CHAPTER VII. THE SACRAMENTARIAN CONTROVERSIES. § 101. Sacerdotalism and Sacramentalism. The Catholic system of Christianity, both Greek and Roman, is sacramental and sacerdotal. The saving grace of Christ is conveyed to men through the channel of seven sacraments, or "mysteries," administered by ordained priests, who receive members into the church by baptism, accompany them through the various stages of life, and dismiss them by extreme unction into the other world. A literal priesthood requires a literal sacrifice, and this is the repetition of Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross offered by the priest in the mass from day to day. The power of the mass extends not only to the living, but even to departed spirits in purgatory, abridging their sufferings, and hastening their release and transfer to heaven.
The Reformers rejected the sacerdotal system altogether, and substituted for it the general priesthood of believers, who have direct access to Christ as our only Mediator and Advocate, and are to offer the spiritual sacrifices of prayer, praise, and intercession. They rejected the sacrifice of the mass, and the theory of transubstantiation, and restored the cup to the laity. They also agreed in raising the Word of God, as the chief means of grace, above the sacraments, and in reducing the number of the sacraments. They retained Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as instituted by Christ for universal and perpetual observance.
But here begins the difference. It consists in the extent of departure from the sacramental system of the Roman Church. The Lutheran Confession is, we may say, semi-sacramental, or much more sacramental than the Reformed (if we except the Anglican communion).817 It retained the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, with the rite of exorcism, and the corporal presence in the eucharist. The Augsburg Confession makes the sacraments an essential criterion of the church. Luther’s Catechism assigns to them an independent place alongside of the Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. It adds to baptism and the Lord’s Supper confession and absolution as a third sacrament. At a later period, confirmation was restored to the position of a quasi-sacrament as a supplement of infant-baptism.
Zwingli and Calvin reduced the sacraments to signs and seals of grace which is inwardly communicated by the Holy Spirit. They asserted the sovereign causality of God, and the independence of the Spirit who "bloweth where it willeth" (John 3:8). God can communicate his gifts freely as he chooses. We are, however, bound to his prescribed means. The Swiss Reformers also emphasized the necessity of faith, not only for a profitable use of the sacrament (which is conceded by the Lutherans), but for the reception of the sacrament itself. Unworthy communicants receive only the visible sign, not the thing signified, and they receive the sign to their own injury.
The Anabaptists went still farther, and rejected infant-baptism because it lacks the element of faith on the part of the baptized. They were the forerunners of the Quakers, who dispensed with the external sacraments altogether, retaining, however, the spiritual fact of regeneration and communion with Christ, which the sacraments symbolize to the senses. The Quakers protested against forms when they were made substitutes for the spirit, and furnished the historic proof that the spirit in cases of necessity may live without forms, while forms without the spirit are dead.
It was the will of Providence that different theories on the means of grace should be developed. These theories are not isolated; they proceed from different philosophical and theological standpoints, and affect other doctrines. Luther was not quite wrong when he said to Zwingli at Marburg "You have a different spirit." Luther took his stand on the doctrine of justification by faith; Zwingli and Calvin, on the doctrine of divine causality and sovereignty, or eternal election. Luther proceeded anthropologically and soteriologically from man to God, Zwingli and Calvin proceeded theologically from God to man.
The difference culminates in the doctrine of the eucharistic presence, which called forth the fiercest controversies, and still divides Western Christendom into hostile camps. The eucharistic theories reveal an underlying difference of views on the relation of God to man, of the supernatural to the natural, of invisible grace to the visible means. The Roman doctrine of transubstantiation is the outgrowth of a magical supernaturalism which absorbs and annihilates the natural and human, leaving only the empty form. The Lutheran doctrine implies an interpenetration of the divine and human. The commemorative theory of Zwingli saves the integrity and peculiar character of the divine and human, but keeps them separate and distinct. The eucharistic theory affects Christology, the relation of church and state, and in some measure the character of piety. Lutheranism inclines to the Eutychian, Zwinglianism to the Nestorian, Christology. The former fosters a mystical, the latter a practical, type of piety.
Calvin, who appeared on the stage of public action five years after Zwingli’s, and ten years before Luther’s, death, advocated with great ability a eucharistic theory which mediates between the Lutheran realism and the Zwinglian spiritualism, and which passed into the Reformed confessions Luther had to deal with Zwingli, and never came into contact with Calvin. If he had, the controversy might have taken a different shape; but he would have maintained his own view of the real presence, and refused the figurative interpretation of the words of institution.
With the doctrine of the eucharist are connected some minor ritualistic differences, as the use of the wafer, and the kneeling posture of the communicants, which the Lutherans retained from the Catholic Church; while the Reformed restored the primitive practice of the breaking of bread, and the standing or sitting posture. Some Lutheran churches retained also the elevation of the host; Luther himself declared it a matter of indifference, and abolished it at Wittenberg in 1542.818 § 102. The Anabaptist Controversy. Luther and Huebmaier. Luther: Von der Wiedertaufe, an zwei Pfarrherrn. Wittenberg, 1528. In Walch, XXVII. 2643 sqq.; Erl. ed. XXVI. 254–294. Justus Menius: Der Wiedertäufer Lehre und Geheimniss, with a Preface by Luther, 1530. In the Erl. ed. LXIII. 290 sqq. Melanchthon: Contra Anabaptistas Judicium, "Corp. Reform." I. 953 sqq.
On the Baptist side the writings of Huebmaier, or, as he wrote his name, Huebmör, which are very rare, and ought to be collected and republished. Calvary, in "Mittheilungen aus dem Antiquariate," vol. I. Berlin, 1870, gives a complete list of them. The most important are Von dem christlichen Tauf der Gläubigen (1525); Eine Stimme eines ganzen christlichen Lebens (1525); Von Ketzern und ihren Verbrennern; Schlussreden (Axiomata); Ein Form des Nachtmals Christi; Von der Freiwilligkeit des Menschen (to show that God gives to all men an opportunity to become his children by free choice); Zwölf Artikel des christlichen Glaubens, etc.
On Huebmaier, see Schreiber in the "Taschenbuch fuer Gesch. und Alterthum Sueddeutschlands," Freiburg, 1839 and 40. Cunitz in Herzog’s "Encykl.," 2d ed. VI. 344. Ranke, II. 118, 126; III. 366, 369. Janssen, II. 387, 486.
All the Reformers retained the custom of infant-baptism, and opposed rebaptism (Wiedertaufe) as a heresy. So far they agreed with the Catholics against the Anabaptists, or Catabaptists as they were called, although they rejected the name, because in their view the baptism of infants was no baptism at all.
The Anabaptists or Baptists (as distinct from Pedobaptists) sprang up in Germany, Holland, and Switzerland, and organized independent congregations. Their leaders were Huebmaier, Denck, Hätzer, and Grebel. They thought that the Reformers stopped half-way, and did not go to the root of the evil. They broke with the historical tradition, and constructed a new church of believers on the voluntary principle. Their fundamental doctrine was, that baptism is a voluntary act, and requires personal repentance, and faith in Christ. They rejected infant-baptism as an anti-scriptural invention. They could find no trace of it in the New Testament, the only authority in matters of faith. They were cruelly persecuted in Protestant as well as Roman Catholic countries. We must carefully distinguish the better class of Baptists and the Mennonites from the restless revolutionary radicals and fanatics, like Carlstadt, Muenzer, and the leaders of the Muenster tragedy.
The mode of baptism was not an article of controversy at that time; for the Reformers either preferred immersion (Luther), or held the mode to be a matter of indifference (Calvin).
Luther agreed substantially with the Roman Catholic doctrine of baptism. His Taufbuechlein of 1523 is a translation of the Latin baptismal service, including the formula of exorcism, the sign of the cross, and the dipping. The second edition (1526) is abridged, and omits the use of chrisma, salt, and spittle.819 He defeated Carlstadt, Muenzer, and the Zwickau Prophets, who rejected infant-baptism, and embarrassed even Melanchthon. Saxony was cleared of Anabaptists; but their progress in other parts of Germany induced him a few years later to write a special book against Huebmaier, who appealed to his authority, and ascribed to him similar views.
Balthasar Huebmaier, or Huebmör, was born near Augsburg, 1480; studied under Dr. Eck at Freiburg-i. -B. and Ingolstadt, and acquired the degree of doctor of divinity. He became a famous preacher in the cathedral at Regensburg, and occasioned the expulsion of the Jews in 1519, whose synagogue was converted into a chapel of St. Mary. In 1522 he embraced Protestant opinions, and became pastor at Waldshut on the Rhine, on the borders of Switzerland. He visited Erasmus at Basel, and Zwingli at Zuerich, and aided the latter in the introduction of the Reformation. The Austrian government threatened violent measures, and demanded the surrender of his person. He left Waldshut, and took refuge in a convent of Schaffhausen, but afterwards returned. He openly expressed his dissent from Zwingli and Oecolampadius on the subject of infant-baptism. Zwingli was right, he said, in maintaining that baptism was a mere sign, but the significance of this sign was the pledge of faith and obedience unto death, and such a pledge a child could not make; therefore the baptism of a child had no meaning, and was invalid. Faith must be present, and cannot be taken for granted as a future certainly. Instead of baptism he introduced a solemn presentation or consecration of children before the congregation. He made common cause with the Anabaptists of Zuerich, and with Thomas Muenzer, who came into the neighborhood of Waldshut, and kindled the flame of the Peasants’ War. He is supposed by some to be the author of the Twelve Articles of the Peasants. He was rebaptized about Easter, 1525, and re-baptized many others. He abolished the mass, and removed the altar, baptismal font, pictures and crosses from the church.
The triumph of the re-action against the rebellious peasants forced him to flee to Zuerich (December, 1525). He had a public disputation with Zwingli, who had himself formerly leaned to the view that it would be better to put off baptism to riper years of responsibility, though he never condemned infant-baptism. He retracted under pressure and protest, and was dismissed with some aid. He went to Nikolsburg in Moravia, published a number of books in German, having brought a printing-press with him from Switzerland, and gathered the Baptist "Brethren" into congregations. But when Moravia, after the death of Louis of Hungary, fell into the possession of King Ferdinand of Austria, Huebmaier was arrested with his wife, sent to Vienna, charged with complicity in the Peasants’ War, and burned to death, March 10, 1528. He died with serene courage and pious resignation. His wife, who had strengthened him in his faith, was drowned three days later in the Danube. Zwingli, after his quarrel with Huebmaier, speaks unfavorably of his character; Vadian of St. Gall, and Bullinger, give him credit for great eloquence and learning, but charge him with a restless spirit of innovation. He was an advocate of the voluntary principle. and a martyr of religious freedom. Heretics, he maintained, are those only who wickedly oppose the Holy Sciptures, and should be won by instruction and persuasion. To use force is to deny Christ, who came to save, not to destroy.
A few months before Huebmaier’s death, Luther wrote, rather hastily, a tract against the Anabaptists (January or February, 1528), in the shape of a letter to two unnamed ministers in Catholic territory.820 "I know well enough," he begins, "that Balthasar Huebmör quotes me among others by name, in his blasphemous book on Re-baptism, as if I were of his foolish mind. But I take comfort in the fact that neither friend nor foe will believe such a lie, since I have sufficiently in my sermons shown my faith in infant-baptism." He expressed his dissent from the harsh and cruel treatment of the Anabaptists, and maintained that they ought to be resisted only by the Word of God and arguments, not by fire and sword, unless they preach insurrection and resist the civil magistrate.821 At the same time he ungenerously depreciated the constancy of their martyrs, and compared them to the Jewish martyrs at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Donatist martyrs.822 He thought it served the papists right, to be troubled with such sectaries of the Devil in punishment for not tolerating the gospel. He then proceeds to refute their objections to infant-baptism.
1. Infant-baptism is wrong because it comes from the pope, who is Antichrist. But then we ought to reject the Scriptures, and Christianity itself, which we have in common with Rome. Christ found many abuses among the Pharisees and Sadducees and the Jewish people, but did not reject the Old Testament, and told his disciples to observe their doctrines (Matt. 23:3). Here Luther pays a striking tribute to the Roman church, and supports it by the very fact that the pope is Antichrist, and reveals his tyranny in the temple of God, that is, within the Christian Church, and not outside of it.823 By such an argument the Anabaptists weaken the cause of Christianity, and deceive themselves.
2. Infants know nothing of their baptism, and have to learn it afterwards from their parents or sponsors. But we know nothing of our natural birth and of many other things, except on the testimony of others.
3. Infants cannot believe. Luther denied this, and appealed to the word of Christ, who declared them fit for the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 19:14), and to the example of John the Baptist, who believed in the mother’s womb (Luke 1:41). Reformed divines, while admitting the capacity or germ of faith in infants, base infant-baptism on the vicarious faith of parents, and the covenant blessing of Abraham which extends to his seed (Gen. 17:7). Luther mentions this also.
4. The absence of a command to baptize children. But they are included in the command to baptize all nations (Matt. 28:19). The burden of proof lies on the Anabaptists to show that infant-baptism is forbidden in the Bible, before they abolish such an old and venerable institution of the whole Christian Church.
5. Among the positive arguments, Luther mentions the analogy of circumcision, Christ’s treatment of children, the cases of family baptisms, Acts 2:39; 16:15, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16.
Melanchthon quoted also the testimonies of Origen, Cyprian, Chrysostom, and Augustin, for the apostolic origin of infant-baptism.
§ 103. The Eucharistic Controversy. I. Sources (1) Lutheran. Luther: Wider die himmlischen Propheten, Jan. 1525 (against Carlstadt and the Enthusiasts). Dass die Worte, "Das ist mein Leib," noch fest stehen (wider die Schwarmgeister), 1527. Grosses Bekenntniss vom Abendmahl, March, 1528 (against Zwingli and Oecolampadius). Kurzes Bekenntniss rom heil. Sacrament, 1544. All these tracts in the Erl. ed. vols. XXVI. 254; XXIX. 134, 348; XXX. 14, 151; XXXII. 396. Walch, Vol. XX. 1–2955, gives the eucharistic writings, for and against Luther, together with a history.
Bugenhagen: Contra novum errorem de sacramento corporis et sanguinis Christi. 1525. Also in German. In Walch, XX. 641 sqq. Brentz and Schnepf: Syngramma Suevicum super verbis coenae Dominicae "Hoc est corpus meum," etc., signed by fourteen Swabian preachers, Oct. 21, 1525. Against Oecolampadius, see Walch, XX. 34, 667 sqq.
(2) On the Zwinglian side. Zwingli: Letter to Rev. Mathaeus Alber, Nov. 16, 1524; Commentarius de vera et falsa religione, 1525; Amica exegesis, id est, Expositio eucharistiae negotii ad M. Lutherum, 1526; Dass diese Worte Jesu Christi: "Das ist myn Lychnam," ewiglich den alten eynigen Sinn haben werden, 1527; and several other eucharistic tracts. Oecolampadius: De genuina verborum Domini: "Hoc est corpus meum," juxta vetustissimos auctores expositione, Basel, 1525; Antisyngramma ad ecclesiastas Suevos (with two sermons on the sacrament), 1526. Oecolampadius and Zwingli: Ueber Luther’s Buch Bekenntniss genannt, zwo Antworten, 1528. See Zwingli: Opera, ed. Schuler and Schulthess, vol. II. Part II. 1–223; III. 145; 459 sqq.; 589 sqq.; 604 sqq. Also Walch, vol. XX. Extracts in Usteri and Vögelin, M. H. Zwingli’s Sämmtl. Schriften im Auszuge, vol. II. Part I., pp. 3–187.
II. The historical works on the eucharistic controversies of the Reformation period, by Lavater (Historia Sacramentaria, Tig. 1563): Selnecker and Chemnitz (Hist. des sacram. Streits, Leipz., 1583 and 1593); Hospinian (Hist. Sacramentaria, Tig. 1603, 2 vols.); Löscher (Hist. Motuum, in 3 Parts, Leipz., second ed., 1723); Ebrard (Das Dogma vom heil. Abendmahl und seine Geschichte, 2 vols., 1846); Kahnis (1851); Dieckhoff (1854); H. Schmid (1873).
III. The respective sections in the General Church Histories, and the Histories of the Reformation, especially Seckendorf, Gieseler, Baur, Hagenbach, Merle, Fisher. Planck, in his Geschichte des Protest. Lehrbegriffs (Leipz. second revised ed., 1792, vol. II., Books V. and VI.), gives a very full and accurate account of the eucharistic controversy, although he calls it "die unseligste alter Streitigkeiten" (II. 205).
IV. Special discussions. Dorner: Geschichte der protestant. Theologie (Muenchen, 1867), pp. 296–329. Jul. Mueller: Vergleichung der Lehren Luther’s und Calvin’s ueber das heil. Abendmahl, in his "Dogmatische Abhandlungen" (Bremen, 1870, pp. 404–467). Köstlin: Luther’s Theologie, II. 100 sqq., 511 sqq.; Mart. Luther, I. 715–725; II. 65–110 (Luther und Zwingli); 127 sqq.; 363–369. August Baur: Zwingli’s Theologie (Halle, 1885; second vol. has not yet appeared).
American discussions of the eucharistic controversies. J. W. Nevin (Reformed, d. 1886): The Mystical Presence, Philadelphia, 1846; Doctrine of the Reformed Church on the Lord’s Supper, in "The Mercersburg Review," 1850, pp. 421–549. Ch. Hodge (Presbyt, d. 1878): in "The Princeton Review" for April, 1848; Systematic Theology, New York, 1873, vol. III., 626–677. C. P. Krauth (Luth., d. 1883): The Conservative Reformation (Philadelphia, 1872), p. 585 sqq. H. J. Van Dyke (Calvinist): The Lord’s Supper, 2 arts. in "The Presbyterian Review," New York, 1887, pp. 193 and 472 sqq. J. W. Richard (Luth.), in the "Bibliotheca Sacra" (Oberlin, O.), Oct. 1887, p. 667 sqq., and Jan. 1888, p. 110 sqq.
See, also, the Lit. quoted in Schaff, Church Hist., I. 471 sq. and IV. 543 sq.
While the Reformers were agreed on the question of infant-baptism against the Anabaptists, they disagreed on the mode and extent of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper.
The eucharistic controversies of the sixteenth century present a sad and disheartening spectacle of human passion and violence, and inflicted great injury to the progress of the Reformation by preventing united action, and giving aid and comfort to the enemy; but they were overruled for the clearer development and statement of truth, like the equally violent Trinitarian, Christological, and other controversies in the ancient church. It is a humiliating fact, that the feast of union and communion of believers with Christ and with each other, wherein they engage in the highest act of worship, and make the nearest approach to heaven, should have become the innocent occasion of bitter contests among brethren professing the same faith and the same devotion to Christ and his gospel. The person of Christ and the supper of Christ have stirred up the deepest passions of love and hatred. Fortunately, the practical benefit of the sacrament depends upon God’s promise, and simple and childlike faith in Christ, and not upon any scholastic theory, any more than the benefit of the Sacred Scriptures depends upon a critical knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.
The eucharist was twice the subject of controversy in the Middle Ages,—first in the ninth, and then in the eleventh, century. The question in both cases turned on a grossly realistic and a spiritual conception of the sacramental presence and fruition of Christ’s body and blood; and the result was the triumph of the Roman dogma of transubstantiation, as advocated by Paschasius Radbertus against Ratramnus, and by Lanfranc against Berengar, and as finally sanctioned by the fourth Lateran Council in 1215, and the Council of Trent in 1551.824
The Greek and Latin churches are substantially agreed on the doctrine of the communion and the mass, but divide on the ritual question of the use of leavened or unleavened bread. The withdrawal of the cup from the laity caused the bloody Hussite wars.
The eucharistic controversies of the Protestants assumed a different form. Transubstantiation was discarded by both parties. The question was not, whether the elements as to their substance are miraculously transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but whether Christ was corporally or only spiritually (though no less really) present with the natural elements; and whether he was partaken of by all communicants through the mouth, or only by the worthy communicants through faith.
The controversy has two acts, each with several scenes: first, between Luther and Zwingli; secondly, between the Lutherans and Philippists and Calvinists. At last Luther’s theory triumphed in the Lutheran, Calvin’s theory in the Reformed churches. The Protestant denominations which have arisen since the Reformation on English and American soil,—Independents, Baptists, Methodists, etc.,—have adopted the Reformed view. Luther’s theory is strictly confined to the church which bears his name. But, as the Melanchthonian and moderate Lutherans approach very nearly the Calvinistic view, so there are Calvinists, and especially Anglicans, who approach the Lutheran view more nearly than the Zwinglian. The fierce antagonism of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has given way on both sides to a more dispassionate and charitable temper. This is a real progress.