Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions
XVII. The Antinomistic Controversy.
183. Distinction between Law and Gospel of Paramount Import.
Zwingli, who was a moralist and a Humanist rather than a truly evangelical reformer, taught: “In itself the Law is nothing else than a Gospel; that is, a good, certain message from God by means of which He instructs us concerning His will."(Frank 2, 312.) While Zwingli thus practically identified Law and Gospel, Luther, throughout his life, held that the difference between both is as great as that between life and death or the merits of Christ and our own sinful works; and that no one can be a true minister of the Christian Church who is unable properly to distinguish and apply them. For, according to Luther, a commingling of the Law and the Gospel necessarily leads to a corruption of the doctrine of justification, the very heart of Christianity. And as both must be carefully distinguished, so both must also be upheld and preached in the Church; for the Gospel presupposes the Law and is rendered meaningless without it. Wherever the Law is despised, disparaged, and corrupted, the Gospel, too, cannot be kept intact. Whenever the Law is assailed, even if this be done in the name of the Gospel, the latter is, in reality, hit harder than the former. The cocoon of antinomianism always bursts into antigospelism.
Majorism, the mingling of sanctification and justification, and synergism, the mingling of nature and grace, were but veiled efforts to open once more the doors of the Lutheran Church to the Roman work righteousness, which Luther had expelled. The same is true of antinomianism in all its forms. It amounts to nothing less than apostasy from true Evangelicalism and a return to Romanism. When Luther opposed Agricola, the father of the Antinomians in the days of the Reformation, he did so with the clear knowledge that the Gospel of Jesus Christ with its doctrine of justification by grace and faith alone was at stake and in need of defense. “By these spirits,” said he, “the devil does not intend to rob us of the Law, but of Christ, who fulfilled the Law.” (St. L. 20, 1614, Pieper, Dogm. 3, 279; Frank 2, 268. 325.)
With the same interest in view, to save the Gospel from corruption, the Formula of Concord opposes antinomianism and urges that the distinction between the Law and the Gospel be carefully preserved. The opening paragraph of Article V, “Of the Law and the Gospel,” reads: “As the distinction between the Law and Gospel is a special brilliant light which serves to the end that God’s Word may be rightly divided, and the Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles may be properly explained and understood, we must guard it with especial care, in order that these two doctrines may not be mingled with one another, or a Law be made out of the Gospel, whereby the merit of Christ is obscured and troubled consciences are robbed of their comfort, which they otherwise have in the holy Gospel when it is preached genuinely and in its purity, and by which they can support themselves in their most grievous trials against the terrors of the Law.” (951, 1.) The concluding paragraph of this article declares that the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel must be preserved, “in order that both doctrines, that of the Law and that of the Gospel, be not mingled and confounded with one another, and what belongs to the one may not be ascribed to the other,whereby the merit and benefits of Christ are easily obscured and the Gospel is again turned into a doctrine of the Law, as has occurred in the Papacy, and thus Christians are deprived of the true comfort which they have in the Gospel against the terrors of the Law, and the door is again opened in the Church of God to the Papacy.” (961, 27.) The blessed Gospel, our only comfort and consolation against the terrors of the Law, will be corrupted wherever the Law and the Gospel are not properly distinguished,-such, then, was the view also of the Formula of Concord.
Articles V and VI of the Formula treat and dispose of the issues raised by the Antinomians. In both Luther’s doctrine is maintained and reaffirmed.Article V,“Of the Law and Gospel,“teaches that, in the proper sense of the term, everything is Law that reveals and rebukes sin, the sin of unbelief in Christ and the Gospel included; that Gospel, in the proper and narrow sense, is nothing but a proclamation and preaching of grace and forgiveness of sin, that, accordingly, the Law as well as the Gospel are needed and must be retained and preached in the Church. This was precisely what Luther had taught. In one of his theses against Agricola he says: “Whatever discloses sin, wrath, or death exercises the office of the Law; Law and the disclosing of sin or the revelation of wrath are convertible terms. Quidquid ostendit peccatum, iram seu mortem, id exercet officium legis; lex et ostensio peccati seu revelatio irae sunt termini convertibiles.” Article VI “Of the Third Use of the Law,” teaches that although Christians, in as far as they are regenerate, do the will of God spontaneously, the Law must nevertheless be preached to them on account of their Old Adam, not only as a mirror revealing their sins and as a check on the lusts of the flesh, but also as a rule of their lives. This, too, is precisely what Luther had maintained against Agricola: “The Law,” said he, “must be retained [in the Church], that the saints may know which are the works God requires.” (Drews,Disputationen Dr.Martin Luthers, 418; Herzog R. I, 688; Frank 2, 272; Tschackert, 482.)
184.Agricola Breeding Trouble.
In the Lutheran Church antinomianism appeared in a double form: one chiefly before the other after the death of Luther. The first of these conflicts was originated by Agricola who spoke most contemptuously and disparagingly of the Law of God, teaching, in particular, that true knowledge of sin and genuine contrition is produced, not by the Law, but by the Gospel only, and that hence there is in the Church no use whatever for the Law of God. After Luther’s death similar antinomistic errors were entertained and defended by the Philippists in Wittenberg, who maintained that the sin of unbelief is rebuked not by the Law, but by the Gospel. Poach, Otto, and others denied that, with respect to good works, the Law was of any service whatever to Christians after their conversion.
Barring Carlstadt and similar spirits, John Agricola (Schnitter, Kornschneider, Magister Islebius-Luther called him Grickel) was the first to strike a discordant note and breed trouble within the Lutheran Church. Born April 20, 1492, at Eisleben, he studied at Leipzig, and from 1515 to 1516 at Wittenberg.
Here he became an enthusiastic adherent and a close friend of Luther and also of Melanchthon, after the latter’s arrival in 1518. In 1539 Luther himself declared that Agricola had been “one of his best and closest friends.” (St. L. 20, 1612.) In 1519 he accompanied both to the great debate in Leipzig. In 1525 he became teacher of the Latin school and though never ordained, pastor of the church in Eisleben. Being a speaker of some renown he was frequently engaged by the Elector of Saxony, especially on his journeys-to Speyer 1526 and 1529, to Augsburg 1530, to Vienna 1535. At Eisleben, Agricola was active also in a literary way, publishing sermons, a catechism, and, 1526, a famous collection of 300 German proverbs (the Wittenberg edition of 1592 contains 750 proverbs).
When the new theological professorship created 1526 at Wittenberg was given to Melanchthon, Agricola felt slighted and much disappointed. In the following year he made his first antinomian attack upon Melanchthon. The dispute was settled by Luther, but only for a time. In 1536 Agricola, through the influence of Luther (whose hospitality also he and his large family on their arrival in Wittenberg enjoyed for more than six weeks), received an appointment at the university. He rewarded his generous friend with intrigues and repeated renewals of the antinomian quarrels, now directing his attacks also against his benefactor. By 1540 matters had come to such a pass that the Elector felt constrained to institute a formal trial against the secret plotter, which Agricola escaped only by accepting a call of Joachim II as courtpreacher and superintendent at Berlin. After Luther’s death, Agricola, as described in a preceding chapter, degraded and discredited himself by helping Pflug and Sidonius to prepare the Augsburg Interim (1547), and by endeavoring to enforce this infamous document in Brandenburg. He died September 22 1566.
Vanity, ambition, conceit, insincerity, impudence, arrogance, and ungratefulness were the outstanding traits of Agricola’s character. Luther said that Agricola, swelled with vanity and ambition, was more vexatious to him than any pope; that he was fit only for the profession of a jester, etc. December 6 1540, Luther wrote to Jacob Stratner, courtpreacher in Berlin:“Master Grickel is not nor ever will be, the man that he may appear or the Margrave may consider him to be.For if you wish to know what vanity itself is you can recognize it in no surer image than that of Eisleben. Si enim velis scire, quidnam ipsa vanitas sit, nulla certiore imagine cognosces quam lslebii.” (St. L. 21b, 2536.) Flacius reports that shortly before Luther’s death, when some endeavored to excuse Agricola, the former answered angrily: “Why endeavor to excuse Eisleben? Eisleben is incited by the devil, who has taken possession of him entirely.You will see what a stir he will make after my death! Ihr werdet wohl erfahren,was er nach meinem Tod fuer einen Laerm wird anrichten!” (Preger 1, 119.)
185.Agricola’s Conflict with Melanchthon.
The antinomian views that repentance (contrition) is not wrought by the Law, but by the Gospel, and that hence there is no room for the Law and its preaching in the Christian Church, were uttered by Agricola as early as 1525. In his Annotations to the Gospel of St. Luke of that year he had written: “The Decalog belongs in the courthouse, not in the pulpit. All those who are occupied with Moses are bound to go to the devil.To the gallows with Moses !” (Tschackert 481;Herzog R. 1, 688; E. 4, 423.) The public dispute began two years later when Agricola criticized Melanchthon because in the latter’s “Instructions to the Visitors of the Churches of Saxony” (Articles of Visitation, Articuli, de quibus Egerunt per Visitatores in Regione Saxionae, 1527) the ministers were urged first to preach the Law to their spiritually callous people in order to produce repentance (contrition), and thus to prepare them for saving faith in the Gospel the only source of truly good works. Melanchthon had written: “Pastors must follow the example of Christ. Since He taught repentance and remission of sins, pastors also must teach these to their churches. At present it is common to vociferate concerning faith, and yet one cannot understand what faith is, unless repentance is preached. Plainly they pour new wine into old bottles who preach faith without repentance, without the doctrine of the fear of God, without the doctrine of the Law, and accustom the people to a certain carnal security, which is worse than all former errors under the Pope have been.” (C. R. 26, 9.) Agricola considered these and similar exhortations of Melanchthon unfriendly and Romanizing, and published his dissent in his 130 Questions for Young Children, where he displayed a shocking contempt for the Old Testament and the Law of God. In particular, he stressed the doctrine that genuine repentance (contrition) is wrought, not by the Law, but by the Gospel only. In letters to his friends, Agricola at the same time charged Melanchthon with corrupting the evangelical doctrine. (Frank 2, 252.)
At a meeting held at Torgau, November 26 to 28, 1527, the differences were discussed by Agricola and Melanchthon in the presence of Luther and Bugenhagen. The exact issue was: Does faith presuppose contrition? Melanchthon affirmed the question, and Agricola denied it. Luther finally effected an agreement by distinguishing between general and justifying faith, and by explaining that repentance (contrition), indeed, presupposes a general faith in God, but that justifying faith presupposes the terrors of conscience (contrition) wrought by the Law. His decision ran “that the term faith should be applied to justifying faith which consoles us in these terrors [produced by the threats of the Law] but that the word repentance correctly includes a general faith,” viz., that there is a God who threatens transgressors, etc. (C. R. 1, 916.) In agreement herewith Melanchthon wrote in the German Unterricht der Visitatoren, published 1528 at Wittenberg, that, in the wider and more general sense, the term “faith” embraces contrition and the Law, but that in the interest of the common people the word “faith” should be reserved for the special Christian or justifying faith in Christ. We read: “Denn wiewohl etliche achten, man solle nichts lehren vor dem Glauben, sondern die Busse aus und nach dem Glauben folgend lehren, auf dass die Widersacher [Papisten] nicht sagen moegen, man widerrufe unsere vorige Lehre, so ist aber doch anzusehen, weil [dass] die Busse und Gesetz auch zu dem gemeinen Glauben gehoeren.Denn man muss ja zuvor glauben, dass Gott sei, der da drohe, gebiete, schrecke usw. So sei es fuer den gemeinen, groben Mann, dass man solche Stuecke des Glaubens lasse bleiben unter dem Namen Busse, Gebot, Gesetz, Furcht usw., auf dass sie desto unterschiedlicher den Glauben Christi verstehen, welchen die Apostel iustificantem fidem, das ist, der da gerecht macht und Suende vertilgt, nennen, welches der Glaube von dem Gebot und Busse nicht tut und doch der gemeine Mann ueber dem Wort Glauben irre wird und Fragen aufbringt ohne Nutzen.” (C. R. 26, 51f.)
186. Luther’s First Disputation against the Antinomians.
At Wittenberg, in 1537, Agricola renewed his antinomianism by secretly and anonymously circulating a number of propositions (Positiones inter Fratres Sparsae) directed against both Luther and Melanchthon, whom he branded as “contortors of the words of Christ,” urging all to resist them in order to preserve the pure doctrine. Quotations from Luther and Melanchthon were appended to the theses in order to show that their teaching concerning the “mode of justification (modus iustificationis)” was sometimes “pure,” sometimes “impure.” Agricola wrote: “Impure [among the statements of Melanchthon and Luther] are: 1. In the Saxon Visitation: ‘Since Christ commands that repentance and remission of sins is to be preached in His name, hence the Decalog is to be taught,’ 2.Again … ‘As the Gospel therefore teaches that the Law has been given to humiliate us, in order that we may seek Christ,’ etc. 3. In his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians Luther says that it is the office of the Law to torment and to terrify the conscience, that it may know Christ more readily.Many similar passages are found in this commentary, which we reject as false, in order to maintain the purity of the doctrine.” (E., v. a 4, 422f.; St. L. 20, 1627.)
Luther answered by publishing,December 1, 1537, the theses of Agricola together with Other Antinomian Articles (Alii Articuli Antinomi), compiled from written and verbal expressions of Agricola and his followers. In his introductory remarks Luther not only disowned and emphatically condemned (nos ab eiusmodi portentis prorsus abhorrere) Agricola’s Positiones inter Fratres Sparsae, but also announced a number of disputations against antinomianism. (E. 4, 420.) The first was held December 18, 1537, in which Luther maintained: Contrition is wrought by the preaching of the Law; but a man is able to make a good resolution and to hate sin out of love toward God only after the Gospel has comforted his alarmed conscience.
Following are some of the 39 theses discussed by Luther in his first disputation against the Antinomians: “4. The first part of repentance, contrition, is [wrought] by the Law alone. The other part, the good purpose, cannot be [wrought] by the Law. 24. And they [the Antinomians] teach perniciously that the Law of God is simply to be removed from the church, which is blasphemous and sacrilegious. 25. For the entire Scripture teaches that repentance must begin from the Law, which also the order of the matter itself as well as experience shows. 31.Necessarily, then, sin and death cannot be revealed by the Word of Grace and Solace, but by the Law. 32. Experience teaches that Adam is first reproved as a transgressor of the Law and afterwards cheered by the promised Seed of the woman. 33. Also David is first killed by the Law through Nathan, saying: ‘Thou art the man,’ etc.-afterwards he is saved by the Gospel, declaring: ‘Thou shalt not die,’ etc. [2 Sam. 12, 7. 13.] 34. Paul, prostrated by the Law, first hears: ‘Why persecutest thou Me?‘Afterwards he is revived by the Gospel: ‘Arise,’ etc. [Acts 9, 4. 6.] 35. And Christ Himself says, Mark I, 15: ‘Repent ye and believe the Gospel, for the kingdom of God is at hand,’ 36.Again:‘Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name,’ [Luke 24, 47.] 37. Likewise the Spirit first reproves the world of sin, in order to teach faith in Christ, i.e., forgiveness of sin. [John 16, 8.] 38. In the Epistle to the Romans Paul observes this method, first to teach that all are sinners, and thereupon, that they are to be justified solely through Christ.” (Drews, 253ff.; St. L. 20, 1628ff.)
187. Luther’s Second Disputation against the Antinomians.
Since Agricola did not appear at the first public disputation against the Antinomians, moreover secretly [“im Winkel”] continued his opposition and intrigues, Luther insisted that his privilege of lecturing at the university be withdrawn. Thus brought to terms Agricola, through his wife, sued for reconciliation. Luther demanded a retraction to be made at his next disputation, which was held January 12, 1538. (Drews, 248. 334f.; C. R. 25, 64; 3, 482f.) Here Luther explained that, though not necessary to justification, the Law must not be cast out of the church, its chief object being to reveal the guilt of sin; moreover, that the Law must be taught to maintain outward discipline, to reveal sin, and to show Christians what works are pleasing to God. (Drews, 418.)
Following are some of the 48 theses discussed by Luther in his second disputation: “3.When treating of justification, one cannot say too much against the inability of the Law [to save] and against the most pernicious trust in the Law. 4. For the Law was not given to justify or vivify or help in any way toward righteousness. 5. But to reveal sin and work wrath, i.e., to render the conscience guilty. [Rom. 3, 20; 4, 15.] 8. In brief, as far as heaven is from the earth, so far must the Law be separated from justification. 9. And nothing is to be taught, said, or thought in the matter of justification but only the word of the grace exhibited in Christ. 10. From this, however, it does not follow that the Law is to be abolished and excluded from the preaching of [done in] the church. 11. Indeed, just for the reason that not only is it not necessary to justification, but also cannot effect it, it is the more necessary to teach and urge it. 12. In order that man, who is proud and trusts in his own powers, may be instructed that he cannot be justified by the Law. 18. Whatever reveals sin, wrath, or death exercises the office of the Law, whether it be in the Old or in the New Testament. 19. For to reveal sin is nothing else, nor can it be anything else, than the Law or an effect and the peculiar power of the Law. 20. Law and revelation of sin or of wrath are convertible terms. 24. So that it is impossible for sin to be,or to be known,without the Law written or inscribed [in the heart]. 27.And since the Law of God requires our obedience toward God, these Antinomians (nomomachi) abolish also obedience toward God. 28. From this it is manifest that Satan through these his instruments teaches about sin, repentance, and Christ in words only (verbaliter tantum). 29. But in reality he takes away Christ, repentance, sin, and the entire Scripture, together with God, its Author. 46. For the Law, as it was before Christ, did indeed accuse us; but under Christ it is appeased through the forgiveness of sins, and thereafter it is to be fulfilled through the Spirit. 47. Therefore the Law will never, in all eternity, be abolished, but will remain, either to be fulfilled by the damned, or already fulfilled by the blessed. 48. These pupils of the devil however, seem to think that the Law is temporary only, which ceased under Christ even as circumcision did.” (Drews, 336ff.; St. L. 20, 1632ff.)
Following is a summary of the views expressed by Luther in his second disputation: “Why is the Law to be taught? The Law is to be taught on account of discipline, according to the word of Paul, 1 Tim. 1, 9: ‘The Law is made for the lawless,’ and that by this pedagogy men might come to Christ as Paul says to the Galatians (3, 24): ‘The Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ,’ In the second place, the Law is to be taught to reveal sin, to accuse, terrify, and damn the consciences, Rom. 3, 20: ‘By the Law is the knowledge of sin;’ again, chapter 4, 15: ‘The Law worketh wrath,’ In the third place, the Law is to be retained that the saints may know what kind of works God requires in which they may exercise their obedience toward God. Lex est retinenda, ut sciant sancti, quaenam opera requirat Deus, in quibus obedientiam exercere erga Deum possint.” (Drews, 418; Herzog R. 1, 688.)
188. Third and Fourth Series of Luther’s Theses against Antinomianism.
Having complied with the conditions, and publicly (also in two sermons delivered April 23) retracted his error, and declared his assent to the views expressed in Luther’s second disputation,Agricola was again permitted to preach and teach.As a result, Luther also, though he had no faith in the sincerity of Agricola’s retraction, did not carry out his original plan of discussing a third and fourth series of theses which he had prepared against antinomianism. (Drews, 419ff.; E. 4, 430ff.)
From the third series, comprising 40 theses, we quote the following: “1. The repentance of the Papists, Turks, Jews, and of all unbelievers and hypocrites is alike in every respect. 2. It consists in this, that they are sorry and make satisfaction for one or several sins, and afterwards are secure as to other sins or original sin. 5. The repentance of believers in Christ goes beyond the actual sins, and continues throughout life, till death. 8. For the sin in our flesh remains during the entire time of our life, warring against the Spirit, who resists it. [Rom. 7, 23.] 9. Therefore all works after justification are nothing else than a continuous repentance, or a good purpose against sin. 10. For nothing else is done than that sin, revealed by the Law and forgiven in Christ, is swept out. 17. The Lord’s Prayer, taught by the Lord Himself to the saints and believers, is a part of repentance, containing much of the doctrine of the Law. 18. For whoever prays it aright confesses with his own mouth that he sins against the Law and repents. 27. Therefore also the Lord’s Prayer itself teaches that the Law is before, below, and after the Gospel (legem esse ante, sub et post evangelium), and that from it repentance must begin. 30. From this it follows that these enemies of the Law [Antinomians] must abolish also the Lord’s Prayer if they abolish the Law. 31. Indeed, they are compelled to expunge the greatest part of the sermons of Christ Himself from the Gospel-story. 32. For Matt. 5, 17ff.He does not only recite the Law of Moses, but explains it perfectly, and teaches that it must not be destroyed. 34. Everywhere throughout the Gospel He also reproves, rebukes, threatens, and exercises similar offices of the Law. 35. So that there never has been nor ever will be more impudent men than those who teach that the Law should be abolished.” (St. L. 20, 1636ff.; E. 4, 430ff.)
From the fourth series of 41 theses directed by Luther against the Antinomians we quote: “12. Therefore we must beware of the doctrine of the Papists concerning repentance as of hell and the devil himself. 13. Much more, however, must we avoid those who leave no repentance whatever in the Church. 14. For those who deny that the Law is to be taught in reality simply wish that there be no repentance. 15. The argument:’ Whatever is not necessary to justification, neither in the beginning, nor in the middle, nor in the end, must not be taught,’ etc., amounts to nothing. 17. It is the same as though you would argue: The truth that man is dead in sin is not necessary to justification, neither in the beginning, nor in the middle, nor in the end; hence it must not be taught. 18.To honor parents, to live chaste, to abstain from murders, adulteries, and thefts is not necessary to justification; hence such things must not be taught. 22. Although the Law helps nothing toward justification it does not follow therefrom that it ought to be abolished and not to be taught. 26. Everywhere in Paul [the phrase] ‘without the Law’must be understood (as Augustine correctly explains) ‘without the assistance of the Law,’ as we have always done. 27. For the Law demands fulfilment, but helps nothing toward its own fulfilment. 35. But faith in Christ alone justifies, alone fulfils the Law, alone does good works, without the Law. 37. It is true that after justification good works follow spontaneously,without the Law, i.e., without the help or coercion of the Law. 38. In brief, the Law is neither useful nor necessary for justification, nor for any good works,much less for salvation. 39. On the contrary, justification, good works, and salvation are necessary for the fulfilment of the Law. 40. For Christ came to save that which was lost [Luke 19, 10 , and for the restitution of all things, as St. Peter says [Acts 3, 21 . 41. Therefore the Law is not destroyed by Christ, but established, in order that Adam may become such as he was, and even better.” (St. L. 20. 1639ff.: E. 4. 433.)
189. Luther’s Third Public Disputation against the Antinomians.
Soon after his second disputation Luther obtained evidence of Agricola’s relapse into his former errors and ways. The upshot was another disputation on a fifth series of theses held September 13, 1538, in which Luther denounced the Antinomians as deceivers, who lulled their hearers into carnal security. He also explained that the passages culled from his own writings were torn from their historical context, and hence misinterpreted.His former statements, said Luther, had been addressed to consciences already alarmed, and therefore in immediate need of the consolation of the Gospel; while now the Antinomians applied them to secure consciences, who, first of all, were in need of the terrifying power of the Law. (Drews, 421f.; Tschackert, 482.)
From the 70 theses treated by Luther in his third disputation, we submit the following: “1. The Law has dominion over man as long as he lives. [Rom. 7, 1.] 2. But he is freed from the Law when he dies. 3. Necessarily, therefore, man must die if he would be free from the Law. 7. These three: Law, sin, and death, are inseparable. 8.Accordingly so far as death is still in man, in so far sin and the Law are in man. 9. Indeed, in Christ the Law is fulfilled, sin abolished, and death destroyed. 11. That is, when, through faith we are crucified and have died in Christ, such things [the Law fulfilled, sin abolished, and death destroyed] are true also in us. 13. But the fact itself and experience testify that the just are still daily delivered to death. 14.Necessarily, therefore, in as far as they are under death, they are still also under the Law and sin. 15. They [the Antinomians] are altogether inexperienced men and deceivers of souls who endeavor to abolish the Law from the church. 16. For this is not only foolish and wicked, but also absolutely impossible. 17. For if you would abolish the Law, you will be compelled to abolish also sin and death. 18. For death and sin are present by virtue of the Law, as Paul says [2 Cor. 3, 6 : ‘The letter killeth,’ and [1 Cor. 15, 56 : ‘The strength of sin is the Law,’ 19.But since you see that the just die daily what a folly is it to imagine that they are without the Law! 20. For if there were no Law, there would be neither sin nor death. 21. Hence they should have first proved that the just are altogether without sin and death. 22. Or that they no longer live in the flesh, but are removed from the world. 23. Then it might justly be taught that also the Law is altogether removed from them and must not be taught in any way. 24. This they cannot prove, but experience itself shows the contrary to their very faces. 25. So, then, the impudence of the teachers who wish to remove the Law from the church is extraordinary. 26. Yet it is a much greater impudence, or rather insanity, when they assert that even the wicked should be freed from the Law, and that it should not be preached to them. 29. If, however, they pretend that their church or their hearers simply are all pious men and Christians,without the Law, 30. Then it is evident that they are altogether of unsound mind and do not know what they say or affirm. 31. For this is nothing else than to imagine that all their hearers have been removed from this life. 35.Thus it [the Law] is also given to the pious, in so far as they are not yet dead and still live in the flesh. 40.Now, in as far as Christ is raised in us, in so far we are without Law, sin, and death. 41. But in as far as He is not yet raised in us, in so far we are under the Law, sin, and death. 42. Therefore the Law (as also the Gospel) must be preached,without discrimination, to the righteous as well as to the wicked. 44. To the pious, that they may thereby be reminded to crucify their flesh with its affections and lusts, lest they become secure. [Gal. 5, 24.] 45. For security abolishes faith and the fear of God, and renders the latter end worse than the beginning. [2 Pet. 2, 20.] 46. It appears very clearly that the Antinomians imagine sin to have been removed through Christ essentially and philosophically or juridically (formaliter et philosophice seu iuridice) 47.And that they do not at all know that sin is removed only inasmuch as the merciful God does not impute it [Ps. 32, 2 , and forgives it (solum reputatione et ignoscentia Dei miserentis). 61. For if the Law is removed, no one knows what Christ is, or what He did when He fulfilled the Law for us. 66. The doctrine of the Law, therefore, is necessary in the churches, and by all means is to be retained, as without it Christ cannot be retained. 67.For what will you retain of Christ when (the Law having been removed which He fulfilled) you do not know what He has fulfilled? 69. In brief, to remove the Law and to let sin and death remain, is to hide the disease of sin and death to men unto their perdition. 70.When death and sin are abolished (as was done by Christ), then the Law would be removed happily; moreover, it would be established,Rom. 3, 31."(Drews 423ff.; St. L. 20, 1642ff.; E. 4, 436ff.)
190. Agricola’s Retraction Written and Published by Luther.
Seeing his position in the Wittenberg University endangered, Agricola was again ready to submit. And when a public retraction was demanded, he even left it to Luther to formulate the recantation. Luther did so in a public letter to Caspar Guettel in Eisleben, entitled, Against the Antinomians-Wider die Antinomer, which he published in the beginning of January, 1539. (St. L. 20, 1610.) In a crushing manner Luther here denounced “the specter of the new spirits who dare thrust the Law or the Ten Commandments out of the church and relegate it to the courthouse.”
Complaining of “false brethren,” Luther here says: “And I fear that, if I had died at Smalcald [ 1537 , I should forever have been called the patron of such [antinomian] spirits, because they appeal to my books. And all this they do behind my back, without my knowledge and against my will, not even considering it worth while to inform me with as much as a word or syllable, or at least to ask me regarding the matter. Thus I am compelled to proceed against Magister John Agricola,” etc. (1611.) “But since he was afraid that he might not express it in a manner such as would be considered satisfactory, he has fully authorized and also requested me to do it [write the retraction for Agricola] as well as I could, which, he being satisfied, I agreed to do, and herewith have done, especially for the reason that after my death neither Master Eisleben himself nor anybody else might be able to pretend that I had done nothing in this matter and simply allowed everything to pass and go on as fully satisfactory to me.” (1612.)
Referring to his former statements appealed to by Agricola, Luther continues: “I have indeed taught, and still teach, that sinners should be led to repentance by the preaching of, and meditation upon, the suffering of Christ, so that they may realize how great God’s wrath is over sin, seeing that there is no other help against it than that God’s Son must die for it … But how does it follow from this that the Law must be abandoned? I am unable to discover such an inference in my logic, and would like to see and hear the master who would be able to prove it.When Isaiah says, chap. 53, 8: ‘For the transgression of My people was He stricken,’ tell me, dear friend, is the Law abandoned when here the suffering of Christ is preached? What does ‘for the transgression of My people’ mean? Does it not mean: because My people have sinned against, and not kept,My Law? Or can any one imagine that sin is something where there is no law? Whoever abolishes the Law must with it also abolish sins. If he would allow sins to remain, he must much more allow the Law to remain.For Rom.6, 13 [4, 15 we read: ‘Sin is not imputed where there is no law.’ If there is no sin Christ is nothing. For why does He die if there be neither Law nor sin for which He was to die? From this we see that by this spiritism [Geisterei] the devil does not mean to take away the Law, but Christ, who fulfilled the Law. [Matt. 5, 17.] For he well knows that Christ may well and easily be taken away, but not so the Law, which is written in the heart.” (1613f.) “Therefore I request of you,my dear Doctor [Guettel], that, as you have done heretofore, you would continue in the pure doctrine and preach that sinners should and must be led to repentance not only by the sweet grace and suffering of Christ, who has died for us, but also by the terrors of the Law.” (1615.) “For whence do we know what sin is if there is no Law and conscience? And whence shall we learn what Christ is, what He has done for us, if we are not to know what the Law is which He has fulfilled for us, or what sin is, for which He has atoned? And even if we did not need the Law for us and were able to tear it out of our hearts (which is impossible),we nevertheless must preach it for the sake of Christ (as also is done and must be done), in order that we may know what He has done and suffered for us. For who could know what and for what purpose Christ has suffered for us if no one were to know what sin or the Law is? Therefore the Law must certainly be preached if we would preach Christ.” (1616.) “This, too, is a peculiar blindness and folly, that they imagine the revelation of wrath to be something else than the Law (which is impossible); for the revelation of wrath is the Law when realized and felt, as Paul says [Rom. 4, 15 : ‘Lex iram operatur. The Law worketh wrath.’ “(1618.)
By way of conclusion Luther remarked: “Let this suffice at present, for I hope that since Master Eisleben is converted and retracts, the others, too,who received it [the antinomian error] from him, will abandon it, which God may help them to do! Amen.” (1619.) At the same time, however he did not withhold the opinion that Agricola’s self humiliation would hardly be of long duration.“If he continues in such humility,“said Luther, “God certainly can and will exalt him; if he abandons it, then God is able to hurl him down again.” (1612.)
191. Luther’s Fourth Disputation against the Antinomians.
Luther’s distrust was not unfounded, for Agricola continued secretly to teach his antinomianism, abetted in his sentiments among others also by Jacob Schenck [since 1536 first Lutheran pastor in Freiberg, Saxony; 1538 dismissed on account of his antinomianism 1540 professor in Leipzig; later on deposed and finally banished from Saxony]. Indeed in March, 1540, Agricola even lodged a complaint with the Elector, charging Luther with “calumnies.” In the first part of the following month Luther answered these charges in a Report to Doctor Brueck Concerning Magister John Eisleben’s Doctrine and Intrigues (St. L. 20, 1648ff.) About the same time; Count Albrecht of Mansfeld denounced Agricola to the Elector as a dangerous, troublesome man. Hereupon the Elector on June 15 1540, opened formal legal proceedings against Agricola, who, as stated above, removed to Berlin in August without awaiting the trial, although he had promised with an oath not to leave before a legal decision had been rendered. (Drews, 611.) Incensed by the treacherous conduct of Agricola, Luther, September 10, 1540, held a final disputation on a sixth series of theses against the Antinomians, charging them with destroying all order human as well as divine. (St. L. 20, 1647; 4, 441.)
Regarding Agricola’s duplicity, Luther, in his Report to Brueck, said in substance: According to the statements of Caspar Guettel and Wendelin Faber, Agricola had for years secretly agitated against the Wittenbergers and founded a sect at Eisleben calling themselves Minorish [Minorists]; he had branded and slandered their doctrine as false and impure, and this, too,without conferring with them or previously admonishing them; he had come to Wittenberg for the purpose of corrupting and distracting the Church; his adherents had made the statement that Eisleben would teach the Wittenbergers theology and logic; he had inveigled Hans Lufft into printing his Postil by falsely stating that it had been read and approved by Luther; in his dealings with the Wittenbergers he had acted not as an honest man, let alone a pious Christian and theologian, but treacherously and in keeping with his antinomian principles; parading as a loyal Lutheran at public conventions and laughing and dining with them, he had misled “his old, faithful friend” [Luther] to confide in him, while secretly he was acting the traitor by maligning him and undermining his work. In the Report we read: “Agricola blasphemes and damns our doctrine as impure and false (i.e., the Holy Spirit Himself in His holy Law); he slanders and defames us Wittenbergers most infamously wherever he can; and all this he does treacherously and secretly, although we have done him no harm, but only did well by him, as he himself must admit. He deceives and attacks us [me], his best friend and father, making me believe that he is our true friend. Nor does he warn me, but, like a desperate treacherous villain, secretly works behind our back to cause the people to forsake our doctrine and to adhere to him, thus treating us with an ungratefulness, pride, and haughtiness such as I have not frequently met with before.” (1656.)
In his charge against Luther, Agricola had said that it was dangerous to preach the Law without the Gospel, because it was a ministry of death (ministerium mortis). Luther answered in his Report to Brueck: “Behold now what the mad fool does. God has given His Law for the very purpose that it should bite, cut, strike, kill, and sacrifice the old man. For it should terrify and punish the proud ignorant, secure Old Adam and show him his sin and death, so that, being humiliated, he may despair of himself, and thus become desirous of grace, as St. Paul says: ‘The strength of sin is the Law; the sting of death is sin,'[1 Cor. 15, 56.] For this reason he also calls it bonam, iustam, sanctam-good, just, holy. Again, Jeremiah [23, 29 : ‘My Word is like a hammer that breaketh the rock to pieces,‘Again: ‘Ego ignis consumens, etc.-I am a consuming fire,’ Ps. 9, 21 [ 20 : ‘Constitue legislatorem super eos, ut sciant gentes, se esse homines, non deos, nec Deo similes-Put them in fear,O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men,’ Thus St. Paul does Rom.1 and 2 and 3 making all the world sinners by the Law, casting them under the wrath of God, and entirely killing them before God. But here our dear Master Grickel appears on the scene and invents a new theology out of his own mad and reckless fool’s head and teaches: One must not kill and reprove the people, i.e., one must not preach the Law. Here he himself confesses publicly in his suit [against Luther] that he has condemned and prohibited the preaching of the Law.” (St. L. 20, 1657.)
The Report continues: “Since, now, the little angry devil who rides Master Grickel will not tolerate the Law, i.e., mortificantem, irascentem, accusantem, terrentem, occidentem legem,-the mortifying, raging, accusing, terrifying, killing Law,-it is quite evident what he intends to do through Master Grickel’s folly (for he nevertheless wishes to be praised as preaching the Law after and under the Gospel, etc.), viz., to hide original sin and to teach the Law no further than against future actual sins, for such is the manner of his entire Postil; even as the Turks, Jews, philosophers, and Papists teach who regard our nature as sound; but Master Grickel does not see that it is just this which his little spirit [devil] aims at by his bragging and boasting, that he, too, is preaching the Law … Thus Christ and God are altogether vain and lost. And is not this blindness beyond all blindness that he does not want to preach the Law without and before the Gospel? For are these not impossible things? How is it possible to preach of forgiveness of sins if previously there have been no sins? How can one proclaim life if previously there is no death? Are we to preach to angels who have neither sin nor death concerning forgiveness of sins and redemption from death? But how can one preach of sins or know that there are sins, if the Law does not reveal them? For according to its proper office the Gospel does not say who [is a sinner] and what is sin; it does, however, indicate that there must be some great hurt, since so great a remedy is required; but it does not say how the sin is called, or what it is. The Law must do this.Thus Master Eisleben must in fact (re ipsa) allow the Law to perform its duty (occidere, to kill, etc.) prior to the [preaching of the] Gospel, no matter how decidedly he, with words only, denies it, to spite the Wittenbergers, in order that he also, as novus autor (new author), may produce something of his own and confuse the people and separate the churches.” (1658.)
From the 20 theses which Luther treated in his last disputation against the Antinomians we cull the following: “1. The inference of St. Paul: ‘For where no law is there is no transgression’ [Rom. 4, 15 is valid not only theologically, but also politically and naturally (non solum theologice, sed etiam politice et naturaliter). 2. Likewise this too:Where there is no sin, there is neither punishment nor remission. 3. Likewise this too:Where there is neither punishment nor remission, there is neither wrath nor grace. 4. Likewise this too:Where there is neither wrath nor grace, there is neither divine nor human government. 5. Likewise this too:Where there is neither divine nor human government, there is neither God nor man. 6. Likewise this too:Where there is neither God nor man, there is nothing except perhaps the devil. 7.Hence it is that the Antinomians, the enemies of the Law, evidently are either devils themselves or the brothers of the devil. 8. It avails the Antinomians nothing to boast that they teach very much of God, Christ, grace, Law, etc. 10. This confession of the Antinomians is like the one when the devils cried: ‘Thou art the Son of the living God,’ [Luke 4, 34; 8, 28.] 12. Whoever denies that the damning Law must be taught in reality simply denies the Law. 14. A law which does not damn is an imagined and painted law as the chimera or tragelaphus. 15. Nor is the political or natural law anything unless it damns and terrifies sinners Rom. 13, 1. 5; 1 Pet. 2, 13ff. 17.What the Antinomians say concerning God, Christ, faith, Law, grace, etc., they say without any meaning as the parrot says its ‘cai’re, Good day!’ 18. Hence it is impossible to learn theology or civil polity (theologiam aut politiam) from the Antinomians. 19. Therefore they must be avoided as most pestilential teachers of licentious living who permit the perpetration of all crimes. 20. For they serve not Christ, but their own belly [Rom. 16, 18 , and, madmen that they are, seek to please men, in order that from them, as a man’s judgment, they may gain glory.” (Drews, 613; St. L. 20, 1647; E. 4, 441.)-Regarding Luther’s disputations against the Antinomians Planck pertinently remarks that they compel admiration for his clear and penetrating mind, and rank among the very best of his writings. (1, 18; Frank 2, 311.)
At the instance of Elector Joachim, negotiations were begun with Luther, which finally led to a sort of peaceful settlement. Agricola was required to send (which he also did) a revocation to the preachers, the council, and the congregation at Eisleben.However, the new and enlarged edition (1541) of the catechism which Agricola had published in 1527 revealed the fact that also this last recantation was insincere; for in it he repeated his antinomistic teaching, though not in the original defiant manner. Little wonder, then, that despite the formal settlement, cordial relations were not restored between Luther and Agricola.When the latter visited Wittenberg in 1545, Luther refused to see the man whom he regarded incurably dishonest. “Grickel,” said he,“will remain Grickel to all eternity Grickel wird in alle Ewigkeit Grickel bleiben.” And “Grickel” he did remain; for in 1565 he published a sermon in which he said: “Every one who is to be appointed as teacher and preacher shall be asked:What do you intend to teach in the church? He shall answer:The Gospel of Jesus Christ. But when further asked:What does the Gospel preach? he shall answer: The Gospel preaches repentance and forgiveness of sins.“Considering this a further evidence that Agricola still adhered to, and was now ready once more to champion, his old errors, the preachers of Mansfeld registered their protest in a publication of the same year. A controversy, however, did not materialize, for Agricola died the following year. (Planck 5, 1, 47; Frank 2, 267.)
193. False Propositions of Agricola.
Following are some of Agricola’s radical statements concerning the Law and the Gospel. The first thesis of his Positions of 1537 reads: “Repentance is to be taught not from the Decalog or from any law of Moses, but from the violation of the Son through the Gospel. Poenitentia docenda est non ex decalogo aut ulla lege Mosis, sed ex violatione Filii per evangelium.” (E. 4. 420.) Thesis 13:“In order to keep the Christian doctrine pure, we must resist those [Luther and Melanchthon] who teach that the Gospel must be preached only to such whose hearts have previously been terrified and broken by the Law. Quare pro conservanda puritate doctrinae resistendum est iis, qui docent, evangelium non praedicandum nisi animis prius quassatis et contritis per legem.” (421.) Thesis 16:“The Law merely rebukes sin, and that, too,without the Holy Spirit; hence it rebukes to damnation.” Thesis 17: “But there is need of a doctrine which does not only condemn with great efficacy, but which saves at the same time; this, however, is the Gospel, a doctrine which teaches conjointly repentance and remission of sins.” (421.) In his Brief Summary of the Gospel, Agricola says: “In the New Testament and among Christians or in the Gospel we must not preach the violation of the Law when a man breaks or transgresses the Law, but the violation of the Son, to wit that he who does not for the sake of the kingdom of heaven willingly omit what he should omit, and does not do what he should do, crucifies Christ anew.” (St. L. 20, 1622ff.; Frank 2, 313, Gieseler 3, 2, 137; Pieper, Dogm. 3,265ff.)
A commingling of the Law and Gospel always results in a corruption of the doctrines of conversion, faith, and justification. Such was the case also with respect to Agricola, who taught that justification follows a contrition which flows from,and hence is preceded by, love toward God. Turning matters topsy-turvy, he taught : Repentance consists in this, that the heart of man,experiencing the kindness of God which calls us to Christ and presents us with His grace, turns about, apprehends God’s grace, thanks Him heartily for having spared it so graciously, begins to repent, and to grieve heartily and sorrowfully on account of its sins,wishes to abstain from them, and renounces its former sinful life. “This,” says Agricola, “is repentance (poenitentia, Buessen) and the first stage of the new birth, the true breathing and afflation of the Holy Spirit. After this he acquires a hearty confidence in God, believing that He will condone his folly and not blame him for it, since he did not know any better, although he is much ashamed of it and wishes that it had never happened; he also resolves, since he has fared so well,never to sin any more or to do anything that might make him unworthy of the benefit received as if he were ungrateful and forgetful; he furthermore learns to work out, confirm, and preserve his salvation in fear and trembling … this is forgiveness of sins.” (Frank 2, 247.) These confused ideas plainly show that Agricola had a false conception, not only of the Law and Gospel, but also of original sin, repentance, faith, regeneration, and justification. Essentially, his was the Roman doctrine, which makes an antecedent of what in reality is an effect and a consequence of conversion and justification. Viewed from this angle, it occasions little surprise that Agricola consented to help formulate and introduce the Augsburg Interim in which the essentials of Lutheranism were denied.
194. Poach, Otto, Musculus, Neander.
The antinomistic doctrines rejected, in particular, by Article VI of the Formula of Concord,were represented chiefly by Andrew Poach, Anton Otto, Andrew Musculus, and Michael Neander. Poach, born 1516, studied under Luther and was an opponent of the Philippists, he became pastor in Halle in 1541; in Nordhausen, 1547; in Erfurt, 1550; Uttenbach, near Jena, 1572, where he died 1585. At Erfurt, Poach was deposed in 1572 on account of dissensions due to the antinomistic controversies. He signed the Book of Concord.-Otto [Otho; also called Herzberger, because he was born in Herzberg, 1505 studied under Luther; served as pastor in Graefenthal, and from 1543 in Nordhausen where he was deposed in 1568 for adherence to Flacius. However, when Otto, while antagonizing Majorism and synergism, in sermons on the Letter to the Galatians of 1565 rejected the Third Use of the Law, he was opposed also by Flacius, who reminded him of the fact that here on earth the new man resembles a child, aye, an embryo, rather than a full-fledged man.
In his zealous opposition to the Majorists, Andrew Musculus (Meusel, born 1514; studied at Leipzig 1532 ; 1538, then at Wittenberg; became a zealous and passionate adherent of Luther, whom he considered the greatest man since the days of the apostles; from 1540 till his death, September 29, 1581, professor and pastor, later on, General Superintendent, in Frankfurt-on-the- Oder) also made some extreme statements. Later on, however, he cooperated in preparing and revising the Formula of Concord.Musculus wrote of Luther: “There is as great a difference between the dear old teachers and Luther as there is between the light of the sun and that of the moon; and beyond all doubt, the ancient fathers, even the best and foremost among them, as Hilary and Augustine, had they lived contemporaneously with him, would not have hesitated to deliver the lamp to him, as the saying is.” (Meusel, Handl. 4, 709; Richard, 450.)
The most prominent opponents of these Antinomians were the well-known theologians Moerlin, Flacius,Wigand, and Westphal (chiefly in letters to Poach) . The controversy was carried on with moderation, and without any special efforts to cause trouble among the people. The main issue was not-as in the conflict with Agricola-whether the Law is necessary in order to effect contrition and prepare men for the Gospel, but the so-called Third Use of the Law (tertius usus legis), i.e., whether the Law is, and is intended to be, of service to Christians after their regeneration; in particular, whether the regenerate still need the Law with respect to their new obedience.
The conflict with Poach arose from the Majoristic controversy. Dealing in particular with the aberrations of Menius, the Synod at Eisenach, 1556, adopted seven theses which Menius was required to subscribe. The first declared: “Although the proposition, Good works are necessary to salvation, may be tolerated hypothetically and in an abstract way in the doctrine of the Law (in doctrina legis abstractive et de idea tolerari potest), nevertheless there are many weighty reasons why it ought and should be avoided no less than this one: Christ is a creature.” (Preger 1, 383.) While Flacius, Wigand, and Moerlin defended the thesis, Amsdorf (who first, too, adopted it, but later on withdrew his assent; Seeberg 4, 488), Aurifaber, and especially Poach rejected it. This marked the beginning of the so-called Second Antinomistic Controversy. Poach denied that the Law has any promise of salvation. Even the most perfect fulfilment of the Law, said he, is but the fulfilment of a duty which merits no reward. The only thing one may acquire by a perfect fulfilment is freedom from guilt and punishment. Fulfilment of our duty (solutio debiti) does not warrant any claim on salvation. Yet Poach was careful to declare that this did not apply to the fulfilment of the Law which Christ rendered for us. Why? Poach answered: Because Christ, being the Son of God, was not obliged to fulfil the Law.When, therefore, He did fulfil it in our stead,He rendered satisfaction to divine justice, so that righteousness can now be imputed to us and we become partakers of eternal life.
Poach wrote: “It would not be correct to say: In the doctrine of the Law all the works commanded in the Law are necessary to salvation. In doctrina legis omnia opera mandata in lege sunt necessaria ad salutem.” (Schluesselburg 4, 343.) Again: “The works of Christ, which are the fulfilment of the Law, are the merit of our salvation. Our works, which ought to have been the fulfilment of the Law, do not merit salvation, even though they were most perfect, as the Law requires,-which, however, is impossible. The reason is that we are debtors to the Law. Christ, however, is not a debtor to the Law. Even if we most perfectly fulfilled all the commandments of God and completely satisfied the righteousness of God, we would not be worthy of grace and salvation on that account, nor would God be obliged to give us grace and salvation as a debt.He justly demands the fulfilment ofHis Law from us as obedience due Him from His creature, which is bound to obey its Creator. Etiamsi nos omnia mandata Dei perfectissime impleremus et iustitiae Dei penitus satisfaceremus, tamen non ideo digni essemus gratia et salute, nec Deus obligatus esset, ut nobis gratiam et salutem daret ex debito. Sed iure requirit impletionem legis suae a nobis, ut debitam obedientiam a sua creatura, quae conditori suo obedire tenetur.” (274.) Again:“The Law has not the necessity of salvation, but the necessity of obligation (non habet lex necessitatem salutis, sed necessitatem debiti). For, as said, even though a man would most perfectly do the works of the Law, he would not obtain salvation on account of these works. Nor is God under obligation to man, but man is under obligation to God. And in the Law God requires of man the obedience he owes; He does not require an obedience with the promise of salvation.” (276.)
As to Otto, he distinguished, in a series of Latin theses a double office of the Law, the ecclesiastical; and political-officium ecclesiasticum and officium politicum. The former is to give knowledge of sin; the latter, to coerce the old man and maintain order among the obstinate.He denied that the Law in any way serves Christians with respect to good works. Otto declared: “The Law is useful and necessary neither for justification nor for any good works. But faith in Christ the Mediator alone is useful and necessary both for justification and the good works themselves. Lex enim non modo ad iustificationem sed neque ad ulla bona opera utilis et necessaria est. Sed sola fides in Christum mediatorem utilis et necessaria est tam ad iustificationem quam ad ipsa bona opera.“Quoting Luther, he said:“The highest art of Christians is to know nothing of the Law, to ignore works. Summa ars Christianorum est nescire legem, ignorare opera,” i.e., in the article of justification, as Otto did not fail to add by way of explanation. (Luther, Weimar 40, 1, 43; Tschackert, 485.) Seeberg remarks that in reality, Poach and Otto were merely opposed to such an interpretation of the Third Use of the Law as made the Law a motive of good works, and hence could not be charged with antinomianism proper. (4, 488f.)
Planck, Frank, and other historians have fathered upon Otto also a series of radical German theses, which, however, were composed, not by Otto, but probably by some of his adherents. These theses, in which all of the errors of Agricola are revamped, were discussed at the Altenburg colloquy, 1568 to 1569; their author, however, was not mentioned.We submit the following:“1.The Law does not teach good works, nor should it be preached in order that we may do good works. 3.Moses knew nothing of our faith and religion. 5. Evangelical preachers are to preach the Gospel only, and no Law. 7. A Christian who believes should do absolutely nothing, neither what is good nor what is evil. 10.We should pray God that we may remain steadfast in faith till our end, without all works. 14. The Holy Spirit does not work according to the norm or rule of the Law, but by Himself,without the assistance of the Law. 16. A believing Christian is supra omnem obedientiam, above all Law and all obedience. 17. The rebuking sermons of the prophets do not at all pertain to Christians. 21. The Law, good works, and new obedience have no place in the kingdom of Christ, but in the world just as Moses and the government of the Pope. 25. The Law has no place in the Church or in the pulpit, but in the court-house (Rathaus). 28. The Third Use of the Law is a blasphemy in theology and a monstrosity in the realm of nature (portentum in rerum natura) . 29.No man can be saved if the Third Use of the Law is true and is to be taught in the Church. The Holy Spirit in man knows nothing of the Law; the flesh, however, is betimes in need of the Law.” (Tschackert, 485; Planck 5, 1, 62.) Frank also quotes: “The Christians or the regenerate are deified (vergoettert); yea, they are themselves God and cannot sin. God has not given you His Word that you should be saved thereby (dass du dadurch sollst selig werden); and whoever seeks no more from God than salvation (Seligkeit) seeks just as much as a louse in a scab. Such Christians are the devil’s own, together with all their good works.” (2, 326. 275.)
Also Musculus is numbered among the theologians who were not always sufficiently discreet and guarded in their statements concerning the necessity of good works and the use of the Law. All expressions of the Apostle Paul regarding the spiritual use of the Law, said Musculus,must be understood as referring to such only as are to be justified, not to those who are justified (de iustificandis, non de iustificatis). But he added: “For these, in as far as they remain in Christ, are far outside of and above every law. Hi enim, quatenus in Christo manent, longe extra et supra omnem legem sunt.” (Tschackert. 486.)
Michael Neander of Ilfeld, a friend of Otto was also suspected of antinomianism. He denied that there is any relation whatever between the Law and a regenerate Christian. But he, too, was careful enough to add: “in as far as he is just or lives by the spirit, quatenus est iustus seu spiritu vivit.” In a letter, Neander said: “I adhere to the opinion that the Law is not given to the just in any use or office whatsoever, in so far as he is just or lives by the spirit … ‘For the Law,’ as Luther says in his marginal note to Jeremiah, chap. 31, ‘is no longer over us, but under us, and does not surround us any more.’ Love rules and governs all laws, and frequently something is true according to the Law, but false according to love (saepeque aliquid lege verum, dilectione tamen falsum est). For love is the statute, measure, norm, and rule of all things on earth … The Law only accuses and damns, and apart from this it has no other use or office, i.e., the Law remains the norm of good works to all eternity, also in hell after the Last Day, but for the unjust and reprobate, and for the flesh in every man. To the just, regenerated, and new man, however, it is not the norm of good works, i.e., the Law does not govern, regulate, and teach the just man; i.e., it is not active with respect to him as it is with respect to an unjust man, but is rather regulated and governed and taught by the just man. It no longer drives the just (as it did before conversion and as it still drives the flesh), but is now driven and suffers, since as just men we are no longer under the Law, but above the Law and lords of the Law.How, therefore, can the Law be a norm to the just man when he is the lord of the Law, commands the Law, and frequently does what is contrary to the Law (cum iustus legis sit dominus, legi imperet et saepe legi contraria faciat)? …When the just man meditates in the Law of the Lord day and night, when he establishes the Law by faith, when he loves the Law and admires the inexhaustible wisdom of the divine Law, when he does good works written and prescribed in the Law (as indeed he alone can), when he uses the Law aright,-all these are neither the third, nor the fourth, nor the twelfth, nor the fiftieth use or office of the Law, … but fruits of faith, of the Spirit, or regeneration …But the Old Man, who is not yet new, or a part of him which is not as yet regenerated, has need of this Law, and he is to be commanded:‘Put on the new man; put off the old.'"(Schluesselburg 4, 61; Tschackert, 484.)
195.Melanchthon and the Philippists.
A further controversy concerning the proper distinction between the Law and the Gospel was caused by the Philippists in Wittenberg whose teaching was somewhat akin to that of Agricola.They held that the Gospel, in the narrow sense of the term, and as distinguished from the Law, is “the most powerful preaching of repentance.” (Frank 2, 327.) Taking his cue from Luther, Melanchthon, in his Loci of 1621 as well as in later writings, clearly distinguished between Law and Gospel. (C. R. 21, 139; 23, 49, 12, 576.) True, he had taught, also in the Apology, that, in the wider sense, the Gospel is both a preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sin. But this, as the Formula of Concord explains, was perfectly correct and in keeping with the Scriptures.However, in repeating the statement that the Gospel embraces both the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins, Melanchthon was not always sufficiently careful to preclude misapprehension and misunderstanding. Indeed, some of the statements he made after Luther’s death are misleading, and did not escape the challenge of loyal Lutherans.
During a disputation in 1548, at which Melanchthon presided, Flacius criticized the unqualified assertion that the Gospel was a preaching of repentance, but was satisfied when Melanchthon explained that the term Gospel was here used in the wider sense, as comprising the entire doctrine of Christ. However, when Melanchthon, during another disputation, 1556, declared: The ministry of the Gospel “rebukes the other sins which the Law shows, as well as the saddest of sins which is revealed by the Gospel (hoc tristissimum peccatum, quod in Evangelio ostenditur), viz., that the world ignores and despises the Son of God.” Flacius considered it his plain duty to register a public protest. It was a teaching which was, at least in part, the same error that Luther, and formerly also Melanchthon himself, had denounced when espoused by Agricola, viz., that genuine contrition is wrought, not by the Law, but by the Gospel; by the preaching, not of the violation of the Law, but of the violation of the Son. (C. R. 12, 634. 640.)
These misleading statements of Melanchthon were religiously cultivated and zealously defended by the Wittenberg Philippists. With a good deal of animosity they emphasized that the Gospel in its most proper sense is also a preaching of repentance (praedicatio poenitentiae, Busspredigt), inasmuch as it revealed the baseness of sin and the greatness of its offense against God, and, in particular, inasmuch as the Gospel alone uncovered, rebuked, and condemned the hidden sin (arcanum peccatum) and the chief sin of all, the sin of unbelief (incredulitas et neglectio Filii), which alone condemns a man. These views, which evidently involved a commingling of the Law and the Gospel,were set forth by Paul Crell in his Disputation against John Wigand, 1571, and were defended in the Propositions Concerning the Chief Controversies of These Times (also of 1571), by Pezel and other Wittenberg theologians. (Frank 2, 277. 323.) As a consequence, the Philippists, too, were charged with antinomianism, and were strenuously opposed by such theologians as Flacius, Amsdorf, and Wigand. Wigand attacked the Wittenberg Propositions in his book of 1571, Concerning Antinomianism, Old and New. Pezel answered in his Apology of the True Doctrine on the Definition of the Gospel, 1571; and Paul Crell, in Spongia, or 150 Propositions Concerning the Definition of the Gospel, Opposed to the Stupid Accusation of John Wigand, 1571. The teaching of the Philippists was formulated by Paul Crell as follows: “Since this greatest and chief sin [unbelief] is revealed, rebuked, and condemned by the Gospel alone, therefore also the Gospel alone is expressly and particularly, truly and properly, a preaching and a voice of repentance or conversion in its true and proper sense. A solo evangelio, cum peccatum hoc summum et praecipuum monstretur, arguatur et damnetur expresse ac nominatim solum etiam evangelium vere ac proprie praedicatio ac vox est poenitentiae sive conversionis vere et proprie ita dictae.” (277. 327.)
This doctrine of the Philippists, according to which the Gospel in the narrow and proper sense, and as distinguished from the Law, is a preaching of repentance, was rejected by Article V of the Formula of Concord as follows: “But if the Law and the Gospel, likewise also Moses himself as a teacher of the Law and Christ as a preacher of the Gospel, are contrasted with one another, we believe, teach, and confess that the Gospel is not a preaching of repentance or reproof, but properly nothing else than a preaching of consolation, and a joyful message which does not reprove or terrify, but comforts consciences against the terrors of the Law, points alone to the merit of Christ, and raises them up again by the lovely preaching of the grace and favor of God,obtained through Christ’s merit.” (803, 7.)