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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 2

This continues the series of blog posts (Table of Contents – Part 1) publishing my translation of the essay delivered to the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference in 1872. There are a lot of hyperlinks in this post referencing the Lutheran Book of Concord and especially Luther's writings.

Part 2
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 1)

On this article rests all salvation, and therefore it is absolutely necessary for every Christian. It would not help if one would precisely know all other doctrines, such as of the Holy Trinity, of the person of Christ etc., if this be not known and believed.  An error in any other article would not cause as great a damage for the soul of the Christian as [LS XXX/21, 163-2] an error in this doctrine. And as it is with the individual Christian, so also it is related to the whole church. This article is indispensible for her if she is to lead souls out of the devil's power into God's Kingdom. When we speak of justification, we are speaking of the Christian religion, for the doctrine of the Christian religion is none other than the revelation of God about how one becomes righteous before God and is saved through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. All other religions show other ways which are supposed to lead to heaven. The one requires doing good works and so earning heaven; the other demands being virtuous, or being useful to the world, in order to obtain salvation. The Christian religion alone shows another way to heaven through its doctrine of justification, and therefore something unheard and unimaginable for the entire world, thoughts which had been hidden in the heart of God before the foundation of the world. Therefore all other doctrines lose their meaning, if the doctrine of justification is not right. It can be indifferent to us whether the nature of God consists in three [KM 2] or six Persons, as long as we must fear Him as the jealous God over us sinners. Only then, when we poor sinners from grace through Christ know and believe that we are reconciled with God the Father that righteousness is obtained,  and alone through faith which the Holy Spirit alone works, only then does the doctrine of the Holy Trinity become a doctrine full of consolation and salvation. Whoever therefore attacks this doctrine, attacks for us the whole doctrine, the whole Bible, the whole Christian religion. As long as this doctrine is perfectly pure among us, no error in other points can adhere to us. It is as Luther says repeatedly: "This doctrine suffers no error." It is the sun in the sky of the church, and where it rises, all shadows must disappear. Our Book of Concord says about this in the Apology, Article 4:
But since in this controversy the chief topic of Christian doctrine is treated, which, understood aright, illumines and amplifies the honor of Christ [which is of especial service for the clear, correct understanding of the entire Holy Scriptures, and alone shows the way to the unspeakable treasure and right knowledge of Christ, and alone opens the door to the entire Bible], and brings necessary and most abundant consolation to devout consciences, we ask ….  For since the adversaries  [SCR 22]  understand neither the forgiveness of sins, nor what faith, nor what grace, nor what righteousness is, they sadly corrupt this topic, and obscure the glory and benefits of Christ, and rob devout consciences of the consolations offered in Christ. (Apol. IV, 2, 3, Triglotta pg 121, Tappert, p. 107).

We must repeat these words  in our time. Not only have then the Papists defiled shamefully this fountain of salvation, but the same was done again by all the sects which arose after the Reformation. Of course nowadays this is largely no longer believed. But we must vigorously oppose the unionism of our time, when it is so easy to be seduced into believing: In the doctrine of justification we are of course united with the Methodists, Presbyterians, etc., although admittedly not in the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, of the Person of Christ, etc. We must testify it that no shadow  of the right doctrine of justification is found in the teaching systems peculiar to the sects. Admittedly, they also pronounce the words: We become righteous only by grace through faith; but hardly they have said this, than they point man to his repentance, his struggling and contending, his holiness, and it becomes apparent after all that they want to bring man to heaven through his own efforts. But whoever does that takes from us the divine Light which alone can shine for us in this world's night of sin, and leaves us in terrible darkness.  Therefore: "Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name  [LS XXX/21, 163-3] under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us." (Smalcald Articles, Part II, Article I, 5; Triglotta pgs 462-463, Tappert, p. 292).
[KM 3]
These words we all should know by heart. On account of this article the pope calls us heretics and the sects say that when we preach it, we are hindering conversion and making people carnally secure.  They prevail against us therefore, as soon as we yield to them in this article. The Formula of Concord says in the article of justification:

This article concerning justification by faith (as the Apology says) is the chief article in the entire Christian doctrine, without which no poor conscience can have any firm consolation, or can truly know the riches of the grace of Christ, as Dr. Luther also has written: If this only article remains pure on the battlefield, the Christian Church also remains pure, and in goodly harmony and without any sects; but if it does not remain pure, it is not possible that any error  [SCR 23] or fanatical spirit can be resisted. And concerning this article especially Paul says that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Therefore, in this article he urges with so much zeal and earnestness the particulas exclusivas, that is, the words whereby the works of men are excluded (namely, without Law, without works, by grace [freely], Rom. 3:28; 4:5; Eph. 2:8-9), in order to indicate how highly necessary it is that in this article, aside from [the presentation of] the pure doctrine, the antithesis, that is, all contrary dogmas, be stated separately, exposed, and rejected by this means. (Formula of Concord, Solid Declarations, Righteousness of Faith, parag. # 6, Triglotta pg. 917, Tappert, p. 540)
First then the dispute against false doctrine for the individual Christian wins practical meaning, if he sees how through the falsification of other points also this doctrine could not remain pure. Luther quite beautifully traces out in his book of councils and churches, that for example with the Nestorian-Zwinglian doctrine of the Person of Christ, the doctrine of justification cannot possibly remain pure. (*)   So he proves that the doctrine of justification is indeed destroyed by the ungodly Reformed doctrine that not God died on the cross, but only the Man Christ. Let someone who hangs on to this error try to comfort himself in the hour of death with the blood of a mere man! There [KM 4] nothing gives comfort as the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, shed for the sins of the world, whereof one drop is worth more than all money, goods, and work of men, yes, more than heaven and earth. However one could also show that with all articles, that where one is attacked, therefore at the same time the doctrine of justification is attacked. This article is often called the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae (the article of the standing and falling church), and this it also is.  Luther also speaks about this: "This is the highest article of our faith. If now it is either taken [SCR 24]
*) "We Christians," he writes, “Christians should know that if God is not in the scale to give it weight, we, on our side, sink to the ground. I mean it this way: if it cannot be said that God died for us, but only a man, we are lost; but if God’s death and a dead God lie in the balance, his side goes down and ours goes up like a light and empty scale" (American Edition 41, pgs 103-104, St. Louis Edition 16, pg 2231, paragraph 169 [Google Books], Walch XVI, 2728, parag. 169). Luther writes similarly of the Zwinglian alloeosis, according to which Scripture is supposed to name the Divinity, but mean the humanity: "Beware, beware, I say, of the alloeosis; it is the devil's mask. For it finally prepares the sort of Christ after Whom I should not very much like to be a Christian, namely that Christ should henceforth be no more, nor do anything more with His suffering and life than some other mere saint. For if I believe this, that only the human nature has suffered for me, then Christ is a poor Saviour to me; indeed He then likely is Himself in need of a Saviour. . . His vanity and the accursed alloeosis have brought him to the point where he divides the Person of Christ, and leaves us no other Christ than a mere man to have died for us and redeemed us. What Christian heart can hear or tolerate this sort of thing? Thereby the whole Christian faith and all the world's salvation are taken away completely, and the world is damned. For whoever is redeemed through humanity alone, will nevermore be redeemed" (Great Confession, St. Louis Edition 20, pg 942-943, parag. 122, pg 964, parag. 177,  [Google Books], Walch XX, 1180, parag. 122, 1206 f., parag. 177; American Edition 37, pgs 209-210, 231 ).

[SCR 24]
away, as the Jews do, or corrupt it, as the papists do, the church cannot exist. Nor can God keep His glory, which consists in this, that He is compassionate and wants to forgive sins and to save for the sake of His Son." (On Gen. 21:17; St. Louis Ed., vol. 1, pg 1441, parag. 212;  American Edition vol. 4, pg 60). Further: "So long as the church confessed this article, she remained in the faith; and the faith was brighter in one age and darker in another. He Himself says in Mt. 28:20: I am with you always, till the end of the world. Without this article the church does not stand. Mohammed indeed devastated the church, and the pope obscured the doctrine of faith, but where this article remained, there God preserved His church" (St. Louis Edition 6, pg 721, parag. 200, Walch VI, 1156, parag. 200; this is not in American. Edition. vol. 17, which is based on Weimar Edition–too bad for Weimar).  Further: "This doctrine, I say, they (the Papists) will not tolerate under any circumstances; we are able to forego it just as little. For if this doctrine vanishes, the church vanishes. and no error can be resisted, because without this article the Holy Spirit [LS XXX/21, 164-1] will not and cannot be with us.  For he is to glorify Christ to us [John 16:14]. The world has often gone to wrack and ruin over this doctrine by deluge, tempest, flood, war, and other plagues. On account of this doctrine Abel and all the saints were slain; on account of this, too, all Christians must die. Yet it has remained, and it must remain, and the world must continue to perish on account of it. Thus the world must also submit to it now and be overthrown on account of it. No matter how the world rages and rants, it must let this doctrine stand, and it must fall into the depths of hell on account of it! . Amen" (St. Louis Edition, 16, pg 1664, parag. 94; Walch XVI, 2015, parag. 94; American Edition vol 47, pg 54).
Further, on Isaiah 42:22: "Therefore this article of justification, which we alone nowadays teach, is to be learnt with care and preserved. For if we have lost this article, we shall be able to resist no heresy, no false doctrine, no matter how ridiculous and vain it were; just as it used to be the case under the papacy, when we believed such things of which we are now ashamed and of which we repent. Again, if we remain with this article, then we are safe from heresy and retain the forgiveness of sins, which does not hold our weakness in behaviour and faith against us" (St. Louis Edition 6, pg 521, paragraph 44, Walch VI, 827, parag. 44; not included in American Edition vol. 17 which is based on Weimar Edition). Further, Luther writes to Brenz: "This point is the chief part and the cornerstone, which alone gives birth to the church of God, and strengthens, builds, preserves and defends her; and without it the church of God cannot survive one hour" (St. Louis Edition 14, pg 168 [Google Books], Walch XIV, 191, paragraph 4, not in American Edition).
That the article of justification is the one of the standing and falling church is very easy to prove to those who have the right doctrine of the church. Since what, after all, is the church? It is the whole body of believing Christians. There is the church, therefore, where Christ rules and reigns in grace; but He reigns in the heart of man, so  that He offers and gives him grace. Wherever He has conquered a heart, there is His Kingdom. Therefore where there are born-again, living Christians, there is his church.  Now, however, no one becomes a true, reborn Christian without this doctrine of justification. Every other doctrine can make great [SCR 25] Pharisees – but no Christians. One becomes a Christian only by having it made manifest in the heart through the Holy Ghost that one is truly redeemed through Christ, has forgiveness of sins, a reconciled heavenly Father, the righteousness which counts before God, and can therefore lie down [KM 5] confidently upon one's death-bed.  Everything else, which does not lead a man to this confidence of the heart produces hypocrisy and godlessness. Therefore it is not the high art of human wisdom that is necessary to show people the way to heaven, but above all the faithful holding fast to this article. If only he who stands in the pulpit retains this article pure, if only his whole sermon is dominated by this thought, that one must be saved only through Christ: if he would then slip here and there in form or even in expression, that would do no harm; whilst another, who does not live in this article, can preach quite nicely and properly according to form, yet nevertheless does not lead his congregation into real consolation and the necessary joyfulness. Perhaps he himself, and his congregation with him, are surprised that the fruit will not follow; the lack is assuredly in this article. Summa: Where this article is, there certainly Christ is, there are Christians, there is the church of Christ; where it is not, there also is no church.
[LS XXX/22, 169-2: Lutheran Standard, Nov. 15, 1872]
In the second thesis it is pointed out how it was just this doctrine of justification out of which God began His work of Reformation through Luther. Luther would never have become the Reformer of the church, had he not come to a correct understanding of precisely this article. Many who had lived before him had also wanted to reform the church, but it is apparent that they lacked just this foundation, from which alone the church can be reformed, and so they had no success. But it pleased God to let this light dawn upon Luther, and to lead him from there to ever greater clarity. He worked in him a despairing of his own merits and led him by and by--partly through the reading of Holy Scripture and partly through the writings of Augustine--to the appropriation of the merit of Christ, and in this way to the realization of how hellish a darkness ruled in the papacy. He saw that it was taught there--in direct contradiction to the doctrine of justification through Christ--that man is to become righteous through the work of the Law, and that the Gospel was made into a new kind of Law. The path which God pursued with Luther, becomes evident from the following passage in Luther's writings:

I indeed had a sincere yearning and desire to understand St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans properly. And nothing had till then prevented this, except only the single little words justitia Dei (righteousness of God) in the first chapter, verse 17, where Paul says: the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel. I was very hostile towards this word "righteousness of God," and according to the usage and custom of all doctors I was not otherwise informed and [SCR 26] instructed than that I had to understand it in the philosophical manner of the sort of righteousness in which God is righteous in Himself, does and works right, and punishes all sinners and unrighteous ones, which righteousness is called the essential (formalem) or actual (activam) righteousness. Now things stood thus with me: Although I lived as a holy and blameless monk, I nevertheless considered myself a great sinner before God, and in addition I had an anxious and restless conscience, and could not make bold to reconcile God with my satisfaction and merits. For this reason I did not at all love this [KM 6] righteous and wrathful God, Who punishes sin, but I hated Him and (though this neither was nor is to be regarded as blasphemy) was secretly and with real earnestness angry with God, saying often: Is it not enough for God that He, beside the Law's threats and terrors, places all sorts of misery and sorrow of this life upon us poor, miserable sinners, who are already condemned to eternal death through original sin? Must He yet increase this misery and heartache through the Gospel, and through the preaching and voice of the same further threaten and proclaim His righteousness and earnest [LS XXX/22, 169-3] wrath? Here I was often infuriated in my confused conscience; yet I would repeatedly ponder what dear Paul meant at this place, and had a hearty thirst and desire to know it. With such thoughts I spent day and night, till through God's grace I noticed how the words were connected, namely thus: The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, as it is written: the righteous one lives of his faith. From this I learnt to understand this righteousness of God, in which the righteous one by God's grace and gift lives solely out of faith, and I realized that this was the Apostle's meaning: through the Gospel there is revealed that righteousness which is valid before God, in which God justifies us out of grace and pure mercy through faith. This is called in Latin justitia passiva, as it is written: the righteous one lives of his faith. Here I felt at once that I had been born quite anew, and had now found a wide-open door, leading into Paradise itself. And now the dear holy Scripture looked quite different to me than before. I soon ran through the whole Bible, as much as I could remember of it, and gathered together according to this rule all its interpretations also of other terms, such as: God's work, that means what God Himself works in us; God's power, with which He makes us strong and powerful; God's wisdom, with which He makes us wise; likewise the others: God's strength, God's salvation, God's glory, and the like. Now, just as I had before earnestly hated this little word, "God's righteousness," so now I began, on the contrary, to esteem the same highly, as my very dearest and most comforting word, and that place in [SCR 27] St. Paul was for me the very gate of Paradise (St. Louis Edition 14, pgs 446-448 [Google Books] , Walch XIV, 460-462, American Edition 34, pg 336-337).

Also with the words, "in my heart there rules alone and shall rule this single article",  (St. Louis Edition 9, pg 8, parag. 1, [HathiTrust], Walch VIII, 1529, parag. 9, American Edition 27, pg 145)   Luther expressed clearly enough that nothing other than this doctrine had directed him in the Reformation. Also in other lands and ages, it was this doctrine which renewed the Church.  Luther had indeed soon recognized many abominations of the papacy, but he still entertained the false doctrine concerning the Church, and meanwhile still had the false doctrine of the Church and thought what was he that he should dare to rebel against the holy Church? That he may nevermore do; rather he must crouch down. Only when he clearly realized that the righteousness which is revealed in the Gospel is that which God gives and with which He makes the sinner righteous, were the gates of Paradise opened to him, and now he was able to stand up to the papacy like a hero to stand up to the papacy and all its temptations. But how it goes when one no longer has this pure doctrine, is very evident in this country. What abominable and nonsensical errors arise and find supporters nevertheless! Why? Because if someone no longer has the right standard [KM 7] for truth and error, he may well think at first: the passages on which the errorists rely can hardly say what is alleged of them.  But if he falls into the hands of a clever fox, who knows how to make the matter plausible to him, he yet falls into the error.  We must therefore have a standard which, if we are directed by it, makes it impossible for us to accept an error. But this standard is the doctrine of justification. Whoever [LS XXX/22, 170-1] has recognized it, laughs at all learned unbelieving and half-believing professors with all their eloquence and learning, if they teach falsely; if, what they establish and announce does not harmonize with the truth of the child’s saying, “The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanseth us from all sin,” even the most simple treads it under foot, and calls it devil's dung, no matter how great an aura of wisdom or holiness it may have. That was the reason why Luther became such an insurmountable Reformer. If he had failed here, a man like Erasmus could have vanquished him with ease.   Because he stood, however, on this rock, he laughed at the pope’s  scholars, and at Zwingli as well. When new, delusive spirits presented themselves, he tried them according to this article,  and if they did not accord with it, he said: Depart to him who sent you. But this doctrine must be taken up by us in such a manner that it becomes the principle of our faith, of our life, and of the whole administration of our office--then also our congregations will become confident and cheerful, for when they notice that we make them certain of their salvation, then we are their best friends. For what are they profited by eloquent orators, popular preachers, dignified ministers?  Certainly very little.  But if they can say: our pastor has made us certain of our salvation, we know [SCR 28]  now in whom we believed: then they have the “best part” for time and eternity; then also they will no longer consider churches and synods as clerical institutions which consume much, but don't benefit anybody, but they know then that it is always a matter of bearing to them and to the whole world the good news: You are redeemed and saved! Only believe it, only accept it! And they willingly help then to spread this message with their gifts.
As important as this doctrine is, it can nevertheless be preached in its fulness and in all its power, in its clarity and rich comfort, also by such as are less gifted. When the Reformation began, what preachers had been there?  What sort of troops were there to oppose the devil and his kingdom? It looked miserable enough in this respect, so that from a human point of view one would have had to say: Poor Luther, retire to your cell, and hide yourself, for with your poor bankrupt little priests you will accomplish never a whit.  But lo, they possessed the article of Justification in its purity, that man becomes righteous by grace through faith alone, and thereby they were an unconquerable and victorious force. It is the same with us today.  However many poor young students may go forth from our institutions, who are so weak that if one compares them with those who were graduated 200 years ago, one might despair--yet we need not despair. For even the weakest, if only he has grasped the doctrine that the grace of God has appeared in Christ Jesus for all people and is grasped by faith, can preach to the people in such a way that they become certain of their salvation. And that outweighs all the wisdom and all the gifts and all the treasures of the world. Such preachers, too, will never run out of subject matter. They will always know to speak of that which God has, by grace, done for us, and that will give them ever new joy. For what is all learning, necessary as it is in its place, compared to the [KM 8] wisdom of God, which is proclaimed if only the text "God so loved the world, etc." is interpreted. At this poor sinners rejoice, at this all the holy angels marvel, before this the whole world ought to fall to its knees and shout Gloria and Halleluja. If our rising generation of church-servants will preach this, then they are the people who can begin a Reformation also in this country;  as indeed a small beginning has been made already in this direction. For that [LS XXX/22, 170-2] creates truly living congregations, not such as make a big noise about their life and their deeds, but such as, living in this doctrine, willingly sacrifice to God in sacred adornment. In summary: Let us learn of Luther that we cannot inaugurate a Reformation here, unless with divine certainty proclaim it and hold fast and conserve it.

= = = = = = continued in Part 3 = = = = = = = = =
Go ahead dear reader... highlight the portions that speak to you – it's all good!
The next Part 3 begins the exposition of Thesis 3.

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