IV. See also the respective sections in Hospinian, Löscher (Historia Motuum, I. 143 sqq.), Planck (II. 515 sqq.), Marheineke, Hagenbach, Rommel (Phil. der Grossmuethige, I. 247 sqq., II. 219 sqq.), Hassencamp (Hessische K. G., II.), Merle D’Aubigné (bk. VIII. ch. VII.), Ebrard (Das Dogma vom heil. Abendmahl, II. 268 sqq.), and in the biographies of Luther, e.g., Köstlin: M. Luth. II. 127 sqq. (small biography, E. V. p. 391 sqq.), and of Zwingli, e.g., by Christoffel and Mörikofer. Comp. also Ranke, III. 116 sqq.; Janssen, III. 149–154
The eucharistic controversy broke the political force of Protestantism, and gave new strength to the Roman party, which achieved a decided victory in the Diet of Speier, April, 1529.
In this critical situation, the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse formed at Speier "a secret agreement" with the cities of Nuernberg, Ulm, Strassburg and St. Gall, for mutual protection (April 22, 1529). Strassburg and St. Gall sided with Zuerich on the eucharistic question.
The situation became more threatening during the summer. The Emperor made peace with the Pope, June 29, and with France, July 19, pledging himself with his allies to extirpate the new deadly heresy; and was on the way to Augsburg, where the fate of Protestantism was to be decided. But while the nations of Europe aimed to emancipate themselves from the authority of the church and the clergy, the religious element was more powerful,—the hierarchical in the Roman, the evangelical in the Protestant party,—and overruled the political. This is the character of the sixteenth century: it was still a churchly and theological age.
Luther and Melanchthon opposed every alliance with the Zwinglians; they would not sacrifice a particle of their creed to any political advantage, being confident that the truth must prevail in the end, without secular aid. Their attitude in this matter was narrow and impolitic, but morally grand. In a letter to Elector John, March 6, 1530, Luther denied the right of resistance to the Emperor, even if he were wrong and used force against the gospel. "According to the Scriptures," he says, "a Christian dare not resist the magistrate, right or wrong, but must suffer violence and injustice, especially from the magistrate."859
Luther, as soon as he heard of the agreement at Speier, persuaded the Elector to annul it. "How can we unite with people who strive against God and the sacrament? This is the road to damnation, for body and soul." Melanchthon advised his friends in Nuernberg to withdraw from the alliance, "for the godless opinion of Zwingli should never be defended." The agreement came to nothing.
Philip of Hesse stood alone. He was enthusiastic for an alliance, because he half sympathized with the Zwinglian theory, and deemed the controversy to be a battle of words. He hoped that a personal conference of the theological leaders would bring about an understanding.
After consulting Melanchthon personally in Speier, and Zwingli by letter, the Landgrave issued formal invitations to the Reformers, to meet at Marburg, and offered them a safe-conduct through his territory.860
Zwingli received the invitation with joy, and hoped for the best. The magistrate of Zuerich was opposed to his leaving; but he resolved to brave the danger of a long journey through hostile territory, and left his home in the night of Sept. 3, without waiting for the Landgrave’s safe-conduct, and without even informing his wife of his destination, beyond Basel. Accompanied by a single friend, the Greek professor Collin, he reached Basel safely on horseback, and on the 6th of September he embarked with Oecolampadius and several merchants on the Rhine for Strassburg, where they arrived after thirteen hours. The Reformers lodged in the house of Matthew Zell, the preacher in the cathedral, and were hospitably entertained by his wife Catharine, who cooked their meals, waited at the table, and conversed with them on theology so intelligently that they ranked her above many doctors. She often alluded in later years, with joy and pride, to her humble services to these illustrious men. They remained in Strassburg eleven days, in important consultation with the ministers and magistrates. Zwingli preached in the minister on Sunday, the 12th of September, in the morning, on our knowledge of truth, and our duty to obey it; Oecolampadius preached in the afternoon, on the new creature in Christ, and on faith operative in love (Gal. 5:6). On the 19th of September, at six in the morning, they departed with the Strassburg delegates, Bucer, Hedio, and Jacob Sturm, the esteemed head of the city magistrate, under protection of five soldiers. They travelled on horseback over hills and dales, through forests and secret paths. At the Hessian frontier, they were received by forty cavaliers, and reached Marburg on the 27th of September, at four o’clock in the afternoon, and were cordially welcomed by the Landgrave in person.861 The same journey can now be made in a few hours. On the next days they preached.
Zwingli and Philip of Hesse had political and theological sympathies. Zwingli, who was a statesman as well as a reformer, conceived about that time far-reaching political combinations in the interest of religion. He aimed at no less than a Protestant alliance between Zuerich, Hesse, Strassburg, France, Venice, and Denmark, against the Roman empire and the house of Habsburg. He believed in muscular, aggressive Christianity, and in rapid movements to anticipate an attack of the enemy, or to be at least fully prepared for it. The fiery and enthusiastic young Landgrave freely entered into these plans, which opened a tempting field to his ambition, and discussed them with Zwingli, probably already at Marburg, and afterwards in confidential letters, till the catastrophe at Cappel made an end to the correspondence, and the projected alliance.862
The Wittenbergers, as already remarked, would have nothing to do with political alliances unless it were an alliance against foreign foes. They were monarchists and imperialists, and loyally attached to Charles V., "the noble blood," as Luther called him. They feared that an alliance with the Swiss would alienate him still more from the Reformation, and destroy the prospect of reconciliation. In the same year Luther wrote two vigorous works (one dedicated to Philip of Hesse) against the Turks, in which, as a Christian, a citizen, and a patriot, he exhorted the German princes to aid the Emperor in protecting the German fatherland against those invaders whom he regarded as the Gog and Magog of prophecy, and as the instruments of God’s wrath for the punishment of corrupt Christendom.863 He had a still stronger religious motive to discourage a colloquy. He had denounced the Swiss divines as dangerous heretics, and was unwilling to negotiate with them, except on terms of absolute surrender such as could not be expected from men of honor and conscientious conviction.
The Wittenbergers, therefore, received the invitation to a colloquy with distrust, and resisted it. Luther declared that such a conference was useless, since he would not yield an inch to his opponents. Melanchthon even suggested to the Elector that he should forbid their attendance. They thought that "honorable Papists" should be invited as judges on a question touching the real presence! But the Elector was unwilling to displease the Landgrave, and commanded the Reformers to attend. When they arrived at the Hessian frontier, Luther declared that nothing could induce him to cross it without a safe-conduct from the Landgrave (which arrived in due time). They reached Marburg on the last of September, three days after the Swiss.
How different the three historic appearances of Luther in public! In the Leipzig disputation with Eck, we see him struggling in the twilight for emancipation from the bondage of popery. At Worms he stood before the Emperor, with invincible courage, as the heroic witness of the liberty of conscience. Marburg he entered reluctantly, at the noonday heat of his labors, in bad humor, firmly set in his churchly faith, imperious and obstinate, to face the Swiss Reformers, who were as honest and earnest as he, but more liberal and conciliatory. In Leipzig he protested as a Catholic against the infallibility of pope and council; in Worms he protested against the papal tyranny over the Bible and private judgment; in Marburg he protested as a conservative churchman against his fellow-Protestants, and in favor of the catholic faith in the mystery of the sacrament.864 On all occasions he was equally honest, firm, and immovable, true to his words at Worms, "Here I stand: I cannot do otherwise." The conduct of the two parties at that Conference is typical of the two confessions in their subsequent dealings with each other.
The visitors stopped at an inn, but were at once invited to lodge in the castle, and treated by the Landgrave with princely hospitality.
The Reformed called upon the Lutherans, but met with a cool reception. Luther spoke a kind word to Oecolampadius; but when he first met his friend Bucer, who now sided with Zwingli, he shook his hand, and said, smiling, and pointing his finger at him, "You are a good-for-nothing knave."865
In that romantic old castle of Marburg which overlooks the quaint city, and the beautiful and fertile valley of the Lahn, the famous Conference was held on the first three days of October. It was the first council among Protestants, and the first attempt to unite them. It attracted general attention, and promised to become world-historical.866 Euricius Cordus, a professor of medicine at Marburg, addressed, in a Latin poem, "the penetrating Luther, the gentle Oecolampadius, the magnanimous Zwingli, the eloquent Melanchthon, the pious Schnepf, the brave Bucer, the true-hearted Hedio," and all other divines who were assembled in Marburg, with an appeal to heal the schism. "The church," he says, "falls weeping at your feet, and begs you, by the mercies of Christ, to consider the question with pure zeal for the welfare of believers, and to bring about a conclusion of which the world may say that it proceeded from the Holy Spirit." Very touching is the prayer with which Zwingli entered upon the conference: "Fill us, O Lord and Father of us all, we beseech Thee, with thy gentle Spirit, and dispel on both sides all the clouds of misunderstanding and passion. Make an end to the strife of blind fury. Arise, O Christ, Thou Sun of righteousness, and shine upon us. Alas! while we contend, we only too often forget to strive after holiness which Thou requirest from us all. Guard us against abusing our powers, and enable us to employ them with all earnestness for the promotion of holiness."
§ 108. The Marburg Conference continued. Discussion and Result.
The work of the Conference began on Friday, the 1st of October, with divine service in the chapel of the castle. Zwingli preached on the providence of God, which he afterwards elaborated into an important treatise, "De Providentia." It was intended for scholars rather than the people; and Luther found fault with the introduction of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin words into the pulpit. Luther, Bucer, and Osiander preached the morning sermons on the following days; Luther, on his favorite doctrine of justification by faith.
The Landgrave first arranged a private interview between the lions and the lambs; that is, between Luther and Oecolampadius, Zwingli and Melanchthon. The two pairs met after divine service, in separate chambers, and conferred for several hours. The Wittenberg Reformers catechised the Swiss about their views on the Trinity, original sin, and baptism, and were in a measure relieved of their suspicion that they entertained unsound views on these topics. Melanchthon had, a few months before the Conference, written a very respectful letter to Oecolampadius (April 8, 1529), in which he regrets that the "horribilis dissensio de coena Domini" interfered with the enjoyment of their literary and Christian friendship, and states his own view of the eucharist very moderately and clearly to the effect that it was a communion with the present Christ rather than a commemoration of the absent Christ.867 In the private conference with Zwingli, against whom he was strongly prejudiced, he is reported to have yielded the main point of dispute, as regards the literal interpretation of "This is my body," and the literal handing of Christ’s body to his disciples, but added that he gave it to them "in a certain mysterious manner."868 When Zwingli urged the ascension as an argument against the local presence, Melanchthon said, "Christ has ascended indeed, but in order to fill all things" (Eph. 4:10)." Truly," replied Zwingli, "with his power and might, but not with his body." During the open debate on the following days, Melanchthon observed a significant silence, though twice asked by Luther to come to his aid when he felt exhausted.869 He made only a few remarks. He was, however, at that time, of one mind with Luther, and entirely under his power. He was as strongly opposed to an alliance with the Swiss and Strass-burgers, influenced in part by political motives, being anxious to secure, if possible, the favor of Charles and Ferdinand.870
Luther must have handled Oecolampadius more severely; for the latter, in coming from the conference room, whispered to Zwingli, "I am again in the hands of Dr. Eck" (as at the colloquy in Baden in 1526).
The general discussion took place on Saturday, the 2d of October, in a large hall (which cannot now be identified with certainty).871 The Landgrave in plain dress appeared with his court as an eager listener, but not as an arbitrator, and was seated at a separate table. The official attendants on the Lutheran side were Luther (dressed as an Electoral courtier) and Melanchthon, behind them Jonas and Cruciger of Witten-berg, Myconius of Gotha, Osiander of Nuernberg, Stephen Agricola of Augsburg, Brentius of Hall in Swabia; on the Reformed side Zwingli and Oecolampadius, and behind them Bucer and Hedio of Strassburg: all men of eminent talent, learning, and piety, and in the prime of manhood and usefulness. Luther and Zwingli were forty-six, Oecolampadius forty-seven, Bucer thirty-eight, Hedio thirty-five, Melanchthon thirty-two, the Landgrave only twenty-five years of age. Luther and Melanchthon, Zwingli and Oecolampadius, as the chief disputants, sat at a separate table, facing each other.
Besides these representative theologians there were a number of invited guests, princes (including the exiled Duke Ulrich of Wuerttemberg), noblemen, and scholars (among them Lambert of Avignon). Zwingli speaks of twenty-four, Brentius of fifty to sixty, hearers. Poor Carlstadt, who was then wandering about in Friesland, and forced to sell his Hebrew Bible for bread, had asked for an invitation, but was refused. Many others applied for admission, but were disappointed.872 Zwingli advocated the greatest publicity and the employment of a recording secretary, but both requests were declined by Luther. Even the hearers were not allowed to make verbatim reports. Zwingli, who could not expect the Germans to understand his Swiss dialect, desired the colloquy to be conducted in Latin, which would have placed him on an equality with Luther; but it was decided to use the German language in deference to the audience.
John Feige, the chancellor of the Landgrave, exhorted the theologians in an introductory address to seek only the glory of Christ and the restoration of peace and union to the church.
The debate was chiefly exegetical, but brought out no new argument. It was simply a recapitulation of the preceding controversy, with less heat and more gentlemanly courtesy. Luther took his stand on the words of institution in their literal sense: "This is my body;" the Swiss, on the word of Christ: "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life."
Luther first rose, and declared emphatically that he would not change his opinion on the real presence in the least, but stand fast on it to the end of life. He called upon the Swiss to prove the absence of Christ, but protested at the outset against arguments derived from reason and geometry. To give pictorial emphasis to his declaration, he wrote with a piece of chalk on the table in large characters the words of institution, with which he was determined to stand or fall: "Hoc est corpus Meum."
Oecolampadius in reply said he would abstain from philosophical arguments, and appeal to the Scriptures. He quoted several passages which have an obviously figurative meaning, but especially John 6:63, which in his judgment furnishes the key for the interpretation of the words of institution, and excludes a literal understanding. He employed this syllogism: Christ cannot contradict himself; he said, "The flesh profiteth nothing," and thereby rejected the oral manducation of his body; therefore he cannot mean such a manducation in the Lord’s Supper.
Luther denied the second proposition, and asserted that Christ did not reject oral, but only material manducation, like that of the flesh of oxen or of swine. I mean a sublime spiritual fruition, yet with the mouth. To the objection that bodily eating was useless if we have the spiritual eating, he replied, If God should order me to eat crab-apples or dung, I would do it, being assured that it would he salutary. We must here close the eyes.
Here Zwingli interposed: God does not ask us to eat crab-apples, or to do any thing unreasonable. We cannot admit two kinds of corporal manducation; Christ uses the same word "to eat," which is either spiritual or corporal. You admit that the spiritual eating alone gives comfort to the soul. If this is the chief thing, let us not quarrel about the other. He then read from the Greek Testament which he had copied with his own hand, and used for twelve years, the passage John 6:52, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" and Christ’s word, 6:63.
Luther asked him to read the text in German or Latin, not in Greek. When Christ says, "The flesh profiteth nothing," he speaks not of his flesh, but of ours.
Zwingli: The soul is fed with the spirit, not with flesh.
Luther: We eat the body with the mouth, not with the soul. If God should place rotten apples before me, I would eat them.
Zwingli: Christ’s body then would he a corporal, and not a spiritual, nourishment.
Luther: You are captious.
Zwingli: Not so; but you contradict yourself.
Zwingli quoted a number of figurative passages; but Luther always pointed his finger to the words of institution, as he had written them on the table. He denied that the discourse, John 6, had any thing to do with the Lord’s Supper.
At this point a laughable, yet characteristic incident occurred. "Beg your pardon," said Zwingli, "that passage [John 6:63] breaks your neck." Luther, understanding this literally, said, "Do not boast so much. You are in Hesse, not in Switzerland. In this country we do not break people’s necks. Spare such proud, defiant words, till you get back to your Swiss."873
Zwingli: In Switzerland also there is strict justice, and we break no man’s neck without trial. I use simply a figurative expression for a lost cause.
The Landgrave said to Luther, "You should not take offense at such common expressions." But the agitation was so great that the meeting adjourned to the banqueting hall.
The discussion was resumed in the afternoon, and turned on the christological question. I believe, said Luther, that Christ is in heaven, but also in the sacrament, as substantially as he was in the Virgin’s womb. I care not whether it be against nature and reason, provided it be not against faith.
Oecolampadius: You deny the metaphor in the words of institution, but you must admit a synecdoche. For Christ does not say, This is bread and my body (as you hold), but simply, This is my body.
Luther: A metaphor admits the existence of a sign only; but a synecdoche admits the thing itself, as when I say, the sword is in the scabbard, or the beer in the bottle.
Zwingli reasoned: Christ ascended to heaven, therefore he cannot be on earth with his body. A body is circumscribed, and cannot be in several places at once.
Luther: I care little about mathematics.
The contest grew hotter, without advancing, and was broken up by a call to the repast.
The next day, Sunday, Oct. 3, it was renewed.
Zwingli maintained that a body could not be in different places at once. Luther quoted the Sophists (the Schoolmen) to the effect that there are different kinds of presence. The universe is a body, and yet not in a particular place.
Zwingli: Ah, you speak of the Sophists, doctor! Are you really obliged to return to the onions and fleshpots of Egypt? He then cited from Augustin, who says, "Christ is everywhere present as God; but as to his body, he is in heaven."
Luther: You have Augustin and Fulgentius on your side, but we have all the other fathers. Augustin was young when he wrote the passage you quote, and he is obscure. We must believe the old teachers only so far as they agree with the Word of God.
Oecolampadius: We, too, build on the Word of God, not on the fathers; but we appeal to them to show that we teach no novelties.874
Luther, pointing again his finger to the words on the table: This is our text: you have not yet driven us from it. We care for no other proof.
Oecolampadius: If this is the case, we had better close the discussion.
The chancellor exhorted them to come to an understanding.
Luther: There is only one way to that. Let our adversaries believe as we do.
The Swiss: We cannot.
Luther: Well, then, I abandon you to God’s judgment, and pray that he will enlighten you.
Oecolampadius: We will do the same. You need it as much as we.
At this point both parties mellowed down. Luther begged pardon for his harsh words, as he was a man of flesh and blood. Zwingli begged Luther, with tearful eyes, to forgive him his harsh words, and assured him that there were no men in the world whose friendship he more desired than that of the Wittenbergers.875
Jacob Sturm and Bucer spoke in behalf of Strassburg, and vindicated their orthodoxy, which had been impeached. Luther’s reply was cold, and displeased the audience. He declared to the Strassburgers, as well as the Swiss, "Your spirit is different from ours."876
The Conference was ended. A contagious disease, called the English sweat (sudor Anglicus), which attacked its victims with fever, sweat, thirst, intense pain, and exhaustion, had suddenly broken out in Marburg as in other parts of Germany, and caused frightful ravages that filled everybody with alarm. The visitors were anxious to return home. So were the fathers of the Council of Trent, when the Elector Moritz chased the Emperor through the Tyrol; and in like manner the fathers of the Vatican Council hurried across the Alps when France declared war against Germany, and left the Vatican decrees in the hands of Italian infallibilists.
But the Landgrave once more brought the guests together at his table on Sunday night, and urged upon every one the supreme importance of coming to some understanding.
On Monday morning he arranged another private conference between the Saxon and the Swiss Reformers. They met for the last time on earth. With tears in his eyes, Zwingli approached Luther, and held out the hand of brotherhood, but Luther declined it, saying again, "Yours is a different spirit from ours." Zwingli thought that differences in non-essentials, with unity in essentials, did not forbid Christian brotherhood. "Let us," he said, "confess our union in all things in which we agree; and, as for the rest, let us remember that we are brethren. There will never be peace in the churches if we cannot bear differences on secondary points." Luther deemed the corporal presence a fundamental article, and construed Zwingli’s liberality into indifference to truth. "I am astonished," he said, "that you wish to consider me as your brother. It shows clearly that you do not attach much importance to your doctrine." Melanchthon looked upon the request of the Swiss as a strange inconsistency.877 Turning to the Swiss, the Wittenbergers said, "You do not belong to the communion of the Christian Church. We cannot acknowledge you as brethren." They were willing, however, to include them in that universal charity which we owe to our enemies.
The Swiss were ready to burst over such an insult, but controlled their temper.
On the same day Luther wrote the following characteristic letter to his wife: —
"Grace and peace in Christ. Dear Lord Keth, I do you to know that our friendly colloquy in Marburg is at an end, and that we are agreed in almost every point, except that the opposite party wants to have only bread in the Lord’s Supper, and acknowledge the spiritual presence of Christ in the same. To-day the Landgrave wants us to come to an agreement, and, if not, to acknowledge each other as brethren and members of Christ. He labors very zealousy for this end. But we want no brothership and membership, only peace and good-will. I suppose to-morrow or day after to-morrow we shall break up, and proceed to Schleitz in the Voigtland whither his Electoral Grace has ordered us.
"Tell Herr Pommer [Bugenhagen] that the best argument of Zwingli was that corpus non potest esse sine loco: ergo Christi corpus non est in pane. Of Oecolampadius: This sacramentum est signum corporis Christi. I think God has blinded their eyes.
"I am very busy, and the messenger is in a hurry. Give to all a good night, and pray for us. We are all fresh and hale, and live like princes. Kiss for me little Lena and little Hans (Lensgen und Hänsgen).
"Your obedient servant,
"P. S.—John Brenz, Andrew Osiander, Doctor Stephen [Agricola] of Augsburg are also here.
"People are crazy with the fright of the sweating plague. Yesterday about fifty took sick, and two died."878
At last Luther yielded to the request of the Landgrave and the Swiss, retired to his closet, and drew up a common confession in the German language. It consists of fifteen articles expressing the evangelical doctrines on the Trinity, the person of Christ, his death and resurrection, original sin, justification by faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the sacraments.
The two parties agreed on fourteen articles, and even in the more important part of the fifteenth article which treats of the Lord’s Supper as follows: —
We all believe, with regard to the Supper of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, that it ought to be celebrated in both kinds, according to the institution of Christ; that the mass is not a work by which a Christian obtains pardon for another man, whether dead or alive; that the sacrament of the altar is the sacrament of the very body and very blood of Jesus Christ; and that the spiritual manducation of this body and blood is specially necessary to every true Christian. In like manner, as to the use of the sacrament, we are agreed that, like the word, it was ordained of Almighty God, in order that weak consciences might be excited by the Holy Ghost to faith and charity.
"And although at present we are not agreed on the question whether the real body and blood of Christ are corporally present in the bread and wine, yet both parties shall cherish Christian charity for one another, so far as the conscience of each will permit; and both parties will earnestly implore Almighty God to strengthen us by his Spirit in the true understanding. Amen."879
The Landgrave urged the insertion that each party should show Christian charity to the other. The Lutherans assented to this only on condition that the clause be added: "as far as the conscience of each will permit."
The articles were read, considered, and signed on the same day by Luther, Melanchthon, Osiander, Agricola, Brentius, on the part of the Lutherans; and by Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Bucer, and Hedio, on the part of the Reformed. They were printed on the next day, and widely circulated.880
On the fifth day of October, in the afternoon, the guests took leave of each other with a shake of hands. It was not the hand of brotherhood, but only of friendship, and not very cordial on the part of the Lutherans. The Landgrave left Marburg on the same day, early in the morning, with a painful feeling of disappointment.
Luther returned to Wittenberg by way of Schleitz, where he met the Elector John by appointment, and revised the Marburg Articles so as to adapt them to his creed, and so far to weaken the consensus.
Both parties claimed the victory. Zwingli complained in a letter to Vadian of the overbearing and contumacious spirit of Luther, and thought that the truth (i.e., his view of it) had prevailed, and that Luther was vanquished before all the world after proclaiming himself invincible. He rejoiced in the agreement which must destroy the hope of the papists that Luther would return to them.
Luther, on the other hand, thought that the Swiss had come over to him half way, that they had humbled themselves, and begged his friendship. "There is no brotherly unity among us," he said in the pulpit of Wittenberg after his return from Mar-burg, "but a good friendly concord; they seek from us what they need, and we will help them."
Nearly all the contemporary reports describe the Conference as having been much more friendly and respectful than was expected from the preceding controversy. The speakers addressed each other as "Liebster Herr," "Euer Liebden," and abstained from terms of opprobrium. The Devil was happily ignored in the interviews; no heresy was charged, no anathema hurled. Luther found that the Swiss were not such bad people as he had imagined, and said even in a letter to Bullinger (1538), that Zwingli impressed him at Marburg as "a very good man" (optimus vir). Brentius, as an eye-witness, reports that Luther and Zwingli appeared as if they were brothers. Jonas described the Reformed leaders during the Conference as follows:881 "Zwingli has a certain rusticity and a little arrogance.882 In Oecolampadius there is an admirable good-nature and clemency.883 Hedio has no less humanity and liberality of spirit; but Bucer possesses the cunning of a fox,884 that knows how to give himself the air of acumen and prudence. They are all learned men, no doubt, and more formidable opponents than the papists; but Zwingli seems well versed in letters, in spite of Minerva and the Muses." He adds that the Landgrave was the most attentive hearer.
The laymen who attended the Conference seem to have been convinced by the Swiss arguments. The Landgrave declared that he would now believe the simple words of Christ, rather than the subtle interpretations of men. He desired Zwingli to remove to Marburg, and take charge of the ecclesiastical organization of Hesse. Shortly before his death he confessed that Zwingli had convinced him at Marburg. But more important is the conversion of Lambert of Avignon, who had heretofore been a Lutheran, but could not resist the force of the arguments on the other side. "I had firmly resolved," he wrote to a friend soon after the Conference, "not to listen to the words of men, or to allow myself to be influenced by the favor of men, but to be like a blank paper on which the finger of God should write his truth. He wrote those doctrines on my heart which Zwingli developed out of the word of God." Even the later change of Melanchthon, who declined the brotherhood with the Swiss as strongly as Luther, may perhaps be traced to impressions which he received at Marburg.
If the leaders of the two evangelical confessions could meet to-day on earth, they would gladly shake hands of brotherhood, as they have done long since in heaven.
The Conference did not effect the desired union, and the unfortunate strife broke out again. Nevertheless, it was by no means a total failure. It prepared the way for the Augsburg Confession, the chief symbol of the Lutheran Church. More than this, it served as an encouragement to peace movements of future generations.885 It produced the first formulated consensus between the two confessions in fourteen important articles, and in the better part of the fifteenth, leaving only the corporal presence and oral manducation in dispute. It was well that such a margin was left. Without liberty in non-essentials, there can never be a union among intelligent Christians. Good and holy men will always differ on the mode of the real presence, and on many other points of doctrine, as well as government and worship. The time was not ripe for evangelical catholicity; but the spirit of the document survived the controversies, and manifests itself wherever Christian hearts and minds rise above the narrow partition walls of sectarian bigotry. Uniformity, even if possible, would not be desirable. God’s ways point to unity in diversity, and diversity in unity.
It was during the fiercest dogmatic controversies and the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War, that a prophetic voice whispered to future generations the watchword of Christian peacemakers, which was unheeded in a century of intolerance, and forgotten in a century of indifference, but resounds with increased force in a century of revival and re-union:
"In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."
On the Origin of the Sentence: "In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis (or, dubiis) libertas, in utrisque (or, omnibus) caritas."
This famous motto of Christian Irenics, which I have slightly modified in the text, is often falsely attributed to St. Augustin (whose creed would not allow it, though his heart might have approved of it), but is of much later origin. It appears for the first time in Germany, a.d. 1627 and 1628, among peaceful divines of the Lutheran and German Reformed churches, and found a hearty welcome among moderate divines in England.
The authorship has recently been traced to Rupertus Meldenius, an otherwise unknown divine, and author of a remarkable tract in which the sentence first occurs. He gave classical expression to the irenic sentiments of such divines as Calixtus of Helmstädt, David Pareus of Heidelberg, Crocius of Marburg, John Valentin Andrew of Wuerttemberg, John Arnd of Zelle, Georg Frank of Francfort-on-the Oder, the brothers Bergius in Brandenburg, and of the indefatigable traveling evangelist of Christian union, John Dury, and Richard Baxter. The tract of Meldenius bears the title, Paraenesis votiva pro Pace Ecclesiae ad Theologos Augustanae Confessionis, Auctore Ruperto Meldenio Theologo, 62 pp. in 4to, without date and place of publication. It probably appeared in 1627 at Francfort-on-the Oder, which was at that time the seat of theological moderation. Mr. C. R Gillett (librarian of the Union Theological Seminary) informs me that the original copy, which he saw in Berlin, came from the University of Francfort-on-the Oder after its transfer to Breslau.
Dr. Luecke republished the tract, in 1850, from a reprint in Pfeiffer’s Variorum Auctorum Miscellanea Theologiae (Leipzig, 1736, pp. l36–258), as an appendix to his monograph on the subject (pp. 87–145). He afterwards compared it with a copy of the original edition in the Electoral library at Cassel. Another original copy was discovered by Dr. Klose in the city library of Hamburg (1858), and a third one by Dr. Briggs and Mr. Gillett in the royal library of Berlin (1887).
The author of this tract is an orthodox Lutheran, who was far from the idea of ecclesiastical union, but anxious for the peace of the church and zealous for practical scriptural piety in place of the dry and barren scholasticism of his time. He belongs, as Luecke says ("Stud. und Kritiken," 1851, p. 906), to the circle of "those noble, genial, and hearty evangelical divines, like John Arnd, Valentin Andrew, and others, who deeply felt the awful misery of the fatherland, and especially the inner distractions of the church in their age, but who knew also and pointed out the way of salvation and peace." He was evidently a highly cultivated scholar, at home in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and in controversial theology. He excels in taste and style the forbidding literature of his age. He condemns the pharisaical hypocrisy, the folodoxiva, filargiva, and filoneikiva of the theologians, and exhorts them first of all to humility and love. By too much controversy about the truth, we are in danger of losing the truth itself. Nimium altercando amittitur Veritas. "Many," he says, "contend for the corporal presence of Christ who have not Christ in their hearts." He sees no other way to concord than by rallying around the living Christ as the source of spiritual life. He dwells on the nature of God as love, and the prime duty of Christians to love one another, and comments on the seraphic chapter of Paul on charity (1 Cor. 13). He discusses the difference between necessaria and non-necessaria. Necessary dogmas are, (1) articles of faith necessary to salvation; (2) articles derived from clear testimonies of the Bible; (3) articles decided by the whole church in a synod or symbol; (4) articles held by all orthodox divines as necessary. Not necessary, are dogmas (1) not contained in the Bible; (2) not belonging to the common inheritance of faith; (3) not unanimously taught by theologians; (4) left doubtful by grave divines; (5) not tending to piety, charity, and edification. He concludes with a defense of John Arnd (1555–1621), the famous author of "True Christianity," against the attacks of orthodox fanatics, and with a fervent and touching prayer to Christ to come to the rescue of his troubled church (Rev. 22:17).
The golden sentence occurs in the later half of the tract (p. 128 in Luecke’s edition), incidentally and in hypothetical form, as follows: —
"Verbo dicam: Si nos servaremus in necessariis unitatem, in non-necessariis libertatem, in utrisque charitatem, optimo certe loco essent res nostrae."
The same sentiment, but in a shorter sententious and hortative form, occurs in a book of Gregor Frank, entitled Consideratio theologica de gradibus necessitatis dogmatumt Christianorum quibus fidei, spei et charitatis officia reguntur, Francf. ad Oderam, 1628. Frank (1585–1651) was first a Lutheran, then a Reformed theologian, and professor at Francfort. He distinguishes three kinds of dogmas: (1) dogmas necessary for salvation: the clearly revealed truths of the Bible; (2) dogmas which are derived by clear and necessary inference from the Scriptures and held by common consent of orthodox Christendom; (3) the specific and controverted dogmas of the several confessions. He concludes the discussion with this exhortation: —
"Summa est: Servemus in necessariis unitatem, in non-necessariis libertatem, in utrisque charitatem."
He adds, "Vincat veritas, vivat charitas, maneat libertas per Jesum Christum qui est veritas ipsa, charitas ipsa, libertas ipsa."
Bertheau deems it uncertain whether Meldenius or Frank was the author. But the question is decided by the express testimony of Conrad, Berg, who was a colleague of Frank in the same university between 1627 and 1628, and ascribes the sentence to Meldenius.
Fifty years later Richard Baxter, the Puritan pacificator in England, refers to the sentence, Nov. 15, 1679, in the preface to The True and Only Way of Concord of All the Christian Churches, London, 1680, in a slightly different form: "I once more repeat to you the pacificator’s old despised words, ’Si in necessariis sit [esset] unitas, in non necessariis libertas, in utrisque charitas, optimo certo loco essent res nostrae.’ "
Luecke was the first to quote this passage, but overlooked a direct reference of Baxter to Meldenius in the same tract on p. 25. This Dr. Briggs discovered, and quotes as follows: —
"Were there no more said of all this subject, but that of Rupertus Meldenius, cited by Conradus Bergius, it might end all schism if well understood and used, viz." Then follows the sentence. Baxter also refers to Meldenius on the preceding page. This strengthens the conclusion that Meldenius was the "pacificator." For we are referred here to the testimony of a contemporary of Meldenius. Samuel Werenfels, a distinguished irenical divine of Basel, likewise mentions Meldenius and Conrad Bergius together as irenical divines, and testes veritatis, and quotes several passages from the Paraenesis votiva.
Conrad Bergius (Berg), from whom Baxter derived his knowledge of the sentence, was professor in the university of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, and then a preacher at Bremen. He and his brother John Berg (1587–1658), court chaplain of Brandenburg, were irenical divines of the German Reformed Church, and moderate Calvinists. John Berg attended the Leipzig Colloquy of March, 1631, where Lutheran and Reformed divines agreed on the basis of the revised Augsburg Confession of 1540 in every article of doctrine, except the corporal presence and oral manducation. The colloquy was in advance of the spirit of the age, and had no permanent effect. See Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 558 sqq., and Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum in Ecclesiis Reformatis publicatarum, p. LXXV. and 653–668.
Dr. Briggs has investigated the writings of Conrad Bergius and his associates in the royal library of Berlin. In his "Praxis Catholica divini canonis contra quasvis haereses et schismata," etc., which appeared at Bremen in 1639, Bergius concludes with the classical word of "Rupertus Meldenius Theologus," and a brief comment on it. This is quoted by Baxter in the form just given. In the autumn of 1627 Bergius preached two discourses at Frankfurt on the subject of Christian union, which accord with the sentence, and appeared in 1628 with the consent of the theological faculty. They were afterwards incorporated in his Praxis Catholica. He was thoroughly at home in the polemics and irenics of his age, and can be relied on as to the authorship of the sentence.
But who was Meldenius? This is still an unsolved question. Possibly he took his name from Melden, a little village on the borders of Bohemia and Silesia. His voice was drowned, and his name forgotten, for two centuries, but is now again heard with increased force. I subscribe to the concluding words of my esteemed colleague, Dr. Briggs: "Like a mountain stream that disappears at times under the rocks of its bed, and re-appears deeper down in the valley, so these long-buried principles of peace have reappeared after two centuries of oblivion, and these irenical theologians will be honored by those who live in a better age of the world, when Protestant irenics have well-nigh displaced the old Protestant polemics and scholastics."
The origin of the sentence was first discussed by a Dutch divine, Dr. Van der Hoeven of Amsterdam, in 1847; then by Dr. Luecke of Göttingen, Ueber das Alter, den Verfasser, die ursprungliche Form und den wahren Sinn des kirchlichen Friedenspruchs ’In necessariis unitas,’ etc., Göttingen, 1850 (XXII. and 146 pages); with supplementary remarks in the "Studien und Kritiken" for 1851, p. 905–938. Luecke first proved the authorship of Meldenius. The next steps were taken by Dr. Klose, in the first edition of Herzog’s "Theol. Encycl," sub Meltlenius, vol. IX. (1858), p. 304 sq., and by Dr. Carl Bertheau, in the second edition of Herzog, IX. (1881), p. 528–530. Dr. Brigas has furnished additional information in two articles in the "Presbyterian Review," vol. VIII., New York, 1857, pp. 496–499, and 743–746.
§ 109. Luther’s Last Attack on the Sacramentarians. His Relation to Calvin.
We anticipate the concluding act of the sad controversy of Luther with his Protestant opponents. It is all the more painful, since Zwingli and Oecolampadius were then sleeping in the grave; but it belongs to a full knowledge of the great Reformer.
The Marburg Conference did not really reconcile the parties, or advance the question in dispute; but the conflict subsided for a season, and was thrown into the background by other events. The persistent efforts of Bucer and Hedio to bring about a reconciliation between Wittenberg and Zuerich soothed Luther, and excited in him the hope that the Swiss would give up their heresy, as he regarded it. But in this hope he was disappointed. The Swiss could not accept the "Wittenberg Concordia" of 1536, because it was essentially Lutheran in the assertion of the corporal presence and oral manducation.
A year and a half before his death, Luther broke out afresh, to the grief of Melanchthon and other friends, in a most violent attack on the Sacramentarians, the "Short Confession on the Holy Sacrament" (1544).886 It was occasioned by Schwenkfeld,887 and by the rumor that Luther had changed his view, because he had abolished the elevation and adoration of the host.888 Moreover he learned that Dévay, his former student, and inmate of his house, smuggled the sacramenta-rian doctrine under Luther’s name into Hungary.889 He was also displeased with the reformation program of Bucer and Melanchthon for the diocese of Cologne (1543), because it stated the doctrine of the eucharist without the specific Lutheran features, so that he feared it would give aid and comfort to the Sacramentarians.890 These provocations and vexations, in connection with sickness and old age, combined to increase his irritability, and to sour his temper. They must be taken into account for all understanding of his last document on the eucharist. It is the severest of all, and forms a parallel to his last work against the papacy, of the same year, which surpasses in violence all he ever wrote against the Romish Antichrist.891
The "Short Confession" contains no argument, but the strongest possible reaffirmation of his faith in the real pres-ence, and a declaration of his total and final separation from the Sacramentarians and their doctrine, with some concluding remarks on the elevation of the sacrament. Standing on the brink of the grave, and in view of the judgment-seat, he solemnly condemns all enemies of the sacraments wherever they are.892 "Much rather," he says, "would I be torn to pieces, and burnt a hundred times, than be of one mind and will with Stenkefeld [Schwenkfeld], Zwingel, Carlstadt, Oecolampad, and all the rest of the Schwärmer, or tolerate their doctrine." He overwhelms them with terms of opprobrium, and coins new ones which cannot be translated into decent English. He calls them heretics, hypocrites, liars, blasphemers, soul-murderers, sinners unto death, bedeviled all over.893 He ceased to pray for them, and left them to their fate. At one time he had expressed some regard for Oecolampadius,894 and even for Zwingli, and sincere grief at his tragic death.895 But in this last book he repeatedly refers to his death as a terrible judgment of God, and doubts whether he was saved.896 He was horrified at Zwingli’s belief in the salvation of the pious heathen, which he learned from his last exposition of the Christian faith, addressed to the king of France. "If such godless heathen," he says, "as Socrates, Aristides, yea, even the horrible Numa who introduced all kinds of idolatry in Rome897 (as St. Augustin writes), were saved, there is no need of God, Christ, gospel, Scriptures, baptism, sacrament, or Christian faith." He thinks that Zwingli either played the hypocrite when he professed so many Christian articles at Marburg, or fell away, and has become worse than a heathen, and ten times worse than he was as a papist.
This attitude Luther retained to the end. It is difficult to say whom he hated most, the papists or the Sacramentarians. On the subject of the real presence he was much farther removed from the latter. He remarks once that he would rather drink blood alone with the papists than wine alone with the Zwinglians. A few days before his death, he wrote to his friend, Pastor Probst in Bremen: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the Sacramentarians, nor standeth in the way of the Zwinglians, nor sitteth in the seat of the Zurichers."898 Thus he turned the blessing of the first Psalm into a curse, in accordance with his growing habit of cursing the pope and the devil when praying to God. He repeatedly speaks of this habit, especially in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and justifies it as a part of his piety.899
It is befitting that with this last word against the Sacramentarians should coincide in time and spirit his last and most violent attack upon the divine gift of reason, which he had himself so often and so effectually used as his best weapon, next to the Word of God. On Jan. 17, 1546, he ascended the pulpit of Wittenberg for the last time, and denounced reason as the damned whore of the Devil." The fanatics and Sacramentarians boast of it when they ask: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Hear ye the Son of God who says: "This is my body," and crush the serpent beneath your feet.900
Six days later Luther left the city of his public labors for the city of his birth, and died in peace at Eisleben, Feb. 18. 1546, holding fast to his faith, and commending his soul to his God and Redeemer.
In view of these last utterances we must, reluctantly, refuse credit to the story that Luther before his death remarked to Melanchthon: "Dear Philip, I confess that the matter of the Lord’s Supper has been overdone;"901 and that, on being asked to correct the evil, and to restore peace to the church, he replied: "I often thought of it; but then people might lose confidence in my whole doctrine. I leave the matter in the hands of the Lord. Do what you can after my death."902
But it is gratifying to know that Luther never said one unkind word of Calvin, who was twenty-five years younger. He never saw him, but read some of his books, and heard of him through Melanchthon. In a letter to Bucer, dated Oct. 14, 1539, he sent his respectful salutations to John Sturm and John Calvin, who lived at that time in Strassburg, and added that he had read their books with singular delight. This includes his masterly answer to the letter of Bishop Sadolet (1539).903 Melanchthon sent salutations from Luther and Bugenhagen to Calvin, and informed him that he was in high favor with Luther,"904 notwithstanding the difference of views on the real presence, and that Luther hoped for better opinions, but was willing to bear something from such a good man.905 Calvin had expressed his views on the Lord’s Supper in the first edition of his Institutes, which appeared in 1536,906 incidentally also in his answer to Sadolet, which Luther read "with delight,"907 and more fully in a special treatise, De Coena Domini, which was published in French at Strassburg, 1541, and then in Latin, 1545.908 Luther must have known these views. He is reported to have seen a copy of Calvin’s tract on the eucharist in a bookstore at Wittenberg, and, after reading it, made the remark: "The author is certainly a learned and pious man: if Zwingli and Oecolampadius had from the start declared themselves in this way, there would probably not have arisen such a controversy."909
Calvin returned Luther’s greetings through Melanchthon, and sent him two pamphlets with a letter, dated Jan. 21, 1545, addressing him as "my much respected father," and requesting him to solve the scruples of some converted French refugees. he expresses the wish that "he might enjoy for a few hours the happiness of his society," though this was impossible on earth.
Melanchthon, fearing a renewal of the eucharistic controversy, had not the courage to deliver this letter—the only one of Calvin to Luther—"because," he says, "Doctor Martin is suspicious, and dislikes to answer such questions as were proposed to him."910
Calvin regretted "the vehemence of Luther’s natural temperament, which was so apt to boil over in every direction," and to "flash his lightning sometimes also upon the servants of the Lord;" but he always put him above Zwingli, and exhorted the Zurichers to moderation. When he heard of the last attack of Luther, he wrote a noble letter to Bullinger, Nov. 25, 1544, in which he says:911 —
"I hear that Luther has at length broken forth in fierce invective, not so much against you as against the whole of us. On the present occasion, I dare scarce venture to ask you to keep silence, because it is neither just that innocent persons should thus be harassed, nor that they should be denied the opportunity of clearing themselves; neither, on the other hand, is it easy to determine whether it would be prudent for them to do so. But of this I do earnestly desire to put you in mind, in the first place, that you would consider how eminent a man Luther is, and his excellent endow-ments, with what strength of mind and resolute constancy, with how great skill, with what efficiency and power of doctrinal statement, he hath hither-to devoted his whole energy to overthrow the reign of Antichrist, and at the same time to diffuse far and near the doctrine of salvation. Often have I been wont to declare, that even although he were to call me a devil, I should still not the less esteem and acknowledge him as an illustrious servant of God.912 ... This, therefore, I would beseech you to consider first of all, along with your colleagues, that you have to do with a most distin-guished servant of Christ, to whom we are all of us largely indebted. That, besides, you will do yourselves no good by quarreling, except that you may afford some sport to the wicked, so that they may triumph not so much over us as over the gospel. If they see us rending each other asunder, they then give full credit to what we say, but when with one consent and with one voice we preach Christ, they avail themselves unwarrantably of our inherent weakness to cast reproach upon our faith. I wish, therefore, that you would consider and reflect on these things, rather than on what Luther has deserved by his violence; lest that may happen to you which Paul threatens, that by biting and devouring one another, ye be consumed one of another. Even should he have provoked us, we ought rather to decline the contest than to increase the wound by the general shipwreck of the church."
This is the wisest Christian answer from Geneva to the thunderbolts of Wittenberg.
§ 110. Reflections on the Ethics of the Eucharistic Controversy.
Dogmatics and ethics, faith and conduct, should agree like the teaching and example of Christ from which they are to be drawn. But, in practice, they often conflict. History shows us many examples of ungodly champions of orthodoxy and godly champions of heterodoxy, of unholy churchmen and holy dissenters. The angel of Ephesus is commended for zeal against false apostles, and censured for leaving the first love; while the angel of Thyatira is praised for his good works, and reproved for tolerating error. Some are worse than their belief, and others are better than their misbelief or unbelief.
Luther and Zwingli are by no means opposed to each other as orthodox and heretic; they were essentially agreed in all fundamental articles of the evangelical faith, as the Marburg Conference proved. The difference between them is only a little more Catholic orthodoxy and intolerance in Luther, and a little more Christian charity and liberality in Zwingli. This difference is characteristic of the Reformers and of the denominations which they represent.
Luther had a sense of superiority, and claimed the credit of having begun the work of the Reformation. He supposed that the Swiss were indebted to him for what little knowledge they had of the gospel; while, in fact, they were as independent of him as the Swiss Republic was of the German Empire, and knew the gospel as well as he.913
But it would be great injustice to attribute his conduct to obstinacy and pride, or any selfish motive. It proceeded from his inmost conviction. He regarded the real presence as a fundamental article of faith, inseparably connected with the incarnation, the union of the two natures of Christ, and the mystical union of believers with his divine-human personality. He feared that the denial of this article would consistently lead to the rejection of all mysteries, and of Christianity itself. He deemed it, moreover, most dangerous and horrible to depart from what had been the consensus of the Christian Church for so many centuries. His piety was deeply rooted in the historic Catholic faith, and it cost him a great struggle to break loose from popery. In the progress of the eucharistic controversy, all his Catholic instincts and abhorrence of heresy were aroused and intensified. In his zeal he could not do justice to his opponents, or appreciate their position. His sentiments are shared by millions of pious and devout Lutherans to this day, whose conscience forbids them to commune with Christians of Reformed churches.914 We may lament their narrowness, but must.respect their conviction, as we do the conviction of the far larger number of Roman Catholics, who devoutly believe in the miracle of transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass.
In addition to Luther’s dogmatic standpoint we must take into account his ignorance of the true character of the Swiss, and their real doctrine. He had hardly heard of the Swiss Reformation when the controversy began. He did not even spell Zwingli’s name correctly (he always calls him "Zwingel"), and could not easily understand his Swiss dialect.915 He made a radical mistake by confounding him with Carlstadt and the fanatics. He charged him with reducing the Lord’s Supper to a common meal, and bread and wine to empty signs; and, although he found out his mistake at Marburg, he returned to it again in his last book, adding the additional charge of hypocrisy or apostasy. He treated him as a heathen, yea, worse than a heathen, as he treated Erasmus.
Zwingli was clear-headed, self-possessed, jejune, and sober (even in his radical departures from Rome), and farther removed from fanaticism than Luther himself. He was a pupil of the classical and humanistic school of Erasmus; he had never been so deeply rooted in the mediaeval faith, and it cost him much less trouble than Luther to break off from the old church; he was a man of reflection rather than of intuition, and had no mystic vein, but we may say a rationalistic bent. Nevertheless, he was as loyal to Christ, and believed in the Word of God and the supernatural as firmly, as Luther; and the Reformed churches to this day are as pure, faithful, devoted, and active in Christian works as any, and less affected by rationalism than the Lutheran, in part for the very reason that they allow reason its legitimate influence in dogmatic questions. If Zwingli believed in the salvation of the pious heathen and unbaptized infants, it was not because he doubted the absolute necessity of the saving grace of Christ, which he very strongly asserted, but simply because he extended this grace beyond the boundaries of the visible church, and the ordinary means of grace; and on this point, as on others, he anticipated modern ideas. He was inferior to Luther in genius, and depth of mind and heart, but his superior in tolerance, liberality, and courtesy; and in these qualities also he was in advance of his age, and has the sympathies of the best modern culture.
Making every allowance for Luther’s profound religious conviction, and for the misunderstanding of his opponent, nothing can justify the spirit and style of Luther’s polemics, especially his last book against the sacramentarians. He drew his inspiration for it from the imprecatory Psalms, not from the Sermon on the Mount. He spoke the truth in hatred and wrath, not in love.
This betrays an organic defect in his reformation; namely, the over-estimate of dogmatics over ethics, and a want of discipline and self-government. In the same year in which he wrote his fiercest book against the Sacramentarians, he seriously contemplated leaving Wittenberg as a veritable Sodom: so bad was the state of morals, according to his own testimony, in the very centre of his influence.916 It required a second reformation, and such men as Arnd, Andreae, Spener. and Franke, to supplement the one-sided Lutheran orthodoxy by practical piety. Calvin, on the other hand, left at his death the church of Geneva in such a flourishing condition that John Knox pronounced it the best school of Christ since the days of the Apostles, and that sixty years later John Valentin Andreae, one of the noblest and purest Lutheran divines of the seventeenth century, from personal observation held it up to the Lutheran Church as a model for imitation.
Luther’s polemics had a bad effect on the Lutheran Church. He set in motion that theological fury which raged for several generations after his death, and persecuted some of the best men in it, from Melanchthon down to Spener.
His blind followers, in their controversies among themselves and with the Reformed, imitated his faults, without his genius and originality; and in their zeal for what they regarded the pure doctrine, they forgot the common duties of courtesy and kindness which we owe even to an enemy.917
We may quote here a well-considered judgment of Dr. Dorner, one of the ablest and profoundest evangelical divines of Germany, who says in a confidential letter to his lifelong friend, Bishop Martensen of Denmark, —
"I am more and more convinced that the deepest defect of Lutheran churchism heretofore has been a lack of the full appreciation of the ethical element of Christianity. This becomes manifest so often in the manner of the Lutheran champions. There is lacking the tenderness of conscience and thorough moral culture which deals conscientiously with the opponent. Justification by faith is made to cover, in advance, all sins, even the future ones; and this is only another form of indulgence. The Lutheran doctrine leads, if we look at the principle, to an establishment of ethics on the deepest foundation. But many treat justification, not only as the begin-ning, but also as the goal. Hence we see not seldom the justified and the old man side by side, and the old man is not a bit changed. Lutherans who show in their literary and social conduct the stamp of the old Adam would deal more strictly with themselves, and fear to fall from grace by such conduct, if they had a keener conscience, and could see the neces-sary requirements of the principle of justification; for then they would shrink from such conduct as a sin against conscience. But the doctrine of justification is often misused for lulling the conscience to sleep, instead of quickening it."918
Zwingli’s conduct towards Luther, judged from the ethical point of view, is much more gentlemanly and Christian, though by no means perfect. He, too, misunderstood and misrepresented Luther when he charged him with teaching a local presence and a carnal eating of Christ’s body. He, too, knew how to be severe, and to use the rapier and the knife against the club and sledge-hammer of the Wittenberg Reformer. But he never forgot, even in the heat of controversy, the great services of Luther, and more than once paid him the tribute of sincere admiration.
"For a thousand years," says Zwingli, "no mightier investigator of the Holy Scriptures has appeared than Luther. No one has equaled him in manly and immovable courage with which he attacked popery. But whose work is it? God’s, or Luther’s? Ask Luther himself, and he will say God’s. He traces his doctrine to God and his eternal Word. As far as I have read his writings (although I have often purposely abstained from doing so), I find them well founded in the Scriptures: his only weak point is, that he yields too much to the Romanists in the matter of the sacraments, and the confession to the priest, and in tolerating the images in the churches. If he is sharp and racy in speech, it comes from a pious, honest heart, and a flaming love for the truth .... Others have come to know the true religion, but no one has ventured to attack the Goliath with his formidable armor; but Luther alone, as a true David, anointed by God, hurled the stones taken from the heavenly brook so skillfully that the giant fell prostrate on the ground. Therefore let us never cease to sing with joy: ’Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’ (1 Sam. 18:7). He was the Hercules who slew the Roman boar .... I have always been grateful to my teachers, how much more to that excellent man whom I can never expect to equal in honor and merit! With no men on earth would I rather he agreed than with the Wittenbergers .... Many have found the true religion before Luther became famous; I have learnt the gospel from the same fountain of the Scriptures, and began to preach it in 1516 (at Einsiedeln), when I diligently studied and copied with mine own hand the Greek epistles of Paul,919 before I heard the name of Luther. He preaches Christ, so do I, thanks to God. And I will be called by no other name than that of my Captain Christ, whose soldiers we are."920
I may add here the impartial testimony of Dr. Köstlin, the best biographer of Luther, and himself a Lutheran: —
"Zwingli knew how to keep himself under control. Even where he is indignant, and intentionally sharp and pointed, he avoids the tone of passionate excitement, and uses the calm and urbane language of a gentleman of humanistic culture, and thereby proves his superiority over his opponent, without justifying the suspicion of Luther that he was uncertain in his own mind, and that the attitude he assumed was only a feint. His polemics forms thus the complete opposite to Luther’s book, ’That the words of Christ,’ etc. Yet it presents also another aspect. Zwingli characterizes, with select words of disregard, the writers and contents of the Syngramma, to which Luther had given his assent, and clearly hints at Luther’s wrath, spite, jealousy, audacity, and other faults poorly concealed under the cover of bravery, constancy, etc.; yea, here and there he calls his arguments ’childish’ and ’fantastic,’ etc. Hence his new writings were by no means so ’friendly’ as the title indicates. What is more important, we miss in them a sense for the deeper, truly religious motives of Luther, as much as we miss in Luther an appreciation of like motives in Zwingli .... He sees in Luther obstinate blindness, while Luther discovered in him a devilish spirit."921
§ 111. The Eucharistic Theories compared. Luther, Zwingli, Calvin.
We now present, for the sake of clearness, though at the risk of some repetition, the three Protestant theories on the real presence, with the chief arguments.
Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin agree, negatively, in opposition to the dogma of transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, and the withdrawal of the cup from the laity; positively, in these essential points: the divine institution and perpetuity of the Lord’s Supper, the spiritual presence of Christ, the commemorative character of the ordinance as the celebration of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, its importance as the highest act of worship and communion with Christ, and its special blessing to all who worthily partake of it.
They differ on three points,—the mode of Christ’s presence (whether corporal, or spiritual); the organ of receiving his body and blood (whether by the mouth, or by faith); and the extent of this reception (whether by all, or only by believers). The last point has no practical religious value, though it follows from the first, and stands or falls with it. The difference is logical rather than religious. The Lord’s Supper was never intended for unbelievers. Paul in speaking of "unworthily" receiving the sacrament (1 Cor. 11:27) does not mean theoretical unbelief, but moral unworthiness, irreverence of spirit and manner.
I. The Lutheran Theory teaches a real and substantial presence of the very body and blood of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and suffered on the cross, in, with, and under (in, sub, cum) the elements of bread and wine, and the oral manducation of both substances by all commun-icants, unworthy and unbelieving, as well as worthy and believing, though with opposite effects. The simultaneous co-existence or conjunction of the two substances is not a local inclusion of one substance in the other (impanation), nor a mixture or fusing-together of the two substances into one; nor is it permanent, but ceases with the sacramental action. It is described as a sacramental, supernatural, incomprehensible union.922 The earthly elements remain unchanged and distinct in their substance and power, but they become the divinely appointed media for communicating the heavenly substance of the body and blood of Christ. They become so, not by priestly consecration, as in the doctrine of trans-substantiation, but by the power and Word of God. The eating of the body is by the mouth, indeed, yet is not Caper-naitic, and differs from the eating of ordinary food.923 The object and use of the Lord’s Supper is chiefly the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, to the comfort of the believer.924 This is the scholastic statement of the doctrine, as given by the framers of the Formula Concordiae, and the Lutheran scholastics of the seventeenth century.
The confessional deliverances of the Lutheran Church on the Lord’s Supper are as follows: —
the augsburg confession of 1530.
"ART. X. Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the [true] body and blood of Christ925 are truly present [under the form of bread and wine],926 and are [there]927 communicated to [and received by]928 those that eat929 in the Lord’s Supper. And they disapprove of those that teach otherwise."930
the altered augsburg confession of 1540.
Concerning the Supper of the Lord they teach that with bread and wine are truly exhibited931 the body and blood of Christ to those that eat in the Lord’s Supper.932
articles of smalkald (by luther), 1537.
"Of this Sacrament of the Altar, we hold that the bread and wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ, and are given to, and re-ceived by, not only the pious, but also to and by the impious Christians."
In the same articles Luther denounces transubstantiation as a "subtle sophistry (subtilitas sophistica)," and the Romish mass as "the greatest and most terrible abomination (maxima et horrenda abominatio)." Pars III., Art. VI., in Mueller’s ed., pp. 301, 320.
formula of concord (1577). epitome, art. vii. affirmative.
"I. We believe, teach, and confess that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and that they are truly distributed and taken together with the bread and wine.
"II. We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the Testament of Christ are not to be understood otherwise than as the words themselves literally sound, so that the bread does not signify the absent body of Christ, and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that on account of the sacra-mental union the bread and wine are truly the body and blood of Christ.
"III. Moreover, as concerns the consecration, we believe, teach, and confess that no human work, nor any utterance of the minister of the Church, is the cause of the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper, but that this is to be attributed to the omnipotent power of our Lord Jesus Christ alone.
"IV. Nevertheless, we believe, teach, and confess, by unanimous con-sent, that in the use of the Lord’s Supper the words of the institution of Christ are by no means to be omitted, but are to be publicly recited, as it is written (1 Cor. 10:16), ’The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?’ etc. And this benediction takes place by the recitation of the words of Christ.
"V. Now the foundations on which we rest in this controversy with the Sacramentarians are the following, which, moreover, Dr. Luther has laid down in his Larger Confession concerning the Supper of the Lord: —
"The first foundation is an article of our Christian faith, to wit: Jesus Christ is true, essential, natural, perfect God and man in unity of person, inseparable and undivided.
"Secondly: That the right hand of God is everywhere; and that Christ, in respect of his humanity, is truly and in very deed seated thereat, and therefore as present governs, and has in his hand and under his feet, as the Scripture saith (Eph. 1:22), all things which are in heaven and on earth. At this right hand of God no other man, nor even any angel, but the Son of Mary alone, is seated, whence also he is able to effect those things which we have said.
"Thirdly: That the Word of God is not false or deceiving.
"Fourthly: That God knows and has in his power various modes of being in any place, and is not confined to that single one which philosophers are wont to call local or circumscribed.
"VI. We believe, teach, and confess that the body and blood of Christ are taken with the bread and wine, not only spiritually through faith, but also by the mouth, nevertheless not Capernaitically, but after a spiritual and heavenly manner, by reason of the sacramental union. For to this the words of Christ clearly bear witness, in which he enjoins us to take, to eat to drink; and that this was done by the Apostles the Scripture makes mention, saying (Mark 14:23), ’And they all drank of it.’ And Paul says, ’The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ;’ that is, he that eats this bread eats the body of Christ.
"To the same, with great consent, do the chief of the most ancient doctors of the church—Chrysostom, Cyprian, Leo the First, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustin—bear witness.
"VII. We believe, teach, and confess that not only true believers in Christ, and such as worthily approach the Supper of the Lord, but also the unworthy and unbelieving receive the true body and blood of Christ; in such wise, nevertheless, that they derive thence neither consolation nor life, but rather so as that receiving turns to their judgment and condemnation, unless they be converted, and repent (1 Cor. 11:27, 29).
"For although they repel from them Christ as a Saviour, nevertheless they are compelled, though extremely unwilling, to admit him as a stem Judge. And he no less present exercises his judgment over these impenitent guests than as present he works consolation and life in the hearts of true believers and worthy guests.
"VIII. We believe, teach, and confess that there is one kind only of unworthy guests: they are those only who do not believe. Of these it is written (John 3:18), ’He that believeth not is condemned already.’ And this judgment is enhanced and aggravated by an unworthy use of the holy Supper (1 Cor. 11:29).
"IX. We believe, teach, and confess that no true believer, so long as he retains a living faith, receives the holy Supper of the Lord unto condemnation, however much weakness of faith he may labor under. For the Lord’s Supper has been chiefly instituted for the sake of the weak in faith, who nevertheless are penitent, that from it they may derive true consolation and a strengthening of their weak faith (Matt. 9:12; 11:5, 28).
We believe, teach, and confess that the whole worthiness of the guests at this heavenly Supper consists alone in the most holy obedience and most perfect merit of Christ. And this we apply to ourselves by true faith, and are rendered certain of the application of this merit, and are confirmed in our minds by the sacrament. But in no way does that worthiness depend upon our virtues, or upon our inward or outward preparations."
The three great arguments for the Lutheran theory are the words of institution taken in their literal sense, the ubiquity of Christ’s body, and the prevailing faith of the church before the Reformation.
1. As to the literal interpretation, it cannot be carried out, and is surrendered, as inconsistent with the context and the surroundings, by nearly all modern exegetes.933
2. The ubiquity of Christ’s body involves an important element of truth, but is a dogmatic hypothesis without sufficient Scripture warrant, and cannot well be reconciled with the fact of the ascension, or with the nature of a body, unless it be resolved into a mere potential or dynamic presence which makes it possible for Christ to make his divine-human power and influence felt wherever he pleases.934
The illustrations which Luther uses—as the sun shining everywhere, the voice resounding in a thousand ears and hearts, the eye seeing different objects at once—all lead to a dynamic presence, which Calvin fully admits.
3. The historic argument might prove too much (for transubstantiation and the sacrifice of the mass), unless we are satisfied with the substance of truth which underlies the imperfect human theories and formulas. The real presence of Christ with his people is indeed a most precious truth, which can never be surrendered. It is the very life of the church and the comfort and strength of believers from day to day. He promised the perpetual presence not only of his spirit or influence, but of his theanthropic person:, I am with you alway." It is impossible to make an abstract separation of the divine and human in the God-man. He is the Head of the church, his body, and "filleth all in all." Nor can the church give up the other important truth that Christ is the bread of life, and nourishes, in a spiritual and heavenly manner, the soul of the believer which is vitally united to him as the branch is to the vine. This truth is symbolized in the miraculous feeding of the multitude, and set forth in the mysterious discourse of the sixth chapter of John.
As far as Luther contended for these truths, he was right against the Sacramentarians, though he erred in the form of conception and statement. His view is mystical but profound; Zwingli’s view is clear but superficial. The former commends itself to devout feeling, the latter to the sober understanding and intellect.
II. The Zwinglian Theory.—The Lord’s Supper is a solemn commemoration of the atoning death of Christ, according to his own command: "Do this in remembrance of me," and the words of Paul: "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till he come."935 Zwingli emphasized this primitive character of the institution as a gift of God to man, in opposition to the Roman mass as a work or offering which man makes to God.936 He compares the sacrament to a wedding-ring which seals the marriage union between Christ and the believer. He denied the corporal presence, because Christ ascended to heaven, and because a body cannot be present in more than one place at once, also because two substances cannot occupy the same space at the same time; but he admitted his spiritual presence, for Christ is eternal God, and his death is forever fruitful and efficacious.937 He denied the corporal eating as Capernaitic and useless, but he admitted a spiritual participation in the crucified body and blood by faith. Christ is both "host and feast" in the holy communion.
His last word on the subject of the eucharist (in the Confession to King Francis I.) is this: —
"We believe that Christ is truly present in the Lord’s Supper; yea, that there is no communion without such presence .... We believe that the true body of Christ is eaten in the communion, not in a gross and carnal manner, but in a sacramental and spiritual manner by the religious, believing and pious heart."938
This passage comes so near the Calvinistic view that it can hardly be distinguished from it. Calvin did injustice to Zwingli, when once in a confidential letter he called his earlier eucharistic doctrine, profane."939 But Zwingli in his polemic writings laid so much stress upon the absence of Christ’s body, that the positive truth of His spiritual presence was not sufficiently emphasized. Undoubtedly the Lord’s Supper is a commemoration of the historic Christ of the past, but it is also a vital communion with the ever-living Christ who is both in heaven and in his church on earth.
Zwingli’s theory did not pass into any of the leading Reformed confessions; but it was adopted by the Arminians, Socinians, Unitarians, and Rationalists, and obtained for a time a wide currency in all Protestant churches, even the Lutheran. But the Rationalists deny what Zwingli strongly believed, the divinity of Christ, and thus deprive the Lord’s Supper of its deeper significance and power.
III. The Calvinistic Theory.—Calvin was the greatest divine and best writer among the Reformers, and his "Institutes of the Christian Religion" have almost the same importance for Reformed theology as the "Summa" of Thomas Aquinas for that of the Roman Church. He organized the ideas of the Reformation into a clear, compact system, with the freshness and depth of genius, the convincing power of logic, and a complete mastery of the Latin and French languages.940
His theory of the Lord’s Supper occupies a via media between Luther and Zwingli; he combines the realism of the one with the spiritualism of the other, and saves the substance for which Luther contended, but avoids the objectionable form. He rests on the exegesis of Zwingli. He accepts the symbolical meaning of the words of institution; he rejects the corporal presence, the oral manducation, the participation of the body and blood by unbelievers, and the ubiquity of Christ’s body. But at the same time he strongly asserts a spiritual real presence, and a spiritual real participation of Christ’s body and blood by faith. While Zwingli dwelt chiefly on the negative, he emphasizes the positive, element. While the mouth receives the visible signs of bread and wine, the soul receives by faith, and by faith alone, the things signified and sealed thereby; that is, the body and blood of Christ with the benefit of his atoning death and the virtue of his immortal life. He combines the crucified Christ with the glorified Christ, and brings the believer into contact with the whole Christ. He lays great stress on the agency of the Holy Spirit in the ordinance, which was overlooked by Luther and Zwingli, but which appears in the ancient liturgies in the invocation of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who unites in a supernatural manner what is separated in space, and conveys to the believing communicant the life-giving virtue of the flesh of Christ now glorified in heaven.941 When Calvin requires the communicant to ascend to heaven to feed on Christ there, he does, of course, not mean a locomotion, but that devotional sursum corda of the ancient liturgies, which is necessary in every act of worship, and is effected by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Calvin discussed the eucharistic question repeatedly and fully in his Institutes and in separate tracts. I select a few extracts from his Institutes (Book IV., ch. XVII. 10 sqq.), which contain his first and last thoughts on the subject.
(10) "The sum is, that the flesh and blood of Christ feed our souls just as bread and wine maintain and support our corporal life. For there would be no aptitude in the sign, did not our souls find their nourishment in Christ. This could not be, did not Christ truly form one with us, and refresh us by the eating of his flesh, and the drinking of his blood. But though it seems an incredible thing that the flesh of Christ, while at such a distance from us in respect of place, should be food to us, let us remember how far the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit surpasses all our conceptions, and how foolish it is to wish to measure its immensity by our feeble capacity. Therefore, what our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive; viz., that the Spirit truly unites things separated by space. That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, he testifies and seals in the Supper, and that not by presenting a vain or empty sign, but by there exerting an efficacy of the Spirit by which he fulfils what he promises. And truly the thing there signified he exhibits and offers to all who sit down at that spiritual feast, although it is beneficially received by believers only who receive this great benefit with true faith and heartfelt gratitude." ...
"(18) ... Though Christ withdrew his flesh from us, and with his body ascended to heaven, he sits at the right hand of the Father; that is, he reigns in power and majesty, and the glory of the Father. This kingdom is not limited by any intervals of space, nor circumscribed by any dimensions. Christ can exert his energy wherever he pleases, in earth and heaven, can manifest his presence by the exercise of his power, can always be present with his people, breathing into them his own life, can live in them, sustain, confirm, and invigorate them, and preserve them safe, just as if he were with them in the body, in fine, can feed them with his own body, communion with which he transfuses into them. After this manner, the body and blood of Christ are exhibited to us in the sacrament.
"(19) The presence of Christ in the Supper we must hold to be such as neither affixes him to the element of bread, nor encloses him in bread, nor circumscribes him in any way (this would obviously detract from his celestial glory); and it must, moreover, be such as neither divests him of his just dimensions, nor dissevers him by differences of place, nor assigns to him a body of boundless dimensions, diffused through heaven and earth. All these things are clearly repugnant to his true human nature. Let us never allow ourselves to lose sight of the two restrictions. First, let there be nothing derogatory to the heavenly glory of Christ. This happens whenever he is brought under the corruptible elements of this world, or is affixed to any earthly creatures. Secondly, let no property be assigned to his body inconsistent with his human nature. This is done when it is either said to be infinite, or made to occupy a variety of places at the same time.
"But when these absurdities are discarded, I willingly admit any thing which helps to express the true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are received, not by the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life."
Calvin’s theory was not disapproved by Luther, who knew it, was substantially approved by Melanchthon in 1540, and adopted by all the leading Reformed Confessions of faith. We select a few specimens from one of the earliest and from the latest Calvinistic standards: —
heidelberg catechism (1563).
Question 76. What is it to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood, of Christ?
Answer. It is not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal; but moreover also, to be so united more and more to his sacred body by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us, that although He is in heaven, and we on the earth, we are, nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones, and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.
Q. 78. Do, then, the bread and wine become the real body and blood of Christ?
A. No: but as the water, in baptism, is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins itself, being only the divine token and assurance thereof; so also, in the Lord’s Supper, the sacred bread does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.
Q. 79. Why, then, doth Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the New Testament in His blood; and St. Paul, the communion of the body and blood of Christ?
A. Christ speaks thus not without great cause; namely, not only to teach us thereby, that, like as bread and wine sustain this temporal life, so also His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink of our souls unto life eternal; but much more, by this visible sign and pledge to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood, through the working of the Holy Ghost, as we receive by the mouth of the body these holy tokens in remembrance of Him; and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly our own, as if we had ourselves suffered and done all in our own persons.
westminster confession of faith (1647).
Chapter XXIX., section VII.
Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this sacrament, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually, receive and feed upon Christ crucified, and all benefits of his death: the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally in, with, or under the bread and wine; yet as really, but spiritually, present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are, to the outward senses.
westminster larger catechism (1647).
Question 170. How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s Supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
Answer. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper; and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal or carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.