« AnteriorContinuar »
English languages. The version found in this work, was made by the writer from the original Latin. This remark may not be superfluous, as most of the English versions which he has seen were made from the German copy ; which, though entirely coincident in sense, differs occasionally in its phraseology. In one or two instances an amplifying sentence, contained in the Latin, was omitted by the Confessors in the German; and as the writer is no friend of extended creeds, it was deemed unnecessary to retain them.
This confession, which is justly styled the mother symbol of the Reformation, has been adopted by the major part of all Protestant Europe, and has for about three centuries past been the standing symbol of Lutherism in the following kingdoms:
GERMANY, including PRUSSIA,
part of HUNGARY, 17,000,000.
small part of FRANCE DENMARK, in which the king must profess
the Augsburg Confession Norway, including ICELAND,
2,800,000. LAPLAND and FINLAND also contain numerous churches of the Augsburg Confession.
The United Brethren or Moravians, though peculiar in their church government, have always retained the Augsburg Confession as their symbol, and yet adhere to it more strictly than most other portions of the Lutheran church.
The whole number of Christians in Europe who profess the Augsburg Confession has been rated by good authors at 27, 000,000, but certainly is upward of 20,000,000, and embraces in it seventeen reigning sovereigns.
The Lutheran church in Europe is therefore more numerous than all the other protestant denominations in continental Europe together, and the Augsburg Confession is professed by
Chap. IV.) SYMBOLIC OBLIGATION IN THE LUTHERAN CH. IN U. 9.
more than twice as many souls as any other Protestant Confession of faith. The Lutheran Church in the United States, which contains 1050 churches and about 48,000 regular communing members, has indeed always regarded the Augsburg Confession as the authorized summary of her doctrines, but has not required any oath of obligation to all its contents. The General Synod of the Lutheran Church has adopted only the 21 doctrinal articles, omitting even the condemnatory clauses of these, and also the entire catalogue of Abuses corrected. No minister, however, considers himself bound to believe every sentiment contained in these twenty-one articles ; but only the fundamental doctrines. Accordingly, the pledge of adoption required at licensure and ordination, is couched in the following terms: 1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, to be the word of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice ?
2. Do you believe, that the fundamental doctrines of the word of God, are taught in a manner substantially correct, in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession ?
The Lutheran divines of this country are not willing to bind either themselves or others, to anything more than the fundamental doctrines of the Christian revelation, believing that an immense mass of evil has resulted to the church of God, from the rigid requisition of extensive and detailed creeds. The Saviour and his apostles have left no other creed than that contained in the Scriptures, and although experience and the nature of the case require some mutual agreement as to the doctrines to be inculcated by the ministry in any portion of the church of Christ, lest one should demolish what the other is labouring to build up; yet we can see no sufficient warrant for any Christian church to require as a term of admission or communion, greater conformity of view than is requisite to harmony of feeling and successful cooperation, in extending the kingdom of Christ. What unshackled friend of truth can doubt, that the introduc
tion of so many minor ramifications of doctrine into Modern Confessions of faith, and the requisition of them all as terms of ecclesiastical admission and communion, destroyed the natural estimate which every unbiassed mind would form of the relative importance of each ? Who can doubt, that men were thus led to regard and denounce as heretics the members of other communions, who held as cordially as they themselves did, all the essentials of the Christian system; and in the eyes of the great Head of the church, were perhaps more acceptable than their self-erected judges? In short it cannot be denied, that the enarmous amplitude of the principal Protestant Symbols and the unqualified assent to them which was for a long time required, were and ever would be a bone of endless contention, and the prolific mother of bigotry and sectarianism. Had the early protestants endeavoured to select the principal and fundamental doctrines of Christianity, required a belief of them from all applicants for adınission into their ranks, and agreed among themselves that discrepance of views on inatters of non-fundamental nature, should neither be a bar to ecclesiastical communion nor fra, ternal affection ; they would have saved the church from the curse of those dissensions, by which piety was in a great degree destroyed, and on several occasions, the very foundations of Protestantism shạken. What can be more painful to the true Christian, than to witness those who love the Lord Jesus, wasting that strength in mutual crimination for departure from some jat or tittle of a creed, not involving the ground scheme of gospel truth, nor clearly determined in Scripture, which ought to be directed against the enemies of the cross, which ought to pended in bringing sinners to Christ?
But although Lutheran divines are strenuous advocates for liberty of thought, and free, untrammeled investigation of God's word; there is really as much doctrinal agreement and more harmony of feeling among them, than is found in any other church in America. Indeed, we do not hesitate to record it as our de
liberate opinion, that full latitude of investigation within the bounds of fundamentals, is better calculated to beget unity of faith than extensive symbolic restrictions. How can that man be an impartial inquirer after truth; how can he throw open his soul to the full influence of evidence, who knows that exclusion from his ecclesiastical connexions, ejection from his pastoral charge, and the exposure of his dependent family to poverty and want would be the consequence if his investigations should result in the rejection of a single article in his confession of faith?
After these observations, it is almost superfluous to remark, that although this work, explanatory of the doctrines of the Lutheran church, was undertaken by request of the General Synod of said church, and contains the principal views which we believe are entertained by the great mass of our divines; it is not designed to be in any sense a standard to regulate the opinions of others, any farther than the evidences which it contains may tend to generate deliberate conviction.
THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION.
Our churches with one accord teach, that the decree of the Council of Nice, concerning the unity of the divine essence, and concerning the three persons, is true and ought to be confidently believed, viz. that there is one divine essence, which is called and is God, eternal, incorporeal, indivisible, infinite in power, wisdom and goodness, the Creator and preserver of all things visible and invisible: and yet that there are three persons, who are of the same essence and power, and are coeternal, The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And the term person they use in the same sense, in which it is employed by ecclesiastical writers on this subject, to signify not a part or quality of something else, but that which exists of itself.