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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Martyrs 7: Georgius Schärer; a Catechism lesson… and a miracle

      This continues from Part 6 (Table of Contents in Part 1a and Part 1b) publishing the book of Hermann Fick on the martyrs of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Part 7 is the account of Georgius Schärer of Salvelden, (or Saalfelden) —  This report is most useful as a refresher on the teaching of the Catechism... on Baptism, Holy Communion, Confession and Absolution, Good Works, etc.
Georgius Schärer

      When the dear Schärer referred to Romans chapter 4 on the topic of Good Works, I had to read that chapter again, just to refresh my own faith... oh, that's right, God's Word says that it is not by works, otherwise grace is no more grace.  Oh, indeed the whole book of Romans explains why it is not by works, that it might be by faith.
      After researching the name Salvelden, I think that it is quite probably the same as today's Saalfelden, a town in Austria not far from Salzburg.  There is a common thread among many martyrs of being from or near Bavaria, or southern Germany.  If I recall correctly, it was an area rather hostile to the Reformation, even from its beginning.
Some highlighting added; hyperlinks added for reference.
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by C.J. Hermann Fick
(tr. by BackToLuther)
VII.
"As truly as God is in Heaven, so true is there no other satisfaction for our sins than only the bitter sufferings and death of Christ."
(Schärer before the court.)
This gallant confessor testified to the Lutheran doctrine with great boldness and clarity, and not merely with his blood, but also with a miraculous sign confirmed and vanquished it.  After he had been a Mass priest for many years, he became, in order to serve God better, a Fransiscan monk.  Then he came by the grace of God to the knowledge and preaching of the Gospel at Radstadt in the Salzburg area, which at that time belonged to Bavaria, but now to Austria.  Therefore he was thrown into prison [page 35] in which he chronicled the confession which he had given before his judges.
On this question – what is the true faith? he said, among other things: "God did not spare His only Son, but delivered Him over for us all. And gave us all goods with Him.  He has given us this completely paid, and, for our own.  So also Christ leads a gracious exchange with all who believe in Him and rely comfortingly on Him, that He takes upon Himself all their sin and wickedness, as if He had done it in His own person, and gives us His righteousness and piety for our own. So His bloodshed is for us a washing and purification of sins, His innocent death our life.  And for us, he has overcome sin, death, hell and the devil, he has fulfilled for us the whole Law. For God alone is the one who commands, and fulfills.  So also Christ endured Hell for all His faithful, that they would be safe forever.  He was also on the third day risen from the dead, that He made us all pious and just, as St. Paul says."
Asked if he believed that in Holy Communion true God and man was present, he replied: "I let myself go no further than what the three evangelists and Paul show me, as Christ spoke thus: "Take and eat; this is my body which is given for you; Take and drink, this is my blood, which is shed for you. We should let us stay proper and not ask more."
He resolutely declared against the Anabaptism [or rebaptism]: "Infant baptism is enough for the salvation of their souls. I take from the words of Christ, Matt. 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18, that he also spoke to his disciples: Let the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  Christ would not want to speak these words if infant baptism were not enough. For he says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but whoever does not believe will damned."
Of confession he made known: "I quite believe of a sincere confession.  For it is salutary. And speaking about them, there are three confessions. The first should happen every day to God. For since we all sin daily, we also ought to confess to God daily.  The other, which we have need for the salvation of souls, is the one which Christ says, Matthew, 5:23-24: As you are offering your gift at [page 36] the altar, and there remember that the brother has something against you, leave thy gift before the altar, and go and be reconciled to your brother.  After these things, come and offer thy gift. The third confession is a faithful and God pleasing piece of counsel, that one goes to a modest, learned and quite widely-read man in the divine evangelical writings, then shows him where he is broken in faith, and desires of him a faithful instruction, showing him with remorse and sorrow over his sins which press and weigh him the most; and the others he confesses all as usual.  And that the man with a good will, with the help of God, henceforth to better his life, and desires the comforting words of the Gospel, the Holy Absolution with a strong belief that Christ will deliver him what was spoken and promised him.  And the priest (preacher) should speak to him the words of absolution in German and clearly, that he may hear and understand.
Absolution: "The almighty, merciful God forgive you your sins, and I, by command and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, tell you be free, lose and be rid of all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen."  So clearly this faithful witness recognized the unspeakable blessing and comfort of private confession and private absolution that he staunchly defended this dear gem of the Evangelical Lutheran Church unto death.
When he was presented the question of whether one could earn something before God with good works, he replied: "I say yes, but only with the works that have a commitment and promise of God, as there are of the six works of mercy in Matthew 5.  But this merit is not because of works, nor for our sake, but because of the gracious promise and assurance of God.  But the good works done by us, we do not do, but God worketh in us by His grace, and therefore it is not our works, but the works of God, and therefore God rewards His own works in us.  For Paul says 2 Cor. 3[:1,5] that we are not worthy to commend something good, as from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.  So then we can commend nothing good in our own strength, much less can we work something good from our own strength. [page 37]
"But whoever supposes that he must attain the kingdom of heaven by his good works and merit, makes St. Paul a liar when he says in Romans 4 [Rom. 4:16, 5:15, 11:6]: So we have the kingdom of heaven by grace, so have we not of merit of works, otherwise grace would not be grace.  I tell you with truthfulness, if a man had all the works done by the Virgin Mary, all the patriarchs, the prophets, all the apostles, martyrs and all the saints, and would have the purity and chastity of the Virgin Mary, and all virgins, however, so could he not attain the kingdom of heaven.  So if we had to earn the kingdom of heaven with our works, then Christ would in vain have become man, would have suffered in vain, in vain shed his blood, would also in vain have died and rose again, so far that would be from us."
Finally, the judge asked him when and why he had to leave the monastery life.  He replied, "It is close to three years that I have started to throw off the hood from me.  And the cause initially was envy and hatred, quarreling, bickering and disunity of the barefooted monks and their hypocritical life that has something like a shine without a light.  I thought that because I was a monk, I would have counsel from God, but the devil deceived me.  After this I confess also that in part the evangelical truth moved me and I no longer wanted to be in the  Franciscan brotherhood, but in Christ's brotherhood.  For St. Francis has not suffered for me, did not die for me, is not my Mediator and Redeemer, but Christ died for me, is my only Mediator and Redeemer, through which I must be saved alone, Amen."
Now when this highly enlightened Christian had confessed the Lord Jesus before men, then he received the reward which the Roman Pontiff, the Antichrist, is wont to give in witness to the truth. Schärer was condemned by the Papists to be beheaded first and then burned. But God had determined to prove by an apparent miraculous sign that the evangelical Lutheran doctrine confessed by Schärer was the truth and that this holy martyr’s blood and death were dear and precious. [Psalm 116:15]
The steadfast Lutheran was then led to his execution.  Since he was about to die, he prayed with joyful earnestness to God and full of the Holy Spirit, saying publicly before all men: "So [page 38] as true that I will die as a Christian for the Word of the Lord, so true will I give a sign."  Then he was beheaded and fell on his stomach.
However, after he had lain in this position for as long as one would take to eat an egg, the body first slowly turned on its back, whereupon the right foot whipped over the left, then the right hand over the left.  Everyone was frightened over the sight of this.  Also the fear of God came over the authorities, and so instead of burning the corpse, they allowed it to be buried in the earth.  This happened in the year 1528.
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Annotations
7. Schärer. Sources: Rabus Thl. 3, pg. 134.  Crocius pg. 184.  The history of this martyr was first made known in print by Matthias Flacius Illyricus in 1554, and he directed it with a beautiful preface to protect the persecuted Christians in the bishopric of Salzburg and Bavaria.  Flacius also recognizes the importance of the miraculous sign which Schärer did with the words: “Which, in addition to his blood, indeed with a great, magnificent miracle, has confirmed and sealed the true doctrine and religion of Jesus Christ.”
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The Miracle
Both Flacius and Hermann Fick do not downplay the miracle reported in this history... not at all.  Could there be a God in Heaven who is so earnest in His desire that all men believe His gracious pardon in Christ that He would do such a thing?  (That is a rhetorical question.)

Yes indeed, this "Steadfast Lutheran" knew much better than today's LC-MS just what is "The Lutheran Difference".  God's Word was no "plastic text" for him.  And Schärer would not that even the smallest effect of good works had an effect for our conversion or perseverance in the faith.  And do you suppose Hermann Fick would agree with the Editor of the book The Lutheran Difference (page xvi here) and his notion today that Vatican II produced "substantive changes" in the Roman Church, the church of the Antichrist?  (Another rhetorical question.)  —  What a motivation these martyr histories would add to Lutheran confirmation classes for young people today... HERE AND NOW!  —  In the next Part 8 is the story of Wilhelm of Zwolle (Netherlands).

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