Wednesday, Week 30
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Apology XXVIII 1-11, Of Ecclesiastical Power »
1] Here the adversaries cry out violently concerning the privileges and immunities of the ecclesiastical estate, and they add the peroration: All things are vain which are presented in the present article against the immunity of the churches and priests. 2] This is mere calumny; for in this article we have disputed concerning other things. Besides, we have frequently testified that we do not find fault with political ordinances, and the gifts and privileges granted by princes.
3] But would that the adversaries would hear, on the other hand, the complaints of the churches and of godly minds! The adversaries courageously guard their own dignities and wealth; meanwhile, they neglect the condition of the churches; they do not care that the churches are rightly taught, and that the Sacraments are duly administered. To the priesthood they admit all kinds of persons indiscriminately. [They ordain rude asses; thus the Christian doctrine perished, because the Church was not supplied with efficient preachers.] Afterwards they impose intolerable burdens; as though they were delighted with the destruction of their fellowmen, they demand that their traditions be observed far more accurately than the Gospel. 4] Now, in the most important and difficult controversies, concerning which the people urgently desire to be taught, in order that they may have something certain which they may follow, they do not release the minds which are most severely tortured with doubt; they only call to arms. Besides, in manifest matters [against manifest truth] they present decrees written in blood, which threaten horrible punishments to men unless they act clearly 5] contrary to God’s command. Here, on the other hand, you ought to see the tears of the poor, and hear the pitiable complaints of many good men, which God undoubtedly considers and regards, to whom one day you will render an account of your stewardship.
6] But although in the Confession we have in this article embraced various topics, the adversaries make no reply [act in true popish fashion], except that the bishops have the power of rule and coercive correction, in order to direct their subjects to the goal of eternal blessedness; and that the power of ruling requires the power to judge, to define, to distinguish and fix those things which are serviceable or conduce to the aforementioned end. These are the words of the Confutation, in which the adversaries teach us [but do not prove] that the bishops have the authority to frame laws (without the authority of the Gospel] useful for obtaining eternal life. The controversy is concerning this article.
7] [Regarding this matter we submit the following:] But we must retain in the Church this doctrine, namely, that we receive the remission of sins freely for Christ’s sake, by faith. We must also retain this doctrine, namely, that human traditions are useless services, and therefore neither sin nor righteousness should be placed in meat, drink, clothing, and like things, the use of which Christ wished to be left free, since He says, Matt. 15:11: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth the man; and Paul, Rom. 14:17: The kingdom 8] of God is not meat and drink. Therefore the bishops have no right to frame traditions in addition to the Gospel, that they may merit the remission of sins, that they may be services which God is to approve as righteousness, and which burden consciences, as though it were a sin to omit them. All this is taught by that one passage in Acts 15:9, where the apostles say [Peter says] that hearts are purified by faith. And then they prohibit the imposing of a yoke, and show how great a danger this is, and enlarge upon the sin of those who burden the Church. Why tempt ye God? they say. By this thunderbolt our adversaries are in no way terrified, who defend by violence traditions and godless opinions.
For above they have also condemned Article XV, 9] in which we have stated that traditions do not merit the remission of sins, and they here say that traditions conduce to eternal life. Do they merit the remission of sins? Are they services which God approves as righteousness? Do they quicken hearts? 10] Paul to the Colossians 2:20ff, says that traditions do not profit with respect to eternal righteousness and eternal life; for the reason that food, drink, clothing and the like are things that perish with the using. But eternal life [which begins in this life inwardly by faith] is wrought in the heart by eternal things, i.e., by the Word of God and the Holy Ghost. Therefore let the adversaries explain how traditions conduce to eternal life.
11] Since, however, the Gospel clearly testifies that traditions ought not to be imposed upon the Church in order to merit the remission of sins; in order to be services which God shall approve as righteousness; in order to burden consciences, so that to omit them is to be accounted as sin, the adversaries will never be able to show that the bishops have the power to institute such services.
(…to be continued)
Today’s reader: Nils Niemeier
Nils recently graduated with a master’s degree in Roman archaeology from Cornell University. He will begin his studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, this fall. His blog is Meditationes Sacrae (et Profanae); check out the Audio Gerhard Project!