Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions
XXIII. Origin, Subscription, Character, etc., of Formula of Concord.
267. Lutherans Yearning for a Godly Peace.
A holy zeal for the purity and unity of doctrine is not at all incompatible, rather always and of necessity connected with an earnest desire for peace; not, indeed, a peace at any price, but a truly Christian and godly peace, a peace consistent with the divine truth. Also in the loyal Lutherans, who during the controversies after Luther’s death faithfully adhered to their Confessions, the fervent desire for such a godly peace grew in proportion as the dissensions increased. While Calvinists and Crypto-Calvinists were the advocates of a unionistic compromise, true Lutherans everywhere stood for a union based on the truth as taught by Luther and contained in the Lutheran Confessions. Though yearning for peace and praying that the controversies might cease, they were determined that the Lutheran Church should never be contaminated with indifferentism or unionism, nor with any teaching deviating in the least from the divine truth. As a result, earnest and repeated efforts to restore unity and peace were made everywhere by Lutheran princes as well as by theologians, especially the theologians who had not participated in the controversies, but for all that were no less concerned about the maintenance of pure Lutheranism and no less opposed to a peace at the expense of the divine truth than the others. As early as 1553 Flacius and Gallus published their Provokation oder Erbieten der adiaphorischen Sachen halben, auf Erkenntnis und Urteil der Kirchen. In this Appeal they urged that ten or twenty competent men who hitherto had not participated in the public controversy be appointed to decide the chief differences between themselves and the Interimists. In the two following years Flacius and Gallus continued their endeavors to interest influential men in Saxony and other places for their plan.Melanchthon and his Wittenberg colleagues, however, maintained silence in the matter. At the behest of the dukes of Thuringia, Amsdorf, Stolz, Aurifaber, Schnepf, and Strigel met at Weimar in the early part of 1553 to discuss the conditions of peace. Opposed as they were to a peace by agreeing to disagree or by ignoring the differences and past contentions, they demanded that synergism, Majorism, adiaphorism, as also the doctrines of Zwingli Osiander, and Schwenckfeldt, be publicly rejected by the Wittenbergers. (Preger 2, 4. 7.)
268. Pacific Overtures of Flacius.
Soon after the convention in Weimar, Gottschalk Praetorius, rector of the school in Magdeburg, and Hubertus Languet from Burgundy (an intimate friend of Melanchthon and a guest at his table, who later on maliciously slandered Flacius) had an interview with Flacius, in which the latter submitted the conditions on which peace might be established. However, a letter written in this matter by Praetorius, in April, 1556, was not answered by Melanchthon, who, moreover, insinuated that Flacius’s object merely was to kindle hatred. (C.R. 8, 794.)
In May, 1556, Flacius, continuing his peace efforts, forwarded to Paul Eber his “Mild Proposals, Linde Vorschlaege, dadurch man gottselige und notwendige friedliche Vergleichung machen koennte zwischen den Wittenbergischen und Leipzigischen Theologen in causa Adiaphoristica und den andern, so wider sie geschrieben haben.” According to these Proposals, Flacius demanded that, in a publication signed by the theologians of both parties, the Pope be denounced as the true Antichrist, the Augsburg Interim be rejected, the proposition: “Good works are necessary to salvation,” be condemned, also the errors of Zwingli and Osiander. “The good Lord knows,” said Flacius, “that every day and hour I consider and plan earnestly how the affair of the Adiaphorists might be settled in a Christian manner.” But he added that he could not be satisfied until, by repentance, “they wipe out their sin, denial, apostasy, and persecution, instead of increasing them by their excuses.” But Flacius received an answer neither from Eber nor from Melanchthon. Instead, the Wittenbergers, with the silent consent of Melanchthon, circulated a caricature in which Flacius was accorded the role of a braying ass being crowned by other asses with a soiled crown. (Preger 2, 11. 13.)
Another offer of Flacius to meet Melanchthon in Wittenberg and discuss the matter personally was also declined. July 15, 1556,Melanchthon wrote: “I enjoyed a sweet friendship and familiarity with Illyricus, and I would gladly confer with him on the entire doctrine. But before this he has spread things which I had neither said nor thought, wherefore now, too, I fear treachery (insidias metuo).” Timid as he was,Melanchthon really feared for his life at the contemplated colloquy, because the statement of Chytraeus: “As long as Flacius and Melanchthon are alive, unity will not be restored,” had been reported to him in the form: unless Philip were put out of the way, unity would not be possible.“None of my friends,” he wrote, “is willing to attend the colloquy, and they believe that it is not safe for me to confer with him [Flacius] alone.” (C. R. 8, 798.) Considering Melanchthon’s answer as insincere and sophistical, Flacius declared that, after having earnestly sought peace in a private way, he would now appeal to the Church. He did so by publishing “Von der Einigkeit, Concerning Unity,” a book which he had written before he made his pacific overtures to Melanchthon. (Preger 2, 17. 22.)
However, induced by a letter of Fabricius of Meissen (August 24, 1556), Flacius made a further effort, addressing Melanchthon in a letter of September 1, 1556, in which he implored him to make his peace with God and the Church by an unequivocal disavowal of Adiaphorism. As a result, Melanchthon wrote his famous letter of September 5, 1556, referred to in our chapter on the Adiaphoristic Controversy, in which he admitted in a qualified way that he had sinned in the matter. In his reply of September 16, 1556, Flacius again declared that his object was not any triumph or glory for himself, but “only the maintenance of truth and the rooting out of error,” and that nothing was able to remove the offense given by Melanchthon and the Adiaphorists but a clear confession of the truth and an unequivocal rejection of error. Melanchthon, however, broke off the correspondence and continued to nurse his animosity against Flacius. (Preger 2, 29f.)
269. Lower Saxons Endeavoring to Mediate between Melanchthon and Flacius.
Despite his experiences with Melanchthon, Flacius did not allow himself to be discouraged in his efforts to bring about unity and peace. Embracing an opportunity which a correspondence with the clergy of Lower Saxony concerning Schwenckfeldt offered him, he requested the Lower Saxons to mediate between himself and Melanchthon, submitting for this purpose articles, differing from the Mild Proposals only in expressly mentioning also the Leipzig Interim. The request was granted, and four superintendents, accompanied by four ministers, were delegated for the purpose to Wittenberg.The delegates were: from Luebeck:Valentin Curtius and Dionysius Schunemann; from Hamburg: Paul von Eitzen and Westphal; from Lueneburg: F. Henning and Antonius Wippermann; from Brunswick: Moerlin and Chemnitz. After agreeing, at Brunswick, January 14, 1557, on theses based on those of Flacius, and after conferring with Flacius in Magdeburg, January 17, 1557 they unexpectedly, January 19, arrived in Wlttenberg, offering their services as mediators.
Melanchthon received them in a friendly manner, but when, on the following day,Moerlin read the articles of agreement, he denounced Flacius and Gallus as having slandered him, and declined to treat with the Lower Saxons on the basis of the “Flacian theses.” On January 21 the delegation submitted eight new articles. Of these the third read: “All corruptions which militate against the pure apostolic doctrine and that of the Augsburg Confession shall be eliminated from the article of justification, in particular the corruption concerning the necessity of good works to salvation.” Article VII requested Melanchthon to make a public statement concerning the adiaphora and the necessity of good works, declaring his agreement with the confession of our Church. (Preger 2, 37.)
The presentation of these articles had a most unfavorable effect on Melanchthon. The Saxon mediators report that he was excited to such an extent that they feared he would be taken seriously ill. In a most violent manner Melanchthon charged the delegation with treacherously conspiring with Flacius to ensnare him. However, appeased by Paul Eber, he finally consented to reply in writing on the morrow, January 22. In his answer Melanchthon declared: For thirty years he had borne the heavy burdens of the Church and encountered most insidious conflicts; they therefore ought now to have had compassion with him instead of assaulting him alone; it was being fulfilled what Sturm had once told him on leaving:We shall meet again to crucify you. Sparing Flacius, they had presented articles with the sole purpose of forcing him and others to cut their own throats. As to the articles themselves, Melanchthon objected to the third, because, he said, it falsely charged him and others with having taught and defended errors regarding justification. He declined Article VII because the publication there required was unnecessary, since it might easily be learned from his many writings what he had taught in the matter there referred to. (Preger 2, 38. 40.)
Fearing that the Lower Saxon mediators might yield and make concessions detrimental to the truth, Flacius and his adherents (Wigand, Baumgartner, Judex, Albert Christiani, P. Arbiter, H. Brenz, Antonius Otto) assembled in Coswig, a place not very far from Wittenberg. In a letter, dated January 21, 1557, they admonished the Saxon mediators not to yield anything contrary to the divine truth but firmly to insist on the elimination of the errors connected with the Interim (ut id iugulum recte iuguletis). Flacius also requested Count of Ungnad first to meet them in Coswig, and then go to Wittenberg in order to assist in winning Melanchthon for his peace proposals. In the letter to the Count, Flacius remarked: he feared that the mediators were administering to Melanchthon “sweet rather than wholesome and strong medicine.” (Preger 2, 42.) In a similar manner Pastor Michael Stiefel was urged to go to Wittenberg to influence Melanchthon. At the same time Judex was sent to implore the Saxon delegates not to discontinue their efforts, and adopt no resolution before submitting it also to them [the Magdeburgers] for consideration.No news having arrived by Saturday, January 23, an additional letter was dispatched to Wittenberg, written in the same spirit of anxiety, and urging the mediators to stand firm, not to yield, and to continue their efforts until successful, since failure, they said would not only expose them to ridicule, but greatly damage the Church. (2, 42f.)
On the evening of the same day Moerlin Hennig, and Westphal arrived in Coswig. Moerlin reported on their discussions, and submitted the articles presented to Melanchthon together with the latter’s answer.At the same time he requested the Flacians to overlook the harsh language of Philip, telling also of the animosity and general opposition they had met with in Wittenberg, where the students, he said, had even threatened to stone them. Having heard the report the Flacians withdrew for a brief consultation. Their impression was (which they neither made any efforts to hide) that in deference to Melanchthon the Saxons had not been sufficiently careful in seeking only the honor of God, the welfare of the Church, and the true conversion of sinners. In a meeting held on Sunday, January 24, Wigand and Flacius declared their dissatisfaction with the proceedings in Wittenberg.Referring particularly to the shocking stubbornness ofMelanchthon, the former urged the Saxon delegates to regard God higher than men, and earnestly and openly to call the Wittenbergers to repentance. He thereupon handed the delegates, besides a list of Adiaphoristic errors and of offensive statements culled from Major’s homilies, two sealed letters, which contained their strictures on the eight articles presented to Melanchthon, their answer to Melanchthon’s charges, etc. Flacius said in the meeting: This matter troubled him day and night; hope for the conversion of the Adiaphorists who had despised the admonition, not of men but of the Holy Spirit, was constantly decreasing; having already yielded more than he should have done, he now must insist that, in a publication signed by both parties, the Leipzig Interim be condemned by name, and that also in the future the people be warned against such sins and be called to repentance. Flacius furthermore declared that his theses should have been either retained or refuted. In this he was supported by Otto of Nordhausen.Moerlin answered, irritated: They had presented other articles because Melanchthon had declined the first; if any one was able to frame better theses, he was at liberty to do so.Discouraged and illhumored, the delegation returned to Wittenberg, where, too, animosity had reached its climax. For in his sermon, delivered Sunday in Bugenhagen’s pulpit, and in the presence of Melanchthon and the other professors, John Curio had spoken of Flacius as “the rascal and knave (Schalk und Bube),” and even referred to the Lower Saxon delegates in unfriendly terms. Also a filthy and insulting pasquil, perhaps composed by Paul Crell, in which Flacius and the Saxon delegates were reviled, was circulated in Wittenberg and even sent to Coswig. (Preger 2, 49.) The first lines of the pasquil ran thus; “Qui huc venistis legati Illyrici permerdati, Ab illo concacati, Polypragmones inflati, Illius natibus nati, Quae communio veritati,Mendacio et vanitati?” (C. R. 9, 50. 235.)
Having read the sealed letters and convinced themselves that Melanchthon could never be induced to accede to the demands of the Magdeburgers, the delegation (with the exception of Chemnitz) immediately returned to Coswig, January 25. Here they declared: They had not delivered the list of errors to Melanchthon; if they had done so, deliberations would have been broken off immediately; only the charges with respect to justification had been transmitted; they therefore requested the Magdeburgers to declare their agreement with the articles already submitted to Melanchthon. Seeing no other course, the Magdeburgers finally yielded, though reluctantly, and not without protests and some changes in the articles. Flacius, too, consented, but “only with a wounded conscience,” as he declared.Having returned to Wittenberg, the delegates transmitted the modified articles together with the additions of the Magdeburgers to Melanchthon.
In his answer of January 27 to the Lower Saxon pastors, Melanchthon said in part: “You know that in the last thirty years a great confusion of opinions obtained in which it was difficult not to stumble somewhere.And many hypocrites have been, and still are, hostile in particular to me. I was also drawn into the insidious deliberations of the princes. If, therefore, I have either stumbled anywhere or been too lukewarm in any matter, I ask God and the churches to forgive me and shall submit to the verdict of the Church … As to the Flacian quarrels, however, concerning which you are now treating with me so eagerly, and into which Flacius has injected many foreign matters, you yourselves know that this affair pertains also to many others, and that, without offending them, I cannot decide and settle anything (me aliquid statuere posse) … This now I desire to be my last answer (hanc volo nunc meam postremam responsionem esse); if it does not satisfy you, I appeal to the verdict of the Church in which you, too, will be judges.May the Son of God govern all of us, and grant that we be one in Him!“As to the articles submitted by the delegates,Melanchthon rejected all the changes and additions suggested by the Magdeburgers. He declared that he was not willing to enter into a discussion of the adiaphora, nor in any way to censure the honorable men who had participated in the deliberations concerning the Leipzig Interim. (C. R. 9, 62.)
270. Futile Efforts of Duke John Albrecht.
Four weeks later Duke John Albrecht of Mecklenburg sent messengers to Wittenberg for the same purpose, viz., of mediating between Melanchthon and Flacius, Melanchthon in particular having previously requested him to frame articles which might serve as a basis of peace. The articles, composed by the theologians and counselors of the Duke, were more severe than those of the Lower Saxons. George Venetus, professor at Rostock, and Counselor Andrew Mylius were commissioned to present them, first at Wittenberg, then at Magdeburg. When the articles were submitted to Melanchthon, he again fell into a state of violent agitation. The report says: “As soon as he noticed that Adiaphorism was criticized, and that he was requested to reject it even if only in a mild form, he instantly sprang up with great impatience and would not permit them [the delegates] to finish their speech (although they most earnestly, in the name of their prince, requested to be heard), but burst forth into invectives and denunciations of Illyricus and others, and finally also declaimed against the prince himself and his delegates, vociferating that Illyricus secretly entertained many repulsive errors, etc.” On February 27, Melanchthon delivered his answer to the delegates. When these urged him to give a more favorable reply, he again interrupted them, exclaiming:“Oppress me, if you so desire; such is the lot of the peaceful … I commend myself to God.” After Melanchthon had left, Peucer, who had accompanied him, harshly told the delegates: “Don’t trouble my father-in-law any more with such matters. Ihr sollt forthin meinen Schwaeher zufrieden lassen mit solchen Haendeln.” (9, 106f.)
Regarding the last (8) of the articles submitted by the delegates of Duke Albrecht which dealt with the Adiaphora, Melanchthon declared in his answer of February 27: “I should not be astonished to have these two conditions [to confess the Adiaphoristic errors, etc.] imposed on me if I had been an enemy. The action of the Saxon pastors was milder. I may have been lukewarm in some transactions, but I certainly have never been an enemy … Therefore I clearly state that I do not assent to these presentations [of Duke Albrecht], which are cunningly framed so that, if I accept them, I myself may cut my throat (ut me, si eas recepero, ipse iugulem).” (C. R. 9, 104.)
The Magdeburgers refused to participate in these efforts of Count Albrecht, chiefly because, as they said, there was no hope for peace as long as Melanchthon remained under the influence of his Wittenberg friends. But even now Flacius did not entirely abandon his attempts to bring about a godly peace. In 1557 he asked Paul Vergerius, who passed Jena on his way to Wittenberg, to treat with Melanchthon on the Adiaphoristic question. Melanchthon, however is reported to have said: “Omit that; let us treat of other things.” Flacius also wrote to King Christian III of Denmark to influence Elector August to abolish the Adiaphoristic errors, but apparently without any result.
271. Clash at Colloquy in Worms, 1557.
The Diet at Regensburg,which adjourned in March of 1557, resolved that a colloquy be held at Worms to bring about an agreement between the Lutheran and Roman parties of the Empire. In order to prepare for the colloquy, a convention was held by the Lutherans in June, 1557, at Frankfort-on-the-Main. June 30 a resolution was adopted to the effect that all controversies among the Lutherans be suspended, and the Romanists be told at the prospective colloquy that the Lutherans were all agreed in the chief points of doctrine. Against this resolution Nicholas Gallus and several others entered their protest. Self-evidently, also Flacius and his adherents who had always held that the controverted issues involved essential points of doctrine, could not assent to the resolution without violating their conscience, and denying their convictions and the truth as they saw it. Such being the situation, the wise thing for the Lutherans to do would have been to decline the colloquy. For, since also Ducal Saxony with its stanch Lutherans was held to attend it, a public humiliating clash of the Lutherans was unavoidable.
Before the formal opening of the colloquy, the Thuringian delegates at Worms received a letter from Flacius, dated August 9, 1557 in which he admonished them to make a determined confession, and to induce the other Lutheran theologians to reject the Interim, Adiaphorism, Majorism, Osiandrism and Zwinglianism. This was necessary, said Flacius, because the Romanists would, no doubt exploit the concessions made in the Leipzig Interim and the dissensions existing among the Lutherans. (C. R. 9, l99ff.). Flacius expressed the same views in an opinion to the dukes of Saxony, who, in turn, gave corresponding instructions to their delegates in Worms. In a letter dated August 20, 1557 Duke John Frederick said it was impossible that, in defending the Augsburg Confession against the Romanists, the Lutherans could stand as one man and speak as with one mouth (fuer einen Mann und also ex uno ore), if they had not previously come to an agreement among themselves and condemned the errors. For otherwise the Papists would be able to defeat the Lutherans with their own sword i.e., their own polemical publications. (231.) On the same day, August 20, 1557, Flacius repeated his sentiments and admonitions in letters to Schnepf,Moerlin, and Sarcerius. (232ff.)
In a meeting of the Lutheran theologians at Worms, held September 5, Dr. Basilius Monner, professor of jurisprudence at Jena made a motion in keeping with his instructions and the admonitions of Flacius, whereupon Erhard Schnepf,professor in Jena, read a list of the errors that ought to be rejected. But the majority, led by Melanchthon, opposed the motion. A breach seemed unavoidable. For Duke John Frederick had decided that his theologians could not participate in the colloquy with Lutherans who refused to reject errors conflicting with the Augsburg Confession, nor recognize them as pure, faithful, loyal, and true members and adherents of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Smalcald Articles. (Preger 2, 67.) The imminent clash was temporarily warded off by the concession on the part of the Melanchthonians that the Thuringian theologians should be allowed freely to express their opinion on any article discussed at the colloquy. At the session held September 11 1667, however, Bishop Michael Helding demanded to know whether the Lutherans excluded the Zwinglians, Calvinists, Osiandrists and Flacians (in the doctrine De Servo Arbitrio) from the Augsburg Confession. The Jesuit Canisius plied the Lutherans with similar questions:Whether they considered Osiander, Major, and others adherents of the Augustana. Melanchthon declared evasively that all evangelical delegates and pastors present were agreed in the Augsburg Confession. As a result the Thuringians decided to enter their protest. In a special meeting of the Lutherans the majority threatened to exclude the Thuringians from all following sessions if they dared to express their protest [containing the list of errors which they rejected] before the Papists. The consequence was that the Thuringians presented their protest in writing to the President, Julius Pflug, and departed from Worms. The Romanists, who from the beginning had been opposed to the colloquy, refused to treat with the remaining Lutheran theologians, because they said, it was impossible to know who the true adherents of the Augsburg Confession were with whom, according to the Regensburg Resolution, they were to deal.
272. Efforts of Princes to Restore Unity: Frankfort Recess.
The Colloquy of Worms had increased the enmity and animosity among the Lutherans. It had brought their quarrels to a climax, and given official publicity to the dissensions existing among them,–a situation which was unscrupulously exploited by the Romanists also politically, their sinister object being to rob the Lutherans of the privileges guaranteed by the Augsburg Peace, and to compel them to return to the Roman fold. In particular the Jesuits stressed the point that the dissensions among the Lutherans proved conclusively that they had abandoned the Augsburg Confession to the adherents of which alone the provisions of the Augsburg Peace of 1555 applied. At the same time they embraced the opportunity to spread false reports con- cerning all manner of heresies that were tolerated in the Lutheran churches. This roused the Lutheran princes, who according to the Augsburg Peace Treaty were responsible to the Empire for the religious conditions within their territories, to bend all their energies toward healing the breach and restoring religious unity within their churches. Efforts to this effect were made especially at Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1558, and at Naumburg, 1561. But instead of promoting peace among the Lutherans also these conventions of the princes merely poured oil into the flames by adding new subjects of dissension, increasing the general distrust, and confirming the conviction that Luther’s doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was in danger indeed. For, instead of insisting on a clear confession of the truth and an unequivocal rejection of error, the princes endeavored to establish peace by ignoring, veiling, and compromising the differences.
At Frankfort, Otto Henry of the Palatinate, Augustus of Saxony, Joachim of Brandenburg, Wolfgang of Zweibruecken, Christopher of Wuerttemberg, and Philip of Hesse discussed the religious situation and, on March 18, 1558, signed the socalled Frankfort Recess (Agreement), in which they again solemnly pledged their adherence to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Symbols, the Augsburg Confession of 1530, and its Apology. (C. R. 9, 494.) In the Recess the princes stated that the existing dissensions encouraged the Romanists to proceed against the Lutherans, who, the princes declared, were not disagreed in their confession. In four articles the controverted questions concerning justification, good works, the Lord’s Supper, and the adiaphora were dealt with, but in vague and ambiguous terms, the articles being based on Melanchthon’s anti-Flacian opinion ofMarch 4, 1558. (499ff.; 462ff.)
When the Frankfort Recess was submitted for subscription to the estates who had not been present at Frankfort, it failed to receive the expected approval. It was criticized by the theologians of Anhalt,Henneberg, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, the Lower Saxon cities, and Regensburg. The strongest opposition, however, came from Ducal Saxony,where Flacius attacked the Recess in two books. The first was entitled: “Refutatio Samaritani Interim, in quo vera religio cum sectis et corruptelis scelerate et perniciose confunditur–Refutation of the Samaritan Interim, in which the true religion is criminally and perniciously confounded with the sects.” The other: “Grund und Ursach', warum das Frankfurtisch Interim in keinem Wege anzunehmen sei–Reason and Cause why the Frankfort Interim must Not be Adopted.” The chief objections of Flacius were: 1. The Smalcald Articles should have been included in the confessions subscribed to. 2. The differences within the Lutheran Church should not have been treated as questions of minor import. 3.Major’s statement should have been rejected as simply false, and not merely when falsely interpreted. 4. The statements concerning the Lord’s Supper are “dark, general, and ambiguous,” hence Crypto-Calvinistic. 5. The article on the adiaphora is ambiguous and altogether unsatisfactory. 6. The measures adopted to suppress theological discussions and controversies would lead to suppression of the truth (“binding the mouth of the Holy Ghost”) and tyrannizing of the churches by the princes. (Preger 2, 74.)
In his attitude Flacius was supported by his colleagues in Jena and by Duke John Frederick. When a delegation appeared requesting him to sign the Recess, he declined and ordered his theologians to set forth his objection in a special book. Elector August, in turn, charged Melanchthon to write an Apology of the Recess against the ducal theologians; which, again, was answered by Flacius. In order to unite the opponents of the Recess, John Frederick invited the Lower Saxons to attend a convention in Magdeburg. When this failed, Flacius induced the Duke to publish a book treating particularly the doctrinal differences within the Lutheran Church. In the drafting and revision of this Book of Confutation, as it was called, the following theologians participated: Strigel, Schnepf, Andrew Huegel, John Stoessel, Simon Musaeus, Joachim Moerlin, Sarcerius,Aurifaber, and Flacius.November 28, 1558, it received the sanction of the dukes. Among the Melanchthonians the Book of Confutation, which had made it a special point to refute and reject the errors of the Wittenberg Philippists, caused consternation and bitter resentment. For evidently its theological attitude was incompatible with the Recess, and hence the breach now seemed incurable and permanent. By order of Elector August, Melanchthon, in the name of the Wittenberg faculty, wrote an opinion of the Book of Confutation. (C. R. 9, 763.) But contents as well as form of this opinion merely served to confirm the ducal theologians in their position. The Philippists also fortified themselves by publishing the Corpus Doctrinae (Corpus Philippicum or Misnicum), which contained writings only of Melanchthon. The Frankfort Recess, therefore, instead of bringing relief to the Lutherans, only increased their mutual enmity and distrust. In order to reconcile John Frederick, the Duke of Wuerttemberg suggested a convention of princes at Fulda, on January 20, 1559. But when Elector August heard that besides the Duke of Saxony also other opponents of the Frankfort Recess were invited, he foiled the plan by declining to attend.
273. General Lutheran Council advocated by Flacianists.
To heal the breach and end the public scandal, Flacius and his adherents fervently advocated the convocation of a General Lutheran Synod. In 1559 they published “Supplicatio Quorundam Theologorum … pro Libera Christiana et Legitima Synodo, Supplication of Some Theologians … for a Free, Christian and Lawful Synod.” The document was signed by 51 superintendents, professors, and pastors,“who after Luther’s death,” as they emphasized,“had contended orally and in writing against the corruptions and sects.” The signatures represented theologians from Ducal Saxony,Hamburg, Bremen, Luebeck, Rostock, Wismar, Brunswick, Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Koethen, Nordhausen, Schweinfurt, Regensburg, Lindau, Upper Palatinate, Hesse, Brandenburg, Electoral Saxony, Nuernberg, Augsburg, Baden, etc. Some of the first were: Amsdorf, Musaeus, Joachim Moerlin, Hesshusius, Max Moerlin, Gallus, Wigand, Judex, Westphal, John Freder of Wismar, Anton Otto of Nordhausen, Flacius. The Supplication showed why a General Synod was necessary and how it was to be conducted. Its chief object, the Supplication said, would be to pass on adiaphorism, Majorism, and synergism, all participants in the Synod having previously been pledged on the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Smalcald Articles, according to which all questions were to be decided. (Preger 2, 86f.)
The most violent opponent of this plan was Melanchthon. Fearing that the Flacianists might get control of the prospective general council, he, in advance, denounced and branded it as a “Robber Synod (Raeubersynode), advocated by the ignorant Flacian rabble.” Three weeks before his death, March 28, 1560 he wrote: “Since they [the Flacians] cannot kill me, the object of these hypocrites is to expel me. For long ago they have said that they would not leave a foot of ground for me in Germany.Hoc agunt isti hypocritae, ut me pellant, cum sanguinem meum haurire non possint; et quidem oratio istorum vetus est, qua dixerunt, se mihi non relicturos esse in Germania vestigium pedis.” (C. R. 9, 1079.) Philip of Hesse consented to attend the general synod with the proviso that the power of the Jena theologians be curbed and also the Swiss be admitted. (Preger 2, 93.) That the plan of the Flacianists failed was chiefly due to Elector August, who declined to attend the synod.
274. Futile Efforts of Princes at Naumburg.
In lieu of the General Lutheran Council advocated by the Flacians, Christopher of Wuerttemberg, in March, 1559, recommended as the best means to heal the breach a convention of all the Lutheran princes and estates to be held at Naumburg, deliberations to begin January 20, 1561. The object of this assembly, he said, was neither to discuss the differences among the Lutherans, nor to formulate any condemnations, but only to renew the subscription to the Augsburg Confession and to consider how the Lutherans might present a united front and a unanimous confession at the next diet and at the prospective papal council. All finally consented to attend, including Duke John Frederick, Elector August (who, instigated by Melanchthon, first had declined participation), and the Crypto-Calvinist, Elector Frederick of the Palatinate. Expecting no results favorable to genuine Lutheranism from this assembly, the Jena theologians renewed their request for a general synod and sent their Supplication to Naumburg with an additional writing, dated January 23, 1561, in which they admonished the princes not to enter into an ungodly and unionistic agreement, rather to eliminate the errors of Major, Osiander, etc. But the princes, whose object was to settle matters without the theologians, declined to consider their petition, and, on February 8, the last day of the convention, returned the documents to their authors in Jena.
After comparing the various editions of the Augsburg Confession, the Naumburg Assembly decided to subscribe to the Confession as delivered 1530 in Augsburg and published 1531 in German and Latin at Wittenberg. But when, in the interest of Calvinism, whither he at that time already was openly tending, Elector Frederick, supported by Elector August, demanded that the edition of 1540 be recognized as the correct explanation of the original Augustana, the majority of the princes yielded, and, as a result, the Variata of 1540 alone was mentioned in the Preface (Praefatio), in which the princes stated the reasons for renewing their subscription to the Augsburg Confession at Naumburg. This Preface, prepared by Elector Frederick and the Wittenberg Crypto-Calvinist Cracow, also asserted that hitherto no doctrinal corruptions or deviations from the Augsburg Confession had been tolerated among the Lutherans. It mentioned neither the controversies within the Lutheran Church nor the Smalcald Articles. Evidently, to subscribe to this Preface was impossible for genuine Lutherans. Duke John Frederick was told by his theologians Moerlin and Stoessel that, if he signed it, they would resign and leave. The duke replied that he, too, would mount his horse and depart rather than put his signature to a document in which the errors introduced by the Philippists, etc., were not rejected.Ulrich ofMecklenburg took the same stand. And failing in his efforts to have the Preface changed in accordance with his convictions, the Duke entered his protest and left Naumburg without any further conference with the princes. When hereupon the latter sent messengers to Weimar, John Frederick remained firm. As conditions of his subscription the Duke demanded that in the Preface the apostasy during the Interim be confessed, the distinctive features of the Lutheran doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper be brought out clearly, the recognition of the Variata of 1540 as a doctrinal norm be eliminated, and the Smalcald Articles be recognized with the rest of the Lutheran symbols. Unwilling to accede to these demands, the princes closed the discussions at Naumburg without the Duke,–hence also without having attained their goal: peace among the Lutherans.
The Preface containing the objectionable features was signed by the Electors of the Palatinate, Saxony, and Brandenburg, by Christopher of Wuerttemberg, Philip of Hesse, Carl of Baden, and quite a number of other princes and cities. However, Duke John Frederick did not by any means stand alone in his opposition to the ambiguous, unionistic Naumburg document. He was supported by Ulrich of Mecklenburg (who also left Naumburg before the close of the convention), Ernest and Philip of Brunswick, Albrecht of Mecklenburg, Adolf of Holstein, Francis of Saxon-Lauenburg, the counts of Schwartzburg,Mansfeld, Stolberg, Barby, and a number of other princes and cities, among the latter Regensburg, Augsburg, Strassburg, Nuernberg and Windsheim. Besides, the loyal Lutherans were represented also in the territories of almost all the princes who had signed the Preface. Margrave John of Brandenburg emphatically declared his dissatisfaction with the subscription of his delegate at Naumburg. Before long also August of Saxony, Wolfgang of the Palatinate, Christopher of Wuerttemberg, and Joachim of Brandenburg signified their willingness to alter the Preface in accordance with the views and wishes of John Frederick, especially regarding the doctrine of, the Lord’s Supper. Indeed, the princes declared that from the beginning they had understood the Preface in the strict Lutheran sense. In the Preface of the Book of Concord signed by the Lutheran princes,we read:“Now, our conferences and those of our illustrious predecessors, which were undertaken with a godly and sincere intention, first at Frankfort-on-the-Main and afterwards at Naumburg, and were recorded in writing, not only did not accomplish that end and peaceful settlement which was desired, but from them even a defense for errors and false doctrines was sought by some, while it had never entered our mind, by this writing of ours, either to introduce, furnish a cover for, and establish any false doctrine, or in the least even to recede from the Confession presented in the year 1530 at Augsburg, but rather, as many of us as participated in the transactions at Naumburg, wholly reserved it to ourselves, and promised besides that if in the course of time, anything would be desired with respect to the Augsburg Confession, or as often as necessity would seem to demand it, we would further declare all things thoroughly and at length.” (CONC. TRIGL. 15.) Even Philip of Hesse finally consented to the changes demanded by Duke John Frederick. Elector Frederick of the Palatinate, however, who had misled and, as it were, hypnotized the Lutheran princes at Naumburg, openly embraced the Reformed confession and expelled all consistent Lutherans. For the cause of Lutheranism the loss of the Palatinate proved a great gain internally, and helped to pave the way for true unity and the formulation and adoption of the Formula of Concord.And more than any other individual it was Flacius who had helped to bring about this result. (Preger 2, 102.)
275. Andreae and Chemnitz.
The theologians who were first in adopting effective methods and measures to satisfy the general yearning for a real peace in the divine truth were Jacob Andreae and Martin Chemnitz.Andreae was born 1528 in Weiblingen, Wuerttemberg. He studied at Stuttgart and Tuebingen. In 1546 he became pastor in Stuttgart, where, two years later, he was deposed because of his refusal to consent to the lnterim. In 1549 he became pastor and later on superintendent in Tuebingen. Since 1562 he was also professor and chancellor of the university. He died 1590.Andreae has been called “the spiritual heir of John Brenz.“Hoping against hope, he incessantly labored for the unity and peace of the Lutheran Church. Being a man of great energy and diplomatic skill, he served her at numerous occasions and in various capacities. In his pacification efforts he made more than 120 journeys, visiting nearly all evangelical courts, cities, and universities in Northern and Southern Germany. With the consent of the Duke of Wuerttemberg, Andreae entered the service of Elector August, April 9, 1567, and lived with his family in Saxony till his dismissal in December, 1580.Here he was engaged in directing the affairs of the churches and universities, and in promoting the work of Lutheran pacification and concord at large. During his efforts to unite the Lutherans he was maligned by the Philippists, and severely criticized also by the strict Lutherans. The latter was largely due to the fact that in his first attempts at pacification he allowed himself to be duped by the Wittenberg Philippists, being even blind enough to defend them against the charges of Calvinism in the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper made by their opponents in Jena and in Lower Saxony.While thus Andreae was the able and enthusiastic promoter of the pacification which culminated in the adoption of the Formula of Concord, he lacked the theological insight, acumen, and consistency which characterized Martin Chemnitz.
Martin Chemnitz was born November 9, 1522, at Treuenbritzen in Brandenburg. As a boy he attended, for a brief period, the school in Wittenberg, where he “rejoiced to see the renowned men of whom he had heard so much at home, and to hear Luther preach.” From 1539 to 1542 he attended the Gymnasium at Magdeburg; from 1543 to 1545 he studied in Frankforton- the-Oder; in 1545 he went to Wittenberg, where Melanchthon directed his studies. In 1548 he became rector of the school in Koenigsberg, and 1550 librarian of Duke Albrecht,with a good salary.Owing to his participation in the Osiandrian controversy, Chemnitz lost the favor of Albrecht, and in 1553 he removed to Wittenberg. On June 9, 1554, he began his lectures on Melanchthon’s Loci Communes before a large and enthusiastic audience,Melanchthon himself being one of his hearers. In November, 1554, he accepted a position as pastor, and in 1567 as superintendent, in the city of Brunswick.He died April 8, 1586. Chemnitz was the prince of the Lutheran divines of his age and, next to Luther, the greatest theologian of our Church.Referring to Luther and Chemnitz, the Romanists said: “You Lutherans have two Martins; if the second had not appeared, the first would have disappeared (si posterior non fuisset, prior non stetisset).“Besides the two Lutheran classics: Examen Concilii Tridentini, published 1565– 1573, and De Duabus Naturis in Christo, 1570, Chemnitz wrote, among other books: Harmonia Evangelica, continued and published 1593 by Leyser and completed by John Gerhard, and Foundations (Die Fundamente) of the Sound Doctrine concerning the Substantial Presence, Tendering, and Eating and Drinking of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the Supper, 1569.
Andreae and Chemnitz became acquainted with each other in 1568,when Duke Julius invited the former to conduct the visitation in Brunswick together with Chemnitz. They jointly also composed the Brunswick Church Order of 1569, which was preceded by the Corpus Doctrinae lulium, compiled by Chemnitz and containing the Augsburg Confession, the Apology the Smalcald Articles, the Catechisms of Luther, and a “short [rather long], simple, and necessary treatise on the prevalent corruptions.” Andreae and Chemnitz are the theologians to whom more than any other two men our Church owes the Formula of Concord and the unification of our Church in the one true Christian faith as taught by Luther. However, it is Chemnitz who, more than Andreae or any other theologian,must be credited with the theological clarity and the correctness which characterizes the Formula.
276. First Peace Efforts of Andreae Fail.
In his first attempts to unify the Lutheran Church, Andreae endeavored to reconcile all parties, including the Wittenberg Philippists, who then were contemplating an agreement with the Calvinists. In 1567, at the instance of Landgrave William of Hesse-Cassel and Duke Christopher of Wuerttemberg, Andreae composed his “Confession and Brief Explanation of Several Controverted Articles, according to which a Christian unity might be effected in the churches adhering to the Augsburg Confession, and the offensive and wearisome dissension might be settled.“In five articles he treated: 1. Justification, 2. Good Works, 3. Free Will, 4. The Adiaphora, 5. The Lord’s Supper. The second article maintains that we are neither justified nor saved by good works, since Christ has earned for us both salvation and righteousness by His innocent obedience, suffering, and death alone, which is imputed as righteousness to all believers solely by faith. It rejects all those who teach otherwise, but not directly and expressly the statement :Good works are necessary to salvation.The third article maintains that, also after the Fall, man is not a block, but a rational creature having a free, though weak,will in external things; but that in divine and spiritual matters his intellect is utterly blind and his will is dead; and that hence, unless God creates a new volition in him, man is unable of himself, of his own powers, to accept the grace of God offered in Christ. It rejects all who teach otherwise. The fourth article states that ceremonies are no longer free, but must be abandoned, when their adoption is connected with a denial of the Christian religion, doctrine, and confession. It rejects all those who teach otherwise. The fifth article emphasizes that also the wicked when they partake of the Lord’s Supper, receive the body of Christ, but to their damnation. It furthermore declares: Since it is objected that the body and blood cannot be present in the Holy Supper because Christ ascended to heaven with His body, it is necessary “to explain the article of the incarnation of the Son of God, and to indicate, in as simple a way as possible, the manner in which both natures, divine and human, are united in Christ, wherefrom it appears to what height the human nature in Christ has been exalted by the personal union.” (Hutter, Concordia Concors, 110ff.)
In 1568, at the Brunswick Visitation, referred to above, Andreae submitted, his five articles to Duke Julius, and succeeded in winning him for his plan. In the same interest he came to Wittenberg, January 9, 1569. Furnished with letters of commendation from Duke Julius and Landgrave William of Hesse, he obtained an interview also with Elector August, who referred him to his theologians. On August 18, 1569, Andreae held a conference with the Wittenbergers. They insisted that the basis of the contemplated agreement must be the Corpus Misnicum (Philippicum).When Andreae, unsophisticated as he still was with respect to the real character of Philippism, publicly declared that the Wittenbergers were orthodox teachers, and that the Corpus Misnicum contained no false doctrine he was supplied with a testimonial in which the Wittenbergers refer to their Corpus, but not to Andreae’s articles, to which also they had not fully consented. The result was that the Jena theologians, in particular Tilemann Hesshusius, denounced Andreae’s efforts as a unionistic scheme and a betrayal of true Lutheranism in the interest of Crypto-Calvinism. They rejected Andreae’s articles because they were incomplete, and contained no specific rejection of the errors of the Philippists.
At the instance of Andreae, May 7, 1570, a conference met at Zerbst in Anhalt, at which twenty theologians represented Electoral Saxony, Brunswick, Hesse, Brandenburg, Anhalt, and Lower Saxony (the Ducal Saxon theologians declining to participate). The conference decided that a new confession was not needed, and unanimously recognized the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, and the Catechisms of Luther. Andreae was elated. In his “Report” to the Emperor and the princes he gloried in “the Christian unity” attained at Zerbst. But also this apparent victory for peace and true Lutheranism was illusory rather than real, for the Wittenberg theologians qualified their subscription by formally declaring that they interpreted and received the confessions enumerated only in as far as they agreed with the Corpus Philippicum.And before long the Crypto-Calvinistic publications, referred to in the chapter on the Crypto-Calvinistic Controversy, began to make their appearance. The only result of these first peace efforts of Andreae, which lacked in single- minded devotion to the truth, and did not sufficiently exclude every form of indifferentism and unionism, was that he himself was regarded with increasing suspicion by the opponents of the Philippists. As for Andreae, however, the dealings which he had with the dishonest Wittenbergers opened his eyes and convinced him that it was impossible to win Electoral Saxony for a truly Lutheran union as long as the Crypto-Calvinists were firmly seated in the saddle.
277. Andreae’s Sermons and the Swabian Concordia.
Abandoning his original scheme, which had merely served to increase the animosity among the Lutherans and to discredit himself, Andreae resolved henceforth to confine his peace efforts to true Lutherans, especially those of Swabia and Lower Saxony, and to unite them in opposition to the Zwinglians, Calvinists, and Philippists, who, outside of Electoral Saxony,were by this time generally regarded as traitors to the cause of Lutheranism. In 1573 he made his first move to carry out this new plan of his by publishing sermons which he had delivered 1572 on the doctrines controverted within the Lutheran Church. The title ran:“Six Christian Sermons concerning the dissensions which from the year 1548 to this 1573d year have gradually arisen among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession, as to what attitude a plain pastor and a common Christian layman who may have been offended thereby should assume toward them according to his Catechism.” These sermons treat of justification, good works, original sin, free will, the adiaphora, Law and Gospel, and the person of Christ. As the title indicates,Andreae appealed not so much to the theologians as to the pastors and the people of the Lutheran Church, concerning whom he was convinced that, adhering as they did, to Luther’s Catechism, they in reality, at least in their hearts, were even then, and always had been, agreed. Andreae sent these sermons to Chemnitz, Chytraeus, Hesshusius, Wigand, and other theologians with the request that they be accepted as a basis of agreement. In the preface, dated February 17, 1573, he dedicated them to Duke Julius of Brunswick whose good will and consent in the matter he had won in 1568, when he assisted in introducing the Reformation in his territories. Before this Nicholas Selneccer, then superintendent of Wolfenbuettel, in order to cultivate the friendly relations between Swabia and Lower Saxony, had dedicated his Instruction in the Christian Religion (Institutio Religionis Christianae) to the Duke of Wuerttemberg, praising the writings of Brenz, and lauding the services rendered by Andreae to the duchy of Brunswick.
The sermons of Andreae were welcomed by Chemnitz,Westphal in Hamburg, David Chytraeus in Rostock, and others. They also endeavored to obtain recognition for them from various ecclesiastical ministries of Lower Saxony. But having convinced themselves that the sermonic form was not adapted for a confession, they, led by Chemnitz, advised that their contents he reduced to articles in “thesis and antithesis,” and that this be done “with the assistance of other theologians.” Andreae immediately acted on this suggestion and the result was what is known as the Swabian Concordia (Schwaebische Konkordie)–the first draft of the Formula of Concord. This document, also called the Tuebingen Book, was submitted to, and approved by, the theologians of Tuebingen and by the Stuttgart Consistory. In substance it was an elaboration of the Six Sermonswith the addition of the last two articles. It contains eleven articles, treating 1.Original Sin; 2. Free Will; 3. The Righteousness of Faith before God; 4. Good Works; 5. Law and Gospel; 6.The Third Use of the Law; 7. The Church Usages Called Adiaphora; 8. The Lord’s Supper; 9.The Person of Christ: 10.Eternal Election; 11. Other Factions and Sects. In the introduction Andreae also emphasizes the necessity of adopting those symbols which were afterwards received into the Book of Concord.
278. The Swabian-Saxon Concordia.
On March 22, 1574, Andreae sent the Swabian Concordia to Duke Julius and Chemnitz with the request to examine it and to have it discussed in the churches of Lower Saxony. On the twelfth of May the Duke ordered Chemnitz to prepare an opinion on the book and to present it to the clergy for their examination and approval. Under the leadership of Chemnitz numerous conferences were held, and the various criticisms offered led to a revision of the document. This work was begun in April, 1575, by the theological faculty of Rostock.Apart from numerous changes and additions everywhere, the articles on Free Will and on the Lord’s Supper were completely remodeled by Chytraeus and Chemnitz.
The new confession, known as the Swabian- [Lower] Saxon Concordia, was subscribed by the theologians and pastors of the duchies of Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Mansfeld, Hoya, and Oldenburg. It acknowledges as its doctrinal basis the Holy Scriptures, the three Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, and Luther’s two Catechisms. It discusses the following articles in the following order: 1. Of Original Sin; 2. Of the Person of Christ; 3. Of the Righteousness of Faith before God; 4. Of Good Works, 5. Of the Law and the Gospel; 6.Of the Third Use of the Law of God; 7. Of the Holy Supper; 8. Of God’s Eternal Providence and Election; 9.Of Church Usages which are Called Adiaphora or Things Indifferent; 10. Of Free Will or Human Powers; 11. Of Other Factions and Sects which have Never Acknowledged the Augsburg Confession.
While this new Concordia was adopted in Lower Saxony, the Swabians, to whom it was forwarded, September 5, 1575, were not quite satisfied with its form, but did not object to its doctrinal contents. They criticized the unevenness of its style, its frequent use of Latin technical terms, its quotations (now approved, now rejected) from Melanchthon, etc. Particularly regarding the last mentioned point they feared that the references to Melanchthon might lead to new dissensions; hence they preferred that citations be taken from Luther’s writings only, which was done in the Formula of Concord as finally adopted.
279. The Maulbronn Formula.
The movement for a general unity within the Lutheran Church received a powerful impetus by the sudden and ignominious collapse of Crypto-Calvinism in Electoral Saxony, 1574.By unmasking the Philippists, God had removed the chief obstacle of a godly and general peace among the Lutherans.Now the clouds of dissension began to disappear rapidly. As long as the eyes of Elector August were closed to the dishonesty of his theologians, there was no hope for a peace embracing the entire Lutheran Church in Germany. Even before the public exposure of the Philippists,August had been told as much by Count Henneberg and other princes, viz., that the Wittenberg theologians were universally suspected, and that peace could not be established until their Calvinistic errors had been condemned. For in the doctrines of the Lord’s Supper and of the person of Christ, as has been shown in the chapter on the Crypto- Calvinistic Controversy, the Philippists of Electoral Saxony and of other sections of Germany were Calvinists rather than Lutherans. It was the appearance of the Calvinistic Exegesis Perspicua of 1574 which left no doubt in the mind of the Elector that for years he had been surrounded by a clique of dishonest theologians and unscrupulous schemers, who, though claim- ing to be Lutherans,were secret adherents of Calvinism. And after the Elector, as Chemnitz remarks, had discovered the deception of his theologians in the article on the Lord’s Supper, he began to doubt their entire contention. (Richard, 426.)
Among Lutherans generally the humiliating events in Saxony increased the feeling of shame at the conditions prevailing within their Church as well as the earnest desire for a genuine and lasting peace in the old Lutheran truths.And now Elector August, who, despite his continued animosity against Flacius, always wished to be a true Lutheran, but up to 1574 had not realized that the Philippistic type of doctrine dominant in his country departed from Luther’s teaching, was determined to satisfy this universal longing for unity and peace. Immediately after the unmasking of the Philippists he took measures to secure the restoration of orthodox Lutheranism in his own lands. At the same time he placed himself at the head of the larger movement for the establishment of religious peace among the Lutherans generally by the elaboration and adoption of a doctrinal formula settling the pending controversies. To restore unity and peace to the Lutheran Church, which his own theologians had done so much to disturb, was now his uppermost desire.He prosecuted the plan of pacification with great zeal and perseverance. He also paid the heavy expenses (80,000 gulden), incurred by the numerous conventions, etc.And when, in the interest of such peace and unity, the theologians were engaged in conferences the pious Elector and his wife were on their knees, asking God that He would crown their labor with success.
The specific plan of the Elector was as appears from his rescript of November 21, 1575, to his counselors, that pacific theologians, appointed by the various Lutheran princes “meet in order to deliberate how, by the grace of God, all [the existing various corpora doctrinae] might be reduced to one corpus which we all could adopt, and that this book or corpus doctrinae be printed anew and the ministers in the lands of each ruler be required to be guided thereby.” Before this Elector August had requested Count George Ernest of Henneberg to take the initiative in the matter. Accordingly, in November, 1575 Henneberg, Duke Ludwig of Wuerttemberg and Margrave Carl of Baden agreed to ask a number of theologians to give their opinion concerning the question as to how a document might be prepared which would serve as a beginning to bring about true Christian concord among the churches of the Augsburg Confession.The theologians appointed were the Wuerttemberg court-preacher Lucas Osiander (born 1534; died 1604), the Stuttgart provost Balthasar Bidembach (born 1533; died 1578) and several theologians of Henneberg and Baden. Their opinion, delivered November 14 1575, was approved by the princes, and Osiander and Bidembach were ordered to prepare a formula of agreement in accordance with it. The document which they submitted was discussed with theologians from Henneberg and Baden at Cloister Maulbronn, Wuerttemberg and subscribed January 19, 1576.
The Maulbronn Formula, as the document was called, differs from the Swabian-Saxon Concordia in being much briefer (about half as voluminous), in avoiding technical Latin terms, in making no reference whatever to Melanchthon, in quoting from Luther’s works only, and in omitting such doctrinal points (Anabaptism, Schwenckfeldianism, Antitrinitarianism, etc.) as had not been controverted among the Lutherans. Following the order of the Augustana, this Formula treats the following articles. 1. Of Original Sin; 2. Of the Person of Christ; 3. Of Justification of Faith 4. Of the Law and Gospel; 5. Of Good Works 6. Of the Holy Supper of Our Lord Christ 7. Of Church Usages, Called Adiaphora or Things Indifferent, 8. Of Free Will; 9. Of the Third Use of God’s Law.
280. The Torgau Book.
On February 9, 1576, the Maulbronn Formula, approved by Count Ludwig of Wuerttemberg, Margrave Carl of Baden, and Count George Ernest of Henneberg, was transmitted to Elector August,who had already received a copy of the Swabian-Saxon Concordia from Duke Julius of Brunswick. The Elector submitted both to Andreae for an opinion, whom formal reasons induced to decide in favor of the Maulbronn Formula.At the same time Andreae advised the Elector to arrange a general conference of prominent theologians to act and decide in this matter, suggesting as two of its members Chemnitz and Chytraeus of Rostock. This being in agreement with his own plans, the Elector, at the convention at Lichtenberg, February 15, 1576 submitted the suggestions of Andreae to twelve of his own theologians, headed by Nicholas Selneccer, then professor in Leipzig. [Selneccer was born December 6, 1530. In 1550 he took up his studies in Wittenberg, where he was much impressed and influenced by Melanchthon. In 1557 he was appointed court-preacher in Dresden. Beginning with 1565 after the banishment of Flacius and his colleagues, he was professor in Jena. He returned to Leipzig in 1568. In 1570 he accepted a call from Duke Julius as court- preacher and superintendent in Brunswick, but returned to Leipzig in 1574. Before the unmasking of the Crypto-Calvinists his theological attitude lacked clearness and determination.Ever after,however, he was the leader of the Lutheran forces in Electoral Saxony.At the Lichtenberg Convention, convoked February 16, 1576, by Elector August, Selneccer successfully advocated the removal of the Wittenberg Catechism, the Consensus Dresdensis, and the Corpus Philippicum. In their place he recommended the adoption of a new corpus doctrinae containing the three Ecumenical Creeds, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Catechisms of Luther, and, if desired, Luther’s Commentary on Galatians. Finally he advised that the electors and princes arrange a convention of such representative theologians as, e.g., Chytraeus, Chemnitz, Andreae, and Marbach, to discuss the doctrinal differences. Selneccer’s recommendations were adopted by the convention and transmitted to Elector August.Though contributing little to the contents of the Formula of Concord, Selneccer heartily cooperated in its preparation, revision, and adoption. In 1580, of his own accord, he published the Latin Book of Concord, which was followed in 1584 by an edition authorized by the princes. Selneccer also participated in preparing the Apology of the Book of Concord, first published 1582 in Magdeburg. In May, 1589, after the Crypto-Calvinistic reaction under Christian I, Selneccer, whom the Calvinists hated more than others of the theologians who had participated in the promulgation of the Formula of Concord, was deposed, harassed, and reduced to poverty because of his testimony against Chancellor Crell and his earnest and continued warnings against the Calvinists. After the death of Christian I, Selneccer was recalled to Leipzig, where he arrived May 19, 1592, five days before his death,May 24, 1592.]
Having through the influence of Selneccer, at Lichtenberg, obtained the consent of his clergy to his plans of unification, and, also in accordance with their desire, called Andreae to Saxony, Elector August immediately made arrangements for the contemplated general convention of theologians. It was held at Torgau, from May 28 to June 7, 1576, and attended by Selneccer, the Saxon ministers who had participated in the Lichtenberg convention, Andreae, Chemnitz, Andrew Musculus [General Superintendent of Brandenburg], Christopher Cornerus [professor in Frankfurt-on-the- Oder; born 1518; died 1549 , and David Chytraeus [born February 26, 1530, in Wuerttemberg; awarded degree of magister in Tuebingen when only fourteen years old; began his studies 1544 in Wittenberg, where he also heard Luther; was professor in Rostock from 1551 till his death, June 25, 1600 . The result of the Torgau deliberations, in which much time was spent on the articles of Original Sin and Free Will, was the socalled Torgau Book. On the seventh of June the theologians informed the Elector that, on the basis of the Swabian-Saxon and the Maulbronn documents, they, as desired by him, had agreed on a corpus doctrinae.
The Torgau Book was essentially the Swabian-Saxon Concordia, recast and revised, as urged by Andreae,with special reference to the desirable features (enumerated above) of the Maulbronn Formula. The majority decided, says Chemnitz, that the Saxon Concordia should be retained, but in such a manner as to incorporate also the quotations from Luther, and whatever else might be regarded as useful in the Maulbronn Formula. The Torgau Book contained the twelve articles of the later Formula of Concord and in the same sequence, Article IX,“Of the Descent of Christ into Hell,“had been added at Torgau. The Book was entitled: “Opinion as to how the dissensions prevailing among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession may, according to the Word of God, be agreed upon and settled in a Christian manner.” It was signed as “their faith, doctrine, and confession” by the six men who were chiefly responsible for its form and contents: Jacob. Andreae, Martin Chemnitz, Nicholas Selneccer, David Chytraeus, Andrew Musculus, and Christopher Cornerus. The convention was closed with a service of thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessed results of their labors and the happy termination and favorable issue of their discussions, Selneccer delivering the sermon. Similar services were held at other places, notably in Mecklenburg and Lower Saxony.
In a letter to Hesshusius, Chemnitz says concerning the Torgau Convention:“Everything in this entire transaction occurred aside from, beyond, above, and contrary to the hope, expectation, and thought of all. I was utterly astounded, and could scarcely believe that these things were done when they were done. It seemed like a dream to me. Certainly a good happy and desired beginning has been made toward the restoration of purity of doctrine, toward the elimination of corruptions, toward the establishment of a godly confession.” In a letter of July 24, 1576, to Hesshusius and Wigand, Andreae wrote in a similar vein, saying: “Often were they [Chemnitz and Chytraeus] almost overwhelmed with rejoicing and wonder that we were there [at Torgau] brought to such deliberation. Truly, this is the change of the right hand of the Most High,which ought also to remind us that since the truth no longer suffers, we should do everything that may contribute to the restoration of good feeling.” (Richard, 428. 430.)
281. The Bergic Book or the Formula of Concord.
In accordance with the recommendation of the Torgau convention the Elector of Saxony examined the Torgau Book himself and had copies of it sent to the various Lutheran princes and estates in Germany with the request to have it tested by their theologians, and to return their opinions and censures to Dresden.Of these (about 25) the majority were favorable. The churches in Pomerania and Holstein desired that Melanchthon’s authority be recognized alongside of Luther’s. On the other hand, Hesshusius and Wigand demanded that Flacius, Osiander,Major,Melanchthon, and other “originators and patrons of corruptions” be referred to by name and condemned as errorists. Quite a number of theologians objected to the Torgau Book because it was too bulky. To meet this objection the Epitome, a summary of the contents of the Torgau Book, was prepared by Andreae with the consent of the Elector. Originally its title read: “Brief Summary of the articles which, controverted among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession for many years, were settled in a Christian manner at Torgau in the month of June, 1576, by the theologians which there met and subscribed.”
After most of the censures had arrived, the “triumvirate” of the Formula of Concord (as Chytraeus called them 1581), Andreae, Selneccer, and Chemnitz, by order of the Elector met on March 1, 1577, at Cloister Bergen, near Magdeburg, for the consideration of the criticisms and final editing of the new confession. They finished their work on March 14. Later when other criticisms arrived and a further revision took place (also at Bergen, in May 1577), Musculus, Cornerus, and Chytraeus were added to their number. Though numerous changes, additions, and omissions were made at Bergen, and in Article IX the present form was substituted for the sermon of Luther, the doctrinal substance of the Torgau Book remained unchanged. The chief object of the revisers was to eliminate misunderstandings and to replace ambiguous and dark terms with clear ones.At the last meeting of the six revisers (at Bergen, in May) the Solid Declaration was quickly and finally agreed upon, only a few changes of a purely verbal and formal nature being made. On May 28, 1577, the revised form of the Torgau Book was submitted to Elector August. It is known as the Bergic Book, or the Solid Declaration, or the Formula of Concord, also as the Book of Concord (a title which was afterwards reserved for the collection of all the Lutheran symbols). Of course, the Epitome, prepared by Andreae, was also examined and approved by the revisers at Cloister Bergen.
In order to remove a number of misunderstandings appearing after the completion of the Bergic Book, a “Preface” (Introduction to the Book of Concord) was prepared by the theologians and signed by the princes. The Catalog of Testimonies, added first with the caption “Appendix” and later without the same, or omitted entirely, is a private work ofAndreae and Chemnitz,and not a part of the confession. Its special purpose is to prove that the Lutheran doctrine concerning the person of Christ and the majesty of His human nature as set forth in Article VII of the Formula of Concord, is clearly taught by the Scriptures as well as by the Fathers of the ancient Church.The Formula of Concord (German) was first published at Dresden, 1580, as a part of the Book of Concord. The first authentic Latin edition appeared in Leipzig, 1584. (Compare chapter on “The Book of Concord.")
282. Subscription to the Formula of Concord.
Originally Elector August planned to submit the Bergic Book to a general convention of the evangelical estates for approval. But fearing that this might lead to new discussions and dissensions, the six theologians, in their report (May 28, 1577) on the final revision of the Bergic Book, submitted and recommended a plan of immediate subscription instead of an adoption at a general convention. Consenting to their views, the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg forthwith sent copies of the Bergic Book to such princes and estates as were expected to consent. These were requested to multiply the copies, and everywhere to circulate and submit them for discussion and subscription. As a result the Formula of Concord was signed by the electors of Saxony, of Brandenburg, and of the Palatinate; furthermore by 20 dukes and princes, 24 counts, 4 barons, 35 imperial cities, and about 8,000 pastors and teachers embracing about two-thirds of the Lutheran territories of Germany.
The first signatures were those of Andreae Selneccer, Musculus, Cornerus, Chytraeus, and Chemnitz, who on May 29, 1577, signed both the Epitome and the Thorough Declaration the latter with the following solemn protestation: “Since now, in the sight of God and of all Christendom, we wish to testify to those now living and those who shall come after us that this declaration herewith presented concerning all the controverted articles aforementioned and explained, and no other, is our faith, doctrine, and confession, in which we are also willing, by God’s grace, to appear with intrepid hearts before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ, and give an account of it and that we will neither privately nor publicly speak or write anything contrary to it but, by the help of God’s grace, intend to abide thereby: therefore, after mature deliberation we have, in God’s fear and with the invocation ofHis name, attached our signatures with our own hands.” (1103, 40 CONC. TRIGL.1103, 40; 842, 31.)
Kolde remarks:“Wherever the civil authorities were in favor of the Bergic Book, the pastors and teachers also were won for its subscription.That the wish of the ruler contributed to this result cannot be denied and is confirmed by the Crypto-Calvinistic troubles reappearing later on in Saxony. But that the influence of the rulers must not be overestimated, appears, apart from other things from the frequent additions to the signatures °•With mouth and heart (cum ore et corde).' " Self-evidently the Crypto-Calvinists as well as other errorists had to face the alternative of either subscribing or being suspended from the ministry. The very object of the Formula of Concord was to purge the Lutheran Church from Calvinists and others who were not in sympathy and agreement with the Lutheran Confessions and constituted a foreign and disturbing element in the Lutheran Church.
As to the manner in which the Formula was submitted for subscription, it was certainly not indifferentistic, but most solemn and serious, and perhaps, in some instances, even severe. Coercion, however, was nowhere employed for obtaining the signatures. At any rate, no instance is recorded in which compulsion was used to secure its adoption.Moreover, the campaign of public subscription, for which about two years were allowed, was everywhere conducted on the principle that such only were to be admitted to subscription as had read the Formula and were in complete agreement with its doctrinal contents.Yet it was probably true that some, as Hutter assumes, signed with a bad conscience [Hutter: “Deinde esto: subscripserunt aliqui mala conscientia Formulae Concordiae;” Mueller, Einleitung, 115 ; for among those who affixed their names are quite a few of former Crypto-Calvinists–men who had always found a way of escaping martyrdom, and, also in this instance, may have preferred the retaining of their livings to following their conviction. The fact is that no other confession can be mentioned in the elaboration of which so much time, labor, and care was expended to bring out clearly the divine truth, to convince every one of its complete harmony with the Bible and the Lutheran symbols, and to hear and meet all objections, as was the case with respect to the Formula of Concord. “In reply to the criticism [of the Calvinists in the Neustadt Admonition, etc.] that it was unjust for only six theologians to write a Confession for the whole Church, and that a General Synod should have been held before the signing of the Confession, the Convention of Quedlinburg, in 1583, declared it untrue that the Formula of Concord had been composed by only six theologians, and reminded the critics how, on the contrary, the articles had first been sent, a number of times, to all the Lutheran churches in Germany; how, in order to consider them, synods and conferences had been held on every side, and the articles had been thoroughly tested, how criticisms had been made upon them; and how the criticisms had been conscientiously taken in hand by a special commission. The Quedlinburg Convention therefore declared in its minutes that, indeed, °•such a frequent revision and testing of the Christian Book of Concord, many times repeated, is a much greater work than if a General Synod had been assembled respecting it to which every province would have commissioned two or three theologians, who in the name of all the rest would have helped to test and approve the book. For in that way only one synod would have been held for the comparing and testing of this work, but, as it was, many synods were held; and it was sent to many provinces, which had it tested by the weighty and mature judgment of their theologians, in such manner as has never occurred in the case of any book or any matter of religion since the beginning of Christianity, as is evident from the history of the Church,' …We are solemnly told [by Andreae, Selneccer, etc.] that no one was forced by threats to sign the Formula of Concord, and that no one was tempted to do so by promises.We know that no one was taken suddenly by surprise. Every one was given time to think.As the work of composition extended through years, so several years were given for the work of signing.We very much doubt whether the Lutheran Church to-day could secure any democratic subscription so clean, so conscientious, so united, or so large as that which was given to the Book of Concord.” (Schmauk, 663f.)
283. Subscription in Electoral Saxony, Brandenburg, etc.
In Electoral Saxony, where Crypto-Calvinism had reigned supreme for many years, prevailing conditions naturally called for a strict procedure. For Calvinists could certainly not be tolerated as preachers in Lutheran churches or as teachers in Lutheran schools. Such was also the settled conviction and determination of Elector August.When he learned that the Wittenberg professors were trying to evade an unqualified subscription, he declared: By the help of God I am determined, as long as I live to keep my churches and schools pure and in agreement with the Formula of Concord. Whoever does not want to cooperate with me may go, I have no desire for him. God protect me, and those belonging to me, from Papists and Calvinists–I have experienced it. (Richard 529.)
The Elector demanded that every pastor affix his own signature to the Formula. Accordingly, in every place, beginning with Wittenberg, the commissioners addressed the ministers and schoolteachers, who had been summoned from the smaller towns and villages, read the Formula to them, exhorted them to examine it and to express their doubts or scruples, if they had any, and finally demanded subscription of all those who could not bring any charge of false doctrine against it. According to Planck only one pastor, one superintendent (Kolditz, who later on subscribed), and one schoolteacher refused to subscribe. (6, 560.) Several professors in Leipzig and Wittenberg who declined to acknowledge the Formula were dismissed.
However, as stated, also in Electoral Saxony coercion was not employed.Moreover, objections were listened to with patience, and time was allowed for consideration. Indeed, in the name of the Elector every one was admonished not to subscribe against his conscience. I. F. Mueller says in his Historico-Theological Introduction to the Lutheran Symbols: “At the Herzberg Convention, 1578,Andreae felt justified in stating:°•I can truthfully say that no one was coerced to subscribe or banished on that account. If this is not true, the Son of God has not redeemed me with His blood; for otherwise I do not want to become a partaker of the blood of Christ,‘Pursuant to this declaration the opponents were publicly challenged to mention a single person who had subscribed by compulsion, but they were unable to do so. Moreover, even the Nuernbergers, who did not adopt the Formula of Concord, acknowledged that the signatures had been affixed without employment of force.” (115.) True, October 8, 1578, Andreae wrote to Chemnitz: “We treated the pastors with such severity that a certain truly good man and sincere minister of the church afterwards said to us in the lodging that, when the matter was proposed so severely, his mind was seized with a great consternation which caused him to think that he, being near Mount Sinai, was hearing the promulgation of the Mosaic Law (se animo adeo consternato fuisse, cum negotium tam severiter proponeretur, ut existimaret, se monti Sinai proximum legis Mosaicae promulgationem audire) … I do not believe that anywhere a similar severity has been employed.” (116.) But the term “severity” here employed does not mean force or compulsion, but merely signifies religious seriousness and moral determination to eliminate Crypto- Calvinism from the Lutheran Church in Electoral Saxony. The spirit in which also Andreae desired this matter to be conducted appears from his letter of November 20, 1679, to Count Wolfgang, in which he says:Although as yet some ministers in his country had not subscribed to the Formula, he should not make too much of that, much less press or persuade them; for whoever did not subscribe spontaneously and with a good conscience should abstain from subscribing altogether much rather than pledge himself with word and hand when his heart did not concurdenn wer es nicht mit seinem Geist und gutem Gewissen tue, bleibe viel besser davon, als dass er sich mit Worten und mit der Hand dazu bekenne und das Herz nicht daran waere. (115.)
Also Selneccer testifies to the general willingness with which the ministers in Saxony affixed their signatures. With respect to the universities ofWittenberg and Leipzig, however, he remarks that there some were found who, while willing to acknowledge the first part of the Book of Concord, begged to be excused from signing the Formula, but that they had been told by the Elector: If they agreed with the first part, there was no reason why they should refuse to sign the second, since it was based on the first. (Carpzov, Isagoge 20.) While thus in Electoral Saxony subscription to the Formula was indeed demanded of all professors and ministers, there is not a single case on record in which compulsion was employed to obtain it.
In Brandenburg the clergy subscribed unconditionally, spontaneously, and with thankfulness toward God and to their “faithful, pious ruler for his fatherly care of the Church.“Nor was any opposition met with in Wuerttemberg,where the subscription was completed in October, 1677. In Mecklenburg the ministers were kindly invited to subscribe. Such as refused were suspended and given time for deliberation,with the proviso that they abstain from criticizing the Formula before the people. When the superintendent of Wismar and several pastors declined finally to adopt the Formula, they were deposed.
Accordingly, it was in keeping with the facts when the Lutheran electors and princes declared in the Preface to the Formula of Concord “that their theologians, ministers, and schoolteachers” “did with glad heart and heartfelt thanks to God the Almighty volun- tarily and with well-considered courage adopt, approve, and subscribe this Book of Concord [Formula of Concord] as the true and Christian sense of the Augsburg Confession, and did publicly testify thereto with heart, mouth and hand. Wherefore also this Christian Agreement is not the confession of some few of our theologians only, but is called, and is in general, the unanimous confession of each and every one of the ministers and schoolteachers of our lands and provinces.” (CONC. TRIGL. 12f.)
284. Where and Why Formula of Concord was Rejected.
Apart from the territories which were really Calvinistic (Anhalt, Lower Hesse, the Palatinate, etc.), comparatively few of the German princes and estates considered adherents of the Augsburg Confession declined to accept the Formula of Concord because of any doctrinal disagreement. Some refused to append their names for political reasons; others, because they were opposed on principle to a new symbol.With still others, notably some of the imperial cities, it was a case of religious particularism, which would not brook any disturbance of its own mode of church-life. Also injured pride, for not having been consulted in the matter, nor called upon to participate in the preparation and revision of the Formula, was not altogether lacking as a motive for withholding one’s signature. In some instances personal spite figured as a reason. Because Andreae had given offense to Paul von Eitzen,Holstein rejected the Formula, stating that all the articles it treated were clearly set forth in the existing symbols. Duke Julius of Brunswick, though at first most zealous in promoting the work of pacification and the adoption of the Book of Concord, withdrew in 1583, because Chemnitz had rebuked him for allowing his son to be consecrated Bishop of Halberstadt. (Kolde, 73f.) However, despite the unfriendly attitude of Duke Julius, some of the Brunswick theologians openly declared their agreement with the Formula as well as their determination by the help of God,to adhere to its doctrine.No doubt but that much more pressure was exercised in hindering than in urging Lutherans to subscribe to the Formula. For the reasons enumerated the Formula of Concord was not adopted in Brunswick,Wolfenbuettel, Holstein, Hesse, Pomerania (where however, the Formula was received later), Anhalt, the Palatinate (which, after a short Lutheran interregnum, readopted the Heidelberg Catechism under John Casimir, 1583), Zweibruecken, Nassau, Bentheim, Tecklenburg, Solms, Ortenburg, Liegnitz, Brieg,
Wohlau, Bremen, Danzig, Magdeburg, Nuernberg, Weissenburg, Windsheim, Frankfort-on-theBIain, Worms, Speyer, Strassburg.In Sweden and Denmark, Frederick II issued an edict, July 24, 1580, forbidding (for political reasons) the importation and publication of the Formula of Concord on penalty of execution and confiscation of property.He is said to have cast the two elegantly bound copies of the Formula sent him by his sister, the wife of Elector August of Saxony, into the fireplace. Later on, however, the Formula came to be esteemed also in the Danish Church and to be regarded as a symbol, at least in fact, if not in form.
While some of the original signatories subsequently withdrew from the Formula of Concord a larger number acceded to it. Among the latter were Holstein, Pomerania, Krain, Kaernthen, Steiermark, etc. In Sweden the Formula was adopted 1593 by the Council of Upsala; in Hungary, in 1597.With few exceptions the Lutheran synods in America and Australia all subscribed also to the Formula of Concord.
285. Formula Not a New Confession Doctrinally.
The Formula of Concord purified the Lutheran Church from Romanism, Calvinism, indifferentism, unionism, synergism, and other errors and unsound tendencies. It did so, not by proclaiming new exclusive laws and doctrines, but by showing that these corruptions were already excluded by the spirit and letter of the existing Lutheran symbols. Doctrinally the Formula of Concord is not a new confession, but merely a repetition and explanation of the old Lutheran confessions. It does not set forth or formulate a new faith or tenets hitherto unknown to the Lutheran Church. Nor does it correct, change, or in any way modify any of her doctrines. On the contrary its very object was to defend and maintain the teaching of her old symbols against all manner of attacks coming from without as well as from within the Lutheran Church. The Formula merely presents, repeats, reaffirms explains, defends, clearly defines, and consistently applies the truths directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly confessed and taught in the antecedent Lutheran confessions. The Augsburg Confession concludes its last paragraph: “If there is anything that any one might desire in this Confession, we are ready God willing, to present ampler information (latiorem informationem) according to the Scriptures.” (94, 7.) Close scrutiny will reveal the fact that in every detail the Formula must be regarded as just such an “ampler information, according to the Scriptures.” The Lutheran Church, therefore, has always held that whoever candidly adopts the Augsburg Confession cannot and will not reject the Formula of Concord either.
As for the Formula itself, it most emphatically disclaims to be anything really new. In their Preface to the Book of Concord the Lutheran princes declared: “We indeed (to repeat in conclusion what we have mentioned several times above) have wished, in this work of concord, in no way to devise anything new, or to depart from the truth of the heavenly doctrine, which our ancestors (renowned for their piety) as well as we ourselves have acknowledged and professed.We mean that doctrine, which, having been derived from the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures, is contained in the three ancient Creeds, in the Augsburg Confession, presented in the year 1530 to Emperor Charles V, of excellent memory, then in the Apology,which was added to this, in the Smalcald Articles, and lastly in both the Catechisms of that excellent man, Dr. Luther. Therefore we also have determined not to depart even a finger’s breadth either from the subjects themselves, or from the phrases which are found in them, but, the Spirit of the Lord aiding us, to persevere constantly, with the greatest harmony, in this godly agreement, and we intend to examine all controversies according to this true norm and declaration of the pure doctrine.” (CONC. TRIGL. 23.) In the Comprehensive Summary we read: “We [the framers and signers of the Formula of Concord] have declared to one another with heart and mouth that we will not make or receive a separate or new confession of our faith, but confess the public common writings which always and everywhere were held and used as such symbols or common confessions in all the churches of the Augsburg Confession before the dissensions arose among those who accept the Augsburg Confession, and as long as in all articles there was on all sides a unanimous adherence to the pure doctrine of the divine Word, as the sainted Dr. Luther explained it.” (851, 2. 9.) The Formula of Concord therefore did not wish to offer anything that was new doctrinally. It merely expressed the consensus of all loyal Lutherans, and applied the truths contained in the existing symbols to the questions raised in the various controversies.
286. Formula a Reaffirmation of Genuine Lutheranism.
To restore Luther’s doctrine, such was the declared purpose of the promoters and authors of the Formula of Concord. And in deciding the controverted questions, they certainly did most faithfully adhere to Luther’s teaching. The Formula is an exact, clear, consistent, and guarded statement of original Lutheranism purified of all foreign elements later on injected into it by the Philippists and other errorists. It embodies the old Lutheran doctrine, as distinguished not merely from Romanism and Calvinism, but also from Melanchthonianism and other innovations after the death of Luther. Surely Luther would not have hesitated to endorse each and all of its articles or doctrinal statements. Even Planck, who poured contempt and sarcasm on the loyal Lutherans, admits: “It was almost beyond controversy that the Formula, in every controverted article, established and authorized precisely the view which was most clearly sanctioned by the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, by its Apology according to the edition of the year 1531, by the Smalcald Articles, and by the Catechisms of Luther.” (6, 697.) This complete agreement with Luther also accounts for the fact that the Formula was immediately acknowledged by two-thirds of the Protestants in Germany.
As for Luther, the Formula of Concord regards him as the God-given Reformer and teacher of the Church. We read: “By the special grace and mercy of the Almighty the doctrine concerning the chief articles of our Christian religion (which under the Papacy had been horribly obscured by human teachings and ordinances) were explained and purified again from God’s Word by Dr. Luther, of blessed and holy memory.” (847, 1.) Again: “In these last times God, out of special grace has brought the truth of His Word to light again from the darkness of the Papacy through the faithful service of the precious man of God, Dr. Luther.” (851, 5.) Luther is spoken of as “this highly illumined man,““the hero illumined with unparalleled and most excellent gifts of the Holy Ghost,” “the leading teacher of the Augsburg Confession.” (981, 28; 983, 34.) “Dr. Luther,” says the Formula, “is to be regarded as the most distinguished (vornehmste, praecipuus) teacher of the Churches which confess the Augsburg Confession,whose entire doctrine as to sum and substance is comprised in the articles of the Augsburg Confession."(985, 41.) Again: “Dr.Luther,who,above others, certainly understood the true and proper meaning of the Augsburg Confession, and who constantly remained steadfast thereto till his end, and defended it, shortly before his death repeated his faith concerning this article [of the Lord’s Supper] with great zeal in his last Confession.” (983, 33.) Accordingly, only from Luther’s writings quotations are introduced by the Formula to prove the truly Lutheran character of a doctrine. In this respect Luther was considered the highest authority, outweighing by far that of Melanchthon or any other Lutheran divine.Everywhere Luther’s books are referred and appealed to, e.g., his “beautiful and glorious exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians,” his book concerning Councils, his Large Confession, his De Servo Arbitrio, his Commentary on Genesis, his sermon of 1533 at Torgau, etc. (925, 28; 937, 67; 823, 21; 897, 43; 827, 2; 1051, 1; cf. 1213ff.)
Luther’s doctrine, according to the Formula of Concord, is embodied in the old Lutheran symbols, and was “collected into the articles and chapters of the Augsburg Confession."(851, 5.) The Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, and the Small and the Large Catechism, says the Formula, “have always been regarded as the norm and model of the doctrine which Dr. Luther, of blessed memory, has admirably deduced from God’s Word, and firmly established against the Papacy and other sects; and to his full explanations in his doctrinal and polemical writings we wish to appeal, in the manner and as far as Dr. Luther himself in the Latin preface to his published works has given necessary and Christian admonition concerning his writings.” (853, 9.) According to the Formula there were no dissensions among the Lutherans “as long as in all articles there was on all sides a unanimous adherence to the pure doctrine of the divine Word as the sainted Dr. Luther explained it.” (851, 2.) Melanchthon, Agricola, Osiander, Major, and the Philippists, departing from Luther, struck out on paths of their own, and thus gave rise to the controversies finally settled by the Formula of Concord. As for the Formula of Concord itself, the distinct object also of its promoters and authors was to restore, reaffirm, and vindicate the doctrine of Luther. In a letter of July 24, 1576, to Hesshusius and Wigand, Andreae giving an account of the results of the Torgau Convention, remarks:“For this I dare affirm and promise sacredly that the illustrious Elector of Saxony is bent on this alone that the doctrine of Luther, which has been partly obscured, partly corrupted, partly condemned openly or secretly, shall again be restored pure and unadulterated in the schools and churches, and accordingly Luther shall live, i.e., Christ, whose faithful servant Luther was–adeoque Lutherus, hoc est, Christus, cuius fidelis minister Lutherus fuit, vivat.What more do you desire? Here [in the Torgau Book] nothing is colored, nothing is dressed up, nothing is concealed, but everything is in keeping with the spirit of Luther which is Christ’s. Nihil hic fucatum, nihil palliatum, nihil tectum est, sed iuxta spiritum Lutheri, qui Christi est.” (Schaff 1, 339.) Also the Formula of Concord, therefore, contains Luther’s theology.
It has been asserted that the Formula of Concord is a compromise between Luther and Melanchthon, a “synthesis or combination of the two antagonistic forces of the Reformation, a balance of mutually destructive principles,” etc. The Formula, says also Seeberg represents a “Melanchthonian Lutheranism.” But the plain truth is that the Formula is a complete victory of Luther over the later Melanchthon as well as the other errorists who had raised their heads within the Lutheran Church. It gave the floor, not to Philip, but to Martin.True, it was the avowed object of the Formula to restore peace to the Lutheran Church, but not by compromising in any shape or form the doctrine of Luther, which, its authors were convinced, is nothing but divine truth itself. In thesis and antithesis, moreover, the Formula takes a clearly defined stand against all the errorists of those days: Anabaptists, Schwenckfeldians, Antitrinitarians, Romanists, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Crypto-Calvinists, Adiaphorists, Antinomians, Synergists,Majorists, the later Flacianists, etc. It did not acknowledge, or leave room for, any doctrines or doctrinal tendencies deviating in the least from original genuine Scriptural Lutheranism.At every point it occupied the old Lutheran ground. Everywhere it observed a correct balance between two errors (e.g., Romanism and Zwinglianism, Calvinism and synergism,Majorism and antinomianism); it steered clear of Scylla as well as Charybdis avoiding errors to the right as well as pitfalls to the left. The golden highway of truth on which it travels was not Melanchthon nor a middle ground between Luther and Melanchthon, but simply Luther and the truths which he had brought to light again.
Melanchthonianism may be defined as an effort to inoculate Lutheranism with a unionistic and Calvinistic virus. The distinct object of the Formula, however, was not merely to reduce, but to purge the Lutheran Church entirely from, this as well as other leaven. The Formula’s theology is not Lutheranism modified by, but thoroughly cleansed from, antinomianism, Osiandrianism, and particularly from Philippism.Accordingly, while in the Formula Luther is celebrated and quoted as the true and reliable exponent of Lutheranism,Melanchthon is nowhere appealed to as an authority in this respect. It is only in the Preface of the Book of Concord that his writings are referred to as not to be “rejected and condemned”, but the proviso is added, “in as far as (quatenus) they agree throughout with the norm laid down in the Book of Concord.” (16.)
287. Scripture Sole Standard and Rule.
From the high estimation in which Luther was held by the Formula of Concord it has falsely been inferred that this Confession accords Luther the “highest authority” as Hase says, or considers him “the regulative and almost infallible expounder” of the Bible, as Schaff asserts. (Creeds 1, 313.) But according to the Formula the supreme arbiter and only final rule in all matters of religion is the inspired Word of God; and absolutely all human teachers and books, including Luther and the Lutheran symbols, are subject to its verdict.When, after Luther’s death, God permitted doctrinal controversies to distract the Church, His purpose, no doubt, being also to have her fully realize not only that Luther’s doctrine is in complete harmony with Scripture, but, in addition, that in matters of faith and doctrine not Luther, not the Church, not the symbols, nor any other human authority but His Word alone is the sole rule and norm. The Formula certainly learned this lesson well. In its opening paragraph we read: “We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard according to which both all doctrines and all teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament alone … Other writings, however, of ancient or modern teachers, whatever name they bear must not be regarded as equal to the Holy Scriptures, but all of them together be subjected to them."(777, 1.) And in this, too, the Formula was conscious of being in agreement with Luther. Luther himself, it declares,“has expressly drawn this distinction namely, that the Word of God alone should be and remain the only standard and rule of doctrine, to which the writings of no man should be regarded as equal, but to which everything should be subjected.” (853, 9.) Scripture is, and always must remain, the only norma normans, the standard that rules everything,–such was the attitude of the Formula of Concord.
Accordingly, the proof proper for the truth of any doctrinal statement is taken by the Formula neither from the Lutheran symbols nor the writings of Luther, but from the Word of God.And the only reason why the promoters and framers of the Formulawere determined to restore the unadulterated teaching of Luther was because, in the controversies following his death, they had thoroughly convinced themselves that, on the one hand, the doctrines proclaimed by Luther were nothing but the purest gold mined from the shafts of God’s Word, and that, on the other hand, the various deviations from Luther’s teaching,which had caused the dissensions, were aberrations not only from the original Lutheran Confessions, but also from Holy Scripture. The thirty years of theological discussion had satisfied the Lutherans that to adhere to the Bible was tantamount to adhering to the teaching of Luther, and vice versa. Accordingly, the Formula also declared it as its object to prove that the doctrines it presented were in harmony with the Bible, as well as with the teaching of Luther and the Augsburg Confession. (856, 19.) This agreement with the Word of God and the preceding Lutheran symbols constitutes the Formula a Lutheran confession, which no one who is a true Lutheran can reject or, for doctrinal reasons, refuse to accept.
288. Formula Benefited Lutheran Church.
It has frequently been asserted that the Formula of Concord greatly damaged Lutheranism, causing bitter controversies, and driving many Lutherans into the fold of Calvinism, e.g., in the Palatinate (1583), in Anhalt, in Hesse, and in Brandenburg (1613) . Richard says: “The Formula of Concord was the cause of the most bitter controversies, dissensions, and alienations. The position taken by the adherents of the Formula of Concord that this document is the true historical and logical explanation of the older confessions and is therefore the test and touchstone of Lutheranism, had the effect, as one extreme generates a counter-extreme, of driving many individual Lutherans and many Lutheran churches into the Calvinistic fold, as that fold was represented in Germany by the Heidelberg Catechism as the chief confession of faith.” (516.)
But this entire view is founded on indifferentism and unionism flowing from the false principle that quality must be sacrificed to quantity, eternal truth to temporal peace and unity to external progress and temporary success.Viewed in the light of God’s Word error is the centrifugal force and the real cause of dissension and separations among Christians, while divine truth always acts as a centripetal or a truly unifying power. The Formula therefore, standing clearly as it does for divine truth only, cannot be charged with causing dissension and breeding trouble among Christians. It settled many controversies and healed dissensions, but produced none. True, the Formula was condemned by many, but with no greater justice and for no other reasons than those for which the truths of God’s Word have always been assailed by their enemies.
Nor is the statement correct that the Formula of Concord drove loyal Lutherans out of their own churches into Calvinistic folds. It clearly stated what, according to God’s Word and their old confessions, Lutherans always will believe, teach, and confess, as also what they always must reject as false and detrimental to the cause of the Church of Christ; however, in so doing, it did not drive Lutherans into the ranks of the Calvinists, but drove masked Calvinists out of the ranks of loyal Lutherans into those folds to which they really belonged. Indeed, the Formula failed to make true Lutherans of all the errorists; but neither did the Augsburg Confession succeed in making friends and Lutherans of all Papists, nor the Bible, in making Christians of all unbelievers.However, by clearly stating its position in thesis and antithesis, the Formula did succeed in bringing about a wholesome separation, ridding the Lutheran Church of antagonistic spirits, unsound tendencies, and false doctrines. In fact, it saved the Church from slow, but sure poisoning at the hands of the Crypto-Calvinists; it restored purity, unity, morale, courage, and hope when she was demoralized, distracted, and disfigured by many dissensions and corruptions. Whatever,by adopting the Formula ofConcord the Lutheran Church therefore may have lost in extension, it won in intention; what it lost in numbers, it won in unity, solidity, and firmness in the truth.
True, the Formula of Concord completely foiled Melanchthon’s plan of a union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches on the basis of the Variata of 1540,–a fact which more than anything else roused the ire of Philippists and Calvinists. But that was an ungodly union, contrary to the Word of God; a union involving a denial of essential Christian truths; a union incompatible with the spirit of Lutheranism, which cannot survive where faith is gagged and open confession of the truth is smothered; a union in which Calvinism, engrafted on Lutheranism, would have reduced the latter to a mere feeder of a foreign life. However, though it shattered the ungodly plans of the Philippists and Calvinists, the Formula did not in the least destroy the hope of, or block the way for, a truly Christian agreement. On the contrary, it formulated the only true basis for such a union, which it also realized among the Lutherans. And if the Lutheran and Reformed churches will ever unite in a true and godly manner it must be done on the basis of the truths set forth by the Formula.
289.Necessity of Formula of Concord.
Several Lutheran states, as related above declined to accept the Formula of Concord, giving as their reason for such action that there was no need of a new confession. The fact, however, that the Formula was adopted by the great majority of Lutheran princes, professors, preachers, and congregations proves conclusively that they were of a different opinion. A new confession was necessary, not indeed because new truths had been discovered which called for confessional coining or formulation, but because the old doctrines, assailed by errorists, were in need of vindication, and the Lutheran Church, distracted by prolonged theological warfare, was sorely in need of being restored to unity, peace, and stability. The question-marks suspended everywhere in Germany after Luther’s death were: Is Lutheranism to die or live? Are its old standards and doctrines to be scrapped or vindicated? Is the Church of Luther to remain, or to be transformed into a unionistic or Reformed body? Is it to retain its unity, or will it become a house divided against itself and infested with all manner of sects?
Evidently, then, if the Lutheran Church was not to go down ingloriously, a new confession was needed which would not only clear the religious and theological atmosphere, but restore confidence, hope, and normalcy. A confession was needed which would bring out clearly the truths for which Lutherans must firmly stand if they would be true to God, true to His Word, true to their Church, true to themselves, and true to their traditions. A confession was needed which would draw exactly, clearly, and unmistakably the lines which separate Lutherans, not only from Romanists, but also from Zwinglians, Calvinists, Crypto-Calvinists, unionists, and the advocates of other errors and unsound tendencies. Being essentially the Church of the pure Word and Sacrament, the only way for the Lutheran Church to maintain her identity and independence was to settle her controversies not by evading or compromising the doctrinal issues involved, but by honestly facing and definitely deciding them in accordance with her principles: the Word of God and the old confessions. Particularly with respect to the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, Melanchthon by constantly altering the Augsburg Confession, had muddied the water to such an extent that the adoption of the Augustana was no longer a clear test of Lutheran orthodoxy and loyalty. Even Calvin, and the German Reformed generally subscribed to it, “in the sense,” they said, “in which Melanchthon has explained it.” The result was a corruption of Lutheranism and a pernicious Calvinistic propaganda in Lutheran territories. A new confession was the only means of ending the confusion and checking the invasion.
290. Formula Fully Met Requirements.
The Formula of Concord was just such a confession as the situation called for. The Preface to the Apology of the Book of Concord, signed by Kirchner, Selneccer, and Chemnitz, remarks that the purpose of the Formula was “to establish and propagate unity in the Lutheran churches and schools, and to check the Sacramentarian leaven and other corruptions and sects.” This purpose was fully attained by the Formula. It maintained and vindicated the old Lutheran symbols. It cleared our Church from all manner of foreign spirits which threatened to transform its very character. It settled the controversies by rendering a clear and correct decision on all doctrinal questions involved. It unified our Church when she was threatened with hopeless division, anarchy, and utter ruin. It surrounded her with a wall of fire against all her enemies. It made her a most uncomfortable place for such opponents of Lutheranism as Crypto-Calvinists, unionists, etc. It infused her with confidence, self-consciousness, conviction, a clear knowledge of her own position over against the errors of other churches and sects, and last, but not least, with a most remarkable vitality.Wherever and whenever, in the course of time, the Formula of Concord was ignored, despised, or rejected, the Lutheran Church fell an easy prey to unionism and sectarianism; but wherever and whenever the Formula was held in high esteem, Lutheranism flourished and its enemies were confounded. Says Schaff: “Outside of Germany the Lutheran Church is stunted in its normal growth, or undergoes with the change of language and nationality, an ecclesiastical transformation. This is the case with the great majority of Anglicized and Americanized Lutherans, who adopt Reformed views on the Sacraments, the observance of Sunday, church discipline, and other points.“But the fact is that, since Schaff wrote the above, the Lutheran Church developed and flourished nowhere as in America, owing chiefly to the return of American Lutherans to their confessions, including the Formula of Concord. The Formula of Concord fully supplied the dire need created by the controversies after Luther’s death; and, despite many subsequent controversies, also in America, down to the present day, no further confessional deliverances have been necessary, and most likely such will not be needed in the future either.
291. Formula Attacked and Defended.
Drawing accurately and deeply, as it did, the lines of demarcation between Lutheranism, on the one hand, and Calvinism, Philippism, etc., on the other, and thus also putting an end to the Calvinistic propaganda successfully carried on for decades within the Lutheran Church, the Formula of Concord was bound to become a rock of offense and to meet with opposition on the part of all enemies of genuine Lutheranism within as well as without the Lutheran Church. Both Romanists and Calvinists had long ago accustomed themselves to viewing the Lutheran Church as moribund and merely to be preyed upon by others. Accordingly, when, contrary to all expectations, our Church, united by the Formula, rose once more to her pristine power and glory, it roused the envy and inflamed the ire and rage of her enemies.Numerous protests against the Formula, emanating chiefly from Reformed and Crypto- Calvinistic sources, were lodged with Elector August and other Lutheran princes. Even Queen Elizabeth of England sent a deputation urging the Elector not to allow the promulgation of the new confession. John Casimir of the Palatinate, also at the instigation of the English queen, endeavored to organize the Reformed in order to prevent its adoption. Also later on the Calvinists insisted that a general council (of course, participated in by Calvinists and Crypto-Calvinists) should have been held to decide on its formal and final adoption!
Numerous attacks on the Formula of Concord were published 1578, 1579, 1581, and later, some of them anonymously. They were directed chiefly against its doctrine of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper, the majesty of the human nature of Christ, and eternal election, particularly its refusal to solve, either in a synergistic or in a Calvinistic manner, the mystery presented to human reason in the teaching of the Bible that God alone is the cause of man’s salvation,while man alone is the cause of his damnation. In a letter to Beza,Ursinus, the chief author of the Heidelberg Catechism, shrewdly advised the Reformed to continue accepting the Augsburg Confession, but to agitate against the Formula. He himself led the Reformed attacks by publishing, 1581, “Admonitio Christiana de Libro Concordiae, Christian Admonition Concerning the Book of Concord,” also called “Admonitio Neostadiensis, Neustadt Admonition.” Its charges were refuted in the “Apology or Defense of the Christian Book of Concord-Apologia oder Verantwortung des christlichen Konkordienbuchs,in welcher die wahre christliche Lehre, so im Konkordienbuch verfasst, mit gutem Grunde heiliger, goettlicher Schrift verteidiget, die Verkehrung aber und Kalumnien, so von unruhigen Leuten wider gedachtes christliche Buch ausgesprenget, widerlegt worden,” 1583 (1582). Having been prepared by command of the Lutheran electors, and composed by Kirchner, Selneccer, and Chemnitz, and before its publication also submitted to other theologians for their approval, this guardedly written Apology, also called the Erfurt Book, gained considerable authority and influence.
The Preface of this Erfurt Book enumerates, besides the Christian Admonition of Ursinus and the Neustadt theologians, the following writings published against the Formula of Concord: 1. Opinion and Apology (Bedencken und Apologie) of Some Anhalt Theologians; 2. Defense (Verantwortung) of the Bremen Preachers; Christian Irenaeus on Original Sin, Nova Novorum (“ein famos Libell”); other libelli, satyrae et pasquilli; Calumniae et Scurrilia Convitia of Brother Nass (Bruder Nass); and the history of the Augsburg Confession by Ambrosius Wolf, in which the author asserts that from the beginning the doctrine of Zwingli and Calvin predominated in all Protestant churches. The theologians of Neustadt, Bremen, and Anhalt replied to the Erfurt Apology; which, in turn, called forth counter-replies from the Lutherans. Beza wrote: Refutation of the Dogma Concerning the Fictitious Omnipresence of the Flesh of Christ. In 1607 Hospinian published his “Concordia Discors” to which Hutter replied in his Concordia Concors.The papal detractors of the Formula were led by the Jesuit Cardinal Bellarmin, who in 1589 published his Judgment of the Book of Concord.
292.Modern Strictures on Formula of Concord.
Down to the present day the Formula of Concord has been assailed particularly by unionistic and Reformed opponents of true Lutheranism. Schaff criticizes: “Religion was confounded with theology, piety with orthodoxy, and orthodoxy with an exclusive confessionalism.” (1, 259.) However, the subjects treated in the Formula are the most vital doctrines of the Christian religion: concerning sin and grace, the person and work of Christ, justification and faith, the means of grace,– truths without which neither Christian theology nor Christian religion can remain; “Here, then,” says Schmauk, “is the one symbol of the ages which treats almost exclusively of Christ–of His work, His presence, His person. Here is the Christ-symbol of the Lutheran Church. One might almost say that the Formula of Concord is a developed witness of Luther’s explanation of the Second and Third Articles of the Apostles’ Creed, meeting the modern errors of Protestantism, those cropping up from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, in a really modern way.” (751.) Tschackert also designates the assertion that the authors of the Formula of Concord “abandoned Luther’s idea of faith and established a dead scholasticism” as an unjust charge. (478.) Indeed, it may be questioned whether the doctrine of grace, the real heart of Christianity, would have been saved to the Church without the Formula.
R. Seeberg speaks of the “ossification of Lutheran theology” caused by the Formula of Concord, and Tschackert charges it with transforming the Gospel into a “doctrine.” (571.) But what else is the Gospel of Christ than the divine doctrine or statement and proclamation of the truth that we are saved, not by our own works, but by grace and faith alone, for the sake of Christ and His merits? The Formula of Concord truly says: “The Gospel is properly a doctrine which teaches what man should believe, that he may obtain forgiveness of sins with God, namely, that the Son of God,our Lord Christ, has taken upon Himself and borne the curse of the Law, has expiated and paid for all our sins, through whom alone we again enter into favor with God, obtain forgiveness of sins by faith, are delivered from death and all the punishments of sins, and eternally saved.” (959, 20.) Says Schmauk:“The Formula of Concord was … the very substance of the Gospel and of the Augsburg Confession, kneaded through the experience of the first generation of Protestantism, by incessant and agonizing conflict, and coming forth from that experience as a true and tried teaching, a standard recognized by many.” (821.) The Formula of Concord is truly Scriptural, not only because all its doctrines are derived from the Bible, but also because the burden of the Scriptures, the doctrine of justification, is the burden also of all its expositions the living breath, as it were, pervading all its articles.
Another modern objection to the Formula is that it binds the future generations to the Book of Concord. This charge is correct, for the Formula expressly states that its decisions are to be “a public, definite testimony, not only for those now living, but also for our posterity, what is and should remain (sei und bleiben solle- esseque perpetuo debeat) the unanimous understanding and judgment of our churches in reference to the articles in controversy.” (857, 16.) However, the criticism implied in the charge is unwarranted. For the Lutheran Confessions, as promoters, authors, and signers of the Formula were fully persuaded, are in perfect agreement with the eternal and unchangeable Word of God. As to their contents, therefore, they must always remain the confession of every Church which really is and would remain loyal to the Word of God.
293. Formula Unrefuted.
From the day of its birth down to the present time the Formula of Concord has always been in the limelight of theological discussion. But what its framers said in praise of the Augsburg Confession, viz., that, in spite of numerous enemies, it had remained unrefuted,may be applied also to the Formula: it stood the test of centuries and emerged unscathed from the fire of every controversy. It is true today what Thomasius wrote 1848 with special reference to the Formula: “Numerous as they may be who at present revile our Confession, not one has ever appeared who has refuted its chief propositions from the Bible.” (Bekenntnis der ev.-luth. Kirche, 227.) Nor can the Formula ever be refuted, for its doctrinal contents are unadulterated truths of the infallible Word of God. It confesses the doctrine which Christians everywhere will finally admit as true and divine indeed, which they all in their hearts believe even now, if not explicitly and consciously, at least implicitly and in principle. The doctrines of the Formula are the ecumenical truths of Christendom; for true Lutheranism is nothing but consistent Christianity. The Formula, says Krauth, is “the completest and clearest confession in which the Christian Church has ever embodied her faith.” Such being the case, the Formula of Concord must be regarded also as the key to a godly peace and true unity of entire Christendom.
The authors of the Formula solemnly declare: “We entertain heartfelt pleasure and love for, and are on our part sincerely inclined and anxious to advance with our utmost power that unity [and peace] by which His glory remains to God uninjured, nothing of the divine truth of the Holy Gospel is surrendered, no room is given to the least error, poor sinners are brought to true, genuine repentance, raised up by faith, confirmed in new obedience, and thus justified and eternally saved alone through the sole merit of Christ."(1095, 95.) Such was the godly peace and true Christian unity restored by the Formula of Concord to the Lutheran Church. And what it did for her it is able also to do for the Church at large. Being in complete agreement with Scripture, it is well qualified to become the regeneration center of the entire present-day corrupted, disrupted, and demoralized Christendom.
Accordingly Lutherans, the natural advocates of a truly wholesome and God-pleasing union based on unity in divine truth, will not only themselves hold fast what they possess in their glorious Confession, but strive to impart its blessings also to others, all the while praying incessantly, fervently, and trustingly with the pious framers of the Formula: “May Almighty God and the Father of our Lord Jesus grant the grace of His Holy Ghost that we all may be one in Him, and constantly abide in this Christian unity, which is well pleasing to Him! Amen.” (837, 23.)