a clear and biblical proof of the the limits of obedience, which a congregation owes its minister. Thus when you say that "the congregation binds itself to its minister in loyalty and obedience in all things, which are not contrary to God's word," it is apparent that this often goes beyond the limits of the text, which stated: "he, who listens to you, hears me." The congregation owes us obedience only and in so far as we preach to them God's word. However if we desire to make obedience an unconditional thing, such as when we wanted to build a church or a school, this is certainly not in and of itself contrary to God's word, but we would undeniably be laying claim to something to which we are not entitled.
To an even lesser extent can we agree with the statement that no individual member of the church may decide what is and what is not contrary to God's word; that it may be determined only by the church itself in its symbols, church orders and synods. Above all else each sheep of Christ can distinguish between his shepherd's voice and the voices of strangers (John 10, 5) and St. Paul says (1 Corinthians 10, 15): "I say to sensible people, judge for yourselves, what I say."
Finally we must amend the closing statement in the first half of your letter, that blessed Luther in no way declared in his exposition on the letters to the Galatians anything concerning specific church orders as counted off by your numbered points, that these same points will last until Judgment Day; rather he merely spoke of the mediation of vocation, at which point from the time of the apostles nothing is ever established conclusively concerning unmediated vocation and to the end of time never will be.
We now come to the second portion of your pastoral letter, which deals with the necessity of proper vocation and we fully agree with the main issue, which is handled here, but not with all the grounded evidence, which is introduced for them.
b)The sacramental words during the administration of the holy sacraments are therefore without a doubt not powerful because of the office, as professed by the Lord, but rather the word is powerful in itself. (Hebrews 4, 12)
c) At the very least the householders over God's mysteries can work through their office so that bread and wine are really blessed during the holy meal and thus impart the message that the body and blood of Christ lies within. It is to be observed that in the passage "the chalice, which we bless" the word "we" is underlined, however in the original text no hmeis ["we"] is present; it is observed by this that one could not be certain if the emergency baptism is a true baptism; it is an expressed teaching of our church according to God's word that our faith and the sacrament is not based on the persons, for they may be either good or evil, of ordained or unordained vocation, or even slyly planted. Indeed, if the devil were to insinuate himself
and in human form deliver us the sacraments using the proper words, we would not doubt that we have received the proper sacrament. So magnificently the dear Luther teaches us to esteem the power of God's word in true faith when He says: "Even if the devil himself came (if he were so pious that he would and could do it), I maintain, as I have taught, that if the devil were to insinuate himself into the office or allowed himself while in human form to be called to the ministry, preached the gospel, baptized, held mass, and absolved openly in the church, practiced the office and gave the sacraments in accordance with the command and order of Christ, we must still acknowledge that the sacraments were proper, we received the proper baptism, heard the true gospel, were granted proper absolution and had received the true sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.
"Our faith and the sacraments must not be based on persons, be they pious or evil, consecrated or unconsecrated, called or insinuated, the devil or his mother, rather they must be based on Christ, on His word, on His ministry, on His command and order; wherever these things proceed, it is as they must stand and proceed; persons are who and what they want to be and are capable of being, therefore people should observe these persons as to how they preach, baptise and administer the sacraments; even as Judas and all his descendants have done and administered according to Christ's command and continue to do. Put another way, the devil's sermon, his baptism and the sacrament could be given to us by his followers and still it would be the ministry, word and sacrament of Christ and not of Judas or the devil; be it by Judas and the devil or with Judas and the devil, we receive it through the wealth of Christ; when Judas went to the devil he did not take his apostleship with him rather he left it behind and Matthew worked in his place. The ministry and the sacrament remain the same forever within the church. The persons change daily; one is called and assumes the office so he can administer them and then he goes as certainly as the old horse is bridled and sattled, sat upon even by a naked boy, who can ride. The old horse moves just as steadily as if he were ridden by an emperor or a pope.
"In my youth I heard a story of how the preacher once became suddenly ill just as he was about to preach. Someone came to him and assigned himself the task of preaching for him, hastily paging through the book and assembling a sermon. The man preached so excellently and sincerely that the entire church fell to tears. At the end the man asked, do you know who I am? I am the devil and have preached so earnestly to you that I can rightfully and vehemently lay claim to you on Judgment Day. The sermon was preached for your damnation. Whether or not this story is true I will leave to your judgment, however I well know that it is not dissimilar to the truth and of the main theme it can rightly be said that the devil may very well possess and give the word, the ministry and the sacraments of Christ, for he can represent himself as an angel of the light in the majesty of God, Matthew 4. I can give no assurances that the devil may never have been a pastor or a preacher. Many dreadful things have happened because of some pastors and priests, using magic and trickery and other tools of the devil. —
"Thus it is for all creatures that our deeds and works
"create nothing unless it is through God's command and order, as when we plough, sow and plant; we do our work as has been commanded of us, Genesis 3. However such work does not even produce one kernel except through God's command and order when He speaks to the earth, Genesis 3, 1: Let the earth bring forth grass, herbs and all manner of trees, as it says also in St. Paul's 1 Corinthians 3: What has been planted is nothing, and what is watered also is nothing except through God, who gives his blessing. The devil or a man, a scoundrel or a pious man may do the work, planting, sowing and watering; all proceeds in accordance with the command and order of God and thus the earth brings forth fruit. Just as man and woman become in a natural way one body, as God has commanded of us and created for us, there is however no fruit or child produced through this working unless it is through command and order, as God speaks: "Be fruitful and multiply; even when the devil brings man and woman together, as in adultery or whoring, it still proceeds according to God's order and thus fruit or a child is produced. When a scoundrel, a bastard or a thief comes into someone else's property he benefits just as much as when it is a proper bequeath. So it is too as we bring water and word together, as He has granted; however our action does not bring about baptism except through Christ's command and order. Now if the devil or his disciple held to the ordering of Christ and acted accordingly then a proper baptism or sacrament would result; thus Christ does not become a lair or traitor to his church even because of the devil or his disciples, you are baptized, you are given the body and blood no matter whose hand administers it and no matter who the persons may wish to be. —
Even the papists themselves recognize that if baptism is given in jest or in a playful way, it may still be a proper baptism, as it is writtien in the historia ecclesiast. (ecclesiastical history) of St. Athanasio, that he played with his associates and children and baptised them as he had seen done in the church of the bishop and the Bishop Alexander held it for a proper baptism and did not rebaptise the children. Similarly one reads in the legends that some troubadours wanted to flatter the heathens by putting on a play and making fun of the Christians with a baptism as if it were a foolish and silly belief to be sanctified through water. But in the middle of the play a document was brought in by one of them, which contained the words of St. Paul, Ephesians 4: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of us all, etc." From the words of the document the person became a believer and considered the acted-out baptism a proper baptism. He made an earnest announcement of this and freely acknowledged his Christianity. Then the heathens seized them all, saying that the troubadours had honored Christianity and ridiculed the heathens with their play. The other players slandered the one from their company, saying that he had gone mad, but he remained steadfast in his baptism and faith and allowed himself to be martyred and thus proceeded from the play to heaven.
"The papists are blind and leaders of the blind, looking only to themselves and their work, just as if the sacrament might or might not happen; they are such and such people doing such and such work, not asking whether these things are in accordance with the order or from the investiture of Christ and indeed it can have nothing to do with our persons and work; it must be done through the order of Christ alone. Chrism, plate and chasuable and
similar pageantry do not help and thus they themselves do not know what is real, and they also cannot know what they create in their masses.
"And so I might answer the question that I raised above, namely how one should maintain himself against the priests of popedom because they are all too often ordained by nothing other than shady bishops in questionable masses. Here's what you should do - you should neither respect nor observe their anointings and their ordinations, as they are most certainly nothing of use or service to the church and you. Outward signs of priestly office have nothing to do with the inner nature of Christ's ministry; and don't let yourself become confused by whether one is properly ordained, whether he has bought or forced his way in, how he got there, riding or walking; he may be Judas or St. Peter, that doesn't concern you; you separate the office from the person and holiness from abomination." Luther's Works, Walch Edition, Volume XIX, p. 1551.
And so to
In the third portion of your pastoral letter, which points to a proper understanding of the teaching of appointment to ministerial office in the Schmalkaldic Articles, it seems to us that the right of independence of a Christian community, as Luther further discussed it in the letters to the Bohemians, is misunderstood and disregarded. It is certainly undeniable that if a congregation exists in ecclesiatic bond with other preachers, with its vote it has to call in one of that group as its new preacher. However if this is not the case and perhaps no preacher is known, which one could consider righteously faithful, then it is in no way misconduct but rather entirely in accordance with God's order that a congregation without the help of the ministry choose a preacher from its own midst. And if in certain cases this man is "untaught, untested and unprepared" and the congregation has made a mistake it is still not called misconduct since this congregation would listen only to God's word; similar mistakes also occur often enough on the side of the spiritual ministry in installing a preacher. The office is for this reason set up in this fashion so that the congregation may carry on its God-given right to ordain another.
When a congregation in willful contempt for its established ministry or in special acknowledgement of a neighboring, righteous faith preacher chooses a teacher from its own midst out of personal hatred and separatism
and thus builds and altar against and altar, or primarily saddles itself only with a teacher totally lacking in proof of the spirit and without the call of God but who sounds good to them, then one must certainly call this misconduct and willful installation of a preacher. The pastoral letter however seems to call it a willful installation or discharging of a preacher when the congregation claims something more than a mere votum negativum (negative vote) in its choice of preachers and thus does not wish to subject itself entirely and in all matters to the decision of the ministry and the old church orders.
We cannot agree with this and once again refer to what we have already stated above, — and we certainly believe that you, beloved brother in office, must want nothing more passionately, than that our congregations in this land grow ever freer from the oppressive chains of a previous ministerial guardianship and no longer abandon themselves to being "the people, who are damned and know nothing of the law," leaving the most important ecclesiatic matters open to mere human authority and thus permit themselves to be rocked and swayed back and forth by any wind of doctrine and human deception, but rather develop a self-actuating sense and properly use their freedom, dearly won for them by the blood of Christ and liberating them from all hinderances to conscience and human service. Our congregations certainly will not achieve these goals, if we continually teach, as you do in your pastoral letter, that one must not misuse freedom but rather use it only when necessary and only as long as it is necessary; that one in a good-Lutheran, faithful and consoling manner should first and foremost submit to those who properly praise the true and singular freedom of a Christian humanity but then at the same time admit that all, who believe the word, are now gladly and obediently subservient to human order and even honor and respect their teachers and spiritual caregivers no longer in slavish fear as lords of conscience but rather in childlike gratitude as assistants to their sanctity, acting as messengers in Christ's place. Compare here from the already introduced writings of Luther to the Bohemians and a passage from him where he says: "A bishop, as bishop, has no power to impose any laws or ceremonies in his church without the consent of the church in specific terms or in silent compact. Because the church is a free and reigning matriarchy (feminine) the bishops do not rule over the faith of the church nor may they encumber and vex it against its will. For they are only servants and householders, not lords of the church. However when the church agrees as one body with the bishop, then they can impose upon each other as they wish, provided that godly sanctity does not suffer because of it, and thus it may be permitted as a matter of preference. But the bishops shall not seek such authority in a desire to rule and have free reign; we must neither allow nor participate in any way to establish this injustice or suppression of the church and the truth." Luther's Work, Walch Edition, Volume XVI, p. 1207.
The more we keep faith with our congregations concerning all human authority, the more we are liberated, for we do not act or permit things for the sake of human praise or human will, but rather we hold fast to faith alone in Christ and his word, establishing the church ever more on the proper footing as a refuge, no longer wishing to laboriously defend and maintain it with the office and external orders,
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Photocopy of text provided by Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PA