyranny; that they could not consider the Pope as differing from, or give him greater honor than, any other ordinary bishop; that, besides, they must regard the Pope as their greatest enemy and opponent; that he had arranged for the council with the sinister object of maintaining his antichristian power and suppressing the holy Gospel, that there was no need of hearing the legate any further, since the Pope, who was sufficiently informed as to their teaching, cared neither for Scripture nor for law and justice, and merely wished to be their judge and lord; that, in public print, they would unmask the roguery of the Pope, and show that he had no authority whatever to convoke a council, but, at the same time, declare their willingness to take part in, and submit their doctrine to, a free, common, Christian, and impartial council, which would judge according to the Scriptures. Nor did, the Elector fail to stress the point that, by attending at Mantua, the Lutherans would de facto waive their former demand that the council must be held on German soil. (99 ff.)

64 Elector Imbued with Luther’s Spirit.

Evidently, the Elector had no desire of engaing once more in diplomatic jugglery, such as had been indulged in at Augsburg. And at Smalcald, despite the opposing advice of the theologians, his views prevailed, to the sorrow of Melanchthon as appears from latters’s complaint to Camerariuis, March 1,1537 (C.R. 3, 293) The Elector was thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Luther, who never felt more antagonistic toward Rome than at Smalcald, although, as shown above, he was personally willing to appear at the council, even if held at Mantua. This spirit of bold defiance appears from the articles which Luther wrote for the convention, notably from the article on the Papacy and on the Mass. In the latter he declares: “As Campegius said at Augsburg that he would be torn to pieces before he would relinquish the Mass, so, by the help of God, I, too, would suffer myself to be reduced to ashes before I would allow a hireling of the Mass, be he good or bad, to be made equal to Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior, or to be exalted above Him. Thus we are and remain eternally separated and opposed to one another. They feel well enough that when the Mass falls, the Papacy lies in ruins. Before they will permit this to occur, they will put us all to death if they can.” (465.) In the Pope, Luther had recognized the Antichrist; and the idea of treating, seeking an agreement, and making a compromise with the enemy of his Savior, was intolerable to him. At Smalcald, while suffering excruciating pain, he declared, “I shall die as the enemy of all enemies of my Lord Christ.” When seated in the wagon, and ready to leave Smalcald, he made the sign of the cross over those who stood about him and said: “May the Lord fill you with His blessing and with hatred against the Pope!” Believing that his end was not far removed, he had chosen as his epitaph: “Living, I was thy pest; dying, I shall be thy death, 0 Pope! Pestis eram vivus, moriens ero mors tua, Papa!"

The same spirit of bold defiance and determination not to compromise the divine truth in any way animated the Elector and practically all of the princes and theologians at Smalcald, with, perhaps, the sole exception of Melanchthon. Koestlin writes: “Meanwhile the allies at Smalcald displayed no lack of ‘hatred against the Pope.’ His letters, delivered by the legate, were returned unopened. They decidedly refused to take part in the council, and that in spite of the opinion of their theologians, whose reasons Melanchthon again ardently defended. For, as they declared in an explanation to all Christian rulers, they could not submit to a council which, according to the papal proclamation, was convoked to eradicate the Lutheran heresy, would consist only of bishops, who were bound to the Pope by an oath, have as its presiding officer the Pope, who himself was a party to the matter, and would not decide freely according to the Word of God, but according to human and papal decrees. And from the legal standpoint they could hardly act differently. Theologians like Luther could have appeared even before such a council in order to give bold testimony before it. Princes, however, the representatives of the law and protectors of the Church, dared not even create the appearance of acknowledging its legality.” (2,402.)

65 Opinion of Theologians.

August 6 the Wittenberg professors assembled to deliberate on Brueck’s articles and the views of the Elector. The opinion resolved upon was drawn up by Melanchthon. Its contents may be summarized as follows: The Lutherans must not reject the papal invitation before hearing whether the legate comes with a citation or an invitation. In case they were invited like the rest of the princes to take part in the deliberations, and not cited as a party, this would mean a concession on the part of the Pope, inasmuch as he thereby consented “that the opinion of our gracious Lord [the Elector] should be heard and have weight, like that of the other estates.” Furthermore, by such invitation the Pope would indicate that he did not consider these princes to be heretics. If the legate were rebuffed, the Romanists would proceed against the Lutherans as obstinate sinners (contumaces) and condemn them unheard, which, as is well known, would please the enemies best. The Lutherans would then also be slandered before the Emperor as despisers of His Majesty and of the council. Nor did the mere hearing of the legate involve an acknowledgment of the papal authority. “For with such invitation [to attend the council] the Pope does not issue a command, nor summon any one to appear before his tribunal, but before another judge, namely, the Council, the Pope being in this matter merely the commander of the other estates. By hearing the legate, therefore, one has not submitted to the Pope or to his judgments…. For although the Pope has not the authority to summon others by divine law, nevertheless the ancient councils, as, for example, that of Nicaea, have given him this charge, which external church regulation we do not attack. And although in former years, when the empire was under one head, some emperors convoked councils, it would be in vain at present for the Emperor to proclaim a council, as foreign nations would not heed such proclamation. But while the Pope, at present, according to the form of the law, has the charge to proclaim councils, he is thereby not made the judge in matters of faith, for even popes themselves have frequently been deposed by councils. Pope John proclaimed the Council of Constance, but was nevertheless deposed by it.” Accordingly the opinion continues: “It is not for us to advise that the council be summarily declined, neither do we consider this profitable, for we have always appealed to a council. What manner of suspicion, therefore, would be aroused with His Imperial Majesty and all nations if at the outset we would summarily decline a council, before discussing the method of procedure!” And even if the Lutherans should be cited [instead of invited], one must await the wording of the citation, “whether we are cited to show the reason for our teaching, or to hear ourselves declared and condemned as public heretics.” In the latter case it might be declined. In the former, however, the citation should be accepted, but under the protest “that they had appealed to a free Christian council,” and did not acknowledge the Pope as judge. “And if (caeteris paribus, that is, provided the procedure is correct otherwise) the council is considered the highest tribunal, as it ought to be considered, one cannot,despise the command of the person to whom the charge is given to proclaim councils, whoever he may be. But if afterwards the proceedings are not conducted properly, one can then justly lodge complaint on that account.” “To proclaim a council is within the province of the Pope; but the judgment and decision belongs to the council…. For all canonists hold that in matters of faith the council is superior to the Pope, and that in case of difference the council’s verdict must be preferred to that of the Pope. For there must be a supreme court of the Church, i.e., the council.” On account of the place, however, they should not refuse to appear. (C.R., 31 119.)

In their subsequent judgments the theologians adhered to the view that the Protestants ought not to incur the reproach of having prevented the council by turning down the legate. Luther says, in an opinion written at Smaleald, February, 1537: “I have no doubt that the Pope and his adherents are afraid and would like to see the council prevented, but in such a manner as would enable them to boast with a semblance of truth that it was not their fault, since they had proclaimed it, sent messengers, called the estates, etc., as they, indeed, would brag and trump it up. Hence, in order that we might be frightened and back out, they have set before us a horrible devil’s head by proclaiming a council, in which they mention nothing about church matters, nothing about a hearing, nothing about other matters, but solely speak of the extirpation and eradication of the poisonous Lutheran heresy, as they themselves indicate in the bull De Reformatione Curiae [of September 23, 1536; St. L. 16, 1913ff.]. Here we have not only our sentence, which is to be passed upon us in the council, but the appeal also with hearing, answer, and discussion of all matters is denied us, and all pious, honorable men who might possibly have been chosen as mediators are also excluded. Moreover, these knaves of the devil are bent on doing their pleasure, not only in condemning (for according to the said bull launched against us they want to be certain of that), but also in speedily beginning and ordering execution and eradication, although we have not yet been heard (as all laws require), nor have they, the cardinals, ever read our writing or learned its doctrine, since our books are proscribed everywhere, but have heard only the false writers and the lying mouths, having not heard us make a reply, although in Germany both princes and bishops know, also those of their party, that they are lying books and rascals, whom the Pope, Italy, and other nations believe. . . . Hence they would like to frighten us into refusing it [the Council] ; for then they could safely say that we had prevented it. Thus the shame would not only cleave to us, but we would have to hear that, by our refusal, we had helped to strengthen such abominations of the Pope, which otherwise might have been righted.” Such and similar reasons prompted Luther to declare that, even though he knew “it would finally end in a scuffle,” he was not afraid of “the lousy, contemptible council,” and would neither give the legate a negative answer, nor “entangle himself,” and therefore not be hasty in the matter. (St.L. 16, 1997.) Even after the princes at Smalcald had resolved not to attend the council, Luther expressed the opinion that it had been false wisdom to decline it; the Pope should have been left without excuse; in case it should convene, the council would now be conducted without the Protestants.

66 Elector’s Strictures on Opinion of Theologians.

Elector John Frederick was not at all satisfied with the Wittenberg opinion of August 6. Accordingly, he informed the theologians assembled August 30 at Luther’s house, through Brueck, that they had permitted themselves to be unduly influenced by the jurists, had not framed their opinion with the diligence required bv the importance of the matter, and had not weighed all the dangers lurking in an acceptance of the invitation to the council. If the Lutherans would be invited like the other estates, and attend, they must needs dread a repetition of the craftiness attempted at Augsburg, namely, of bringing their princes in opposition to their preachers. Furthermore, in that case it would also be considered self-evident that the Lutherans submit to the decision of the majority in all matters. And if they refused, what then? “On this wise we, for our part, would be lured into the net so far that we could not, with honor, give a respectable account of our action before the world. For thereupon to appeal from such decision of the council to another would by all the world be construed against our part as capriciousness pure and simple. At all events, therefore, the Lutherans could accept the papal invitation only with a public protest, from which the Pope and every one else could perceive in advance, before the council convened, that the Lutherans would not allow themselves to be lured into the net of a papal council, and what must be the character of the council to which, they would assent.” (C.R. 3, 147.)

In this Protest, which the Elector presented, and which Melanchthon translated into Latin, we read: “By the [possible] acceptance [of the invitation to the council], they [the Lutherans] assent to no council other than a general, free, pious, Christian, and impartial one; not to one either which would be subject to, and bound by, papal prejudices (as the one promised by Clement VII), but to such a synod as will endeavor to bring godly and Christian unity within the Church by choosing pious, learned, impartial, and unsuspected men for the purpose of investigating the religious controversies and adjudicating them from the Word of God, and not in accordance with usage and human traditions, nor on the basis of decisions rendered by former synods that militate against the Word of God.” (152. 157.)

67 Counter-Council Disadvised.

The other matters which engaged the Elector’s attention dealt primarily with measures of defense, the convening of a counter-council (Gegenkonzil) and the preparation of articles which all would unanimously accept, and by which they proposed to stand to the uttermost. August 20 Brueek brought these points up for discussion. And in a “memorandum” which the Elector personally presented to the theologians at Wittenberg on December 1, 1536, he expressed his opinion as follows: The Lutherans were not obligated to attend the council, neither would it be advisable. One could not believe or trust the opponents. Nothing but trickery, deception, harm, and destruction might be expected. At the council the Lutheran doctrine would be condemned, and its confessors excommunicated and outlawed. To be sure, the Lutheran cause was in God’s hands. And as in the past, so also in the future God would protect it. Still they must not on this account neglect anything. Luther should therefore draw up articles from which he was determined not to recede. After they had been subscribed by the Wittenbergers and by all Evangelical pastors at the prospective meeting [at Smalcald], the question might also be discussed whether the Lutherans should not arrange for a counter-council “a universal, free, Christian council,” possibly at Augsburg. The proclamation for this council might be issued “by Doctor Luther together with his fellow-bishops and ecclesiastics, as the pastors.” However, one might also consider whether this should not preferably be done by the princes and estates. In such an event, however, one had to see to it that the Emperor be properly informed, and that the entire blame be saddled upon the Pope and his adherents, the enemies and opponents of our side. (141.)

The seriousness with which the Elector considered the idea of a counter-council appears from the details on which he entered in the “memorandum” referred to, where he puts especial emphasis on the following points: At this free, universal council the Lutherans were minded “to set forth their doctrine and faith according to the divine, holy Scriptures.” Every one, whether priest or layman, should be heard in case he wanted to present anything concerning this doctrine from the Holy Scriptures. A free, safe, Christian passport was to be given to all, even to the worst enemy, leaving it to his discretion when to come and go. Only matters founded in the Scriptures were to be presented and discussed at such council. Human laws, ordinances, and writings should under no circumstances be listened to in matters pertaining to faith and conscience, nor be admitted as evidence against the Word of God. “Whoever would submit such matters, should not be heard, but silence enjoined upon him.” To the verdict of such a holy and Christian council the Lutherans would be willing to submit their doctrine. (141.)

The theologians answered in an opinion of December 6, 1536, endorsing the Protest referred to above, but disapproving the counter-council. Concerning the first joint they advised that a writing be published and sent to the Emperor and all rulers in which the Lutherans were to “request that ways and means be considered of adopting a lawful procedure [at the council] promoting the true Christian unity of Christendom.” Concerning the counter-council, however, they advised “at all events not to hasten with it. For to convoke it would produce a great and terrible appearance of creating a schism, and of setting oneself against all the world and contemplating taking the field soon. Therefore such great, apparent resistance should not be undertaken till one intends to do something in the matter openly and in deed.” Concerning the defense, the Wittenberg theologians were of the opinion that it was the right and duty of the princes to protect and defend their subjects against notorious injuries (if, for example, an attempt should be made to force upon them the Romish idolatry, or to rend asunder the marriages of their pastors), and also against the Emperor, even after the council had condemned them as heretics. Luther signed this opinion with the following words: “I, too, Martin Luther, will help with my prayers and, if necessary, also with my fist.” (126.)

68 Articles Drafted by Luther.

In the “memorandum” of December 1 the Elector spoke of the articles Luther was to frame as follows: “Although, in the first place, it may easily be perceived that whatsoever our party may propose in such a [popish] council as has been announced will have no weight with the opposition, miserable, blinded, and mad men that they are, no matter how well it is founded on Holy Scripture, moreover, everything will have to be Lutheran heresy, and their verdict, which probably has already been decided and agreed upon, must be adopted and immediately followed by their proposed ban and interdict [decree excommunicating and outlawing our party], it will, nevertheless, be very necessary for Doctor Martin to prepare his foundation and opinion from the Holy Scriptures, namely, the articles as hitherto taught, preached, and written by him, and which he is determined to adhere to and abide by at the council, as well as upon his departure from this world and before the judgment of Almighty God, and in which we cannot yield without becoming guilty of treason against God, even though property and life, peace or war, are at stake. Such articles, however, as are not necessary, and in which, for the sake of Christian 1ove, yet without offense against God and His Word, something might be yielded (though, doubtless, they will be few in number), should in this connection also be indicated separately by said Doctor Martin. And when Doctor Martin has completed such work (which, if at all possible for the Doctor, must be done between the present date and that of the Conversion of Paul [January 25, at the latest), he shall thereupon present it to the other Wittenberg theologians, and likewise to some prominent preachers whose presence he should require, to hear from them, at the same time admonishing them most earnestly, and asking them whether they agreed with him in these articles which he bad drawn up, or not, and thereupon, as they hoped for their souls' salvation, their sentiment and opinion be learned in its entirety, but not in appearance, for the sake of peace, or because they did not like to oppose the Doctor, and for this reason would not fully open their hearts, and still, at a later time, would teach, preach, write, and make public something else or advise the people against said articles, as some have in several instances done before this.” An agreement having been reached, the articles were to be subscribed by all and prepared in German and Latin. At the prospective meeting [at Smalcald] they should be submitted to the religious confederates for discussion and subscription. Hence, in the invitation, every prince should be asked “to bring with him two or three theologians, in order that a unanimous agreement might be reached there, and no delay could be sought or pretended.'(139.) Accordingly, the Elector planned to have Luther draw up articles which were to be accepted by all, first at Wittenberg and then at Smalcald, without compulsion and for no other reason than that they expressed their own inmost convictions. The situation had changed since 1530, and the Elector desired a clearer expression, especially on the Papacy. Hence he did not appoint Melanchthon, but Luther, to compose the articles. The truth was to be confessed without regard to anything else.

Luther had received the order to draw up these articles as early as August 20, 1536. September 3 Brueck wrote to the Elector on this matter: “I also delivered to Doctor Martin the credentials which Your Electoral Grace gave to me, and thereupon also spoke with him in accordance with the command of Your Electoral Grace. He promised to be obedient in every way. It also appears to me that he already has the work well in hand, to open his heart to Your Electoral Grace on religion, which is to be, as it were, his testament.” (147.) Luther, who at the time thought that his end would come in the near future, had, no doubt, used such an expression himself. His articles were to be his testament. In the preface to the articles he touched upon it once more, saying: “I have determined to publish these articles in plain print, so that, should I die before there will be a council (as I fully expect and hope, because the knaves who flee the light and shun the day take such wretched pains to delay and hinder the council), those who live and remain after my demise may be able to produce my testimony and confession in addition to the Confession which I previously issued, whereby up to this time I have abided, and by God’s grace will abide.” (455.)

The Elector seems also to have enjoined silence on Luther with respect to the articles until they had been approved at Wittenberg. For in his letter to Spalatin, of December 15, 1536, Luther wrote: “But you will keep these matters [his journey to Wittenberg to discuss the articles] as secret as possible, and pretend other reasons for your departure. Sed haec secrete teneas quantum potes, et finge alias causas abeundi.” (St.L. 21 b, 2135.) December 11 the Elector again called attention to the articles, desiring that Amsdorf, Agricola, and other outside theologians be called to Wittenberg at his expense to take part in the discussion. Shortly after, Luther must have finished the articles. The numerous changes and improvements appearing in the original manuscript, which is still preserved in the Heidelberg library, show how much time and labor he spent on this work. Concluding his articles, Luther says: “These are the articles on which I must stand, and, God willing, shall stand even to my death; and I do not know how to change or to yield anything in them. If any one wishes to yield anything, let him do it at the peril of his conscience.” (501,3.)

Toward the close of the year Luther submitted the draft to his colleagues, Jonas, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Melanchthon, and those who had come from abroad, Spalatin, Amsdorf, and Agricola. After thorough discussion it was adopted by all with but few changes, e. g., regarding the adoration of the saints, concerning which Luther had originally said nothing. (Kolde, 44.) Spalatin reports that all the articles were read, and successively considered and discussed. The Elector had spoken also of points in which a concession might be possible. In the discussion at Wittenberg, Spalatin mentioned as such the question whether the Evangelicals, in case the Pope would concede the cup to them, should cease preaching against the continuance of the one kind among the Papists; furthermore, what was to be done with respect to ordination and the adiaphora. Luther had not entered upon a discussion of these questions, chiefly, perhaps, because he was convinced that the council would condemn even the essential articles. (Compare Melanchthon’s letter of August 4, 1530, to Campegius, C. R. 2, 246.) After the articles had been read and approved, Spalatin prepared a copy (now preserved in the archives at Weimar), which was signed by the eight theologians present, by Melanchthon, however, with the limitation that the Pope might be permitted to retain his authority “iure humano,” “in case he would admit the Gospel.” Perhaps Melanchthon, who probably would otherwise have dissimulated, felt constrained to add this stricture on account of the solemn demand of the Elector that no one should hide any dissent of his, with the intention of publishing it later. (C. R. 3, 140.)

69 Articles Endorsed by Elector.

With these first subscriptions, Luther sent his articles to the Elector on January 3, 1537, by the hand of Spalatin. In the accompanying letter of the same date he informed the Elector that he had asked Amsdorf, Eisleben [Agricola], and Spalatin to come to Wittenberg on December 28 or the following days. “I presented the articles which I had myself drawn up according to the command of Your Electoral Grace, and talked them over with them for several days, owing to my weakness which intervened (as I think, by the agency of Satan); for otherwise I had expected to deliberate upon them no longer than one day. And herewith I am sending them, as affirmed with their signatures, by our dear brother and good friend, Magister George Spalatin, to deliver them to Your Electoral Grace, as they all charged and asked me so to do. At the same time, since there are some who, by suspicion and words, insinuate that we parsons (Pfaffen), as they call us, by our stubbornness desire to jeopardize you princes and lords, together with your lands and people, etc., I very humbly ask, also in the name of all of us, that by all means Your Electoral Grace would reprimand us for this. For if it would prove dangerous for other humble people, to say nothing of Your Electoral Grace, together with other lords, lands, and people, we would much rather take it upon ourselves alone. Accordingly, Your Electoral Grace will know well how far and to what extent you will accept these articles, for we would have no one but ourselves burdened with them, leaving it to every one whether he will, or will not, burden also himself with them.” (St. L. 21b, 2142.)

In his answer of January 7 1537, the Elector expressed his thanks to Luther for having drawn up the articles “in such Christian, true, and pure fashion,” and rejoiced over the unanimity of his theologians. At the same time he ordered Chancellor Brueck to take steps toward having the most prominent pastors of the country subscribe the articles, “so that these pastors and preachers, having affixed their names, must abide by these articles and not devise teachings of their own, according to their own opinion and liking, in case Almighty God would summon Doctor Martin from this world, which rests with His good will.” (Kolde, 45.) In the letter which the Elector sent to Luther, we read: “We give thanks to Almighty God and to our Lord Christ for having granted you health and strength to prepare these articles in such Christian, true, and pure fashion; also that He has given you grace, so that you have agreed on them with the others in Christian also brotherly and friendly unity…. From them we also perceive that you have changed your mind in no point, but that you are steadfastly adhering to the Christian articles, as you have always taught, preached, and written, which are also built on the foundation, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, against whom the gates of hell cannot prevail, and who shall also remain in spite of the Pope, the council, and its adherents. May Almighty God, through our Lord Christ, bestow His grace on us all, that with steadfast and true faith we abide by them, and suffer no human fear or opinion to turn us therefrom! . . . After reading them over for the second time, we can entertain no other opinion of them, but accept them as divine, Christian, and true, and accordingly shall also confess them, and have them confessed freely and publicly before the council, before the whole world, and whatsoever may come, and we shall ask God that He would vouchsafe grace to our brother and to us, and also to our posterity, that steadfastly and without wavering we may abide and remain in.them.” (21 b, 2143.)

70 Melanchthon’s Qualified Subscription.

In his letter to Luther the Elector made special reference also to the qualified subscription of Melanchthon. “Concerning the Pope,” he said, “we have no hesitation about resisting him most vehemently. For if, from good opinion, or for the sake of peace, as Magister Philip suggests, we should suffer him to remain a lord having the right to command us, our bishops, pastors, and preachers, we would expose ourselves to danger and burden (becaue he and his successors will not cease in their endeavors to destroy us entirely and to root out all our posterity), for which there is no necessity, since God’s Word has delivered and redeemed us therefrom. And if we, now that God has delivered us from the Babylonian captivity, should again run into such danger and thus tempt God, this [subjection to the Pope] would, by a just decree of God, come upon us through our wisdom, which otherwise, no doubt, will not come to pass.” (2145.) Evidently, the Elector, though not regarding Melanchthon’s deviation as a false doctrine, did not consider it to be without danger.

At the beginning of the Reformation, Luther had entertained similar thoughts, but he had long ago seen through the Papacy, and abandoned such opinions. In the Smalcald Articles he is done with the Pope and his superiority, also by human riaht: And this for two reasons: first, becauwe it would be impossible for the Pope to agree to a mere superiority iure humano, for in that case “he must suffer his rule and estate to be overturned and destroyed together with all his laws and books; in brief, he cannot do it”; in the second place, because even such a purely human superiority would only harm the Church. (473, 7. 8.) Melanchthon, on the other hand, still adhered to the position which he had occupied in the compromise discussions at Augsburg, whence, e.g., he wrote to Camerarius, August 31, 1530: “Oh, would that I could, not indeed fortify the domination, but restore the administration of the bishops. For I see what manner of church we shall have when the ecclesiastical body has been disorganized. I see that afterwards there will arise a much more intolerable tyranny [of the princes] than there ever was before.” (C.R. 2,334) At Smalcald, however, his views met with so little response among the princes and theologians that in his “Tract on the Primacy of the Pope” he omitted them entirely and followed Luther’s trend of thought. March 1, 1537, Melanchthon himself wrote concerning his defeat at the deliberations of the theologians on the question in which articles concessions might be made in the interest of peace, saying that the unlearned and the more vehement would not hear of concessions, since the Lutherans would then be charged with inconsistency, and the Emperor would only increase his demands. (C.R. 3, 292.) Evidently, then, even at that time Melanchthon was not entirely cured of his utopian dream. “If the Pontiff would admit the Gospel, si pontifex evangelium admitteret.” A. Osiander remarked: “That is, if the devil would become an apostle.” In the Jena edition of Luther’s works Melanchthon’s phrase is commented upon as follows: “And yet the Pope with his wolves, the bishops, even now curses, blasphemes, and outlaws the holy Gospel more horribly than ever before, raging and fuming against the Church of Christ and us poor Christians in most horrible fashion, both with fire and sword, and in whatever way he can, like a real werwolf, aye, like the very devil himself.” (6, 557b.) The same comment is found in the edition of the Smalcald Articles prepared 1553 by Stolz and Aurifaber, where the passage begins: “O quantum mutatus ab illo [the former Melanchthon!” (Koellner; 448. 457.) Carpzov remarks pertinently: “This subscription [of Melanchthon] is not a part of the Book of Concord [it does not contain the doctrine advocated by the Book of Concord], nor was it approved by Luther; moreover, it was later on repudiated by Philip himself.” (Isagoge 823. 894.)

71 Luther’s Articles Sidetracked at Smalcald.

It was a large and brilliant assembly, especially of theologians, which convened at Smalcald in February, 1537. Luther, too, was present. On January 7 the Elector had written: “We hope that our God will grant you grace, strength, and health that you may be able to make the journey to Smalcald with us, and help us to right, and bring to a good issue, this (matter concerning the Pope] and other matters.”

As stated above, the Elector’s plan was to elevate Luther’s articles to a confession officially recognized and subscribed to by all Lutheran princes, estates, and theologians. Accordingly, on February 10, at the first meeting held at Smalcald, Chancellor Brueck moved that the theologians deliberate concerning the doctrine, so that, in case the Lutherans would attend the council, they would know by what they intended to stand, and whether any concessions were to be made, or, as Brueck put it, “whether anything good [perhaps a deliverance on the Papacy] should be adopted, or something should be conceded.”

Self-evidently, Brueck had Luther’s articles in mind, although it cannot be proved that he directly and expressly mentioned them or submitted them for discussion and adoption. Perhaps, he felt from the very beginning that the Elector would hardly succeed with his plans as smoothly and completely as anticipated. For Luther, desiring to clear the track for the whole truth in every direction, the Reformed as well as the Papistic, both against the “false brethren who would be of our party” (Preface to Sm. Art. 455,4), as well as against the open enemies, had in his articles so sharpened the expressions employed in the Wittenberg Concord of 1536 concerning the Lord’s Supper that the assent of Philip of Hesse and the attending South German delegates and theologians (Bucer, Blaurer, Wolfart, etc.) was more than doubtful. Luther’s letter to the adherents of Zwingli, December 1, 1537, shows that he did not at all desire unnecessarily to disturb the work of union begun by the Wittenberg Concord. (St. L. 17, 2143.) Still, he at the same time endeavored to prevent a false union resting on misunderstanding and self-deception. And, no doubt, his reformulation of the article on the Lord’s Supper was intended to serve this purpose. Besides, owing to a very painful attack of gravel {kidney stones?}, Luther was not able to attend the sessions, hence could not make his influence felt in a decisive manner as desired by the Elector.

This situation was exploited by Melanchthon in the interest of his attitude toward the Zwinglians, which now was much more favorable than it had been at Augsburg, 1530. From the very outset he opposed the official adoption of Luther’s articles. He desired more freedom with regard to both the Romanists and the Reformed than was offered by Luther’s articles. The first appears from his subscription. Concerning the article of the Lord’s Supper, however, which the Strassburgers and others refused to accept, Melanchthon does not seem to have voiced any scruples during the deliberations at Wittenberg. Personally he may even have been able to accept Luther’s form, and this, too, more honestly than Bucer did at Smalcald. For as late as September 6, 1557, he wrote to Joachim of Anhalt: “I have answered briefly that in doctrine all are agreed, and that we all embrace and retain the Confession with the Apology and Luther’s confession written before the Synod of Mantua. Respondi breviter, consensum esse omnium de doctrine: amplecti nos omnes et retinere Confessionem cum Apologia et confessione Lutheri scrpta ante Mantuanam Synodum.” (C.R. 9, 260.) But, although Melanchthon, for his person, accepted Luther’s article on the Lord’s Supper, he nevertheless considered it to be dangerous to the Concord with the Southern Germans and to the Smalcald League. Privately he also made known his dissatisfaction in no uncertain manner. And in so doing, he took shelter behind Philip of Hesse, who, as at Augsburg, 1530, still desired to have the Zwinglians regarded and treated as weak brethren.

Kolde relates: “On the same day (February 10) Melanchthon reported to the Landgrave: ‘One article, that concerning the Sacrament of the Holy Supper, has been drawn up somewhat vehemently, in that it states that the bread is the body of the Lord, which Luther at first did not draw up in this form, but, as contained in the [Wittenberg] Concord, namely, that the body of the Lord is given with the bread; and this was due to Pomeranus, for he is a vehement man and a coarse Pomeranian. Otherwise he [Melanchthon] knew of no shortcoming or complaint in all the articles.’ . . . ‘He also said’ (this the Landgrave reports to Jacob Sturm of Strassburg as an expression of Melanchthon) ‘that Luther would hear of no yielding or receding, but declared: This have I drawn up; if the princes and estates desired to yield anything, it would rest with them,’ etc. The estates, Melanchthon advised, might therefore in every way declare that they had adopted the Confession and the Concord, and were minded to abide by them. At the same time he promised to demand at the prospective deliberation of the theologians, ‘that the article of the Sacrament be drawn up as contained in the Concord.’ Melanchthon’s assertion that Bugenhagen influenced Luther’s formulation of the article on the Lord’s Supper is probably correct. At any rate, it can be proved that Luther really changed the article. For a glance at the original manuscript shows that he had at first written, in conformity with the Concord, ‘that the true body and blood of Christ is under the bread and wine, but later on changed it to read: ‘that the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper are the true body and blood of Christ."’ (48.) Melanchthon was diplomatic enough to hide from the Landgrave his strictures on Luther’s articles about the Pope, knowing well that in this point he could expect neither approval nor support.

72 Articles Not Discussed in Meeting of League.

As the Southern Germans regarded Luther’s formulation of the article on the Lord’s Supper with disfavor, the Landgrave found little difficulty in winning over (through Jacob Sturm) the delegates of Augsburg and Ulm to Melanchthon’s view of declaring adherence only to the Confession and the Wittenberg Concord. Already on February 11 the cities decided to “decline on the best grounds” the Saxon proposition. Following were the reasons advanced: It was not necessary at present to enter upon the proposition, since the council would make slow progress, as the Emperor and the King of France were not yet at peace. They had not understood this (the adoption of the Saxon proposition) to be the purpose of the invitation to bring scholars with them. They had a confession, the Augustana, presented to the Emperor. It was also to be feared that deliberations on the question whether any concessions should be made, might lead to a division; nor would this remain concealed from the Papists. If the Elector desired to present some articles, he might transmit them ‘and they, in turn, would send them to their superiors for inspection. (Kolde, Analecta, 296.)

In the afternoon of February 11 the princes, according to the report of the Strassburgers, expressed their satisfaction with the resolution of the cities. At the same time they declared that they were not minded to make any concessions to the Papists, nor to dispute about, or question, anything in the Confession or the Wittenberg Concord, “but merely to review the Confession, not to change anything against its contents and substance, nor that of the Concord, but solely to enlarge on the Papacy, which before this, at the Diet, had been omitted, in order to please His Imperial Majesty and for other reasons”; that such was the purpose of the deliberation for which the scholars had been summoned; and that this was not superfluous, since “they were all mortal, and it was necessary that their posterity be thoroughly informed as to what their doctrine had been, lest others who would succeed to their places accept something else.” The report continues: “The cities did not object to this.” (296.) According to this report, then, Luther’s articles were neither discussed nor adopted at the official meeting of the princes and estates belonging to the Smalcald League. Without mentioning them, they declared in their final resolution: Our scholars have “unanimously agreed among themselves in all points and articles contained in our Confession and Apology, presented at the Diet of Augsburg, excepting only that they have expanded and drawn up more clearly than there contained one article, concerning the Primacy of the Pope of Rome.” (Koellner, 468.) Koestlin remarks: “Since the princes decided to decline the council absolutely, they had no occasion to discuss Luther’s articles.” (2, 403.)

73 Meeting of Theologians.

At Smalcald the first duty imposed upon the scholars and theologians was once more to discuss the Augustana and the Apology carefully, and to acknowledge both as their own confessions bv their signatures. Thereupon they were, in a special treatise, to enlarge on the Papacy. The Strassburg delegates report: “It has also come to pass that the scholars received orders once more to read the articles of the Confession and to enlarge somewhat on the Papacy, which they did.” (Kolde, Analecta, 298.) However, since neither the Augustana nor its Apology contained an article against the Papacy, the demand of the princes could only be satisfied by a special treatise, the “Tractatus de Potestate et Primatu Papae,” which Melanchthon wrote and completed by February 17, where upon it was immediately delivered to the princes.

The princes had furthermore ordered the theologians, while reviewing and discussing the Augustana (and its Apology), to reenforce its doctrine with additional proofs. Owing to lack of time and books, this was not carried out. February 17 Osiander reports to the Nuernberg preachers: “We are enjoying good health here, although we traveled in stormy weather and over roads that offered many difficulties, and are living under a constantly beclouded sky, which unpleasantries are increased by troublesome and difficult questions in complicated matters. . . . The first business imposed on us by the princes embraces two things: first, to fortify the Confession and the Apology with every kind of argument from the Holy Scriptures, the fathers, councils, and the decrees of the Popes; thereupon, diligently to discuss in detail everything concerning the Primacy, which was omitted in the Confession because it was odious. The latter we completed so far to-day that we shall immediately deliver a copy to the princes. The former, however, will be postponed to another time and place, since it requires a longer time, as well as libraries, which are lacking here.” (C.R. 3, 267.)

The discussion of the Confession was also to serve the purpose of obtaining mutual assurance whether they were all really agreed in doctrine. This led to deliberations on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as well as on the question what concessions might be made to the Romanists. According to a report of Melanchthon, March 1, the theologians were to discuss the doctrines, not superficially, but very thoroughly, in order that all disagreement might be removed, and a harmonious and complete system of doctrines exist in our churches. They were to review the Confession in order to learn whether any one deviated in any article or disapproved of anything. But Melanchthon remarks that this object was not reached, since the special request had been voiced not to increase the disagreement by any quarrel and thus to endanger the Smalcald League. (C.R. 3, 292.) In a second letter of the same date he says that a real doctrinal discussion had never come to pass, partly because Luther’s illness prevented him from taking part in the meetings, partly because the timidity of certain men [the Landgrave and others] had prevented an exact disputation, lest any discord might arise. (295.) March 3 he wrote to Jonas in a similar vein, saying that the reports of violent controversies among the theologians at Smalcald were false. For although they had been in consultation with one another for the purpose of discovering whether all the theologians in attendance there agreed in doctrine, the matter had been treated briefly and incidentally. (298.)

As far as the Lord’s Supper is concerned, Melanchthon’s report concerning the superficial character of the doctrinal discussions is little, if at all, exaggerated. He himself was one of those timid souls of whom he spoke, having from the beginning done all he could not only to bar Luther’s articles from the deliberations, but also to prevent any penetrating discussion of the Lord’s Supper. Assent to the Wittenberg Concord was considered satisfactory, although all felt, and believed to know, that some of the Southern Germans did not agree with the loyal Lutherans in this matter. Of the attending theologians who were under suspicion, Bucer, Blaurer, Fagius, Wolfart, Fontanus, and Melander, only the first two took part in the deliberations. (292.) March 1 Melanchthon wrote to Camerarius: “Bucer spoke openly and clearly of the Mystery (the Lord’s Supper], affirming the presence of Christ. He satisfied all of our party, also those who are more severe. Blaurer, however, employed such general expressions as, that Christ was present. Afterward he added several more ambiguous expressions. Osiander pressed him somewhat hotly; but since we did not desire to arouse any very vehement quarrel, I terminated the discussion. Thus we separated, so that agreement was restored among all others, while he [Blaurer] did not seem to contradict. I know that this is weak, but nothing else could be done at this time, especially since Luther was absent, being tortured by very severe gravel pains.” (292.) This agrees with the report Veit Dietrich made to Foerster, May 16, stating: At the first meeting of the committee of the theologians they completed the first nine articles of the Augustana. Blaurer, Wolfart, and some others of those who were doctrinally under suspicion (nobis suspecti de doctrina) were present. “However, when the article of the Lord’s Supper was to be discussed on the following day, the meeting was prevented, I do not know by whom. It is certain that the princes, too, desired another meeting, because they feared a rupture of the [Smalcald] Alliance, if any doctrinal difference should become evident, which, however, would occur if the matter were thoroughly discussed. Since the disputation was prevented, we were commissioned to write on the Power of the Pope, in order to have something to do. Report had it that Blaurer did not approve the Concord of Wittenberg; certainly, he asked Philip for expressions of the Fathers (which are now in my possession), in order to be better furnished with arguments. This prompted Pomeranus and Amsdorf again to convene the theologians against Melanchthon’s will. Then the Lord’s Supper was discussed. Bucer indeed satisfied all. Blaurer, however, while speaking vaguely of the other matters, nevertheless publicly attacked the statement that the ungodly do not receive the body of Christ.” Wolfart declared that he was present at the Concord made at Wittenberg, and had approved it. It was unpleasant for him [Dietrich] when hereupon Stephanus Agricola and then Wolfart rehashed some old statements, vetera quaedam dicta. (370.)

74 Luther’s Articles Subscribed.

As to the articles of Luther, Veit Dietrich reports that they were privately circulated at Smalcald and read by all. They were also to be read at the meeting of the theologians on February 18. (C.R. 3, 37 1.) As a matter of fact, however, neither a public reading nor a real discussion, nor an official adoption resulted. The Strassburg delegates report: “Doctor Martin Luther has also drawn up some special articles, which he purposed to send to the council on his own accord, copies of which we have designated with W.” The Strassburgers, then, were in position to send home a copy of these articles. Furthermore, Osiander relates in a letter dated February 17: “Besides this, Luther has also written articles at Wittenberg, short indeed, but splendid and keen (illustres et argutos), in which everything is summed up in German wherefrom we cannot recede in the council without committing sacrilege. To-morrow we shall read them publicly in our meeting, in order that any one who wishes to add anything to them may present this in the presence of all. They will also, as I hope, deliberate on the [Wittenberg] Concord in the matter concerning the Lord’s Supper. I regard Bucer as being sincerely one of us; Blaurer, however, by no means. For Philip tells of his having remarked that he was not able to agree with us.” (268.) On February 18, however, Luther was taken ill, and an official, public reading and discussion of his articles did not take pface on this day, nor, as already stated, at a later date.

Luther’s articles, however, were nevertheless adopted at Smaleald, though not by the South Germans. When all other business had been transacted, they were presented for voluntary subscription. Bugenhagen had called the theologians together for this purpose. He proposed that now all those who wished (qui velint) should sign the articles Luther had brought with him. Hereupon Bucer declared that he had no commission to do this. However, in,order to obliterate the impression that he declined to subscribe because of doctrinal differences, he added that he knew nothing in Luther’s articles which might be criticized. Blaurer of Constance, Melander of Hesse, and Wolfart of Augsburg followed his example in declaring that they had no commission to sign the articles. In order not to endanger the Smalcald League Bugenhagen, as appears from his proposition, refrained from urging any one to sign. This was also the position of the other theologians. Veit Dietrich reports: “Bucer was the first to say that he had no orders to sign. He added, however, that he knew of nothing in these articles that could be criticized, but that his magistrates had reasons for instructing him not to sign them. Afterwards Blaurer, Dionysius Melander, and your Boniface [Wolfart of Augsburg] said the same [that they had not been authorized by their superiors to sign]. The thought came to me immediately why Bucer, who taught correctly, should have been the first to refuse his signature, since it was certain that the others, Blaurer and, if you will, also your man, would not subscribe because they did not approve of the dogma of the Lord’s Supper. This would have led to an open doctrinal schism, which the Elector, Ernst of Lueneburg, and the Counts of Anhalt would, under no circumstances, have tolerated among the confederates. But, since Bucer did not subscribe, it was not necessary to dispute about the doctrine. When we saw this, I was also pleased that Luther’s articles received no attention [in the official subscription], and that all subscribed merely to the Augustana and the Concord. And there was no one who refused to do this.” (371.)

While thus Bucer, Fagius, Wolfart, Blaurer, and Fontanus refused to affix their signatures, the attending loyal Lutheran theologians endorsed Luther’s articles all the more enthusiastically. And while the signatures affixed to the Augustana and the Apology total 32, including the suspected theologians, 44 names appear under Luther’s articles. Among these is found also the abnormal subscription of Melander of Hesse: “I subscribe to the Confession, the Apology, and the Concord in the matter of the Eucharist,” which is probably to be interpreted as a limitation of Luther’s Article of the Lord’s Supper.

Although, therefore, the subscription of the Smalcald Articles lacked the official character and was not by order of the Smalcald League as such, it nevertheless is in keeping with the actual facts when the Formula of Concord refers to Luther’s Articles as “subscribed at that time [ 1537 by the chief theologians.” (777, 4; 853, 7.) All true Lutheran pastors assembled at Smalcald recognized in Luther’s articles their own, spontaneous confession against the Papists as well as against the Zwinglians and other enthusiasts.

75 Endorsed by Princes and Estates.

The Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord makes the further statement that the Smalcald Articles were to be delivered in the Council at Mantua “in the name of the Estates, Electors, and Princes.” (853, 7.) Evidently this is based on Luther’s Preface to the Smalcald Articles, written 1538, in which he says concerning his Articles: “They have also been accepted and unanimously confessed by our side, and it has been resolved that, in case the Pope with his adherents should ever be so bold as seriously and in good faith, without lying and cheating, to hold a truly free Christian Council (as, indeed, he would be in duty bound to do), they be publicly delivered in order to set forth the Confession of our Faith.” (455.)

Kolde and others surmise that Luther wrote as he did because, owing to his illness, he was not acquainted with the true situation at Smalcald. Tschackert, too, takes it for granted that Luther, not being sufficiently informed, was under the erroneous impression that the princes and estates as well as the theologians had adopted, and subscribed to, his articles. (300. 302.) Nor has a better theory of solving the difficulty hitherto been advanced. Yet it appears very improbable. If adopted, one must assume that Luther’s attention was never drawn to this error of his. For Luther does not merely permit his assertion to stand in the following editions of the Smalcald Articles, but repeats it elsewhere as well. In an opinion written 1541 he writes: “In the second place, I leave the matter as it is found in the articles adopted at Smalcald; I shall not be able to improve on them; nor do I know how to yield anything further.” (St.L. 17, 666.)

The Elector, too, shared Luther’s opinion. In a letter of October 27, 1543, he urged him to publish in Latin and German (octavo), under the title, Booklet of the Smalcald Agreement - Bucchlein der geschehenen Schmalkaldischen Vergleichung, the “Articles of Agreement, Vergleichungsartikel,” on which he and Melanchthon had come to an agreement in 1537, at Smaleald, with the other allied estates, scholars, and theologians. (St. L. 21 b, 2913.) October 17, 1552, immediately after he had obtained his liberty, the Elector made a similar statement. (C.R. 7, 1109.) Nor did Spalatin possess a knowledge in this matter differing from that of Luther and the Elector. He, too, believed that not only the theologians, but the princes and estates as well, with the exception of Hesse, Wuerttemberg, Strassburg, etc., had subscribed to Luther’s articles. (Kolde, 51.)

Evidently, then, Luther’s statement was generally regarded as being substantially and approximately correct and for all practical purposes in keeping, if not with the exact letter and form, at least with the real spirit of what transpired at Smalcald and before as well as after this convention. It was not a mere delusion of Luther’s, but was generally regarded as agreeing with the facts, that at Smalcald his articles were not only subscribed by the theologians, but adopted also by the Lutheran princes and estates, though, in deference to the Landgrave and the South German cities, not officially and by the Smalcald League as such.

76 Symbolical Authority of Smalcald Articles.

The importance attached to the Smalcald Articles over against the Reformed and Crypto-Calvinists appears from a statement made by the Elector of Saxony, October 17,1552 (shortly after his deliverance from captivity), in which he maintained that the Lutheran Church could have been spared her internal dissensions if every one had faithfully abided by the articles of Luther. He told the Wittenberg theologians that during his captivity he had heard of the dissensions and continued controversies, “which caused us no little grief. And we have therefore often desired with all our heart that in the churches of our former lands and those of others no change, prompted by human wisdom, had been undertaken nor permitted in the matters (doctrines) as they were held during the life of the blessed Doctor Martin Luther and during our rule, and confirmed at Smalcald, in the year 1537, by all pastors and preachers of the estates of the Augsburg Confession then assembled at that place. For if this had been done, no doubt, the divisions and errors prevailing among the teachers of said Confession, together With the grievous and harmful offenses which resulted therefrom, would, with the help of God, have been avoided.” (C.R. 7, 1109.)

In the Prolegomena to his edition of the Lutheran Confessions, Hase remarks concerning the symbolical authority of Luther’s articles: “The formula of faith, drawn up by such a man, and adorned with such names, immediately enjoyed the greatest authority. Fidei formula a tali viro protects talibusque nominibus ornata maxima statim auctoritate floruit.” To rank among the symbolical books, Luther’s articles required a special resolution on the part of the princes and estates as little as did his two catechisms; contents and the Reformer’s name were quite sufficient. Voluntarily the articles were subscribed at Smalcald. On their own merits they won their place of honor in our Church. In the situation then obtaining, they voiced the Lutheran position in a manner so correct and consistent that every loyal Lutheran spontaneously gave and declared his assent. In keeping with the changed historical context of the times, they offered a correct explanation of the Augsburg Confession, adding thereto a declaration concerning the Papacy, the absence of which had become increasingly painful. They struck the timely, logical, Lutheran note also over against the Zwinglian and Bucerian [Reformed and Unionistic] tendencies. Luther’s articles offered quarters neither for disguised Papists nor for masked Calvinists. In brief, they gave such a clear expression to genuine Lutheranism that false spirits could not remain in their company. It was the recognition of these facts which immediately elicited the joyful acclaim of all true Lutherans. To them it was a recommendation of Luther’s articles when Bucer, Blaurer, and others, though having subscribed the Augsburg Confession, refused to sign them. Loyal Lutherans everywhere felt that the Smalcald Articles presented an up-to-date touchstone of the pure Lutheran truth, and that, in taking their stand on them, their feet were planted, over against the aberrations of the Romanists as well as the Zwinglians, on ground immovable.

In the course of time, the esteem in which Luther’s articles were held, rose higher and higher. Especially during and after the controversies on the Interim, as well as in the subsequent controversies with the Crypto-Calvinists, the Lutherans became more and more convinced that the Smalcald Articles, and not the Variata, contained the correct exposition of the Augsburg Confession. At the Diet of Regensburg, in 1541, the Elector, by his delegates, sent word to Melanchthon “to stand by the Confession and the Smalcald Agreement [Smalcald Articles] in word and in sense.” The delegates answered that Philip would not yield anything “which was opposed to the Confession and the Smalcald Agreement,” as he had declared that “he would die rather than yield anything against his conscience.” (C.R. 4, 292.) In an opinion of 1544 also the theologians of Hesse, who at Smalcald had helped to sidetrack Luther’s articles, put them on a par with the Augustana. At Naumburg, in 1561, where Elector Frederick of the Palatinate and the Crypto-Calvinists endeavored to undermine the authority of Luther, Duke John Frederick of Saxony declared that he would abide by the original Augustana and its “true declaration and norm,” the Smalcald Articles.

Faithful Lutherans everywhere received the Smalcald Articles into their corpora doctrinae. In 1557 the Convention of Coswig declared them to be “the norm by which controversies are to be decided, “norma docendi controversias.” Similarly, the Synod of Moelln, 1559. In 1560 the ministerium of Luebeck and the Senate of Hamburg confessionally accepted the Articles. Likewise, the Convention of Lueneburg in 1561, and the theologians of Schleswig-Holstein in 1570. The Thorough Declaration could truthfully say that the Smalcald Articles had been embodied in the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church, “for the reason that these have always and everywhere been regarded as the common, unanimously accepted meaning of our churches, and, moreover, have been subscribed at that time by the chief and most enlightened theologians, and have held sway in all evangelical churches and schools.” (855, 11.)

77 Editions of Smalcald Articles.

In 1538 Luther published his Articles, which editio princeps was followed by numerous other editions, two of them in the same year. In the copy of the Articles which Spalatin took at Wittenberg the title reads: “Opinion concerning the Faith, and What We Must Adhere to Ultimately at the Future Council. Bedenken des Glaubens halben, und worauf im kuenftigen Konzil endlich zu beharren sei.” The editio princeps bears the title: “Articles which were to be Delivered on Behalf of Our Party at the Council of Mantua, or Where Else It Would Meet. Artikel, so da haetten aufs Konzilium zu Mantua, oder wo es muerde sein, ueberantwortet werden von unsers Teils wegen.” These titles designate the purpose for which the articles were framed by order of the Elector. In the edition of 1553, published by John Stolz and John Aurifaber, Luther’s Articles are designated as “prepared for the Diet of Smalcald in the year 1537, gestellt auf den Tag zu Schmalkaiden Anno 1537.” Says Carpzov: “They are commonly called Smalcald Articles after the place where they were composed [an error already found in Brenz’s letter of February 23, 1537, appended to the subscriptions of the “Tract on the Power and Primacy of the Pope” (529). See also Formula of Concord 777, 4; 853, 7 , as well as solemnly approved and subscribed, since the articles were composed by Luther and approved by the Protestants at Smalcald, a town in the borders of Saxony and Ducal Hesse, and selected for the convention of the Protestants for the reason that the individuals who had been called thither might have an easy and safe approach.” (Isagoge, 769.)

The text of the Smalcald Articles, as published by Luther, omits the following motto found in the original: “This is sufficient doctrine for eternal life. As to the political and economic affairs, there are enough laws to trouble us, so that there is no need of inventing further troubles much more burdensome. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. His satis est doctrinae pro vita aetema. Caeterum in politia et oeconomia satis est legum, quibus vexamur, ut non sit, opus praeter has molestias fingere alias quam miserrimas [necessarias]. Sufficit diei malitia sua.” (Luther, Weimar 50, 192. St.L. 16, 1918.) Apart from all kinds of minor corrections, Luther added to the text a Preface (written 1538) and several additions, some of them quite long, which, however, did not change the sense. Among these are {sections} 5, 13 to 15, and 25-28 of the article concerning the Mass; {sections} 42-45 concerning the False Repentance of the Papists; {sections} 3-13 about Enthusiasm in the article concerning Confession. The editions of 1543 and 1545 contained further emendations. The German text of Luther’s first edition of 1538 was received into the Book of Concord, “as they were first framed and printed.” (853, 7.) The first Latin translation by Peter Generanus appeared in 1541, with a Preface by Veit Amerbach (later on Catholic Professor of Philosophy at Ingolstadt). In 1542 it was succeeded by an emended edition. In the following year the Elector desired a Latin-German edition in octavo. The Latin translation found in the Book of Concord of 1580 was furnished by Selneccer; this was revised for the official Latin Concordia of 1584.

78 Tract on the Power and Primacy of the Pope.

Melanchthon’s “Tract Concerning the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Tractatus de Potestate et Primatu Papae,” presents essentially the same thoughts Luther had already discused in his article “Of the Papacy.” Melanchthon here abandons the idea of a papal supremacy iure humano, which he had advocated at Augsburg 1530 and expressed in his subscription to Luther’s articles, and moves entirely in the wake of Luther and in the trend of the Reformer’s thoughts. The Tract was written not so much from his own conviction as from that of Luther and in accommodation to the antipapal sentiment which, to his grief, became increasingly dominant at Smalcald. (C.R. 3, 270. 292 f. 297.) In a letter to Jonas, February 23, he remarks, indicating his accommodation to the public opinion prevailing at Smalcald: “I have written this [Tract] somewhat sharper than I am wont to do.” (271. 292.) Melanchthon always trimmed his sails according to the wind; and at Smalcald a decidedly antipapal gale was blowing. He complains that he found no one there who assented to his opinion that the papal invitation to a council ought not be declined. (293.) It is also possible that he heard of the Elector’s criticism of his qualified subscription to Luther’s articles. At all events, the Tract amounts to a retraction of his stricture on Luther’s view of the Papacy. In every respect, Smalcald spelled a defeat for Melanchthon. His ‘policy toward the South Germans was actually repudiated by the numerous and enthusiastic subscriptions to Luther’s articles, foreshadowing, as it were, the final historical outcome, when Philippism was definitely defeated in the Formula of Concord. And his own Tract gave the coup de grace to his mediating policy with regard to the Romanists. For here Melanchthon, in the manner of Luther, opposes and denounces the Pope as the Antichrist, the protector of ungodly doctrine and customs, and the persecutor of the true confessors of Christ, from whom one must separate. The second part of the Tract, “Concerning the Power and the Jurisdiction of the Bishops, _De Potestate et Iurisdictione Episcoporum,” strikes an equally decided note.

The Tract, which was already completed by February 17, received the approval of the estates, and, together with the Augustana and the Apology, was signed by the theologians upon order of the princes. (C.R. 3, 286.) Koellner writes: “Immediately at the convention Veit Dietrich translated this writing [the Tract] into German, and (as appears from the fact that the Weimar theologians in 1553 published the document from the archives with the subscriptions) this German translation was, at the convention, presented to, and approved by, the estates as the official text, and subscribed by the theologians.” (464.) Brenz’s letter appended to the subscriptions shows that the signing did not take place till after February 23, perhaps the 25th of February. For on the 26th Melanchthon and Spalatin refer to it as finished.

With reference to the Concord of 1536, let it be stated here that, although mentioned with approval by the theologians and also included in Brenz’s and Melander’s subscriptions to the Smalcald Articles, the princes and estates nevertheless passed no resolution requiring its subscription. Melanchthon writes that the princes had expressly declared that they would abide by the Wittenberg Concord. (C.R. 3, 292.) Veit Dietrich’s remark to Foerster, May 16, 1537, that only the Augustana and the Concord were signed at Smalcald, is probably due to a mistake in writing. (372.)

79 Authorship of Tract.

The Tract first appeared in print in 1540. A German translation, published 1541, designates it as “drawn up by Mr. Philip Melanchthon and done into German by Veit Dietrich.” (C.R. 23, 722.) In the edition of the Smalcald Articles by Stolz and Aurifaber, 1553, the Tract is appended with the caption: “Concerning the Power and Supremacy of the Pope, Composed by the Scholars. Smalcald, 1537.” In the Jena edition of Luther’s Works the Smalcald Articles are likewise followed by the Tract with the title: “Concerning the Power and Supremacy of the Pope, Composed by the Scholars in the Year 37 at Smalcald and Printed in the Year 38.” (6, 523.) This superscription gave rise to the opinion that the German was the original text. At any rate, such seems to have been the belief of Selneccer, since he incorporated a Latin translation, based on the German text, into the Latin edition of his Book of Concord, privately published 1580. Apart from other errors, this Latin version contained also the offensive misprint referred to in our article on the Book of Concord (p. 5). In the official edition of 1584 it was supplanted bv the original text of Melanchthon. The subtitle, however, remained: “Tractatus per Theologos Smalcaldicos Congregates Conscriptus.”

To-day it is generally assumed that by 1553 it was universally forgotten both that Melanchthon was the author of the Tract, and that it was originally composed in Latin. However, it remains a mystery how this should have been possible - only twelve years after Dietrich had published the Tract under a title which clearly designates Melanchthon as its author, and states that the German text is a translation. The evidence for Melanchthon’s authorship which thus became necessary was furnished by J. C. Bertram in 1770. However, before him Chytraeus and Seekendorf, in 1564, had expressly vindicated Melanchthon’s authorship. Be it mentioned as a curiosity that the Papist Lud. Jac. a St. Carole mentioned a certain “Articulus Alsmalcaldicus, Germanus, Lutheranus” as the author of the Tract. In the Formula of Concord and in the Preface to the Book of Concord the Tract is not enumerated as a separate confessional writing, but is treated as an appendix to the Smalcald Articles.

80 A Threefold Criticism.

On the basis of the facts stated in the preceding paragraphs, Kolde, followed by others, believes himself justified in offering a three-fold criticism. In the first place, he opines that Luther’s Articles are “very improperly called ‘Smalcald Articles."’ However, even if Luther’s Articles were not officially adopted by the Smalcald League as such, they were nevertheless, written for the Convention of Smalcald, and were there signed by the assembled Lutheran theologians and preachers, and privately adopted also by most of the princes and estates. For Luther’s Articles, then, there is and can be no title more appropriate than “Smalcald Articles.” Tschackert remarks: “Almost all [all, with the exception of the suspected theologians] subscribed, and thereby they became weighty and important for the Evangelical churches of Germany; and hence it certainly is not inappropriate to call them ‘Smalcald Articles,’ even though they were written at Wittenberg and were not publicly deliberated upon at Smalcald.” (302.)

“It is entirely unhistorical,” Kolde continues in his strictures, “to designate Melanchthon’s Tract, which has no connection with Luther’s Articles, as an ‘Appendix’ to them, when in fact it was accepted as an appendix of the Augustana and Apology.” (50.) It is a mistake, therefore, says Kolde, that the Tract is not separately mentioned in the Book of Concord, nor counted as a separate confessional writing. (53.) Likewise Tschackert: “On the other hand, it is a mistake to treat Melanchthon’s Tract as an appendix to the Smalcald Articles, as is done in the Book of Concord. The signatures of the estates have rather given it an independent authority in the Church.” (302.) However, there is much more of a connection between Luther’s Articles and the Tract than Kolde and Tschackert seem to be aware of. Luther’s Articles as well as the Tract were prepared for the Convention at Smalcald. Both were there signed by practically the same Lutheran theologians. The fact that in the case of the Smalcald Articles this was done voluntarily rather enhances, and does not in the least diminish, their importance. Both also, from the very beginning, were equally regarded as Lutheran confessional writings. The Tract, furthermore, follows Luther’s Articles also in substance, as it is but an acknowledgment and additional exposition of his article “Of the Papacy.” To be sure, the Tract must not be viewed as an appendix to Luther’s Articles, which, indeed, were in no need of such an appendix. Moreover, both the Articles and the Tract may be regarded as appendices to the Auasburg Confession and the Apology. Accordingly, there is no reason whatever why, in the Book of Concord, the Tract should not follow Luther’s Articles or be regarded as closely connected with it, and naturally belonging to it. Koellner is right when he declares it to be “very appropriate” that the Tract is connected and grouped with the Smalcald Articles. (469.)

Finally, Kolde designates the words in the title “composed, conscriptus, by the scholars” as false in every respect. Likewise Tschackert. (303.) The criticism is justified inasmuch as the expression “composed, zusammengezogen, conscriptus, by the scholars” cannot very well be harmonized with the fact that Melanchthon wrote the Tract. But even this superscription is inappropriate, at least not in the degree assumed by Kolde and Tschackert. For the fact is that the princes and estates did not order Melanchthon, but the theologians, to write the treatise concerning the Papacy, and that the Tract was presented in their name. Koellner writes: “It is certainly a splendid testimony for the noble sentiments of those heroes of the faith that the Elector should know of, and partly disapprove, Melanchthon’s milder views, and still entrust him with the composition of this very important document [the Tract], and, on the other hand, equally so, that Melanchthon so splendidly fulfilled the consideration which he owed to the views and the interests of the party without infringing upon his own conviction.” “Seekendorf also,” Koellner adds, “justly admires this unusual phenomenon.” (471.) However, Koellner offers no evidence for the supposition that the Elector charged Melanchthon in particular with the composition of the Tract. According to the report of the Strassburg delegates, the princes declared that “the scholars” should peruse the Confession and enlarge on the Papacy. The report continues: “The scholars received orders . . . to enlarge somewhat on the Papacy, which they did, and thereupon transmittal their criticism to the Elector and the princes.” (Kolde, Anal., 297.) This is corroborated by Melanchthon himself, who wrote to Camerarius, March 1, 1537: “We received orders (iussi sumus) to write something on the Primacy of Peter or the Roman Pontiff.” (C.R. 3, 292.) February 17 Osiander reported: “The first business imposed on us by the princes was . . . diligently to explain the Primacy, which was omitted from the Confession because it was regarded as odious. The latter of these duties we have to-day completed, so that we shall immediately deliver a copy to the princes.” (3, 267.) These statements might even warrant the conclusion that the theologians also participated, more or less, in the drawing up of the Tract, for which, however, further evidence is wanting. Nor does it appear how this view could be harmonized with Veit Dietrich’s assertion in his letter to Foerster, May 16: “Orders were given to write about the power of the Pope, the primacy of Peter, and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Philip alone performed this very well.” (3, 370.)

However, entirely apart from the statement of Osiander, the mere fact that the theologians were ordered to prepare the document, and that it was delivered by, and in the name of, these theologians, sufficiently warrants us to speak of the document as “The Tract of the Scholars at Smaleald” with the same propriety that, for example, the opinion which Melanchthon drew up on August 6, 1536, is entitled: “The First Proposal of the Wittenberg Scholars concerning the Future Council.” (C.R. 3, 119.) myText; ?>