Sunday, July 10

Historic Church Documents: The Augsburg Confession of Faith

July is Historic Church Document Month here.

The Augsburg Confession is the oldest Protestant confession. It was written by Luther and Melancthon, and was signed by the various Protestant princes and presented to the emperor and the Diet of the Empire at Augsburg in 1530.

Some excerpts:

Article I: Of God.
Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil - also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things.

Article IV: Of Justification.
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

Article IX: Of Baptism.
Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's grace.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.

Article X: Of the Lord's Supper.
Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.

Conclusion.
These are the chief articles which seem to be in controversy. For although we might have spoken of more abuses, yet, to avoid undue length, we have set forth the chief points, from which the rest may be readily judged. There have been great complaints concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, and the abuse of excommunications. The parishes have been vexed in many ways by the dealers in indulgences. There were endless contentions between the pastors and the monks concerning the parochial right, confessions, burials, sermons on extraordinary occasions, and innumerable other things. Issues of this sort we have passed over so that the chief points in this matter, having been briefly set forth, might be the more readily understood. Nor has anything been here said or adduced to the reproach of any one. Only those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was necessary to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches.

The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our teachers. If there is anything that any one might desire in this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present ampler information according to the Scriptures.You'll can read the whole confession at the link given above.

Signatures.
Your Imperial Majesty's faithful subjects:

John, Duke of Saxony, Elector.
George, Margrave of Brandenburg.
Ernest, Duke of Lueneberg.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony.
Francis, Duke of Lueneburg.
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt.
Senate and Magistracy of Nuremburg.
Senate of Reutlingen.

You can read the whole confession by clicking on the link at the beginning of this post.

[Update: Rey asks, "How close was this to the persecution of the anabaptists?" I assume he's refering to this statement from the section on Baptism:
They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.
Does anyone know enough about this to answer Rey's question? Did the Lutheran states persecute anabaptist? And if they did, did this confession play a part in it?]

[Update 2: Rey helps answer his own question by giving us a link to The Anabaptists. According to this very interesting article by Dr. Jack. L. Arnold, the anabaptists
were most severely persecuted by the Roman Church. In fact, because many believed in immersion, many were put to death by drowning. The Lutherans also put many Anabaptists to death by one form of execution or another. Even John Calvin, though he did not persecute them, could see little good in them.
Go check out the whole article for today's Church History lesson.]

[Update 3: There is yet more info in the comments to this post.]
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