Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church by F. Bente
I. The Book of Concord, or The Concordia.
1. General and Particular Symbols.
Book of Concord, or Concordia, is the title of the Lutheran corpus doctrinae, i.e., of the symbols recognized and published under that name by the Lutheran Church. The word symbol, sumbolon, is derived from the verb sumballein, to compare two things for the purpose of perceiving their relation and association. Sumbolon thus developed the meaning of tessara, or sign, token, badge, banner, watchword, parole, countersign, confession, creed. A Christian symbol, therefore, is a mark by which Christians are known. And since Christianity is essentially the belief in the truths of the Gospel, its symbol is of necessity a confession of Christian doctrine. The Church, accordingly, has from the beginning defined and regarded its symbols as a rule of faith or a rule of truth. Says Augustine: "Symbolum est regula fidei brevis et grandis: brevis numero verborum, grandis pondere sententiarum. A symbol is a rule of faith, both brief and grand: brief, as to the number of words, grand, as to the weight of its thoughts."
Cyprian was the first who applied the term symbol to the baptismal confession, because, he said, it distinguished the Christians from non-Christians. Already at the beginning of the fourth century the Apostles' Creed was universally called symbol, and in the Middle Ages this name was applied also to the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds. In the Introduction to the Book of Concord the Lutheran confessors designate the Augsburg Confession as the "symbol of our faith," and in the Epitome of the Formula of Concord, as "our symbol of this time."
Symbols may be divided into the following classes: 1. Ecumenical symbols, which, at least in the past, have been accepted by all Christendom, and are still formally acknowledged by most of the evangelical Churches; 2. particular symbols, adopted by the various denominations of divided Christendom; 3. private symbols, such as have been formulated and published by individuals, for example, Luther's Confession of the Lord's Supper of 1528. The publication of private confessions does not necessarily involve an impropriety; for according to Matt. 10, 32 33 and 1 Pet. 3, 15 not only the Church as a whole, but individual Christians as well are privileged and in duty bound to confess the Christian truth over against its public assailants. Self-evidently, only such are symbols of particular churches as have been approved and adopted by them. The symbols of the Church, says the Formula of Concord, "should not be based on private writings, but on such books as have been composed, approved, and received in the name of the churches which pledge themselves to one doctrine and religion." (CONC. TRIGL., 851, 2.)
Not being formally and explicitly adopted by all Christians, the specifically Lutheran confessions also are generally regarded as particular symbols. Inasmuch, however, as they are in complete agreement with Holy Scripture, and in this respect differ from all other particular symbols, the Lutheran confessions are truly ecumenical and catholic in character. They contain the truths believed universally by true Christians everywhere, explicitly by all consistent Christians, implicitly even by inconsistent and erring Christians. Christian truth, being one and the same the world over is none other than that which is found in the Lutheran confessions.
2. The German Book of Concord.
The printing of the official German edition of the Book of Concord was begun in 1578 under the editorship of Jacob Andreae. The 25th of June, 1580, however, the fiftieth anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V, was chosen as the date for its official publication at Dresden and its promulgation to the general public. Following are the contents of one of the five Dresden folio copies which we have compared: 1. The title-page, concluding with the words, "Mit Churf. G. zu Sachsen Befreiung. Dresden MDLXXX." 2. The preface, as adopted and signed by the estates at Jueterbock in 1579, which supplanted the explanation, originally planned, of the theologians against the various attacks made upon the Formula of Concord. 3. The three Ecumenical Symbols. 4. The Augsburg Confession of 1530. 5. The Apology of 1530. 6. The Smalcald Articles of 1537, with the appendix, "Concerning the Power and Supremacy of the Pope." 7. Luther's Small Catechism, omitting the "Booklets of Marriage and Baptism," found in some copies. 8. Luther's Large Catechism. 9. The Formula of Concord, with separate title-pages for the Epitome and the Solida Declaratio, both dated 1580. 10. The signatures of the theologians, etc., amounting to about 8,000. 11. The Catalogus Testimoniorum, with the superscription "Appendix" (found in some copies only). The Preface is followed by a Privilegium signed by Elector August and guaranteeing to Matthes Stoeckel and Gimel Bergen the sole right of publication, a document not found in the other copies we compared. The Formula of Concord is followed by a twelve-page index of the doctrines treated in the Book of Concord, and the list of signatures, by a page containing the trade-mark of the printer. The center of this page features a cut inscribed, "Matthes Stoeckel Gimel Bergen 1579." The cut is headed by Ps. 9, 1. 2: "Ich danke dem Herrn von ganzem Herzen und erzaehle all deine Wunder. Ich freue mich und bin froehlich in dir und lobe deinen Namen, du Allerhoechster. I thank the Lord with all my heart and proclaim all Thy wonders. I am glad and rejoice in Thee, and praise Thy name, Thou Most High." Under the cut are the words: "Gedruckt zu Dresden durch Matthes Stoeckel. Anno 1580. Printed by Matthes Stoeckel, Dresden, 1580."
In a letter dated November 7, 1580, Martin Chemnitz speaks of two Dresden folio editions of the German Book of Concord, while Feuerlinus, in 1752, counts seven Dresden editions. As a matter of fact, the Dresden folio copies differ from one another, both as to typography and contents. Following are the chief differences of the latter kind: 1. Only some copies have the liturgical Forms of Baptism and of Marriage appended to the Small Catechism. 2. The Catalogus is not entitled "Appendix" in all copies, because it was not regarded as a part of the confession proper. 3. In some copies the passage from the Augsburg Confession, quoted in Art. 2, 29 of the Solida Declaratio, is taken, not from the Mainz Manuscript, but from the quarto edition of 1531, which already contained some alterations. 4. Some copies are dated 1580, while others bear the date 1579 or 1581. Dr. Kolde gives it as his opinion that in spite of all these and other (chiefly typographical) differences they are nevertheless all copies of one and the same edition, with changes only in individual sheets. (Historische Einleitung in die Symbolischen Buecher der ev.-luth. Kirche, p. 70.) Dr. Tschackert inclines to the same view, saying: "Such copies of this edition as have been preserved exhibit, in places, typographical differences. This, according to Polycarp Leyser's Kurzer und gegruendeter Bericht, Dresden, 1597 (Kolde, 70), is due to the fact that the manuscript was rushed through the press and sent in separate sheets to the interested estates, and that, while the forms were in press, changes were made on the basis of the criticisms sent in from time to time, yet not equally, so that some copies differ in certain sheets and insertions." (Die Entstehung der luth. und der ref. Kirchenlehre, 1910, p. 621.)
However, while this hypothesis explains a number of the variations in the Dresden folio copies, it does not account for all of them especially not for those of a typographical nature. In one of the five copies which we compared, the title-page, radically differing from the others, reads as follows: "Formula Concordiae. Das ist: Christliche, Heilsame Reine Vergleichunge, in welcher die Goettliche Leer von den vornembsten Artikeln vnserer wahrhafftigen Religion, aus heiliger Schrift in kurtze bekanntnues oder Symbola vnd Leerhafte Schrifften,: welche allbereit vor dieser zeit von den Kirchen Gottes Augspurgischer Confession, angenommen vnd approbiert:, verfasset. Sampt bestendiger, in Gottes wort wolgegruendeter, richtiger, endlicher widerholung, erklerung und entscheidung deren Streit, welche vnter etlichen Theologen, so sich zu ermelter Confession bekant, fuergefallen. Alles nach inhalt der heiligen Schrifft, als der einigen Richtschnur der Goettlichen wahrheit, vnd nach anleitung obgemeldter in der Kirchen Gottes, approbierten Schrifften. Auff gnedigsten, gnedigen, auch guetigsten beuehl, verordnung und einwilligung nach beschriebener Christlichen Churfuersten, Fuersten vnd Stende des heiligen Roemischen Reichs Deutscher Nation, Augspurgischer Confession, derselben Landen, Kirchen, Schulen vnd Nachkommen zum trost vnd besten in Druck vorfertiget. M. D. LXXIX." ("Formula of Concord, that is, Christian, wholesome, pure agreement, in which the divine doctrine of the chief articles of our true religion have been drawn up from the Holy Scripture in short confessions or symbols and doctrinal writings, which have already before this time been accepted and approved by the Churches of God of the Augsburg Confession, together with a firm, Scripturally well-founded, correct, final repetition, explanation and decision of those controversies which have arisen among some theologians who have subscribed to said Confession, all of which has been drawn up according to the contents of Holy Scripture, the sole norm of divine Truth, and according to the analogy of the above-named writings which have the approval of the Churches of God. Published by the most gracious, kind, and benevolent command, order, and assent of the subscribed Christian Electors, princes, and estates of the Holy Roman Empire, of the German nation, of the Augsburg Confession, for the comfort and benefit of said lands churches, schools, and posterity. 1579.")
Apart from the above title this copy differs from the others we examined in various ways Everywhere (at four different places) it bears the date 1579, which, on the chief title-page, however, seems to have been entered in ink at a later date. Also the place of publication, evidently Dresden, is not indicated. Two variations are found in the Preface to the Book of Concord, one an omission, the other an addition. The signatures of the princes and estates to the Preface are omitted. Material and formal differences are found also on the pages containing the subscriptions of the theologians to the Formula of Concord; and the Catalogus is lacking entirely. The typography everywhere, especially in the portions printed in Roman type, exhibits many variations and divergences from our other four copies, which, in turn, are also characterized by numerous typographical and other variations. The copy of which, above, we have given the contents is dated throughout 1580. Our third copy bears the same date 1580, excepting on the title-page of the Solida Declaratio, which has 1579. In both of these copies the typography of the signatures to the Book of Concord is practically alike. In our fourth copy the date 1580 is found on the title-page of the Concordia, the Catalogus, and the appended Saxon Church Order, which covers 433 pages, while the title-pages of the Epitome and the Declaratio and the page carrying the printer's imprint are all dated 1579. In this copy the typography of the signatures closely resembles that of the copy dated everywhere 1579. In our fifth Dresden folio copy, the title-page of the Book of Concord and the Catalogus are dated 1580, while the title-pages of the Epitome and Solida Declaratio are dated 1579. This is also the only copy in which the Catalogus is printed under the special heading "Appendix."
In view of these facts, especially the variation of the Roman type in all copies, Kolde's hypothesis will hardly be regarded as firmly established. Even if we eliminate the copy which is everywhere dated 1579, the variations in our four remaining Dresden folio copies cannot be explained satisfactorily without assuming either several editions or at least several different compositions for the same edition, or perhaps for the two editions mentioned by Chemnitz. Feuerlinus distinguishes seven Dresden editions of the Book of Concord—one, printed for the greater part in 1578, the second, third, and fourth in 1580, the fifth in 1581, the sixth also in 1581, but in quarto, and the seventh in 1598, in folio. (Bibliotheca Symbolica, 1752, p. 9.) A copy like the one referred to above, which is everywhere dated 1579, does not seem to have come to the notice of Feuerlinus.
In the copy of the Tuebingen folio edition which is before us, the Index follows the Preface. The appendices of the Small Catechism are omitted, likewise the superscription Appendix of the Catalogus. Our copy of the Heidelberg folio edition of 1582 omits the Catalogus and adds the Apology of the Book of Concord of 1583, as also the Refutation of the Bremen Pastors of the same year. A copy of the Magdeburg quarto edition lying before us has the year 1580 on the title-pages of the Book of Concord, the Epitome, the Declaratio, and the Catalogus. The Preface is followed by three pages, on which Joachim Frederick guarantees to "Thomas Frantzen Buchvorlegern" (Thomas Frantzen, publishers) the sole right of publication for a period of five years, and prohibits the introduction of other copies, excepting only those of the Dresden folio edition of 1580. Luther's Booklets of Marriage and of Baptism are appended to the Small Catechism, and to the Large Catechism is added "Eine kurze Vermahnung zu der Beicht, A Brief Exhortation to Confession." (None of the Dresden folio copies we compared contain these appendices, nor are they found in the Latin editions of 1580 and 1584.) The index is followed by a page of corrected misprints. The last page has the following imprint: "Gedruckt zu Magdeburg durch Johann Meiszner und Joachim Walden Erben, Anno 1580, Printed at Magdeburg by John Meissner's and Joachim Walden's heirs. In the year 1580."
3. The Latin Concordia.
Even before the close of 1580, Selneccer published a Latin Concordia containing a translation of the Formula of Concord begun by Lucas Osiander in 1578 and completed by Jacob Heerbrand. It was a private undertaking and, owing to its numerous and partly offensive mistakes, found no recognition. Thus, for instance, the passage of the Tractatus "De Potestate et Primatu Papae" in sec. 24: "Christ gives the highest and final judgment to the church," was rendered as follows: "Et Christus summum et ultimum ferculum apponit ecclesiae." (p. 317.) Besides, Selneccer had embodied in his Concordia the objectionable text of the Augsburg Confession found in the octavo edition of 1531, which Melanchthon had altered extensively.
The necessary revision of the Latin text was made at the convention in Quedlinburg during December, 1582, and January, 1583, Chemnitz giving material assistance. The revised edition, which constitutes the Latin textus receptus of the Formula of Concord, was published at Leipzig in 1584. Aside from many corrections, this edition contains the translation of the Formula of Concord as already corrected by Selneccer in 1582 for his special Latin-German edition, and afterwards thoroughly revised by Chemnitz. The texts of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology follow the editio princeps of 1531. The 8,000 signatures, embodied also in the Latin edition of 1580, were omitted, lest any one might complain that his name was appended to a book which he had neither seen nor approved. In keeping herewith, the words in the title of the Book of Concord: "et nomina sua huic libro subscripserunt—and have subscribed their names to this book," which Mueller retained in his edition, were eliminated. The title-page concludes as in the edition of 1580, the word "denuo" only being added and the date correspondingly changed. On the last two pages of this edition of 1584 Selneccer refers to the edition of 1580 as follows: "Antea publicatus est liber Christianae Concordiae, Latine, sed privato et festinato instituto, Before this the Book of Concord has been published in Latin, but as a private and hasty undertaking." In the edition of 1584, the text of the Small Catechism is adorned with 23 Biblical illustrations.
Among the later noteworthy editions of the Book of Concord are the following: Tuebingen 1599; Leipzig, 1603, 1622; Stuttgart 1660, 1681. Editions furnished with introductions or annotations or both: H. Pipping, 1703; S.J. Baumgarten, 1747; J.W. Schoepff, Part I, 1826, Part II, 1827; F.A. Koethe, 1830; J.A. Detzer, 1830; F.W. Bodemann, 1843. In America the entire Book of Concord was printed in German by H. Ludwig, of New York, in 1848, and by the Concordia Publishing House of St. Louis, Mo., in 1880. In Leipzig, Latin editions appeared in the years 1602, 1606, 1612, 1618, 1626, 1654, 1669, 1677. Adam Rechenberg's edition "with an appendix in three parts and new indices" (cum appendice tripartita et novis indicibus) saw five editions—1678, 1698, 1712, 1725, 1742. We mention also the edition of Pfaffius, 1730; Tittmann, 1817; H.A.G. Meyer, 1830, containing a good preface; Karl Hase, in his editions of 1827, 1837, and 1845, was the first to number the paragraphs. Reineccius prepared a German-Latin edition in 1708. This was followed in 1750 by the German-Latin edition of Johann Georg Walch. Mueller's well-known German-Latin Concordia saw eleven editions between 1847 and 1912. Since 1907 it appears with historical introductions by Th. Kolde.
4. English Translations.
All of the Lutheran symbols have been translated into the English language repeatedly. In 1536 Richard Tavener prepared the first translation of the Augsburg Confession. Cranmer published, in 1548, "A Short Instruction into the Christian Religion," essentially a translation of the Ansbach-Nuernberg Sermons on the Catechism. In 1834 a translation of the German text of the Augsburg Confession with "Preliminary Observations" was published at Newmarket, Va., by Charles Henkel, Prof. Schmidt of the Seminary at Columbus O., assisting in this work. The Introduction to the Newmarket Book of Concord assigns Henkel's translation of the Augsburg Confession to the year 1831. Our copy, however, which does not claim to be a second edition, is dated 1834. In his Popular Theology of 1834, S.S. Schmucker offered a translation of the Latin text, mutilated in the interest of his American Lutheranism. Hazelius followed him with a translation in 1841. In 1848, Ludwig, of New York, issued a translation of the German text of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, as well as of the Introduction, prepared by C.H. Schott, together with the Ecumenical Symbols, also with introductions. The title-page of our copy lists the price of the book at 12 1/2 cents. C.P. Krauth's translation of the Augsburg Confession appeared in 1868. The first complete translation of the German text of the entire Book of Concord was published in 1851 by the publishing house of Solomon D. Henkel & Bros., at Newmarket, Va. In this translation, however, greater stress was laid on literary style than upon an exact reproduction of the original. Ambrose and Socrates Henkel prepared the translation of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Appendix, and the Articles of Visitation. The Small Catechism was offered in the translation prepared by David Henkel in 1827. The Large Catechism was translated by J. Stirewalt; the Epitome, by H. Wetzel; the Declaratio, by J.R. Moser. The second, improved edition of 1854 contained a translation of the Augsburg Confession by C. Philip Krauth, the Apology was translated by W.F. Lehmann, the Smalcald Articles by W.M. Reynolds, the two Catechisms by J.G. Morris, and the Formula of Concord together with the Catalogus by C.F. Schaeffer. In both editions the historical introductions present a reproduction of the material in J.T. Mueller's Book of Concord.
In 1882 a new English translation of the entire Book of Concord, together with introductions and other confessional material, appeared in two volumes, edited by Dr. H.E. Jacobs. The first volume of this edition embraces the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church. It contains C.P. Krauth's translation of the Augsburg Confession as revised for Schaff's Creeds of Christendom. Jacobs translated the Apology (from the Latin, with insertions, in brackets, of translations from the German text), the Smalcald Articles (from the German), the Tractatus (from the Latin), and the Formula of Concord. The translation of the Small Catechism was prepared by a committee of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania. The Large Catechism was done into English by A. Martin. A reprint of this edition appeared in 1911, entitled "People's Edition," in which the Augsburg Confession is presented in a translation prepared by a committee of the General Council, the General Synod, the United Synod in the South, and the Ohio Synod. The second volume of Jacobs's edition of the Book of Concord embodies historical introductions to the Lutheran symbols, translations of the Marburg Articles, the Schwabach Articles, the Torgau Articles, the Altered Augsburg Confession of 1540 and 1542, Zwingli's Ratio Fidei, the Tetrapolitana, the Romish Confutatio, Melanchthon's Opinion of 1530, Luther's Sermon on the Descent into Hell of 1533, the Wittenberg Concordia, the Leipzig Interim the Catalogus Testimoniorum, the Articles of Visitation, and the Decretum Upsaliense of 1593. The Principles of Faith and Church Polity of the General Council and an index complete this volume. A Norwegian and a Swedish translation of the Book of Concord have also been published in America.
5. Corpora Doctrinae Supplanted by Book of Concord.
More than twenty different Lutheran collections of symbols or corpora doctrinae (a term first employed by Melanchthon), most of them bulky, had appeared after the death of Luther and before the adoption of the Formula of Concord, by which quite a number of them were supplanted. From the signatures to its Preface it appears that the entire Book of Concord was adopted by 3 electors, 20 princes, 24 counts, 4 barons, and 35 imperial cities. And the list of signatures appended to the Formula of Concord contains about 8,000 names of theologians, preachers, and schoolteachers. About two-thirds of the German territories which professed adherence to the Augsburg Confession adopted and introduced the Book of Concord as their corpus doctrinae. (Compare Historical Introduction to the Formula of Concord.)
Among the corpora doctrinae which were gradually superseded by the Book of Concord are the following: 1. Corpus Doctrinae Philippicum, or Misnicum, or Wittenbergense of 1560, containing besides the Three Ecumenical Symbols, the following works of Melanchthon: Variata, Apologia, Repetitio Augustanae Confessionis, Loci, Examen Ordinandorum of 1552, Responsio ad Articulos Bavaricae Inquisitionis, Refutatio Serveti. Melanchthon, shortly before his death, wrote the preface for the Latin as well as the German edition of this Corpus. 2. Corpus Doctrinae Pomeranicum of 1564 which adds Luther's Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles, and three other works of Luther to the Corpus Doctrinae Philippicum, which had been adopted 1561. 3. Corpus Doctrinae Prutenicum, or Borussicum, of Prussia, 1567, containing the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, and Repetition of the Sum and Content of the True, Universal Christian Doctrine of the Church, written by Moerlin and Chemnitz. 4. Corpus Doctrinae Thuringicum in Ducal Saxony, of 1570, containing the Three Ecumenical Symbols, Luther's Catechisms, the Smalcald Articles, the Confession of the Landed Estates in Thuringia (drawn up by Justus Menius in 1549), and the Prince of Saxony's Book of Confutation (Konfutationsbuch) of 1558. 5. Corpus Doctrinae Brandenburgicum of 1572, containing the Augsburg Confession according to the Mainz Manuscript, Luther's Small Catechism, Explanation of the Augsburg Confession drawn from the postils and doctrinal writings "of the faithful man of God Dr. Luther" by Andreas Musculus, and a Church Agenda. 6. Corpus Doctrinae Wilhelminum of Lueneburg, 1576, containing the Three Ecumenical Symbols, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, Luther's Catechisms, Formulae Caute Loquendi (Forms of Speaking Cautiously) by Dr. Urbanus Regius, and Formulae Recte Sentiendi de Praecipuis Horum Temporum Controversiis (Forms of Thinking Correctly concerning the Chief Controversies of These Times) by Martin Chemnitz. 7. Corpus Doctrinae Iulium of Duke Julius of Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel, 1576, containing the documents of the Wilhelminum, with the sole addition of the Short Report of Some Prominent Articles of Doctrine, from the Church Order of Duke Julius, of 1569. 8. The Hamburg Book of Confession of 1560, which was also adopted by Luebeck and Lueneburg, and contained a confession against the Interim drawn up by Aepinus in 1548, and also four declarations concerning Adiaphorism, Osiandrism, Majorism, and the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, drawn up since 1549. 9. The Confessional Book of Braunschweig, adopted in 1563 and reaffirmed in 1570, containing, The Braunschweig Church Order of 1528, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology thereof, the Smalcald Articles, Explanation, etc., drawn up at Lueneburg in 1561 against the Crypto-Calvinists. 10. The Church Order of the city of Goettingen 1568, containing the Church Order of Goettingen of 1531, Luther's Small Catechism, the Smalcald Articles, the Augsburg Confession, and the Apology. (Tschackert, l.c., 613f.; Feuerlinus, l.c., 1f.)
6. Subscription to Confessions.
The position accorded the symbols in the Lutheran Church is clearly defined by the Book of Concord itself. According to it Holy Scripture alone is to be regarded as the sole rule and norm by which absolutely all doctrines and teachers are to be judged. The object of the Augustana, as stated in its Preface, was to show "what manner of doctrine has been set forth, in our lands and churches from the Holy Scripture and the pure Word of God." And in its Conclusion the Lutheran confessors declare: "Nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic," and "we are ready, God willing, to present ampler information according to the Scriptures." "Iuxta Scripturam"—such are the closing words of the Augsburg Confession. The Lutheran Church knows of no other principle.
In the Formula of Concord we read: "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, and should not be received otherwise or further than as witnesses, [which are to show] in what manner after the time of the apostles, and at what places, this doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved." (777, 2.) In the Conclusion of the Catalog of Testimonies we read: "The true saving faith is to be founded upon no church-teachers, old or new, but only and alone upon God's Word, which is comprised in the Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles, as unquestionable witnesses of divine truth." (1149.)
The Lutheran symbols, therefore, are not intended to supplant the Scriptures, nor do they do so. They do, however, set forth what has been at all times the unanimous understanding of the pure Christian doctrine adhered to by sincere and loyal Lutherans everywhere; and, at the same time, they show convincingly from the Scriptures that our forefathers did indeed manfully confess nothing but God's eternal truth, which every Christian is in duty bound to, and consistently always will, believe, teach, and confess.
The manner also in which Lutherans pledge themselves confessionally appears from these symbols. The Augsburg Confession was endorsed by the princes and estates as follows: "The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our teachers." (95, 6.) In the preamble to the signatures of 1537 the Lutheran preachers unanimously confess: "We have reread the articles of the Confession presented to the Emperor in the Assembly at Augsburg, and by the favor of God all the preachers who have been present in this Assembly at Smalcald harmoniously declare that they believe and teach in their churches according to the articles of the Confession and Apology." (529.) John Brenz declares that he had read and reread, time and again, the Confession, the Apology, etc., and judged "that all these agree with Holy Scripture, and with the belief of the true and genuine catholic Church (haec omnia convenire cum Sacra Scriptura et cum sententia verae kai gnesies catholicae ecclesiae)." (529.) Another subscription—to the Smalcald Articles—reads: "I, Conrad Figenbotz, for the glory of God subscribe that I have thus believed and am still preaching and firmly believing as above." (503, 13.) Brixius writes in a similar vein: "I ... subscribe to the Articles of the reverend Father Martin Luther, and confess that hitherto I have thus believed and taught, and by the Spirit of Christ I shall continue thus to believe and teach." (503, 27.)
In the Preface to the Thorough Declaration of the Formula of Concord the Lutheran confessors declare: "To this Christian Augsburg Confession, so thoroughly grounded in God's Word, we herewith pledge ourselves again from our inmost hearts. We abide by its simple, clear, and unadulterated meaning as the words convey it, and regard the said Confession as a pure Christian symbol, with which at the present time true Christians ought to be found next to God's Word.... We intend also, by the grace of the Almighty, faithfully to abide until our end by this Christian Confession, mentioned several times, as it was delivered in the year 1530 to the Emperor Charles V; and it is our purpose, neither in this nor in any other writing, to recede in the least from that oft-cited Confession, nor to propose another or new confession." (847, 4. 5.) Again: "We confess also the First, Unaltered Augsburg Confession as our symbol for this time (not because it was composed by our theologians, but because it has been taken from God's Word and is founded firmly and well therein), precisely in the form in which it was committed to writing in the year 1530, and presented to the Emperor Charles V at Augsburg." (851, 5.)
In like manner the remaining Lutheran symbols were adopted. (852. 777.) Other books, the Formula of Concord declares, are accounted useful, "as far as (wofern, quatenus) they are consistent with" the Scriptures and the symbols. (855, 10.) The symbols, however, are accepted "that we may have a unanimously received, definite, common form of doctrine, which all our Evangelical churches together and in common confess, from and according to which, because (cum, weil) it has been derived from God's Word, all other writings should be judged and adjusted, as to how far (wiefern, quatenus) they are to be approved and accepted." (855, 10.)
After its adoption by the Lutheran electors, princes, and estates, the Formula of Concord, and with it the entire Book of Concord, was, as stated, solemnly subscribed by about 8,000 theologians, pastors, and teachers, the pledge reading as follows: "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 of His name, attached our signatures with our own hands." (1103, 40.)
Furthermore, in the Preface to the Book of Concord the princes and estates declare that many churches and schools had received the Augsburg Confession "as a symbol of the present time in regard to the chief articles of faith, especially those involved in controversy with the Romanists and various corruptions of the heavenly doctrine." (7.) They solemnly protest that it never entered their minds "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." (15.) They declare: "This Confession also, by the help of God, we will retain to our last breath when we shall go forth from this life to the heavenly fatherland, to appear with joyful and undaunted mind and with a pure conscience before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ." (15.) "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 (vel a rebus ipsis vel a phrasibus, quae in illa habentur, discedere), 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." (23.)
7. Pledging of Ministers to the Confessions.
Such being the attitude of the Lutherans towards their symbols, and such their evaluation of pure doctrine, it was self-evident that the public teachers of their churches should be pledged to the confessions. In December 1529, H. Winckel, of Goettingen, drew up a form in which the candidate for ordination declares: "I believe and hold also of the most sacred Sacrament ... as one ought to believe concerning it according to the contents of the Bible, and as Doctor Martin Luther writes and confesses concerning it especially in his Confession" (of the Lord's Supper, 1528). The Goettingen Church Order of 1530, however, did not as yet embody a vow of ordination. The first pledges to the symbols were demanded by the University of Wittenberg in 1533 from candidates for the degree of Doctor of Divinity. In 1535 this pledge was required also of the candidates for ordination. The oath provided that the candidate must faithfully teach the Gospel without corruption, steadfastly defend the Ecumenical Symbols, remain in agreement with the Augsburg Confession, and before deciding difficult controversies consult older teachers of the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Even before 1549 the candidates for philosophical degrees were also pledged by oath to the Augsburg Confession.
In 1535, at the Diet of Smalcald, it was agreed that new members entering the Smalcald League should promise "to provide for such teaching and preaching as was in harmony with the Word of God and the pure teaching of our [Augsburg] Confession." According to the Pomeranian Church Order which Bugenhagen drew up in 1535, pastors were pledged to the Augsburg Confession and the Apology thereof. Capito, Bucer, and all others who took part in the Wittenberg Concord of 1536, promised, over their signatures, "to believe and to teach in all articles according to the Confession and the Apology." (Corpus Reformatorum, opp. Melanthonis, 3, 76.) In 1540, at Goettingen, John Wigand promised to accept the Augsburg Confession and its Apology, and to abide by them all his life. "And," he continued, "if I should be found to do otherwise or be convicted of teaching and confessing contrary to such Confession and Apology, then let me, by this signature, be condemned and deposed from this divine ministry. This do I swear, so help me God." Also at Goettingen, Veit Pflugmacher vowed, in 1541, that he would preach the Gospel in its truth and purity according to the Augsburg Confession and the contents of the postils of Anton Corvinus. He added: "Should I be found to do otherwise and not living up to what has been set forth above, then shall I by such act have deposed myself from office. This do I swear; so help me God."
In 1550 and 1552, Andrew Osiander attacked the oath of confession which was in vogue at Wittenberg, claiming it to be "an entanglement in oath-bound duties after the manner of the Papists." "What else," said he, "does this oath accomplish than to sever those who swear it from the Holy Scriptures and bind them to Philip's doctrine? Parents may therefore well consider what they do by sending their sons to Wittenberg to become Masters and Doctors. Money is there taken from them, and they are made Masters and Doctors. But while the parents think that their son is an excellent man, well versed in the Scriptures and able to silence enthusiasts and heretics, he is, in reality, a poor captive, entangled and embarrassed by oath-bound duties. For he has abjured the Word of God and has taken an oath on Philip's doctrine." Replying to this fanatical charge in 1553, Melanchthon emphasized the fact that the doctrinal pledges demanded at Wittenberg had been introduced chiefly by Luther, for the purpose of "maintaining the true doctrine." "For," said Melanchthon, "many enthusiasts were roaming about at that time, each, in turn, spreading new silly nonsense, e.g., the Anabaptists, Servetus, Campanus, Schwenckfeld, and others. And such tormenting spirits are not lacking at any time (Et non desunt tales furiae ullo tempore)." A doctrinal pledge, Melanchthon furthermore explained, was necessary "in order correctly to acknowledge God and call upon Him to preserve harmony in the Church, and to bridle the audacity of such as invent new doctrines." (C.R. 12, 5.)
II. The Three Ecumenical or Universal Symbols.
8. Ecumenical Symbols.
The Ecumenical (general, universal) Symbols were embodied in the Book of Concord primarily for apologetic reasons. Carpzov writes: "The sole reason why our Church appealed to these symbols was to declare her agreement with the ancient Church in so far as the faith of the latter was laid down in these symbols, to refute also the calumniations and the accusations of the opponents, and to evince the fact that she preaches no new doctrine and in no wise deviates from the Church Catholic." (Isagoge, 37.) For like reasons Article I of the Augsburg Confession declares its adherence to the Nicene Creed, and the first part of the Smalcald Articles, to the Apostles' and Athanasian Creeds. The oath introduced by Luther in 1535, and required of the candidates for the degree of Doctor of Divinity, also contained a pledge on the Ecumenical Symbols. In 1538 Luther published a tract entitled, "The Three Symbols or Confessions of the Faith of Christ Unanimously Used in the Church," containing the Apostles' Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the Te Deum of Ambrose and Augustine. To these was appended the Nicene Creed.
In the opening sentences of this tract, Luther remarks: "Whereas I have previously taught and written quite a bit concerning faith, showing both what faith is and what faith does, and have also published my Confession , setting forth both what I believe and what position I intend to maintain; and whereas the devil continues to seek new intrigues against me, I have decided, by way of supererogation, to publish conjointly, in the German tongue, the three so-called Symbols, or Confessions, which have hitherto been received, read, and chanted throughout the Church. I would thereby reaffirm the fact that I side with the true Christian Church, which has adhered to these Symbols, or Confessions, to the present day, and not with the false, vainglorious church, which in reality is the worst enemy of the true Church, having introduced much idolatry beside these beautiful confessions." (St. L. 10, 993; Erl. 23, 252.) Luther's translation of the Ecumenical Symbols, together with the captions which appeared in his tract, were embodied in the Book of Concord. The superscription, "Tria Symbola Catholica seu Oecumenica," occurs for the first time in Selneccer's edition of the Book of Concord of 1580. Before this, 1575, he had written: "Quot sunt Symbola fidei Christianae in Ecclesia? Tria sunt praecipua quae nominantur oecumenica, sive universalia et authentica, id est, habentia auctoritatem et non indigentia demonstratione aut probatione, videlicet Symbolum Apostolicum, Nicaenum et Athanasianum." (Schmauk, Confessional Principle, 834.)
9. The Apostles' Creed.
The foundation of the Apostles' Creed was, in a way, laid by Christ Himself when He commissioned His disciples, saying, Matt. 28, 19. 20: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." The formula of Baptism here prescribed, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," briefly indicates what Christ wants Christians to be taught, to believe, and to confess. And the Apostles' Creed, both as to its form and contents, is evidently but an amplification of the trinitarian formula of Baptism. Theo. Zahn remarks: "It has been said, and not without a good basis either, that Christ Himself has ordained the baptismal confession. For the profession of the Triune God made by the candidates for Baptism is indeed the echo of His missionary and baptismal command reechoing through all lands and times in many thousand voices." (Skizzen aus dem Leben der Kirche, 252.)
But when and by whom was the formula of Baptism thus amplified?—During the Medieval Ages the Apostles' Creed was commonly known as "The Twelve Articles," because it was generally believed that the twelve apostles, assembled in joint session before they were separated, soon after Pentecost drafted this Creed, each contributing a clause. But, though retained in the Catechismus Romanus, this is a legend which originated in Italy or Gaul in the sixth or seventh (according to Zahn, toward the end of the fourth) century and was unknown before this date. Yet, though it may seem more probable that the Apostles' Creed was the result of a silent growth and very gradual formation corresponding to the ever-changing environments and needs of the Christian congregations, especially over against the heretics, there is no sufficient reason why the apostles themselves should not have been instrumental in its formulation, nor why, with the exception of a number of minor later additions its original form should not have been essentially what it is to-day.
Nathanael confessed: "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel," John 1, 49, the apostles confessed: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Matt. 16, 16; Peter confessed: "We believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God," John 6, 69; Thomas confessed: "My Lord and my God," John 20, 28. These and similar confessions of the truth concerning Himself were not merely approved of, but solicited and demanded by, Christ. For He declares most solemnly: "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven," Matt. 10, 32. 33. The same duty of confessing their faith, i.e., the truths concerning Christ, is enjoined upon all Christians by the Apostle Paul when he writes: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved," Rom. 10, 9.
In the light of these and similar passages, the trinitarian baptismal formula prescribed by Christ evidently required from the candidate for Baptism a definite statement of what he believed concerning the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, especially concerning Jesus Christ the Savior. And that such a confession of faith was in vogue even in the days of the apostles appears from the Bible itself. Of Timothy it is said that he had "professed a good profession before many witnesses," 1 Tim. 6, 12. Heb. 4, 14 we read: "Let us hold fast our profession." Heb. 10, 23: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." Jude urges the Christians that they "should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints," and build up themselves on their "most holy faith," Jude 3. 20. Compare also 1 Cor. 15, 3. 4; 1 Tim. 3, 16; Titus 1, 13; 3, 4-7.
10. Apostles' Creed and Early Christian Writers.
The Christian writers of the first three centuries, furthermore, furnish ample proof for the following facts: that from the very beginning of the Christian Church the candidates for Baptism everywhere were required to make a confession of their faith; that from the beginning there was existing in all the Christian congregations a formulated confession which they called the rule of faith, the rule of truth, etc.; that this rule was identical with the confession required of the candidates for Baptism; that it was declared to be of apostolic origin; that the summaries and explanations of this rule of truth, given by these writers, tally with the contents and in part, also with the phraseology of the Apostles' Creed; that the scattered Christian congregations, then still autonomous, regarded the adoption of this rule, of faith as the only necessary condition of Christian unity and fellowship.
The manner in which Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, Aristides, and other early Christian writers present the Christian truth frequently reminds us of the Apostles' Creed and suggests its existence. Thus Justin Martyr, who died 165, says in his first Apology, which was written about 140: "Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third." "Eternal praise to the Father of all, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Similar strains, sounding like echoes of the Second Article, may be found in the Epistles to the Trallians and to the Christians at Smyrna written by Ignatius, the famous martyr and bishop of Antioch, who died 107.
Irenaeus, who died 189, remarks: Every Christian "who retains immovable in himself the rule of the truth which he received through Baptism (ho ton kanona tes altheias akline en eauto katechon, hon dia tou baptismatos eilephe)" is able to see through the deceit of all heresies. Irenaeus here identifies the baptismal confession with what he calls the "rule of truth, kanon tes eiltheias" i.e., the truth which is the rule for everything claiming to be Christian. Apparently, this "rule of truth" was the sum of doctrines which every Christian received and confessed at his baptism. The very phrase "rule of truth" implies that it was a concise and definite formulation of the chief Christian truths. For "canon, rule," was the term employed by the ancient Church to designate such brief sentences as were adopted by synods for the practise of the Church. And this "rule of truth" is declared by Irenaeus to be "the old tradition," "the old tradition of the apostles": he te apo ton apostolon en te ekklesia paradosis. (Zahn, l.c., 379f.) Irenaeus was the pupil of Polycarp the Martyr; and what he had learned from him, Polycarp had received from the Apostle John. Polycarp, says Irenaeus, "taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true." According to Irenaeus, then, the "rule of truth" received and confessed by every Christian at his baptism was transmitted by the apostles. The contents of this rule of truth received from the apostles are repeatedly set forth by Irenaeus. In his Contra Haereses (I, 10, 1) one of these summaries reads as follows: "The Church dispersed through the whole world, to the ends of the earth has received from the apostles and their disciples the faith in one God, the Father Almighty, who has made heaven and earth and the sea and all things that are in them, and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who has proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily assumption into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father." It thus appears that the "rule of truth" as Irenaeus knew it, the formulated sum of doctrines mediated by Baptism, which he, in accordance with the testimony of his teacher Polycarp, believed to have been received from the apostles, at least approaches our present Apostolic Creed.
11. Tertullian and Cyprian on Apostles' Creed.
A similar result is obtained from the writings of Tertullian, Cyprian, Novatian, Origen and others. "When we step into the water of Baptism," says Tertullian, who died about 220, "we confess the Christian faith according to the words of its law," i.e., according to the law of faith or the rule of faith. Tertullian, therefore, identifies the confession to which the candidates for Baptism were pledged with the brief formulation of the chief Christian doctrines which he variously designates as "the law of faith," "the rule of faith," frequently also as tessara, watchword and sacramentum, a term then signifying the military oath of allegiance. This Law or Rule of Faith was, according to Tertullian, the confession adopted by Christians everywhere, which distinguished them from unbelievers and heretics. The unity of the congregations, the granting of the greeting of peace, of the name brother, and of mutual hospitality,—these and similar Christian rights and privileges, says Tertullian, "depend on no other condition than the similar tradition of the same oath of allegiance," i.e., the adoption of the same baptismal rule of faith. (Zahn, 250.)
At the same time Tertullian most emphatically claims, "that this rule of faith was established by the apostles, aye, by Christ Himself," inasmuch as He had commanded to baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Zahn, 252.) In his book Adversus Praxeam, Tertullian concludes an epitome which he gives of "the rule of faith" as follows: "That this rule has come down from the beginning of the Gospel, even before the earlier heretics, and so, of course before the Praxeas of yesterday, is proved both by the lateness of all heretics and by the novelty of this Praxeas of yesterday." (Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 2, 18.) The following form is taken from Tertullian's De Virginibus Velandis: "For the rule of faith is altogether one, alone (sola), immovable, and irreformable, namely, believing in one God omnipotent the Maker of the world, and in His Son Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead the third day, received into the heavens, sitting now at the right hand of the Father who shall come to judge the living and the dead, also through the resurrection of the flesh." Cyprian the Martyr, bishop of Carthage, who died 257, and who was the first one to apply the term symbolum to the baptismal creed, in his Epistle to Magnus and to Januarius, as well as to other Numidian bishops, gives the following as the answer of the candidate for Baptism to the question, "Do you believe?": "I believe in God the Father, in His Son Christ, in the Holy Spirit. I believe the remission of sins, and the life eternal through the holy Church."
12. Variations of the Apostles' Creed.
While there can be no reasonable doubt either that the Christian churches from the very beginning were in possession of a definite and formulated symbol, or that this symbol was an amplification of the trinitarian formula of Baptism, yet we are unable to ascertain with any degree of certainty what its exact original wording was. There has not been found in the early Christian writers a single passage recording the precise form of the baptismal confession or the rule of truth and faith as used in the earliest churches. This lack of contemporal written records is accounted for by the fact that the early Christians and Christian churches refused on principle to impart and transmit their confession in any other manner than by word of mouth. Such was their attitude, not because they believed in keeping their creed secret, but because they viewed the exclusively oral method of impartation as the most appropriate in a matter which they regarded as an affair of deepest concern of their hearts.
It is universally admitted, even by those who believe that the apostles were instrumental in formulating the early Christian Creed, that the wording of it was not absolutely identical in all Christian congregations, and that in the course of time various changes and additions were made. "Tradition," says Tertullian with respect to the baptismal confession, received from the apostles, "has enlarged it, custom has confirmed it, faith observes and preserves it." (Zahn, 252. 381.) When, therefore, Tertullian and other ancient writers declare that the rule of faith received from the apostles is "altogether one, immovable, and irreformable," they do not at all mean to say that the phraseology of this symbol was alike everywhere, and that in this respect no changes whatever had been made, nor that any clauses had been added. Such variations, additions, and alterations, however, involved a doctrinal change of the confession no more than the Apology of the Augsburg Confession implies a doctrinal departure from this symbol. It remained the same Apostolic Creed, the changes and additions merely bringing out more fully and clearly its true, original meaning. And this is the sense in which Tertullian and others emphasize that the rule of faith is "one, immovable, and irreformable."
The oldest known form of the Apostles' Creed, according to A. Harnack, is the one used in the church at Rome, even prior to 150 A.D. It was, however, as late as 337 or 338, when this Creed, which, as the church at Rome claimed, was brought thither by Peter himself, was for the first time quoted as a whole by Bishop Marcellus of Ancyra in a letter to Bishop Julius of Rome, for the purpose of vindicating his orthodoxy. During the long period intervening, some changes, however, may have been, and probably were, made also in this Old Roman Symbol, which reads as follows:—
Pisteuo eis theon patera pantokratora; kai eis Christon Iesoun [ton] huion autou ton monogene, ton kupion hemon, ton gennethenta ek pneumatos hagiou kai Marias tes parthenou, ton epi Pontiou Pilatou staurothenta kai taphenta, te trite hemera anastanta ek [ton] nekron, anabanta eis tous ouranous, kathemenon en dexia tou patros, hothen erchetai krinai zontas kai nekrous; kai eis pneuma hagion, hagian ekklesian aphesin hamartion, sapkos anastasin. (Herzog, R. E. 1, 744.)
13. Present Form of Creed and Its Contents.
The complete form of the present textus receptus of the Apostles' Creed, evidently the result of a comparison and combination of the various preexisting forms of this symbol, may be traced to the end of the fifth century and is first found in a sermon by Caesarius of Arles in France, about 500.—In his translation, Luther substituted "Christian" for "catholic" in the Third Article. He regarded the two expressions as equivalent in substance, as appears from the Smalcald Articles, where he identifies these terms, saying: "Sic enim orant pueri: Credo sanctam ecclesiam catholicam sive Christianam." (472, 5; 498, 3.) The form, "I believe a holy Christian Church," however, is met with even before Luther's time. (Carpzov, Isagoge, 46.)—In the Greek version the received form of the Apostles' Creed reads as follows:—
Pisteuo eis theon patera, pantokratora, poieten ouranou kai ges. Kai eis Iesoun Christon, huion autou ton monogene, ton kurion hemon, ton sullephthenta ek pneumatos hagiou, gennethenta ek Marias tes parthenou, pathonta epi Pontiou Pilatou, staurothenta, thanonta, kai taphenta, anastanta apo ton nekron, anelthonta eis tous ouranous, kathezomenon en dexia theou patros pantodunamou, ekeithen erchomenon krinai zontas kai nekrous. Pisteuo eis to pneuma to hagion, hagian ekklesian, hagion koinonian, aphesin hamartion sarkos anastasin, zoen aionion, Amen.
As to its contents, the Apostles' Creed is a positive statement of the essential facts of Christianity. The Second Article, says Zahn, is "a compend of the Evangelical history, including even external details." (264.) Yet some of the clauses of this Creed were probably inserted in opposition to prevailing, notably Gnostic, heresies of the first centuries. It was the first Christian symbol and, as Tertullian and others declare, the bond of unity and fellowship of the early Christian congregations everywhere. It must not, however, be regarded as inspired, much less as superior even to the Holy Scriptures; for, as stated above, it cannot even, in any of its existing forms, be traced to the apostles. Hence it must be subjected to, and tested and judged by, the Holy Scriptures, the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule and norm of all doctrines, teachers, and symbols. In accordance herewith the Lutheran Church receives the Apostles' Creed, as also the two other ecumenical confessions, not as per se divine and authoritative, but because its doctrine is taken from, and well grounded in, the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments. (CONC. TRIGL. 851, 4.)
14. The Nicene Creed.
In the year 325 Emperor Constantine the Great convened the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea, in Bithynia, for the purpose of settling the controversy precipitated by the teaching of Arius, who denied the true divinity of Christ. The council was attended by 318 bishops and their assistants, among whom the young deacon Athanasius of Alexandria gained special prominence as a theologian of great eloquence, acumen, and learning. "The most valiant champion against the Arians," as he was called, Athanasius turned the tide of victory in favor of the Homoousians, who believed that the essence of the Father and of the Son is identical. The discussions were based upon the symbol of Eusebius of Caesarea, which by changes and the insertion of Homoousian phrases (such as ek tes ousias tou patrous; gennetheis, ou poietheis; homoousios to patri) was amended into an unequivocal clean-cut, anti-Arian confession. Two Egyptian bishops who refused to sign the symbol were banished, together with Arius, to Illyria. The text of the original Nicene Creed reads as follows:—
Pisteuomen eis hena theon, patera pantokratora, panton oraton te kai aoraton poieten. Kai eis hena kurion Iesoun Christon, ton huion tou theou, gennethenta ek tou patros monogene, toutestin ek tes ousias tou patros, theon ek theou, phos ek photos, theon alethinon ek theou alethinou, gennethenta, ou poiethenta, homoousion to patri, di' ou ta panta egeneto, ta te en to ourano kaita epi tes ges; ton di' hemas tous anthropous kai dia ten hemeteran soterian katelthonta kai sarkothenta kai enanthropesanta, pathonta, kai anastanta te trite hemera, kai anelthonta eis tous ouranous, kai erchomenon palin krinai zontas kai nekrous. Kai eis to pneuma to hagion. Tous de legontas, hoti pote hote ouk en, kai hoti ex ouk onton egeneto, en ex heteras hupostaseos e ousias phaskontas einai, e ktiston, e alloioton, e trepton ton huion tou theou, toutous anathematizei he katholike kai apostolike ekklesia. (Mansi, Amplissima Collectio, 2, 665 sq.)
15. Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.
In order to suppress Arianism, which still continued to flourish, Emperor Theodosius convened the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381 at Constantinople. The bishops here assembled, 150 in number, resolved that the faith of the Nicene Fathers must ever remain firm and unchanged, and that its opponents, the Eunomians, Anomoeans, Arians, Eudoxians, Semi-Arians, Sabellians, Marcellians, Photinians, and Apollinarians, must be rejected. At this council also Macedonius was condemned, who taught that the Holy Spirit is not God: elege gar auto me einai theon, alla tes theontos tou patros allotrion. (Mansi, 3, 568. 566. 573. 577. 600.) By omissions, alterations, and additions (in particular concerning the Holy Spirit) this council gave to the Nicene Creed its present form. Hence it is also known as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. The Third Ecumenical Council, which assembled at Toledo, Spain, in 589, inserted the word "Filioque," an addition which the Greek Church has never sanctioned, and which later contributed towards bringing about the great Eastern Schism. A. Harnack considers the Constantinopolitanum (CPanum), the creed adopted at Constantinople, to be the baptismal confession of the Church of Jerusalem, which, he says, was revised between 362 and 373 and amplified by the Nicene formulas and a rule of faith concerning the Holy Ghost. (Herzog, R. E., 11, 19f.) Following is the text of the CPanum according to Mansi:
Pisteuomen eis hena theon patera, pantokratora, poieten ouranou kai ges, oratwn te pantwn kai aoratwn. Kai eis hena kurion Iesoun Christon ton huion tou theou ton monogene, ton ek tou patros gennethenta pro panton ton aionon, phos ek photos, theon alethinon ek theou alethinou, gennethevta, ou poiethenta, homoousion to patri, di' ou ta panta egeneto, ton di' hemas tous anthropous kai dia ten hemeteran soterian katelthovnta ek tov ouranon, kai sarkothenta ek pneumatos hagiou kai Marias tes parthenou, kai enanthropesanta, staurothenta te huper hemon epi Pontiou Pilatou, kai pathonta, kai taphenta, kai anastanta te trite hemera kata tas gpaphas, kai anelthonta eis tous ouranous, kai kathezomenon ek dexion tou patros, kai palin erchomenon meta doxes krinai zontas kai nekrous; ou tes basileias ouk estai telos. Kai eis pneuma to hagion, to kurion, to zoopoion, to ek tou patros ekporeuomenon, to sun patri kai huio sumproskunoumenon kai sundoxazovmenon, to lalesan dia ton propheton, eis mian hagian katholiken kai apostoliken ekklesian. Homologoumen hen baptisma eis aphesin hamartion; prosdokomen anastasin nekron, kai zwen tou mellontos aionos. Amen. (3, 565.)
16. The Athanasian Creed.
From its opening word this Creed is also called Symbolum Quicunque. Roman tradition has it that Athanasius, who died 373, made this confession before Pope Julius when the latter summoned him "to submit himself to him [the Pope], as to the ecumenical bishop and Supreme arbiter of matters ecclesiastical (ut ei, seu episcopo oecumica et supremo rerum ecclesiasticarum arbitro, sese submitteret)." However, Athanasius is not even the author of this confession, as appears from the following facts: 1. The Creed was originally written in Latin. 2. It is mentioned neither by Athanasius himself nor by his Greek eulogists. 3. It was unknown to the Greek Church till about 1200, and has never been accorded official recognition by this Church nor its "orthodox" sister churches. 4. It presupposes the post-Athanasian Trinitarian and Christological controversies.—Up to the present day it has been impossible to reach a final verdict concerning the author of the Quicunque and the time and place of its origin. Koellner's Symbolik allocates it to Gaul. Loofs inclines to the same opinion and ventures the conjecture that the source of this symbol must be sought in Southern Gaul between 450 and 600. (Herzog, R. E., 2, 177.) Gieseler and others look to Spain for its origin.
Paragraphs 1, 2, and 40 of the Athanasian Creed have given offense not only to theologians who advocate an undogmatic Christianity, but to many thoughtless Christians as well. Loofs declares: The Quicunque is unevangelical and cannot be received because its very first sentence confounds fides with expositio fidei. (H., R. E., 2, 194.) However, the charge is gratuitous, since the Athanasian Creed deals with the most fundamental Christian truths: concerning the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and His work of redemption, without the knowledge of which saving faith is impossible. The paragraphs in question merely express the clear doctrine of such passages of the Scriptures as Acts 4, 12: "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved;" John 8, 21: "If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins"; John 14, 6: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." In complete agreement with the impugned statements of the Athanasian Creed, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession closes its article "Of God" as follows: "Therefore we do freely conclude that they are all idolatrous, blasphemers, and outside of the Church of Christ who hold or teach otherwise." (103)
In the early part of the Middle Ages the Quicunque had already received a place in the order of public worship. The Council of Vavre resolved, 1368: "Proinde Symbolum Apostolorum silenter et secrete dicitur quotidie in Completorio et in Prima, quia fuit editum tempore, quo nondum erat fides catholica propalata. Alia autem duo publice in diebus Dominicis et festivis, quando maior ad ecclesiam congregatur populus, decantantur, quia fuere edita tempore fidei propalatae. Symbolum quidem Nicaenum post evangelium cantatur in Missa quasi evangelicae fidei expositio. Symbolum Athanasii de mane solum cantatur in Prima, quia fuit editum tempore quo maxime fuerunt depulsa et detecta nox atra et tenebrae haeresium et errorum." (Mansi, 26, 487.) Luther says: "The first symbol, that of the apostles, is indeed the best of all, because it contains a concise, correct and splendid presentation of the articles of faith and is easily learned by children and the common people. The second, the Athanasian Creed, is longer ... and practically amounts to an apology of the first symbol." "I do not know of any more important document of the New Testament Church since the days of the apostles" [than the Athanasian Creed]. (St. L. 10, 994; 6, 1576; E. 23, 253.)
17. Luther on Ecumenical Creeds.
The central theme of the Three Ecumenical Symbols is Christ's person and work, the paramount importance of which Luther extols as follows in his tract of 1538: "In all the histories of the entire Christendom I have found and experienced that all who had and held the chief article concerning Jesus Christ correctly remained safe and sound in the true Christian faith. And even though they erred and sinned in other points, they nevertheless were finally preserved." "For it has been decreed, says Paul, Col. 2, 9, that in Christ should dwell all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, or personally, so that he who does not find or receive God in Christ shall never have nor find Him anywhere outside of Christ, even though he ascend above heaven, descend below hell, or go beyond the world." "On the other hand, I have also observed that all errors, heresies, idolatries, offenses, abuses, and ungodliness within the Church originally resulted from the fact that this article of faith concerning Jesus Christ was despised or lost. And viewed clearly and rightly, all heresies militate against the precious article of Jesus Christ, as Simeon says concerning Him, Luke 2, 34, that He is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel and for a sign which is spoken against; and long before this, Isaiah, chapter 8, 14, spoke of Him as 'a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.'" "And we in the Papacy, the last and greatest of saints, what have we done? We have confessed that He [Christ] is God and man; but that He is our Savior, who died and rose for us, etc., this we have denied and persecuted with might and main" (those who taught this). "And even now those who claim to be the best Christians and boast that they are the Holy Church, who burn the others and wade in innocent blood, regard as the best doctrine [that which teaches] that we obtain grace and salvation through our own works. Christ is to be accorded no other honor with regard to our salvation than that He made the beginning, while we are the heroes who complete it with our merit."
Luther continues: "This is the way the devil goes to work. He attacks Christ with three storm-columns. One will not suffer Him to be God; the other will not suffer Him to be man, the third denies that He has merited salvation for us. Each of the three endeavors to destroy Christ. For what does it avail that you confess Him to be God if you do not also believe that He is man? For then you have not the entire and the true Christ, but a phantom of the devil. What does it avail you to confess that He is true man if you do not also believe that He is true God? What does it avail you to confess that He is God and man if you do not also believe that whatever He became and whatever He did was done for you?" "Surely, all three parts must be believed, namely, that He is God, also, that He is man, and that He became such a man for us, that is, as the first symbol says: conceived by the Holy Ghost born of the Virgin Mary, suffered, was crucified, died, and rose again, etc. If one small part is lacking, then all parts are lacking. For faith shall and must be complete in every particular. While it may indeed be weak and subject to afflictions, yet it must be entire and not false. Weakness [of faith] does not work the harm but false faith—that is eternal death." (St. L. 10, 998; E. 23, 258.)
Concerning the mystery involved in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the chief topic of the Ecumenical Creeds, Luther remarks in the same tract: "Now, to be sure, we Christians are not so utterly devoid of all reason and sense as the Jews consider us, who take us to be nothing but crazy geese and ducks, unable to perceive or notice what folly it is to believe that God is man, and that in one Godhead there are three distinct persons. No, praise God, we perceive indeed that this doctrine cannot and will not be received by reason. Nor are we in need of any sublime Jewish reasoning to demonstrate this to us. We believe it knowingly and willingly. We confess and also experience that, where the Holy Spirit does not, surpassing reason, shine into the heart, it is impossible to grasp, or to believe, and abide by, such article; moreover, there must remain in it [the heart] a Jewish, proud, and supercilious reason deriding and ridiculing such article, and thus setting up itself as judge and master of the Divine Being whom it has never seen nor is able to see and hence does not know what it is passing judgment on, nor whereof it thinks or speaks. For God dwells in a 'light which no man can approach unto,' 1 Tim. 6, 16. He must come to us, yet hidden in the lantern, and as it is written, John 1, 18: 'No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,' and as Moses said before this, Ex. 33: 'There shall no man see Me [God] and live.'" (St. L. 10, 1007; E. 23, 568.)
III. The Augsburg Confession.
18. Diet Proclaimed by Emperor.
January 21, 1530, Emperor Charles V proclaimed a diet to convene at Augsburg on the 8th of April. The manifesto proceeded from Bologna, where, three days later, the Emperor was crowned by Pope Clement VII. The proclamation, after referring to the Turkish invasion and the action to be taken with reference to this great peril, continues as follows: "The diet is to consider furthermore what might and ought to be done and resolved upon regarding the division and separation in the holy faith and the Christian religion; and that this may proceed the better and more salubriously, [the Emperor urged] to allay divisions, to cease hostility, to surrender past errors to our Savior, and to display diligence in hearing, understanding, and considering with love and kindness the opinions and views of everybody, in order to reduce them to one single Christian truth and agreement, to put aside whatever has not been properly explained or done by either party, so that we all may adopt and hold one single and true religion; and may all live in one communion, church, and unity, even as we all live and do battle under one Christ."
In his invitation to attend the diet, the Emperor at the same time urged the Elector of Saxony by all means to appear early enough (the Elector reached Augsburg on May 2 while the Emperor did not arrive before June 16), "lest the others who arrived in time be compelled to wait with disgust, heavy expenses and detrimental delay such as had frequently occurred in the past." The Emperor added the warning: In case the Elector should not appear, the diet would proceed as if he had been present and assented to its resolutions. (Foerstemann, Urkundenbuch, 1, 7 f.)
March 11 the proclamation reached Elector John at Torgau. On the 14th Chancellor Brueck advised the Elector to have "the opinion on which our party has hitherto stood and to which they have adhered," in the controverted points, "properly drawn up in writing, with a thorough confirmation thereof from the divine Scriptures." On the same day the Elector commissioned Luther, Jonas, Bugenhagen, and Melanchthon to prepare a document treating especially of "those articles on account of which said division, both in faith and in other outward church customs and ceremonies, continues." (43.) At Wittenberg the theologians at once set to work, and the result was presented at Torgau March 27 by Melanchthon. On April 4 the Elector and his theologians set out from Torgau, arriving at Coburg on the 15th, where they rested for eight days. On the 23d of April the Elector left for Augsburg, while Luther, who was still under the ban of both the Pope and the Emperor, remained at the fortress Ebernburg. Nevertheless he continued in close touch with the confessors, as appears from his numerous letters written to Augsburg, seventy all told about twenty of which were addressed to Melanchthon.
19. Apology Original Plan of Lutherans.
The documents which the Wittenberg theologians delivered at Torgau treated the following subjects: Human Doctrines and Ordinances, Marriage of Priests, Both Kinds, Mass, Confession, Power of Bishops, Ordination, Monastic Vows, Invocation of the Saints, German Singing, Faith and Works, Office of the Keys (Papacy), Ban, Marriage, and Private Mass. Accordingly, the original intention of the Lutherans was not to enter upon, and present for discussion at Augsburg, such doctrines as were not in controversy (Of God, etc.), but merely to treat of the abuses and immediately related doctrines, especially of Faith and Good Works. (66 ff.) They evidently regarded it as their chief object and duty to justify before the Emperor and the estates both Luther and his protectors, the electors of Saxony. This is borne out also by the original Introduction to the contemplated Apology, concerning which we read in the prefatory remarks to the so-called Torgau Articles mentioned above: "To this end [of justifying the Elector's peaceable frame of mind] it will be advantageous to begin [the projected Apology] with a lengthy rhetorical introduction." (68; C. R., 26, 171.) This introduction, later on replaced by another, was composed by Melanchthon at Coburg and polished by him during the first days at Augsburg. May 4 he remarks in a letter to Luther: "I have shaped the Exordium of our Apology somewhat more rhetorical (hretorikoteron) than I had written it at Coburg." (C. R., 2, 40; Luther, St. L. 16, 652.) In this introduction Melanchthon explains: Next to God the Elector builds his hope on the Emperor, who had always striven for peace, and was even now prepared to adjust the religious controversy in mildness. As to the Elector and his brother Frederick, they had ever been attached to the Christian religion, had proved faithful to the Emperor, and had constantly cultivated peace. Their present position was due to the fact that commandments of men had been preached instead of faith in Christ. Not Luther, but Luther's opponents, had begun the strife. It was for conscience' sake that the Elector had not proceeded against Luther. Besides, such action would only have made matters worse, since Luther had resisted the Sacramentarians and the Anabaptists. Equally unfounded were also the accusations that the Evangelicals had abolished all order as well as all ceremonies, and had undermined the authority of the bishops. If only the bishops would tolerate the Gospel and do away with the gross abuses, they would suffer no loss of power, honor, and prestige. In concluding Melanchthon emphatically protests: "Never has a reformation been undertaken so utterly without any violence as this [in Saxony]; for it is a public fact that our men have prevailed with such as were already in arms to make peace." (Kolde, l.c., 13.) The document, accordingly, as originally planned for presentation at Augsburg, was to be a defense of Luther and his Elector. In keeping herewith it was in the beginning consistently designated "Apology."
20. Transformation of Apology into Confession Due to Eck's Slanders.
This plan, however, was modified when the Lutherans, after reaching Augsburg, heard of and read the 404 Propositions published by Dr. John Eck, in which Luther was classified with Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Carlstadt, Pirkheimer, Hubmaier, and Denk, and was charged with every conceivable heresy. In a letter of March 14, accompanying the copy of his Propositions which Eck sent to the Emperor, he refers to Luther as the domestic enemy of the Church (hostis ecclesiae domesticus), who has fallen into every Scylla and Charybdis of iniquity; who speaks of the Pope as the Antichrist and of the Church as the harlot; who has praise for none but heretics and schismatics; whom the Church has to thank for the Iconoclasts, Sacramentarians, New Hussites, Anabaptists, New Epicureans, who teach that the soul is mortal, and the Cerinthians; who rehashes all the old heresies condemned more than a thousand years ago, etc. (Plitt, Einleitung in die Augustana, 1, 527 ff.) Such and similar slanders had been disseminated by the Papists before this, and they continued to do so even after the Lutherans, at Augsburg, had made a public confession of their faith and had most emphatically disavowed all ancient and modern heresies. Thus Cochlaeus asserted in his attack on the Apology, published 1534, that Lutheranism was a concoction of all the old condemned heresies, that Luther taught fifteen errors against the article of God, and Melanchthon nine against the Nicene Creed, etc. Luther, he declared, had attacked the doctrine of the Trinity in a coarser fashion than Arius. (Salig, Historie d. Augsb. Konf., 1, 377.)
These calumniations caused the Lutherans to remodel and expand the defense originally planned into a document which should not merely justify the changes made by them with regard to customs and ceremonies, but also present as fully as possible the doctrinal articles which they held over against ancient and modern heresies, falsely imputed to them. Thus to some extent it is due to the scurrility of Eck that the contemplated Apology was transformed into an all-embracing Confession, a term employed by Melanchthon himself. In a letter to Luther, dated May 11, 1530, he wrote: "Our Apology is being sent to you—though it is rather a Confession. Mittitur tibi apologia nostra, quamquam verius confessio est. I included [in the Confession] almost all articles of faith, because Eck published most diabolical lies against us, quia Eckius edidit diabolikontatas diabolas contra nos. Against these it was my purpose to provide an antidote." (C. R. 2, 45; Luther, St. L. 16, 654.)
This is in accord also with Melanchthon's account in his Preface of September 29, 1559 to the German Corpus Doctrinae (Philippicum), stating: "Some papal scribblers had disseminated pasquinades at the diet [at Augsburg, 1530], which reviled our churches with horrible lies, charging that they taught many condemned errors, and were like the Anabaptists, erring and rebellious. Answer had to be made to His Imperial Majesty, and in order to refute the pasquinades, it was decided to include all articles of Christian doctrine in proper succession, that every one might see how unjustly our churches were slandered in the lying papal writings. ... Finally, this Confession was, as God directed and guided, drawn up by me in the manner indicated, and the venerable Doctor Martin Luther was pleased with it." (C. R. 9, 929.)
The original plan, however, was not entirely abandoned, but merely extended by adding a defense also against the various heresies with which the Lutherans were publicly charged. This was done in an objective presentation of the principal doctrines held by the Lutherans, for which the Marburg and Schwabach Articles served as models and guides.
21. Marburg, Schwabach, and Torgau Articles.
The material from which Melanchthon constructed the Augsburg Confession is, in the last analysis, none other than the Reformation truths which Luther had proclaimed since 1517 with ever-increasing clarity and force. In particular, he was guided by, and based his labor on, the Marburg Articles, the Schwabach Articles, and the so-called Torgau Articles. The Marburg Articles, fifteen in number, had been drawn up by Luther, in 1529, at the Colloquy of Marburg, whence he departed October 6, about six months before the Diet at Augsburg. (Luther, St. L., 17, 1138 f.) The seventeen Schwabach Articles were composed by Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Brenz and Agricola, and presented to the Convention at Smalcald about the middle of October, 1529. According to recent researches the Schwabach Articles antedated the Marburg Articles and formed the basis for them. (Luther, Weimar Ed., 30, 3, 97, 107.) In 1530 Luther published these Articles, remarking: "It is true that I helped to draw up such articles; for they were not composed by me alone." This public statement discredits the opinion of v. Schubert published in 1908 according to which Melanchthon is the sole author of the Schwabach Articles, Luther's contribution and participation being negligible. The Schwabach Articles constitute the seventeen basic articles of the first part of the Augsburg Confession. (St. L. 16, 638. 648. 564; C. R. 26, 146 f.)
The so-called Torgau Articles are the documents referred to above, touching chiefly upon the abuses. Pursuant to the order of the Elector, they were prepared by Luther and his assistants, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and possibly also Jonas. They are called Torgau Articles because the order for drafting them came from Torgau (March 14), and because they were presented to the Elector at Torgau. (Foerstemann, 1, 66; C. R. 26, 171; St. L. 16, 638.) With reference to these articles Luther wrote (March 14) to Jonas, who was then still conducting the visitation: "The Prince has written to us, that is, to you, Pomeranus, Philip, and myself, in a letter addressed to us in common, that we should come together set aside all other business, and finish before next Sunday whatever is necessary for the next diet on April 8. For Emperor Charles himself will be present at Augsburg to settle all things in a friendly way, as he writes in his bull. Therefore, although you are absent, we three shall do what we can today and tomorrow; still, in order to comply with the will of the Prince, it will be incumbent upon you to turn your work over to your companions and be present with us here on the morrow. For things are in a hurry. Festinata enim sunt omnia." (St. L. 16, 638.)
Melanchthon also wrote to Jonas on the 15th of March: "Luther is summoning you by order of the Prince; you will therefore come as soon as it is at all possible. The Diet, according to the proclamation, will convene at Augsburg. And the Emperor graciously promises that he will investigate the matter, and correct the errors on both sides. May Christ stand by us!" (C. R. 2, 28; Foerstemann, 1, 45.) It was to these articles (Torgau Articles) that the Elector referred when he wrote to Luther from Augsburg on the 11th of May: "After you and others of our learned men at Wittenberg, at our gracious desire and demand, have drafted the articles which are in religious controversy, we do not wish to conceal from you that Master Philip Melanchthon has now at this place perused them further and drawn them up in one form." (C. R. 2, 47.)
22. Luther's Spokesman at Augsburg.
The material, therefore, out of which Melanchthon, who in 1530 was still in full accord with Luther doctrinally, framed the fundamental symbol of the Lutheran Church were the thoughts and, in a large measure, the very words of Luther. Melanchthon gave to the Augsburg Confession its form and its irenic note, its entire doctrinal content, however must be conceded to be "iuxta sententiam Lutheri, according to the teaching of Luther," as Melanchthon himself declared particularly with respect to the article of the Lord's Supper. (C. R. 2, 142.) On the 27th of June, two days after the presentation of the Confession, Melanchthon wrote to Luther: "We have hitherto followed your authority, tuam secuti hactenus auctoritatem," and now, says Melanchthon, Luther should also let him know how much could be yielded to the opponents. (2, 146.) Accordingly, in the opinion of Melanchthon, Luther, though absent, was the head of the Evangelicals also at Augsburg.
In his answer Luther does not deny this, but only demands of Melanchthon to consider the cause of the Gospel as his own. "For," says he, "it is indeed my affair, and, to tell the truth, my affair more so than that of all of you." Yet they should not speak of "authority." "In this matter," he continues, "I will not be or be called your author [authority]; and though this might be correctly explained, I do not want this word. If it is not your affair at the same time and in the same measure, I do not desire that it be called mine and be imposed upon you. If it is mine alone, I shall direct it myself." (St. L. 16, 906. 903. Enders, Luthers Briefwechsel, 8, 43.)
Luther, then, was the prime mover also at Augsburg. Without him there would have been no Evangelical cause, no Diet of Augsburg, no Evangelical confessors, no Augsburg Confession. And this is what Luther really meant when he said: "Confessio Augustana mea; the Augsburg Confession is mine." (Walch 22, 1532.) He did not in the least thereby intend to deprive Melanchthon of any credit properly due him with reference to the Confession. Moreover, in a letter written to Nicolaus Hausmann on July 6, 1530, Luther refers to the Augustana as "our confession, which our Philip prepared; quam Philippus noster paravit." (St. L. 16, 882; Enders 8, 80.) As a matter of fact, however, the day of Augsburg, even as the day of Worms, was the day of Luther and of the Evangelical truth once more restored to light by Luther. At Augsburg, too, Melanchthon was not the real author and moving spirit, but the instrument and mouthpiece of Luther, out of whose spirit the doctrine there confessed had proceeded. (See Formula of Concord 983, 32—34.)
Only blindness born of false religious interests (indifferentism, unionism, etc.) can speak of Melanchthon's theological independence at Augsburg or of any doctrinal disagreement between the Augsburg Confession and the teaching of Luther. That, at the Diet, he was led, and wished to be led, by Luther is admitted by Melanchthon himself. In the letter of June 27, referred to above, he said: "The matters, as you [Luther] know, have been considered before, though in the combat it always turns out otherwise than expected." (St. L. 16, 899; C. R. 2, 146.) On the 31st of August he wrote to his friend Camerarius: "Hitherto we have yielded nothing to our opponents, except what Luther judged should be done, since the matter was considered well and carefully before the Diet; re bene ac diligenter deliberata ante conventum." (2, 334.)
Very pertinently E. T. Nitzsch said of Melanchthon (1855): "With the son of the miner, who was destined to bring good ore out of the deep shaft, there was associated the son of an armorer, who was well qualified to follow his leader and to forge shields, helmets, armor, and swords for this great work." This applies also to the Augsburg Confession, in which Melanchthon merely shaped the material long before produced by Luther from the divine shafts of God's Word. Replying to Koeller, Rueckert, and Heppe, who contend that the authorship of the Augsburg Confession must in every way be ascribed to Melanchthon, Philip Schaff writes as follows: "This is true as far as the spirit [which Luther called 'pussyfooting,' Leisetreten] and the literary composition are concerned; but as to the doctrines Luther had a right to say, 'The Catechism, the Exposition of the Ten Commandments, and the Augsburg Confession are mine.'" (Creeds 1, 229.)
23. Drafting the Confession.
May 11 the Confession was so far completed that the Elector was able to submit it to Luther for the purpose of getting his opinion on it. According to Melanchthon's letter of the same date, the document contained "almost all articles of faith, omnes fere articulos fedei." (C. R. 2, 45.) This agrees with the account written by Melanchthon shortly before his death, in which he states that in the Augsburg Confession he had presented "the sum of our Church's doctrine," and that in so doing he had arrogated nothing to himself; for in the presence of the princes, etc., each individual sentence had been discussed. "Thereupon," says Melanchthon, "the entire Confession was sent also to Luther, who informed the princes that he had read it and approved it. The princes and other honest and learned men still living will remember that such was the case. Missa est denique et Luthero tota forma Confessionis, qui Principibus scripsit, se hanc Confessionem et legisse et probare. Haec ita acta esse, Principes et alii honesti et docti viri adhuc superstites meminerint." (9, 1052.) As early as May 15 Luther returned the Confession with the remark: "I have read Master Philip's Apology. I am well pleased with it, and know nothing to improve or to change in it; neither would this be proper, since I cannot step so gently and softly. Christ, our Lord, grant that it may produce much and great fruit which, indeed, we hope and pray for. Amen." (St. L. 16, 657.) Luther is said to have added these words to the Tenth Article: "And they condemn those who teach otherwise, et improbant secus docentes." (Enders, 7, 336.)
Up to the time of its presentation the Augsburg Confession was diligently improved, polished, perfected, and partly recast. Additions were inserted and several articles added. Nor was this done secretly and without Luther's knowledge. May 22 Melanchthon wrote to Luther: "Daily we change much in the Apology. I have eliminated the article On Vows, since it was too brief, and substituted a fuller explanation. Now I am also treating of the Power of the Keys. I would like to have you read the articles of faith. If you find no shortcoming in them, we shall manage to treat the remainder. For one must always make some changes in them and adapt oneself to conditions. Subinde enim mutandi sunt atque ad occasiones accommodandi." (C. R. 2, 60; Luther, 16, 689.) Improvements suggested by Regius and Brenz were also adopted. (Zoeckler, Die A. K., 18.)
Even Brueck is said to have made some improvements. May 24 the Nuernberg delegates wrote to their Council: "The Saxon Plan [Apology] has been returned by Doctor Luther. But Doctor Brueck, the old chancellor, still has some changes to make at the beginning and the end." (C. R. 2, 62.) The expression "beginning and end (hinten und vorne)," according to Tschackert, is tantamount to "all over (ueberall)." However, even before 1867 Plitt wrote it had long ago been recognized that this expression refers to the Introduction and the Conclusion of the Confession, which were written by Brueck. (Aug. 2, 11.) Bretschneider is of the same opinion. (C. R. 2, 62.) June 3 the Nuernberg delegates wrote: "Herewith we transmit to Your Excellencies a copy of the Saxon Plan [Confession] in Latin, together with the Introduction or Preamble. At the end, however, there are lacking one or two articles [20 and 21] and the Conclusion, in which the Saxon theologians are still engaged. When that is completed, it shall be sent to Your Excellencies. Meanwhile Your Excellencies may cause your learned men and preachers to study it and deliberate upon it. When this Plan [Confession] is drawn up in German, it shall not be withheld from Your Excellencies. The Saxons, however, distinctly desire that, for the present, Your Excellencies keep this Plan or document secret, and that you permit no copy to be given to any one until it has been delivered to His Imperial Majesty. They have reasons of their own for making this request. ... And if Your Excellencies' pastors and learned men should decide to make changes or improvements in this Plan or in the one previously submitted, these, too, Your Excellencies are asked to transmit to us." (2, 83.) June 26 Melanchthon wrote to Camerarius: "Daily I changed and recast much; and I would have changed still more if our advisers (sumphradmones) had permitted us to do so." (2, 140.)