Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Defense of Augsburg Confession 7-8, 38-50: "Of the Church"

The Defense of the Augsburg Confession

Articles VII and VIII: Of the Church.

38] The adversaries say that universal traditions are to be observed because they are supposed to have been handed down by the apostles. What religious men they are! They wish that the rites derived from the apostles be retained; they do not wish the doctrine of the apostles to be retained. 39] They must judge concerning these rites just as the apostles themselves judge in their writings. For the apostles did not wish us to believe that through such rites we are justified, that such rites are necessary for righteousness before God. The apostles did not wish to impose such a burden upon consciences; they did not wish to place righteousness and sin in the observance of days, food, and the like. 40] Yea, Paul calls such opinions doctrines of devils, 1 Tim. 4:1. Therefore the will and advice of the apostles ought to be derived from their writings; it is not enough to mention their example. They observed certain days, not because this observance was necessary for justification, but in order that the people might know at what time they should assemble. They observed also certain other rites and orders of lessons whenever they assembled. The people [In the beginning of the Church the Jews who had become Christians] retained also from the customs of the Fathers [from their Jewish festivals and ceremonies], as is commonly the case, certain things which, being somewhat changed, the apostles adapted to the history of the Gospel, as the Passover, Pentecost, so that not only by teaching, but also through these examples they might hand down to posterity the memory 41] of the most important subjects. But if these things were handed down as necessary for justification, why afterwards did the bishops change many things in these very matters? For, if they were matters of divine right, it was not lawful to change them by human authority. 42] Before the Synod of Nice, some observed Easter at one time and others at another time. Neither did this want of uniformity injure faith. Afterward the plan was adopted by which our Passover [Easter] did not fall at the same time as that of the Jewish Passover. But the apostles had commanded the Churches to observe the Passover with the brethren who had been converted from Judaism. Therefore, after the Synod of Nice, certain nations tenaciously held to the custom of observing the Jewish time. But the apostles, by this decree, did not wish to impose necessity upon the Churches, as the words of the decree testify. For it bids no one to be troubled, even though his brethren, in observing Easter, do not compute the time aright. The words of the decree are extant in Epiphanius: Do not calculate, but celebrate it whenever your brethren of the circumcision do; celebrate it at the same time with them, and even though they may have erred, let not this be a care to you. Epiphanius writes that these are the words of the apostles presented in a decree concerning Easter, in which the discreet reader can easily judge that the apostles wished to free the people from the foolish opinion of a fixed time, when they prohibit them from being troubled, 43] even though a mistake should be made in the computation. Some, moreover, in the East, who were called, from the author of the dogma, Audians, contended, on account of this decree of the apostles, that the Passover should be observed with the Jews. Epiphanius, in refuting them, praises the decree, and says that it contains nothing which deviates from the faith or rule of the Church, and blames the Audians because they do not understand aright the expression, and interprets it in the sense in which we interpret it, because the apostles did not consider it of any importance at what time the Passover should be observed, but because prominent brethren had been converted from the Jews, who observed their custom, and, for the sake of 44] harmony, wished the rest to follow their example. And the apostles wisely admonished the reader neither to remove the liberty of the Gospel, nor to impose necessity upon consciences, because they add that they should not be troubled even though there should be an error in making the computation.

45] Many things of this class can be gathered from the histories, in which it appears that a want of uniformity in human observances does not injure the unity of faith [separate no one from the universal Christian Church]. Although, what need is there of discussion? The adversaries do not at all understand what the righteousness of faith is, what the kingdom of Christ is, when they judge that uniformity of observances in food, days, clothing, and the like, which do not have the command of God, is necessary. 46] But look at the religious men, our adversaries. For the unity of the Church they require uniform human observances, although they themselves have changed the ordinance of Christ in the use of the Supper, which certainly was a universal ordinance before. But if universal ordinances are so necessary, why do they themselves change the ordinance of Christ's Supper, which is not human, but divine? But concerning this entire controversy we shall have to speak at different times below.

47] The entire Eighth Article has been approved, in which we confess that hypocrites and wicked persons have been mingled with the Church, and that the Sacraments are efficacious even though dispensed by wicked ministers, because the ministers act in the place of Christ, and do not represent their own persons, according to 48] Luke 10:16: He that heareth you heareth Me. Impious teachers are to be deserted [are not to be received or heard], because these do not act any longer in the place of Christ, but are antichrists. And Christ says Matt. 7:15: Beware of false prophets. And Paul, Gal. 1:9: If any man preach any other gospel unto you, let him be accursed

49] Moreover, Christ has warned us in His parables concerning the Church, that when offended by the private vices, whether of priests or people, we should not excite schisms, as the Donatists have wickedly done. 50] As to those, however, who have excited schisms, because they denied that priests are permitted to hold possessions and property, we hold that they are altogether seditious. For to hold property is a civil ordinance. It is lawful, however, for Christians to use civil ordinances, just as they use the air, the light, food, drink. For as this order of the world and fixed movements of the heavenly bodies are truly God's ordinances and these are preserved by God, so lawful governments are truly God's ordinances, and are preserved and defended by God against the devil.

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