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by G. H. Gerberding
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Title: The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church
Author: G. H. Gerberding
Commentator: M. Rhodes
Release Date: July 13, 2005 [EBook #16285]
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WAY OF SALVATION
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH.
REV. G.H. GERBERDING, A.M.,
PASTOR OF ST. MARK'S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH, FARGO, DAKOTA.
WRITTEN FOR THE COMMON PEOPLE.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION
REV. M. RHODES, D.D.
PUBLISHED FOR THE AUTHOR.
REVISED AND IMPROVED
LUTHERAN PUBLICATION SOCIETY,
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
THE UNITED ENGLISH LUTHERAN CHURCH
OF THE FUTURE;
JOINED TOGETHER IN THE BONDS OF ONE FAITH, ACTUATED
BY ONE SPIRIT, WORKING HAND IN HAND AND HEART
WITH HEART IN ONE GENERAL BODY, THIS
BOOK IS HOPEFULLY DEDICATED
INTRODUCTION ................................................... 9
PREFATORY SCRIPTURE PASSAGES ................................... 11
All are Sinners ................................................ 13
All that is Born of the Flesh must be Born of the Spirit ....... 19
The Present, a Dispensation of Means ........................... 26
Baptism, a Divinely Instituted Means of Grace .................. 33
The Baptismal Covenant can be kept unbroken--Aim and
Responsibility of Parents .................................... 41
Home Influence and Training in their Relation to the Keeping of
the Baptismal Covenant ....................................... 48
The Sunday School in its Relation to the Baptized Children of
Christian Parents ............................................ 55
The Sunday School--Its relation to those in Covenant
Relationship with Christ, and also to the Unbaptized
and Wandering ................................................ 63
Catechisation .................................................. 69
Contents, Arrangement and Excellence of Luther's
Small Catechism .............................................. 75
Manner and Object of Teaching Luther's Catechism ............... 82
Confirmation ................................................... 89
The Lord's Supper--Preliminary Observations .................... 97
The Lord's Supper, Continued ................................... 103
The Lord's Supper, Concluded ................................... 109
The Preparatory Service, Sometimes Called the
Confessional Service ......................................... 120
The Word as a Means of Grace ................................... 130
Conversion--Its Nature and Necessity ........................... 138
Conversion--Varied Phenomena or Experiences .................... 145
Conversion--Human Agency ....................................... 154
Justification .................................................. 163
Sanctification ................................................. 174
Revivals ....................................................... 183
Modern Revivals ................................................ 191
Modern Revivals, Continued ..................................... 200
Modern Revivals, Concluded ..................................... 209
True Revivals .................................................. 220
Conclusion ..................................................... 229
My Church! My Church! My dear Old Church! ...................... 238
I take pleasure in commending this unpretentious volume to the
prayerful attention of all English-speaking ministers and members of
the Lutheran Church. The aim of the author is to present a clear,
concise, and yet comprehensive view as possible, of the way of
salvation as taught in the Scriptures, and held by the Lutheran
Church. That he has accomplished his task so as to make it throughout
an illustration of the truth as it is in Jesus, and a correct
testimony to the faith of the Church of which he is an honored
minister, I believe will appear to all who read with an unbiased mind,
and a knowledge of the sources of information from which he has drawn.
There is always need for such a candid and considerate statement of
fundamental truth as this. The signs of the times clearly indicate
that there is no security for the Church save in maintaining the
Apostolic faith and spirit--not the one without the other, but the one
with the other. The supremacy of the Scriptures needs to be recognized
with a mightier emphasis, not only of the intellect, but also of the
heart. This vital conjunction is maintained in this book. I am certain
that a clear view of the way of salvation as taught by the Scriptures
and held by the Church will go far not only toward correcting wrong
impressions, but will tend to the relief of much mental perplexity,
and to the increase of that much-needed spirit of unity throughout our
Church, the want of which is not only the greatest reflection on her
noble history and holy faith, but the greatest hindrance to her
important mission. A kindly Christ-like spirit pervades this book,
which is no small testimony to its worth.
Those who stand up for the truth do not always illustrate its
spirit. Not all who might desire greater unity in the Church are
qualified to promote it. The author of this little treatise has not
only manifested the proper spirit, but he has shown as well the
faculty of using it for the increase of harmony, without the least
disloyalty to the Scriptures, or to the standards of the Church. The
appeal throughout is to the Word of God. The faith of the Church is
subjected to this test, and it is maintained because it endures the
These chapters present a continuity of thought which should not
be lost sight of in the reading. In order to a correct verdict, they
should not be read with such discrimination as would accept some and
reject others, but from the first to the last in order. That this
little book may be owned of God to the establishment of the faith of
the Lutheran Church, and for the promotion of a more manifest unity
among those who bear her name, is a prayer in which I am sure many
will join the author of this work, and the writer of this introductory
ST. LOUIS, MO., _March, 1887_.
PREFATORY SCRIPTURE PASSAGES.
_To the Law and to the Testimony; if they speak not according
to this Word, it is because there is no light in them._--
Isa. viii. 20.
_Thus saith the Lord; Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask
for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye
shall find rest for your souls._--Jer. vi. 16.
_That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and
carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. But speaking
the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the
Head, even Christ._--Eph. iv. 14.
_Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for it
is a good thing that the heart be established with grace._--
Heb. xiii. 9.
_Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in
them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that
hear thee._--1 Tim. iv. 16.
_Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of
me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus._--2 Tim. i. 13.
_And be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh
you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and
fear._--1 Pet. iii. 15.
_Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the
common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort
you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once
delivered unto the saints._--Jude 3.
_For the time will come when they will not endure sound
doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves
teachers having itching ears; and they shall turn their ears away from
the truth, and shall be turned unto fables._--2 Tim. iv. 3, 4.
_Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of
Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he
hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and
bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid
him God-speed. For he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his
evil deeds._--2 John 9. 10, 11.
_For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the
prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God
shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if
any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy,
God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the
holy city, and from the things which are written in this
book._--Rev. xxii. 18, 19.
THE WAY OF SALVATION.
ALL ARE SINNERS.
Some time ago we overheard from a person who should have known
better, remarks something like these: "I wonder how sinners are saved
in the Lutheran Church?" "I do not hear of any being converted in the
Lutheran Church," and such like. These words called to mind similar
sentiments that we heard expressed long ago. More than once was the
remark made in our hearing that in certain churches sinners were
saved, because converted and sanctified, while it was at least
doubtful whether any one could find such blessings in the Lutheran
Church. The writer also freely confesses, that in those days,
surrounded by such influences, "_his feet had well-nigh slipped--his
steps were almost gone_." Therefore, he can sympathize with those
honest questioners, who have not had the privileges of instruction in
the doctrines of sin and Grace, and who are consequently in the dark.
He has, therefore, concluded to write a series of plain, practical
papers on the "Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church." It will be
his endeavor to set forth the manner or method through which the
Church of the Reformation proposes to reach the sinner, and apply to
him the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
The first question that presents itself is: Who are the subjects
of salvation? The answer clearly is: All sinners. But, again: Whom
does this embrace? The answer to this is not so unanimous. The views
already begin to diverge. True, there is quite a substantial harmony
on this point, among all the older Protestant Confessions of faith,
but the harmony is not so manifest among the professed adherents of
In many of the denominations there is a widespread skepticism as
to the reality of original sin, or native depravity. Doubtless on this
point the wish is father to the thought. The doctrine that, "after
Adam's fall, all men begotten after the common course of nature, are
born with sin," is not palatable. It grates harshly on the human ear.
It is so humbling to the pride of man's heart, and therefore he tries
to persuade himself that it is not true. It has become fashionable to
deny it. From the pulpit, from the press, from the pages of our most
popular writers, we hear the old-fashioned doctrine denounced as
unworthy of this enlightened age. Thus the heresy has spread, and is
spreading. On every hand we meet men who stand high in their churches,
spurning the idea that their children are sinners, and need to be
saved. Their creed is: "I believe in the purity and innocence of
childhood, and in its fitness for the kingdom of heaven, without any
change or application of divine Grace." Ah! yes, we would all like to
have this creed true. But is it true? If not, our believing it will
not make it true.
Then let us go "_to the law and the testimony_;" to the
source and fountain of all truth, the inspired Word of God. Listen to
its sad but plain statements. Job xv. 14: "_What is man that he
should be clean? and he which is born of a woman that he should be
righteous_?" Ps. li. 5: "_Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in
sin did my mother conceive me._" John iii. 6: "_That which is
born of the flesh is flesh._" Ephesians ii. 3: "_Among whom also
we all ... were by nature_"--_i.e._ by birth--"_the children
of wrath even as others_." These are a few of the many clear, plain
statements of the divine Word. Nowhere does it teach that children are
born pure, righteous and fit for heaven.
The Lutheran church, then, teaches and confesses nothing but the
pure truth of God's Word in the Augsburg Confession, Article II.,
where it says: "Also they teach, that after Adam's fall all men,
begotten after the common course of nature, are born with sin," etc.
Also Smalcald Articles, Part III., Article I: "Here we must confess,
that sin originated from one man Adam, by whose disobedience all were
made sinners and subject to death and the devil. This is called
original or capital sin.... This hereditary sin is so deep a
corruption of nature that no reason can understand it, but it must be
believed from the revelation of Scripture," etc. So also the Formula
of Concord, Chapter I., "Of Original Sin," where see a full
presentation of our faith and its foundation. Also Luther's
Explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed where he
says: "Who--Christ--has redeemed me, a poor, lost and condemned
creature, secured and delivered me from all sins, from death, and from
the power of the devil."
This, then is the teaching of our Church, as founded on the Word
of God. That this doctrine is true, beyond the possibility of a doubt,
we can learn even from reason. It will not be disputed that what is in
the child will show itself as it develops. The germs that lie hidden
there will unfold and bring forth their proper and natural fruit. By
its fruits we can know even the child. And what are these fruits? How
long will it be before that helpless and seemingly innocent babe, that
slumbers on its mother's breast, will show symptoms of anger,
jealousy, stubbornness and disobedience? Let that child alone, and,
without a teacher, it will learn to lie, deceive, steal, curse, give
pain to others, etc. But, without a teacher, it will not learn to
pray, confess wrong, and "fear, love and trust in God above all
things." Are these the symptoms and evidences of inward purity, or of
Again, that child is subject to sickness, suffering and death. As
soon as it draws its first breath its life is a struggle. It must
contend against the inroads of disease. Its little body is attacked by
dire maladies. It is weakened by suffering and often racked by pain.
And how frequently the feeble life succumbs and the lately-born infant
How can we account for this on the ground of infant sinlessness?
Do we not all believe that suffering and death are the results of sin?
Is there, can there be suffering and death where there is no sin? No;
"_the wages of sin is death_." But this wages is never exacted
where the work of sin has not been done. The conclusion then is
irresistible. The child is a sinner. It needs salvation. It must be
reached by saving Grace. It must be counted in. It is one of the
subjects of salvation, and must be brought into the Way of Salvation.
The Church is the Bride of Christ, the institution through which
Christ brings and applies this Grace to the children of men. She must
begin with the child. She must reach down to the tender infant and
carry the cleansing and life-giving Grace of the Redeemer even into
its sin-sick soul.
How is this to be done? How does the Lutheran Church propose to
reach that child? This we shall try to answer as we advance.
ALL THAT IS BORN OF THE FLESH MUST
BE BORN OF THE SPIRIT.
In the former chapter we have shown, from Scripture and from
reason, that our Church teaches only the plain truth, when she
confesses that: "After Adam's fall, all men, begotten after the common
course of nature, are born with sin."
As a sinful being the new-born infant is not in the Way of
Salvation. By its natural birth, from sinful parents, it is not in the
kingdom of God, but in the realm and under the dominion of sin, death
and the devil. If left to itself--to the undisturbed development of
its own nature, it must miserably and hopelessly perish. True, there
is a _relative_ innocence. The Apostle exhorts: "_Be ye
followers of God, as dear children._" "_In malice be ye children._"
Our blessed Saviour, on several occasions, rebuked the vain, ambitious
spirit of the disciples by contrasting it with the spirit of a little
child. He said: "_Of such is the kingdom of heaven_," and
"_Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot
enter the kingdom of heaven_."
These passages are generally quoted by those who refuse to
believe the doctrine of Original Sin, as though they taught
sinlessness and entire fitness for the kingdom. But if we accept this
interpretation, then the Scriptures contradict themselves; for we have
seen that, in many places, they clearly teach the opposite. These
passages can only mean that children are _relatively_ innocent.
Compared with the forbidding, haughty, loveless disciples, little
children are much _better subjects_ for the kingdom. While the
roots of sin are there, that sin has not yet done its hardening work.
They do not wilfully resist the good. They are much more tender,
docile, trustful and loving. The Grace of God has less to overcome in
them. They are more easily reached, and thus are fit subjects to be
brought into the kingdom of God. In this sense only can it be said,
"_Suffer the little children to come unto me_," that I may touch
them, bless them, impart my Grace to them, and thus make them
partakers of my kingdom. "_Of such is the kingdom_" because I
desire and purpose to bring them into the kingdom.
Thus far we can safely go. This much in favor of the child, over
against the adult, we freely admit. But this does not say that the
child is innocent, pure and holy by nature. The undeveloped roots and
germs of sin are still there. Its nature is evil. It must be saved
from that moral nature. How?
Here again we meet those who have a very easy solution of the
difficulty. They say: "Admitting that the child has sin, this will in
no way endanger its salvation, because Christ died to take away sin.
They have no _conscious_ sin. Therefore, the atonement of Christ
covers their case, and, without anything further, they pass into
heaven, if they die in their infancy."
This view seems to satisfy a great many well-meaning people.
Without giving the matter any further thought, they dismiss it with
this easy solution. Surely, did they stop to consider and examine this
theory, they would see it has no foundation.
Christ's atonement alone, and in itself, never saved a soul. It
removed the obstacles that were in the way of our salvation, opened
the way back to our Father's house, purchased forgiveness and
salvation for us. But all this profits the sinner nothing, so long as
he is not brought into that way; so long as the salvation is not
applied to him personally. Neither can we speak of salvation being
applied to an unrenewed, sinful nature. We cannot even conceive of
forgiveness for an unregenerate being. This would, indeed, be to take
away the guilt of sin, while its power remained. It would be to save
the sinner in and with his sin.
The position is utterly groundless. It is even contrary to
reason. It assumes that a being who has in his heart, as a very part
of his nature, the roots and germs of sin, can, with that heart
unchanged, enter into the kingdom of God. It makes God look upon sin
with allowance. It does violence to the holiness of His nature. It
makes heaven the abode of the unclean.
No, no. It will not do. When men try to avoid what seem to them
difficult and unwelcome doctrines of God's Word, they run into far
greater difficulties and contradictions. That child is conceived and
born in sin. It is a child of wrath, _dead in trespasses and in
sins_. Its nature must be cleansed and renewed. Otherwise, if it
can be saved as it is, there are unregenerate souls in heaven!
Better abide by what is written, and believe that every one,
infant or adult, who has been born of the flesh, must be born of the
Spirit. Listen to the earnest words of Jesus as he emphasizes them
with that solemn double affirmation, "_Verily, verily, I say unto you,
except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God_." He
repeats this sweeping declaration a second time. In the Greek it
reads, Except _any one_ be born again. The assertion is intended to
embrace every human being. Lest this should be disputed, Jesus further
says, "_That which is born of the flesh_"--i.e., naturally born--"_is
flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit._" Wherever
there is a birth of the flesh, there must be a birth of the Spirit.
The flesh-born cannot even _see_ the kingdom of God, much less enjoy
it, still less possess it. There must be new life, divine life,
spiritual life breathed into that fleshly, carnal nature. Thus will
there be a new heart; a new spirit, a new creature. Then, and not till
then, can there be comprehension, apprehension and appreciation of the
things of the kingdom of God. This is the teaching of the whole Word
of God. Gal. vi. 15: "_For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision
availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature_"--i.e.,
neither Jewish birth nor Gentile birth, without the new birth.
Here also then our Church confesses the pure truth of God's Word,
when, in the second Article of the Augsburg Confession, as quoted
above, she goes on to say: "And this disease, or original fault, is
truly sin, condemning and bringing eternal death upon all that are not
Here then we take our stand. No child can be saved unless it be
first reached by renewing Grace. If ever an infant did die, or should
die, in that state in which it was born, _unchanged_ by divine Grace,
that infant is lost. There are, there can be, no unregenerate souls in
heaven. Where there is no infant regeneration, there can be no infant
Here also we remark, in passing, that this doctrine, of the
absolute necessity of infant regeneration, is not held by the Lutheran
Church alone. Even the Romish and Greek Churches teach that it is
impossible for any human creature, without a change from that
condition in which he was born, to enter heaven. All the great
historic confessions of the Protestant churches confess the same
truth. Even the Calvinistic Baptists confess the necessity of infant
In short all churches that have paid much attention to theology,
and have been careful to have consistent systems of doctrine, agree on
this point. However much those who call themselves by their names may
deny it, in their preaching and in their conversation, their own
confessions of faith and their greatest and best theologians clearly
Yes, there must be infant regeneration. But is it possible? Can
the Grace of God reach the helpless infant? Will He reach down and
make it a new creature in Christ Jesus? Has He made provision for this
end? Yes, thanks be to his abounding Grace, we believe He can and will
save the child, and has committed to His spouse, the Church, a means
of Grace for this purpose. He, of whom it was prophesied long before
He came, that He would "_gather the lambs in His arms and carry them
in His bosom_;" who made it the first duty of the reinstated apostle
to _feed His lambs_, must have a special care for them. It is not His
or His Father's will "_that one of them should perish_." He has made
provision for these sin-stricken ones, whereby His Grace can reach
down to renew and heal them. There is Balm in Gilead. The Great
Physician is there. The Church need only apply His divine, life-giving
remedy. Of this we will speak in the next chapter.
THE PRESENT, A DISPENSATION OF MEANS.
We have seen that the carnal, sinful nature of the child unfits
it for the kingdom of heaven; that, therefore, there must be a change
in that nature, even the birth of a new life, and the life of a new
creature, before there can be either part or lot in the kingdom of
God. We have also expressed our firm conviction that it is the good
and gracious will of God in Christ to bestow upon the poor sin-sick
and unholy child the Grace needed to so change it as to make it a
partaker of His great salvation. We do not deem it necessary to stop
to multiply scripture passages and arguments to prove this.
From beginning to end, the divine Word everywhere represents our
God as a most loving, gracious, compassionate and tender Being. The
tenor of the whole record is, that He delights in showing mercy,
forgiving iniquity, and bestowing the Grace that bringeth salvation.
He only punishes when justice absolutely demands it, and then
reluctantly. It is not His will that any should perish.
Beyond controversy, God is _willing_ to save the little helpless
sufferers from sin, by making them subjects of His kingdom of Grace
here, and thus of His kingdom of glory hereafter.
But _can_ He? Is He able to reach down to that unconscious
little child, apply to it the benefits of the atonement, impart to it
the Grace of the new life, subdue the power of sin, and remove
entirely its guilt? We are almost ashamed to ask such questions. And
yet the humiliating fact is, that day by day, in every village and on
every highway of our land, we can hear men and women, professing to be
Christians and calling themselves members of Christ's Church, gravely
asserting that their Redeemer cannot so bless a little child as to
change its sinful nature! If hard pressed, these persons, so wise in
their own conceits, may admit that He can change a child's nature if
He so wills, but they still feel certain that he cannot do so through
His own sacrament, instituted for that very purpose! Thus would they
limit the Holy One of Israel, and say to Omnipotence: "Hitherto canst
Thou come, but no farther."
With such people, wise above what is written, knowing better than
Christ, practically, even if not intentionally, charging the Son of
God with folly, we desire no controversy. Let them overthrow the very
foundations of redemption if they will. Let them argue that all things
are not possible with God if they dare. We still prefer to believe
that the Spirit of God _can_ change, renew and regenerate the new-born
child. In Matt. iii. 9, we read; "_For I say unto you that God is able
of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham_," _i.e._, as the
connection shows, spiritual children of Abraham, true children of God.
We may not be able to understand the process by which God could
change the rough, hard stones of the field into true children of God,
but we believe it, because the Word says so. And believing that, it is
not hard for us to believe that He can impart His own divine life to
the heart of the child, and thus make it a new creature in Christ
He could, if it so pleased Him, do it without any means. By a
mere act of His will, God could recreate the human soul. He could do
so by a word, as He created the universe. Without the contact of any
outward means, without the bringing of His word to them in any way,
Christ healed the ruler's son and the daughter of the Syro-Phenician
woman. But if He can do this without means, who will say that He
cannot do the same thing through means? Since, then, He can accomplish
his own purposes of Grace either with or without means, it only
remains for us to inquire, in what way has it pleased God to work?
Does He in the present dispensation work mediately or immediately? It
will scarcely be disputed that the present is a dispensation of
means--that even in the domain of nature, and much more in the realm
of Grace, He ordinarily carries out His purposes through means. He
chooses His own means. They may sometimes seem foolishness to man,
especially in the operations of His Grace.
Our Saviour, in working miracles, used some means that must have
struck those interested as very unsuitable. When He healed the man
blind from his birth, _He mixed spittle and clay_, and with this
strange ointment, anointed and opened his eyes. Well might the blind
man have said: "What good can a little earth mixed with spittle do?"
Yet it pleased our Lord to use it as a means, in working that
stupendous miracle. When Jesus asked for the _five barley loaves and
two small fishes_, to feed the five thousand, even an apostle said:
"_What are these among so many_?" Yes, what are they? In the
hands of a mere man, nothing--nay, worse than nothing; only enough to
taunt the hungry thousands and become a cause of strife and riot. But
in the hands of the Son of God, with His blessing on them, taken from
His hands, and distributed according to His Word, they became a feast
in the wilderness.
A poor woman, a sufferer for twelve years, craves healing from
our Lord. With a woman's faith, timid though strong, she presses
through the crowd close to Jesus, and with her trembling bony fingers
touches the hem of His garment. Jesus perceives that virtue is gone
out of Him. The woman perceives that virtue, healing and life are come
into her. There was a transfer from Christ's blessed life-giving body,
into the diseased suffering body of the woman. And what was the medium
of the transfer? The fringe of His garment--a piece of cloth. Yes, if
it so pleases the mighty God, the everlasting Saviour, He can use a
piece of cloth as a means to transfer healing and life from Himself to
a suffering one.
The same divine Saviour now works through means. He has founded a
Church, ordained a ministry, and instituted the preaching of the Word
and the administration of His own sacraments. Christ now works in and
through His Church. Through her ministry, preaching the Word, and
administering the sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given. (Augsburg
Confession, Article 5.) When Christ sent forth His apostles to make
disciples of all nations, He instructed them how they were to do it.
The commission correctly translated, as we have it in the Revised New
Testament reads thus: "_Go ye, therefore, and make disciples_ _of all
the nations, baptising them into the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the
end of the world._" Here then is the Saviour's explicit instruction.
The Apostles are to _make disciples_. This is the object of their
mission. How are they to do it? By _baptizing_ them into the name of
the triune God, _and teaching_ them to observe all Christ's commands.
This is Christ's own appointed way of applying His Grace to sinful
men, and bringing them out of a state of sin into a state of grace.
And this is the Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church. We begin
with the child, who needs Grace. We begin by baptizing that child into
Christ. We, therefore, lay much stress on baptism. We teach our people
that it is sinful, if not perilous, to neglect the baptism of their
children. The Lutheran Church attaches more importance to this divine
ordinance than any other Protestant denomination. While all around us
there has been a weakening and yielding on this point; while the
spirit of our age and country scorns the idea of a child receiving
divine Grace through baptism; while it has become offensive to the
popular ear to speak of baptismal Grace, our Church, wherever she has
been and is true to herself, stands to-day where Martin Luther and his
co-workers stood, where the confessors of Augsburg stood, and where
the framers of the Book of Concord stood.
The world still asks: "What good can a little water do?" We
answer, first of all: "Baptism _is not simply water_, but it is
the water comprehended in God's command, and connected with God's
Word." (Luther's Small Catechism.) The Lutheran Church knows of no
baptism that is only "a little water." We cannot speak of such a
baptism. Let it be clearly understood that when we speak of baptism,
we speak of it as defined above, by Luther. We cannot separate the
water from the Word. We would not dare to baptize with water without
the Word. In the words of Luther, _that_ would be "simply water,
and no baptism." Let it be kept constantly in mind that whatever
benefits and effects we ascribe to baptism, in the further forcible
words of Luther's Catechism: "It is not the water, indeed, that
produces these effects, but the Word of God which accompanies and is
connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of
God connected with the water." If now the question is further asked:
What good can baptism as thus defined do? we will try to answer, or,
rather, we will let God's Word answer. "What saith the Scripture?"
BAPTISM, A DIVINELY APPOINTED MEANS OF GRACE.
When we inquire into the benefits and blessings which the Word of
God connects with baptism, we must be careful to obtain the true sense
and necessary meaning of its declarations. It is not enough to pick
out an isolated passage or two, give them a sense of our own, and
forthwith build on them a theory or doctrine. In this way the Holy
Scriptures have been made to teach and support the gravest errors and
most dangerous heresies. In this way, many persons "_wrest the
Scriptures to their own destruction_." On this important point our
Church has laid down certain plain, practical, safe and sound
principles. By keeping in mind, and following these fundamental
directions, in the interpretation of the divine Word, the plainest
searcher of the Scriptures can save himself from great confusion,
perplexity and doubt.
One of the first and most important principle, insisted on by our
theologians and the framers of our Confessions, is that a passage of
Scripture is always to be taken in its natural, plain and literal
sense, unless there is something in the text itself, or in the
context, that clearly indicates that it is intended to convey a
Again: A passage is never to be torn from its connection, but is
to be studied in connection with what goes before and follows after.
Again--and this is of the greatest importance--Scripture is to be
interpreted by Scripture. As Quenstedt says: "Passages which need
explanation can and should be explained by other passages that are
more clear, and thus the Scripture itself furnishes an interpretation
of obscure expressions, when a comparison of these is made with those
that are more clear. So that Scripture is explained by Scripture."
According to these principles, we ought never to be fully certain
that any doctrine is scriptural, until we have examined all that the
divine Word says on the subject. In this manner then we wish to answer
the question with which we started this chapter: What is written as to
the benefits and blessings conferred in baptism?
We have already referred to the commission given to the Apostles
in Matt, xxviii. 19. We have seen that in that commission our Lord
makes baptism one of the means through which the Holy Spirit operates
in making men His disciples. In Mark xvi. 16, he says: "_He that
believeth and is baptized shall be saved._" In John iii. 5, he says:
"_Except a man_"--_i.e._, any one--"_be born of water and of the
Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God_." In Acts ii. 38, the
Apostle says: "_Repent and be baptized every one of you for the
remission of your sins._" Acts xxii. 16: "_Arise and be baptized, and
wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord._" Romans vi. 3:
"_Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Christ, were
baptized into His death._" Gal. iii. 27: "_For as many of you as have
been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ._" Eph. v. 25-26:
"_Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that He might
sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word._" Col.
ii. 12: "_Buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye are also risen with
Him through the faith of the operation of God._" Tit. iii. 5:
"_According to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration,
and renewing of the Holy Ghost._" 1 Pet. iii. 21: "_The like figure
whereunto even baptism doth also now save us; not the putting away of
the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward
God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ._"
These are the principal passages which treat of the subject of
baptism. There are a few other passages in which baptism is merely
mentioned, but not explained. There is not one passage that teaches
any thing different from those quoted.
All we now ask of the reader is to examine these passages
carefully, to compare them one with the other and to ask himself: What
do they teach? What is the meaning which a plain, unprejudiced reader,
who has implicit confidence in the Word and power of God, would derive
from them? Can he say, "There is nothing in baptism?" "It is of no
consequence." "It is only a Church ceremony, without any particular
blessing in it." Or do the words clearly teach it is nothing more than
a _sign_--an outward sign--of an invisible grace?
Look again at the expressions of these passages. We desire to be
clear here, because this is one of the points on which the Lutheran
Church to-day differs from so many others. Jesus mentions _water_ as
well as Spirit, when speaking of the new birth. "Make disciples, (by)
_baptizing_ them." "Be baptized _for the remission of your sins_." "_Be
baptized and _wash away thy sin._" "_Baptized _into Christ._" By
baptism "_put on Christ_." Christ designs to sanctify and cleanse the
Church with "the _washing of water_ by the Word." "_Washing of
regeneration_ and renewing of the Holy Ghost." "Baptism _doth also now
save us_." The language is certainly strong and plain. Any principle
of interpretation, by which baptismal Grace and regeneration can be
explained out of these passages, will overthrow every doctrine of our
holy Christian faith.
Our Catechism here also teaches nothing but the pure truth of the
Word, when it asserts that baptism "worketh forgiveness of sins,
delivers from death and the devil, and confers everlasting life and
salvation on all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare."
Our solid and impregnable Augsburg Confession, also, when in Article
II. it confesses that the new birth by baptism and the Holy Spirit
delivers from the power and penalty of original sin. Also in Article
IX., "of baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and
that by baptism the Grace of God is offered, and that children are to
be baptized, who by baptism being offered to God, are received into
God's favor." And so with all our other confessional writings.
The question might here be asked: Is baptism so absolutely
essential to salvation, that unbaptized children are lost? To this we
would briefly reply, that the very men who drew up our Confessions
deny emphatically that it is thus _absolutely_ necessary. Luther,
Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and others, repudiate the idea that an
unbaptized infant is lost. No single acknowledged theologian of the
Lutheran Church ever taught this repulsive doctrine. Why then does our
Confession say baptism is necessary to salvation? It is necessary in
the same sense in which it is necessary to use all Christ's
ordinances. The necessity is _ordinary_, not _absolute_. Ordinarily
Christ bestows His Grace on the child through baptism, as the means or
channel through which the Holy Spirit is conferred. But when, through
no fault of its own, this is not applied, He can reach it in some
As we have seen above, He is not so limited to certain means,
that His Grace cannot operate without them. The only thing on which
our Church insists in the case of a child as absolutely necessary, is
the new birth. Ordinarily this is effected, by the Holy Spirit,
through baptism, as the means of Grace. When the means, however,
cannot be applied, the Spirit of God can effect this new birth in some
other way. He is not bound to means. And from what we have learned
above of the will of God, toward these little ones, we have every
reason to believe that He does so reach and change every infant that
dies unbaptized. The position of our Church, as held by all her great
theologians, is tersely and clearly expressed in the words, "Not the
_absence_ but the _contempt_ of the sacrament condemns."
While the Lutheran Church, therefore, has confidence enough in
her dear heavenly Father and loving Saviour, to believe that her Lord
will never let a little one perish, but will always regenerate and fit
it for His blessed Kingdom ere he takes it hence, she still
strenuously insists on having the children of all her households
baptized into Christ.
Others may come and say: You have no authority in the Bible for
baptizing infants. Without entering fully on this point we will
briefly say: It is enough for a Lutheran to know that the divine
commission is to "_baptize the nations_"--there never was a
nation without infants. The children need Grace: baptism confers
Grace. It is specially adapted to impart spiritual blessings to these
little ones. We cannot take the preached Word, but we can take the
sacramental Word and apply it to them. God established infant
membership in his Church. He alone has a right to revoke it. He has
never done so. Therefore it stands. If the Old Testament covenant of
Grace embraced infants, the New is not narrower, but wider.
The pious Baptist mother's heart is much more scripturally
correct than her head. She presses her babe to her bosom, and prays
earnestly to Jesus to bless that babe. Her heart knows and believes
that that dear child _needs_ the blessing of Jesus, and that He
_can_ bestow the needed blessing. And yet she will deny that He
can bless it through His own sacrament.--"_the washing of water by
The devout Lutheran mother presses her baptized child to her
bosom, looks into its eyes, and thanks her Saviour from the depth of
her heart, that He has blessed her child; that He has breathed into it
His divine life, washed it, sealed it, and adopted it as His son or
daughter. How sweet the consolation to know that her precious little
one is a lamb of Christ's flock, "_bearing on its body the marks of
the Lord Jesus_."
But Christian parents have not fulfilled their whole duty in
having children baptized into Christ. The children are indeed in
covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. But it is their bounden duty
and blessed privilege to keep their little ones in that covenant of
Grace. Of this more in the next chapter.
THE BAPTISMAL COVENANT CAN BE KEPT UNBROKEN.
AIM AND RESPONSIBILITY OF PARENTS.
We have gone "_to the Law and to the Testimony_" to find out
what the nature and benefits of Baptism are. We have gathered out of
the Word all the principal passages bearing on this subject. We have
grouped them together, and studied them side by side. We have noticed
that their sense is uniform, clear, and strong. Unless we are willing
to throw aside all sound principles of interpretation, we can extract
from the words of inspiration only one meaning, and that is that the
baptized child is, by virtue of that divine ordinance, a new creature
in Christ Jesus.
Here let us be careful, however, to bear in mind and keep before
us that we claim for the child only the _birth_ of a new life. It has
been _born_ of water and the Spirit. A birth we know is but a very
feeble beginning of life. So faint are the flickerings of the natural
life at birth, that it is often doubtful at first whether any life is
present. The result of a birth is not a full-grown man, but a very
weak and helpless babe. The little life needs the most tender,
watchful and intelligent fostering and care.
So it is also in the Kingdom of Grace. The divine life is there.
But it is life in its first beginnings. As yet only the seeds and
germs of the new life. And this young spiritual life also needs gentle
fostering and careful nourishing. Like the natural life of the child,
so its spiritual life is beset with perils. While the germs of the new
life are there, we must not forget that the roots of sin are also
still there. Our Church does not teach with Rome that "sin (original)
is destroyed in baptism, so that it no longer exists." Hollazius says:
"The guilt and dominion of sin is taken away by baptism, but not the
root or tinder of sin." Luther also writes that "Baptism takes away
the guilt of sin, although the material, called concupiscence,
Unfortunately for the child these roots of sin will grow of their
own accord, like the weeds in our gardens. They need no fostering
care. Not so with the germs of the new life. They, like the most
precious plants of the gardens, must be watched and guarded and tended
continually. Solomon says: Prov. xxix. 15, "_A child left to himself
bringeth his mother to shame_." And this may be true even of a
The Christian parent, therefore, has not fulfilled his whole duty
to the child by having it baptized. It is now the parents' duty; or
rather it should be considered the parents' most blessed privilege to
_keep_ that child in covenant relationship with the blessed
Redeemer. This also belongs to the teaching of the Church of the
Reformation. This point, however, many parents seem to forget. Many
who are sound on the question of baptismal Grace, are very unsound as
to a parent's duty to the baptized child.
Hunnius, a recognized standard theologian of our Church, in
speaking of the responsibility of those who present children for
baptism says it is expected of them _First_, to answer, in behalf
of the child, as to the faith in which it is baptized, and in which it
is to be brought up. _Second_, to instruct the child when it
comes to years of discretion, that it has been truly baptized, as
Christ has commanded. _Third_, to pray for the child, that God
may keep it in that Covenant of Grace, bless it in body and spirit,
and finally save it with all true believers, and _Fourth_, to use
all diligence that the child may grow up in that faith, which they
have confessed in the child's name, and thus be preserved from
dangerous error and false doctrine.
That most delightful Lutheran theologian, Luthardt, says: "Infant
baptism is a comfort beyond any other, but it is also a responsibility
beyond any other." Again: "As Christians we know that God has bestowed
upon our children not only natural, but spiritual gifts. For our
children have been baptized and received by baptism into the Covenant
of Grace. To preserve them in this baptismal Grace, to develop in them
the life of God's spirit, this is one side of Christian education. To
contend against sin in the child is the other." Dr. Schmid, in his
Christian Ethics, also teaches that it is possible to continue in the
uninterrupted enjoyment of baptismal Grace. Dr. Pontoppidan, in his
explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, asks the question: "Is it
possible to keep one's baptismal covenant?" He answers; "Yes, by the
Grace of God it is possible."
The teaching of our Church, therefore, is that the baptized child
can grow up, a child of Grace from infancy, and that under God, it
rests principally with the parents or guardians whether it shall be
so. And this Lutheran idea, like all others, is grounded in the Word
We note a few examples: Samuel was a child of prayer, given to
his pious mother in answer to prayer. She called him Samuel, _i.e._,
asked of God. Before his birth even, she dedicated him to God. As soon
as he was weaned she carried him to the Tabernacle and there publicly
consecrated him to the service of the Most High. From this time forth,
according to the sacred record, he dwelt in God's Tabernacle and
"_ministered unto the Lord before Eli_". As a mere child God used him
as a prophet. Of the prophet Jeremiah it is written: (Jer. i. 5)
"_Before thou earnest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee._" Of
John the Baptist it is written: (Luke i. 15) "_He shall be filled with
the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb_". To Timothy, Paul says:
"_From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to
make thee wise unto salvation_," and in speaking of Timothy's faith
Paul says, that faith "_dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy
mother Eunice_." Psalms lxxi. 5-6: "_Thou art my trust from my youth.
By thee have I been holden up from the womb._"
It is therefore possible for God, not only to give His Grace to a
child, but to keep that child in His Grace all its days. To dispute
this is, simply, to dispute the record that God gave.
Lest some one should still say, however, that the examples above
noted are isolated and exceptional, we note further, that the tenor of
the whole Word is in harmony with this idea. Nowhere in the whole
Bible is it even intimated that it is God's desire or plan that
children must remain outside of the covenant of Grace, and have no
part or lot in the benefits of Christ's redeeming work until they come
to years of discretion and can choose for themselves. This modern idea
is utterly foreign and contradictory to all we know of God, of His
scheme of redemption, and of His dealings with His people, either in
the old or new dispensation. He ordained that infants at eight days
old should be brought into His covenant. He recognized infant children
as partakers of the blessings of His covenant. "_Out of the mouth of
babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise_;" "_Suffer them to come
unto Me_." Everywhere it is taken for granted that the children who
have received either the Old or New Testament sacrament of initiation
are His. Nowhere are parents exhorted to use their endeavors to have
such children converted, as though they had never been touched by
divine Grace. But everywhere they are exhorted to keep them in that
relation to their Lord, into which His own ordinance has brought them.
Gen. xviii. 19, "_I know that he will command his household after him,
and that they shall keep the way of the Lord_." Psalm lxxviii. 6, 7,
"_That the generation to come might know them, even the children which
should be born, which should arise and declare them to their children,
that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of
God, but keep His commandments_." Prov. xxii. 6, "_Train up a child in
the way he should go; when he is old he will not depart from it_."
Eph. vi. 4, "_Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the
Let the baptized child then be looked upon as already belonging
to Christ. Let the parents not worry as though it could not be His
until it experiences a change of heart. That heart has been changed.
The germs of faith and love are there. If the parent appreciates this
fact and does his part, there will be developed, very early, the
truest confidence and trust in Christ, and the purest love to God.
From the germs will grow the beautiful plant of child-trust and
child-love. The graces of the new life may be thus early drawn out, so
that the child, in after years, will never know of a time when it did
not trust and love, and as a result of this love, hate sin. This is
the ideal of God's Word. It is the ideal which every Christian parent
should strive to realize in the children given by God, and given to
God in His own ordinance. How can it be done? Of this, more in the
HOME INFLUENCE AND TRAINING IN THEIR RELATION TO
THE KEEPING OF THE BAPTISMAL COVENANT.
According to the last chapter, it is indeed a high and holy ideal
that every Christian parent should set before him in regard to his
children. Every child that God gives to a Christian parent is to be so
treated that, from the hour of its baptism, it is to be a son or
daughter of God. It is to be so fostered and nurtured and trained
that, from its earliest self-consciousness, it is to grow day by day
in knowledge and in Grace. As it increases in stature, so it is to
increase in wisdom and in favor with God and man.
In order that this may be realized, it is first of all necessary
that there be the proper surroundings. We cannot expect that parent to
draw out these graces of the new life in the child, who is not himself
imbued with a spirit of living faith and fervent love to Christ. In
the beautiful words of Luthardt: "Religion must first approach the
child in the form of life, and afterward in the form of instruction.
Let religion be the atmosphere by which the child is surrounded, the
air which it breathes. The whole spirit of the home, its order, its
practice--that world in which the child finds himself so soon as he
knows himself--this it is which must make religion appear to him a
thing natural and self-evident."
And this is especially important for the mother. It is while
resting on the mother's bosom and playing at the mother's knee, that
the child is receiving impressions that are stones for character
building. The father, of course, is not released from responsibility.
He too is to set a holy example, to make impressions for good and to
use all his influence to direct the thoughts and inclinations of the
child upward. The man who does not help in the religious training of
his own children is not fit to be a father. But it is after all with
the mother that the little child spends most of its time and receives
most of its impressions. Oh, that every mother were a Hannah, an
Elizabeth, an Eunice. Then would there be more Samuels, Johns and
Timothys. Let us have more of the spirit of Christ in the heart of the
mother and father, and in the home. Let the child learn, with the
first dawnings of self-consciousness, that Jesus is known and loved
and honored in the home, and there will be no trouble about the
But the child must be instructed. Begin early. Let it learn to
pray as soon as it can speak. Let it use its first lispings and
stammerings in speaking words of prayer. We quote again from Luthardt:
"Let it not be objected that the child cannot understand the prayer.
The way of education is by practice to understanding, not by
understanding to practice. And the child will have a feeling and a
presentiment of what it cannot understand. The world of heavenly
things is not an incomprehensible region to the child, but the home of
its spirit. The child will speak to his Father in Heaven without
needing much instruction as to who that Father is. It seems as though
God were a well-known friend of his heart. The child will love to
pray. If mother forgets it, the child will not."
Therefore, oh, ye parents! pray for your child. Pray with your
child. Teach that child to pray. The writer knows of a little girl who
came home from Sunday-school and said: "Mamma, why don't you ever
pray?" What a rebuke!
The child must be taught the truth of God's Word. It also must be
sanctified, _i.e._, made more and more holy "_through the truth_." As
a child it needs first the "_milk of the Word_." It is not desirable,
neither is it necessary, to try to teach the very young child
doctrines and abstract truths. Neither ought the child to be required
to learn by rote long passages from the Scriptures. In this way some
well-meaning, but mistaken parents make the Word a burden to their
children, and it becomes odious in their eyes. There are other and
better ways. Begin by showing the child Bible pictures, even if it
should soil the book a little. Better a thousand times have its
lessons of life and love graven on the heart of the child, than to
have its fine engravings as a parlor ornament for strangers. In our
day there is also an abundant supply of Bible pictures and story books
for children. Those parents who have never tried it will be surprised
to see the interest the little ones take. With the pictures connect
the stories of the Bible. And where are the stories better calculated
to interest a child than these same old stories, that have edified a
hundred generations? When will children ever weary of hearing of
Joseph, and Moses, and David, and Daniel, and especially of Him who is
the special Friend of children? It will be easy to so connect the
teachings of the Word with these pictures and stories that very young
children will be able to distinguish right from wrong, to know and
hate sin, and to be drawn ever nearer to the blessed Jesus.
As they become able to study, to think and to comprehend it, the
judicious parent will be glad to avail himself of the help of Luther's
Catechism. Here the more important teachings of the Word are
summarized and systemized.
Most parents indeed are glad to shirk this duty, and flatter
themselves that if they send their children to catechetical class,
when they grow old enough, they have performed their whole duty. Such
parents do not perhaps know, that Martin Luther wrote his Small
Catechism especially for family use. Let them take their Church books
and turn to the Catechism, and they will find that Luther heads the
Ten Commandments with the words: "In the plain form in which they are
to be taught by the head of the family."
So also with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Sacraments.
This is Luther's idea.
It is the true idea. It belongs to the Way of Salvation in the
Lutheran Church. It is the custom, still practiced in our older
Lutheran churches. The pastor, as we shall see hereafter, is only to
help the parents, and not to do it all for them. In teaching the
Catechism at home, it will give parents an opportunity to speak of and
explain what sin is, what faith is, what prayer is, and what the
We would impress also the importance of instructing the child
concerning its own baptism. Let it understand not only the fact of its
baptism, but the nature, benefits and obligations of the same. It
certainly has a most salutary effect to impress the thought on the
child frequently that it was given to Christ and belongs to Him--that
He has received it as His own, and adopted it into the family of the
Here also there is a sad neglect on the part of parents. Many
never say a word to their children about their baptism. Many children
even grow up and know not whether they are baptized or not. This is
certainly un-Scriptural and un-Lutheran. "_Know ye not_," says
Paul, as if he said, have you forgotten it? "_that as many of us as
have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death_?"
Doubtless if we appreciated our own baptism as we should, it would be
a constant source of comfort, a never-failing fountain of Grace to us,
and to our children.
The Apostles frequently speak of the "_Church that is in the
house_." By this they mean such a household as we have tried to
portray--a home where the religion of our blessed Saviour permeates
the whole atmosphere; where the Word of God dwells richly; where there
are altars of prayer and closets for prayer--a home where Jesus is a
daily, a well-known Guest; where the children, baptized into Christ,
are nourished with the milk of the Word, so that they grow thereby,
increasing more and more, growing up unto Him who is the Head, even
Christ. In such a home the Church is in the house, and the household
in the Church. Blessed home! Blessed children, who have such parents!
Blessed parents, who have thus learned God's ways of Grace! No
anxious, restless parents there, hoping and praying that their
children may be converted. No confused, repelled children there,
crying because Jesus will not love them till they "get religion." On
the contrary, parents and children, kneeling at one altar, children of
one Father, with the same trust, the same hope, the same Lord--hand in
hand they go from the church in the house to the house of God's
Says Dr. Cuyler, an eminent Presbyterian, "The children of
Christian parents ought never to need conversion."
THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL IN ITS RELATION TO
THE BAPTIZED CHILDREN OF CHRISTIAN PARENTS.
We have tried to set forth the Lutheran idea of a Christian home.
In such a home, called, "_a Church in the House_," all ought to
be Christians. The children having been given and consecrated to
Christ in holy baptism, and having had His renewing and life-giving
Grace imparted to them through that Sacrament, are to be kept in that
relationship with Him.
The popular idea that they must of necessity, during the most
impressible and important period of their existence, belong to the
world, the flesh and the devil, is utterly foreign to the Lutheran, or
Scriptural view. That the child is fated, for a number of years, to be
under the influence of evil, and to be permitted to "sow wild oats"
before divine Grace can reach it, is certainly a principle that is
contradictory to the whole scheme of salvation. Yet this seems to be
the idea of those parents who will not believe that God can reach and
change the nature of a child, and bring it out of the state of nature
into the state of Grace, and keep it in that Grace. These people treat
their children much as a farmer does his colts, letting them run wild
for a while, and then violently breaking them in.
This pernicious idea has also obtained sway to an alarming extent
in the Sunday-school system of our land. The children in the
Sunday-school, whether baptized or not, whether from Christian or
Christless homes, are looked upon as outsiders, impenitent sinners,
utter strangers to Christ and His Grace, until they experience such a
marked change that they can tell exactly where and when and how they
were converted. Hence the popular idea that it is the object of the
Sunday-school to _convert_ the children. This seems to be the
underlying principle of both the American Sunday-school Union and
American Tract Society; institutions otherwise so excellent that we
are loth to say aught against either. This idea pervades also the
undenominational helps and comments of the International Lesson
System. This is the undertone of the great mass of undenominational
Sunday-school hymnology. It is the key-note of the County, State,
National and International Sunday-school Conventions and Institutes.
So popular and wide-spread is this idea that many Lutheran pastors,
Sunday-school teachers and workers have unconsciously imbibed it. Even
our Church papers, professing to be strictly confessional, often
publish articles setting forth the idea that it is the object of the
Sunday-school to _Christianize_ the children. As though the baptized
children of the Church, the children of devout Christian parents, had
been heathen, until Christianized by the Sunday-school! Many of our
Sunday-school constitutions also set it down as the object of the
school to "lead the children to Christ," or to "labor for their
Now we believe that this idea is un-Scriptural and therefore
un-Lutheran. If what we have written in the preceding chapters on
baptismal Grace, the baptismal covenant, and the possibility of
keeping that covenant, is true, then this popular idea, set forth
above, is false. And _vice versa_, if this popular view is
correct, then the whole Lutheran system of baptism, baptismal Grace,
and the baptismal covenant, falls to the ground.
But notwithstanding the immense array of opposition, we still
believe that the Lutheran doctrine is nothing else than the pure
teaching of God's word. Where we have the "_Church in the House_,"
there we have lambs of Christ's flock. Ah, how many more we could
have, how many more we would have, if the fathers and mothers in the
Church understood this precious article of our faith, and prayerfully
built their home life thereon! Then would there be a more regular and
healthful growth of the Church, and the necessity for fitful,
spasmodic revival efforts would cease. But we digress.
From our Christian homes the baptized children of the Church come
to the Sunday-school. How is the school to treat them?--We speak now
of the baptized children from Christian homes; we will speak of the
unbaptized and untrained further on.
These children, with all their childish waywardness and
restlessness, do generally love Jesus. They do trust in Him, and are
unhappy when they know they have committed a sin against Him. They do,
when taught, pray to Him, believe that He hears their prayers and
loves them. Shall the teacher now begin to impress upon the minds and
hearts of these little ones the idea that they are not yet Christ's,
and that Christ has nothing to do with them, except to seek and call
them, until they are converted? And shall they go home from
Sunday-school with the impression that all their prayers have been
empty and useless, because their hearts have not been changed? Dare
the Sunday-school thus confuse the child, raise doubts as to Christ's
forgiveness and love, and "_quench the Spirit_?" Oh how sad, that
thus thousands of children have their first love, their first trust,
quenched by those who have more zeal than knowledge!
No, no, these are Christ's lambs. They come with His marks upon
them. Let the Sunday-school teacher work in harmony with the mother
who gave these children to Christ. Let the whole atmosphere of the
school impress on that child the precious truth that it is Jesus'
little lamb. _Feed_ that lamb, feed it with _the sincere milk
of the Word_. Lead that lamb gently; teach it to understand its
relation to the Great Shepherd, to know Him, to rejoice in His love,
to love His voice, to follow His leadings more and more closely.
Instead of singing doubtfully and dolefully:
"I am young, but I must die,
In my grave I soon shall lie.
Am I ready now to go,
If the will of God be so?"
"Child of sin and sorrow
Filled with dismay,
Wait not for to-morrow;
Yield thee to-day:" etc.
"Depth of mercy, can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?" etc.
"Hasten, sinner, to be wise,
Stay not for to-morrow's sun," etc
"I can but perish if I go,
I am resolved to try,
For, if I stay away, I know
I shall forever die."
"When saints gather round Thee, dear Saviour above,
And hasten to crown Thee with jewels of love,
Amid those bright mansions of glory so fair--
Oh, tell me, dear Saviour, if I shall be there!"
Some of these sentiments are unscriptural. Some may do for
penitent prodigals. But all are out of place on the lips of baptized
children of the Church. Let such rather joyfully sing:
"I am Jesus' little lamb,
Therefore glad and gay I am;
Jesus loves me, Jesus knows me,
All that's good and fair He shows me,
Tends me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name,"
and such other cheerful and healthy hymns as breathe the spirit
of the Church of the Reformation.
This we believe to be the object of our Sunday-schools, as far as
the baptized children of Christian parents are concerned. They are to
be _helps_, to keep the children true to their baptismal
covenant, and to enable them to grow strong and stronger against sin
and in holiness. Jesus did not tell Peter to _convert_, but
_feed_ His lambs.
From these considerations we see how important it is for Lutheran
Sunday-schools to have teachers who "_know of the doctrine, whether
it be true_;" who are "_rooted and grounded in the faith_;"
who are "_ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh
them a reason of the hope that is in them_;" who are "_apt to
A teacher who does not understand and appreciate the Lutheran
doctrine of baptism is out of place in a Lutheran Sunday-school. It is
certainly not desirable to have the child instructed at home that it
was given to Christ in baptism, received and owned by Him and belongs
to Him, and then have the Sunday-school teacher teach it that until it
experiences some remarkable change, which the teacher cannot at all
explain, it belongs not to Christ, but to the unconverted world. The
teaching of the pulpit, the catechetical class, the home and the
Sunday-school, ought certainly to be in perfect harmony--especially so
on the vital point of the personal relation of the child to the
Saviour and His salvation. To have clashing and contradictory
instruction is a sure way to sow the seeds of doubt and skepticism.
We must have sound instruction and influence in the
Sunday-school, and to this end we must have sound and clear helps and
equipments for teacher and pupil. The worship of the school, the
singing, the opening and closing exercises, must all be in harmony
with this great fundamental idea of feeding those who are already
THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL--ITS RELATION TO THOSE IN COVENANT
RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST, AND ALSO
TO THE UNBAPTIZED AND WANDERING.
We are still speaking of the dealing of the Sunday-school with
the baptized children of Christian parents. We have seen how important
it is that the Sunday-school work in harmony with the pastor and the
parent. We have seen that, to this end, it is especially important
that the instruction of the teacher be in harmony with the doctrine of
our Church on baptismal Grace, and the keeping of the baptismal
Here, however, we meet with a practical difficulty. Too many of
our teachers are not clear themselves on this subject. Their own early
instruction may have been imperfect. Their whole environment has been
unfavorable to rooting and grounding them in this faith, once
delivered to the saints. This old-fashioned faith, as we have seen,
has become unpopular with the masses even of professing Christians.
The whole current of the religionism of the day is against it. In many
localities and circles, to profess this faith is to invite ridicule
and opposition. The Lutheran Church in this matter, as in others, is
behind the age, because the age is away ahead of Christ and the
Apostles, the Church Fathers and Reformers.
What wonder then that in many places, our members, on whom we
must depend for teachers, have unconsciously drifted away from the old
landmarks, and are altogether at sea as to God's means and methods of
Grace, especially with the children?
It is, therefore, a matter of the gravest importance that our
Church place in the hands of her willing but inexperienced teachers
such plain, practical and full helps and equipments as will enable
them to be safe and successful instructors in our Sunday-schools. Our
good teachers are always willing to learn. They need to be and want to
be first taught. They need clear, sound exposition, illustration and
application of every lesson for themselves, before they can
successfully teach others. They need to be shown in every lesson, how
the divine Word everywhere sets forth the precious doctrines of our
Church. They need to be shown over and over again, how these doctrines
are to be impressed and applied to the heart, conscience, and life of
the pupil; and how the truth is to be so instilled that it may, by
means of every lesson, awaken and deepen a sense of sinfulness, and
repentance therefor, and beget and increase faith and love for the
dear Saviour. Every lesson that does not make sin more hateful and
Christ more precious, is in so far, a failure.
From what we have learned in the last chapter, a Lutheran
Sunday-school cannot safely use the literature, whether lesson leaves,
lesson helps, or hymns, of others. And this simply because their
sentiment is not only at variance with, but openly hostile to our
faith. It is therefore even more important for our Church than for any
other, to furnish all the necessary equipments for good, sound, live
Sunday-schools. Our equipments ought to aim to become more and more
superior to all others. The Church should strive to constantly improve
them until they become so desirable and attractive that no Lutheran
school would think of exchanging them for any others.
We hope to see the day when our Church will lead in all these
practical enterprises, even as she has led and still leads in the
sphere of sound doctrine. But we digress.
In these two chapters on Sunday-school work, we have thus far
spoken only of the relation of the school, to the baptized children of
Christian parents. A Sunday-school has, however, by no means fulfilled
its mission by looking only after those who are already lambs of the
flock. A Sunday-school, like a congregation, to be true to itself and
its divine Master, must be a missionary institution. In every
community there are lambs who have never been in the flock of the Good
Shepherd, or have already wandered astray. There are children who have
never been either baptized, or instructed in heavenly things at home.
Or, if baptized, they have been permitted to grow up afterwards as
wild as heathen children. Yes, even in the homes of members of our
Church, there are children, whether baptized or not, who are thus
growing up utterly neglected. If baptized, they don't even know it.
Much less do they know the significance of their baptism.
It is the mission of the Sunday-school to gather in these
destitute ones, from the street, and from their Christless homes. The
Sunday-school must become a spiritual home for them. The earnest
teacher can and ought to find out who of his pupils belong to this
class, and apply to such the needed instruction and exhortation. In
_their_ case it is truly the object of the Sunday-school to lead them
to Jesus, to labor for their conversion, to Christianize them. This,
as a matter of course, also applies to those, even from Christian
homes, who were baptized, and perhaps also, to some extent, instructed
in divine things, but who have gone astray, and thus fallen from their
baptismal covenant. All such, who are not at present in covenant
relationship with Christ, who are turned away from Christ, must be
turned back, _i.e._, converted.
Now this difficult work, this great change, can be accomplished
only through the power of God's Word. "_The law of the Lord is
perfect, converting the soul._" "_The Gospel of Christ is the power of
God unto salvation._" The words of Christ, "_they are spirit and
they are life_." If sinners, whether young or old, are to be
reclaimed for Christ, it must be through that Word which "_is
quick_"--_i.e._, full of life--"_and powerful and sharper
than any two-edged sword_."
Let the Sunday-school teacher depend on nothing else than this
Word of God. It is always accompanied by the Spirit of God. It is the
living seed of the new life. Let it be used prayerfully. Let it be
taught carefully. Let it be taught clearly. Let it be impressed and
applied to heart, and conscience, and life. Drive it home personally
and individually to the impenitent pupil. See him by himself, visit
him in his home, teach him in his class. Cease not your prayers and
your efforts till the Word so lodge and fasten itself in the mind and
conscience that it makes him realize his own sinfulness and need of a
Saviour, and also that Saviour's readiness to save. This is God's way
of salvation. This is the Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church. The
Sunday-school teacher who follows this way will win souls. The
impenitent sinners of his class will be brought to repentance toward
God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ: or in one word, they will be
converted; whilst those who are already Christ's will _grow in Grace
and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ_.
We have spoken of the importance and benefits of home training
and instruction. We endeavored to show that Christian parents are
under the most solemn obligation to instruct their children in the
truth of God's Word. We also endeavored to show that, in order to give
their children a clear understanding of the saving truths of the
Bible, they could do no better than to diligently teach them Luther's
Small Catechism; that this was really Luther's idea and purpose when
he wrote that excellent little religious manual; that the first
catechetical class ought indeed to be in the family, with father and
mother as teachers;--that this home class ought to be carried on so
long and so persistently, that in it the children would become
perfectly familiar with the contents of the book; so familiar indeed,
that they would know all the parts that Luther wrote perfectly by
heart. Luther's Small Cathechism, _i.e._, the parts that Luther wrote
himself, is really quite a small book. By giving only a little time
and attention to it each week, the parents could easily, in a few
years, have all their children know it as perfectly as they know their
multiplication table. And such ought to be the case.
After these beginnings have thus been made, and while the home
instruction is still going on, the work of the Sunday-school teacher
comes in as a help to the home class. In every Sunday-school class
there ought to be, with each lesson, some instruction in the
Catechism. To this end each teacher, in a Lutheran Sunday-school,
ought to be familiarly at home in this most important text-book. The
teacher should endeavor so to teach these lessons, that the pupil
would learn to love and appreciate the Catechism more and more. Thus,
the school ought to be a helper to the home. And thus, home and school
together, working in harmony for the same end, would prepare the
children for the pastor's catechetical class.
If this good old-fashioned custom were kept up in all our
households and schools, then would the pastor's catechetical class be
more of a pleasure and a profit to himself and his catechumens. It
would then be the pastor's part, as it should be, to review the
contents with his class, and thus to find how well the preparatory
work had been done. Then could he devote his time and energy to what
is really the pastor's part of the work, viz., to explain and set
forth clearly the meaning of the Catechism, and show how it all
applies to the heart and life of every one.
It is not at all the pastor's place, and it should never be
expected of him, to act the school-master, to see to and oversee the
memorizing of the answers. It is his office to expound and apply the
truth, to make the doctrines clear to the minds of the learners, and
to show how they are all related to the individual life.
But, alas, how little is this understood or practiced! How many
parents, who call themselves Christians, and Lutherans, seem to think
that they have nothing to do in this whole matter! They seem to think
that if they send their children once a week, for a few months, to the
pastor's class, they have done their whole duty. They do not so much
as help and encourage the children to learn the lessons that the
pastor assigns. And thus does this part of the pastor's work, which
ought to be among the most delightful of all his duties, become
wearisome to the flesh and vexatious to the spirit. Scarcely anywhere
else in all his duties does a pastor feel so helpless and hopeless and
discouraged, as when standing week after week before a class of young
people who have such poor instructors at home.
Christian parents, if you desire your sons and your daughters to
become steadfast and useful members of the Church of Christ, see to it
that you do your part in their religious instruction. Insist on it,
and even use your parental authority, if necessary, that your children
learn the Catechism and regularly attend the pastor's instructions.
We believe that the trouble in this matter lies largely in the
fact that catechisation has become unpopular in our fast age. It is
looked upon as a mark of old-fogyism, if not as an evidence of the
absence of "spiritual religion!" The new measures and methods of
modern revivals are more acceptable to the fickle multitude. They seem
to point out a shorter route and quicker time to heaven. As a boy once
said to the writer: "I don't want to belong to your church, because I
would have to study the Catechism all winter, and down at the other
church I can 'get through' in one night." That boy expressed about as
clearly and tersely as could well be done, the popular sentiment of
Yielding to this popular sentiment, many churches, that once
adhered strictly and firmly to the catechetical method, having either
dropped it entirely or are gradually giving it up. And in order to
clothe their spiritual cowardliness and laziness in a pious garb, they
say: "The Bible is enough for us." "We don't need any man-made
Catechisms." "It is all wrong anyhow to place a human book on a level
with or above the Bible." "We and our children want our religion from
the Spirit of God, and not from a Church Catechism," etc., etc.
Do such people know what they are talking about, or do they
sometimes use these pious phrases to quiet a guilty conscience? Do
they know what a Catechism is?
Look at it for a moment. What is the nature and object of
Luther's Small Catechism? Is it in the nature of a substitute for the
Bible? Does it purpose to set aside the Bible? We can scarcely muster
patience enough to write such questions. No! No!
Any child that can read this little book knows better. The
plainest reader cannot fail to see that it is intended as a
_help_ to understand the Bible. Its purpose clearly is to awaken
and develop in the reader or learner a more intelligent appreciation
and love for the Bible. It contains nothing but Bible truths. Its
design is simply this: To summarize and systematize the most important
truths and doctrines of the divine Word. To so arrange and group them
that even a child may learn what the Bible teaches as to creation,
sin, salvation, and the means whereby it may be attained.
We have the assurance, also--and we believe that history and
observation will bear out the statement--that those who appreciate and
have studied a sound scriptural Catechism most thoroughly, appreciate,
understand, love and live their Bibles most.
Of the contents, arrangement and intrinsic value of Luther's
Small Catechism, we will speak in the next chapter.
CONTENTS, ARRANGEMENT AND EXCELLENCE OF
LUTHER'S SMALL CATECHISM.
We have spoken of Luther's Small Catechism as a help with which
to lay hold of and understand the most important truths of the Bible.
These fundamental truths are taken from the Scriptures, and are so
grouped, arranged and explained that the learner can easily grasp and
understand them. That some of the truths contained in the Bible are of
greater importance than others will scarcely be denied.
It is certainly more important that the child should know and
understand the Ten Commandments, than that it should be familiar with
all the details of the ceremonial law. Certainly better to be familiar
with the Apostles' Creed, than to know all about the building of the
Temple. Better be able to repeat and understand the Lord's Prayer,
than to have a clear knowledge of the elaborate ritual of the Temple
service. Better understand the meaning of Christ's two Sacraments than
to be able to tell all about the great feasts of the Jews.
If any one can know all these other matters also, so much the
better. The Catechism will certainly be a help instead of a hindrance
to this end. But if all cannot be learned--at least not at once--let
the most important be taught first. And for this we have a Catechism.
Look at its contents. It is divided into five parts. Each
division treats of a separate subject. The first contains the Ten
Commandments, with a brief yet full explanation of each Commandment.
The second part has the three articles of the Apostles' Creed, with a
clear and most beautiful explanation of each one. The third is the
Lord's Prayer, its introduction, the seven petitions, and the
conclusion; with a terse, though comprehensive explanation of each
sentence. The fourth and fifth parts treat similarly of the two
sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Here then we have, in a brief space, the most important teachings
of the whole Bible systematically arranged and clearly explained. Of
these contents and their arrangement, Luther himself says:
"This Catechism is truly the Bible of the laity (or common
people), wherein is contained the entire doctrine necessary to be
known by every Christian for salvation. Here we have first the Ten
Commandments of God, the doctrine of doctrines, by which the will of
God is known, what God would have us to do and what is wanting in us.
"Secondly: The Apostles' Creed, the history of histories, or the
highest history, wherein are delivered to us the wonderful works of
God from the beginning, how we and all creatures are created by God,
how all are redeemed by the Son of God, how we are also received and
sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and collected together to a people of
God, and have the remission of sins and everlasting salvation.
"Thirdly: The Lord's Prayer, the prayer of prayers, the highest
prayer which the highest Master taught, wherein are included all
temporal and spiritual blessings, and the strongest comforts in all
temptations and troubles, and in the hour of death.
"Fourthly: The blessed Sacraments, the ceremonies of ceremonies,
which God himself has instituted and ordained, and therein assured us
of his Grace."
John Arndt, in a sermon on the Catechism, says: "The Catechism is
a brief instruction in the Christian religion, and includes in itself
the doctrine of the Law of God, Christian Faith, the Lord's Prayer,
the institutions of Holy Baptism and of the Lord's Supper, which five
parts are an epitome and kernel of the entire Holy Scriptures, for
which reason it is called a 'Little Bible.'"
Dr. Seiss, in his Ecclesia Lutherana, says: "It is the completest
summary of the contents of the Bible ever given in the same number of
words. It gave to the reviving Church a text-book for the presentation
of the truth as it is in Jesus to the school, lecture-room and
The sainted Dr. Krauth says: "The Catechism is a thread through
the labyrinth of divine wonders. Persons often get confused, but if
they will hold on to this Catechism it will lead them through without
being lost. It is often called the 'Little Bible' and 'the Bible of
the laity' because it presents the plain and simple doctrines of the
Holy Book in its own words. Pearls strung are easily carried, unstrung
they are easily lost. The Catechism is a string of Bible Pearls. The
order of arrangement is the historical--the Law, Faith, Prayer,
Sacrament of Baptism, and all crowned with the Lord's Supper--just as
God worked them out and fixed them in history."
Thus we might go on quoting page after page of words of
admiration and praise, from the greatest minds in our and other
Churches, of the contents and arrangement of this little book. Neither
can we charge these writers with extravagance in their utterances. For
the more we examine and study the pages of this little book, the more
we are convinced that it is unique and most admirable in its matter
Let each one look for a moment at himself, and then from himself
into this little book.
I come into this world ignorant, yet full of presentiments and
questions. I learn my first vague lesson about myself and God. I
naturally ask: For what purpose has God put me here? What does He wish
me to do? The Catechism answers: To do His will, to keep His
commandments. Here they are, and this is what they mean. I study them,
and the more I study them, the more am I convinced that I never did
and never can perfectly keep this law.
I ask again: What shall I do? My Catechism tells me I must have
faith. I must believe. But what shall I believe? Answer: This summary
of truth called the Apostles' Creed. It tells me of my Creator--His
work and providence, and His gift of a Redeemer. It tells me of that
Redeemer and His redemption; of the gift of the Spirit, and His
application of redemption. It not only tells me what to believe, but
in the very telling it offers me help to believe.
But I am still weak and more or less perplexed. Whither shall I
go for more strength and Grace? My Catechism furnishes the answer: Go
to the great Triune God. Ask Him in prayer. Here is a model. It will
teach you how to pray.
I learn what it is to pray. But again I ask: How do I know that
God will hear my prayer? Is He interested in me personally? Has He any
other means besides His written Word to assure me of His love and to
give me, in answer to my prayers, more strength to believe Him and
My Catechism points me to my baptism. It teaches me what it
means, and how that in it I have God's own pledge that He is my
Father, and that I am His child. Here then is a fountain to which I
can return again and again when weak and perplexed.
Further, my Catechism teaches me concerning my Saviour's last
legacy of love before His death for me, His Holy Supper. In it He
holds out to me and gives to me, personally and individually, Himself
and all His heavenly Grace.
Thus does this little Catechism meet me in my perplexity, take me
by the hand, and lead me through the labyrinth of the wonders of
Grace. Thus does it tell me what I am, what I need, and where and how
to get what I need. It takes me to the wells of salvation. It draws
from them living water. It holds it to my parched lips. It gathers the
precious manna of the Word, and feeds me when I am faint and weary.
Such is Luther's Small Catechism. Is it any wonder that we love
it? Is it any wonder that we count the study of it a part of the Way
of Salvation in the Lutheran Church?
We have something yet to say on the manner of teaching it and the
results of faithful teaching and learning.
MANNER AND OBJECT OF TEACHING LUTHER'S CATECHISM
We have spoken of the importance of catechisation. We have seen
that Luther's Small Catechism is indeed a priceless Bible manual. It
sets before us, in matchless order, God's plan of salvation. It is so
full and yet so brief, so doctrinal and yet so warm and hearty. "The
only Catechism," says Dr. Loehe, "that can be prayed." "It may be
bought for sixpence," says Dr. Jonas, "but six thousand worlds could
not pay for it."
No wonder that no book outside of the Bible has been translated
into so many languages, or circulated so widely. Thirty-seven years
after its publication one hundred thousand copies were in circulation.
The first book translated into any of the dialects of the American
Indian, it was from its pages that the red man read his first lessons
concerning the true God, and his own relations to that God. At the
present day it is taught in ten different languages in our own land.
And yet how sadly neglected and abused, even by those who bear
its author's name! It is neglected, if not entirely ignored, in
countless Lutheran homes and Sunday-schools. It is even neglected by
many so-called Lutheran pastors. They set at naught the testimony of
nearly four centuries. They set their own opinions above the testimony
of the wisest, as well as the most deeply spiritual and consecrated
witnesses of their own Church. They prefer the baseless, shallow,
short-cut methods of this superficial age. Some of them have even
joined in the cry of the fanatic, and called all catechisation in the
Church dead formalism! Fortunately, their number is growing rapidly
less, and many, who were for a while carried away with the tide of new
measures, are asking for and returning to the good and tried old ways.
Not only is this Catechism neglected, but it is and has been much
abused. Abused, not only by its enemies, who have said hard things
against it, but it has been and still is abused, like all good things,
by its professed friends. And doubtless it is the abuse by its friends
that is largely responsible for the neglect and contempt into which it
has sometimes fallen. Thus in the family, it is still too often taught
as a mere task. The home teacher often has no higher aim than that the
children should learn it by rote--learn to rattle it off like the
multiplication table, or the rules of grammar.
Worse than this, it has often been used as an instrument of
punishment. A child has done something wrong. It is angrily told that
for this it must learn a page or two of the Catechism! The task is
sullenly learned and sullenly recited; and the Catechism is hated
worse than the sin committed. Then too, it is slurred over in the
Sunday-schools, without an earnest word of explanation or application.
The learner does not realize that it is meant to change the heart and
influence the life.
This same sad mistake is also made by many pastors in the
catechetical class. Strange as it may seem, this mistake is most
commonly made by those very pastors who profess to be the warmest
friends of and the most zealous insisters on the catechisation of
every lamb in the flock. Thus we find not a few pastors who catechise
their classes after the schoolmaster fashion. They go through the
exercise in a perfunctory, formal manner. They insist on the letter of
the text, and are satisfied if their pupils know the lessons well by
rote! To urge on the dull and lazy pupil they will scold and rage, and
even use the rod! The Catechism becomes a sort of text-book. The
pupils get out of it a certain amount of head knowledge. There are so
many answers and so many proof-texts that must be committed to memory.
And when all this is well gotten and recited by rote, the teacher is
satisfied, the pupil is praised, imagines that he has gotten all the
good out of that book, and is glad he is done with it!
Now we would not for a moment depreciate the memorizing of the
Catechism. It is of the most vital importance, and cannot be too
strongly urged. What we object to--and we cannot object too
strenuously--is the idea that head knowledge is enough! There must of
course be head knowledge. The memory should store up all the precious
pearls of God's truth that are found in the Catechism. The mind must
grasp these truths and understand their meaning and their relation to
one another. But if it stops here, it is not yet a knowledge that
maketh wise unto salvation. In spiritual matters the enlightening or
instructing of the intellect is not the end aimed at, but only a means
to an end. The end aimed at must always be the renewal of the heart.
The heart must be reached through the understanding. To know
_about_ Christ is not life eternal. I must know about Him before
I can know Him. But I might know all about Him, be perfectly clear as
to His person and His work, and stop there, without ever knowing Him
as heart only can know heart, as _my_ personal Saviour and loving
friend, _my_ Lord and _my_ God.
Here, we fear, many ministers make a sad mistake. They are too
easily satisfied with a mere outward knowledge of the truth. They
forget that even if it were possible to "_understand all mystery and
all knowledge_"--intellectually--and not have charity, _i.e._, deep,
fervent, glowing _love_ to God in Christ, springing from a truly
penitent and believing heart, it would profit nothing. The true aim
and end of all catechetical instruction in the Sunday-school, in the
family, and especially in the pastor's class, should ever be a
penitent, believing and loving heart in each catechumen.
We have, in a former chapter, shown the duty of the Sunday-school
teacher in this matter. The pastor should likewise use all diligence
to find out in whom, among his catechumens, the germs of the divine
life, implanted in baptism, have been kept alive, and in whom they are
dormant. Where the divine life, given in holy baptism has been
fostered and cherished--where there has been an uninterrupted
enjoyment of baptismal Grace, more or less clear and conscious--there
it is the pastor's privilege to give clearer views of truth and Grace,
to lead into a more intelligent and hearty fellowship with the
Redeemer, to deepen penitence and strengthen faith through the
quickening truth of God's word.
Where, on the other hand, the seeds of baptismal Grace have been
neglected, where the germs of the new life lie dormant or asleep, or
where there never has been any implanting of Grace through Word or
Sacrament--in short, where there are no pulsations, no manifestations
of the new life, there the pastor has a different duty. He must
endeavor to so bring the acquired truth to bear on the conscience and
heart, as to awaken and bring about a sense of sin, a genuine sorrow
therefor, a hatred thereof, a longing for deliverance, a turning to
Christ and a laying hold on Him as the only help and hope.
Thus the one great aim and object of the conscientious pastor,
with each impenitent catechumen, is to awaken and bring about genuine,
heartfelt penitence and a true, trusting, clinging faith. In one word,
he must labor for that catechumen's conversion. Only those of whom
there is evidence that they are in a converged state should be
admitted to confirmation.
By this we do not mean, as some do, that each one must be able to
tell when, and where, and how he was converted. We mean simply this:
That each one must have in his heart true penitence, _i.e._,
sorrow for and hatred of sin, and true faith, _i.e._, a
confiding, trustful embracing of Christ as the only Saviour.
Whether these elements of the new life have been constantly and
uninterruptedly developed from Baptism, or whether they have been
awakened gradually by the Word, is not material. The only important
question is: Are the elements of the new life now there--even though
as yet feeble and very imperfect--or, is the person now turned away
from sin to a Saviour? If so, we consider that person in a converted
And this much, we believe, should be demanded of each catechumen
before he is admitted to the rite of confirmation. And it is largely
because this has not been demanded as the only true and satisfactory
result of catechisation, that this important branch of the Church's
activity has so largely fallen into disrepute. It is doubtless because
of carelessness on this point that so many fall back after
confirmation to the world, the flesh and the devil. They did not hold
fast to their crown because they had no crown.
Where the Catechism is properly learned, understood and applied,
the intellect is used as the gateway to the heart. Where the result of
an enlightened mind is a changed heart, there are intelligent
believers. They know what it means to be a Christian. They have an
earnest desire for closer fellowship with Him who has loved them and
washed them from their sins in His own blood. There is good hope that
such will be faithful unto death.
In our studies concerning the methods of Grace, or the
application of the Salvation purchased by Christ, to the sinful race
of Adam's children, we necessarily had to begin with the new-born
child. We noted the first known operations of Grace at the baptismal
font. We traced the infant through the holy influences received at a
Christian mother's knee, and in the nurture of a Christian home. We
followed up through the lessons and influences of the Church's
nursery, the Sunday-school, and from thence into the pastor's
catechetical class. We have learned that these are the different
successive steps in the Way of Salvation. This is God's way in the
sanctuary. It begins at the baptismal font, where the child is
received as a member of the Church of Christ; it leads through the
Church in the house, and through it keeps up a living connection with
the Church in the sanctuary. It is making disciples in accordance with
Christ's plain directions, viz, "_baptizing_ them, and _teaching_ them."
We have also admitted all along that there may be some who will
go through with this whole process and yet not be disciples of Christ
at the end. They wilfully resist the operations of divine Grace, and
cast away the pearl. This class we leave, for the present. We will
consider them further on.
We speak now of those who have been made disciples; who have not
resisted the gracious influences of the Spirit of God, working through
the sacramental and written Word. Their minds are enlightened; they
know something of sin and Grace and the bestowal and reception of
Grace; they have an intelligent understanding of the plan of salvation
revealed in the Word of God. But this is not all.
Their hearts also have been drawn ever nearer and closer to their
dear Saviour; they believe in and love the Lord Jesus Christ; they are
_ready to give an answer to every man that asks of them a reason of
the hope that is in them_. In the ardor and fervor of their young
hearts' devotion they can repeat these beautiful words of their
catechism and say: "I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of
the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary,
is _my_ Lord; who has redeemed _me_, a lost and condemned creature,
secured and delivered _me_ from all sin, from death, and from the
power of the devil ... in order that I might be His, live under Him in
His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and
Further, they can joyfully say: "I believe that I cannot by my
own reason and strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to
Him. But the Holy Ghost has called _me_ through the Gospel,
enlightened _me_ by His gifts, sanctified and preserved _me_
in the true faith," etc.
But this happy faith of their hearts has never been publicly
professed before men. And yet the word of God demands not only faith
in the heart, but also confession by the lips. Rom. x. 9-10: "_If
thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in
thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be
saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation._" Jesus also says,
Matt. x. 32: "_Whosoever, therefore, shall confess Me before men,
him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven._"
And should any one be ashamed of this public profession and
refuse to make it, Jesus clearly tells such an one that of him He also
will be ashamed in the judgment day. The Bible nowhere recognizes a
secret discipleship. There are no promises to him who does not
If our catechumens would therefore still follow God's Way of
Salvation he must now also take this step, and publicly confess Jesus
as his Lord and Redeemer and himself as His disciple. And for this
there is no time so appropriate as when he desires to be numbered
among the communicants of the congregation and participate with them
in the celebration of the Lord's Supper.
For this also our Church has made fitting arrangement. It is done
at, or is rather a part of, the impressive ceremony of confirmation.
Who has not witnessed this beautiful and touching rite? And what could
be more interesting or impressive than to see a company of young
hearts encircling the altar of Christ, confessing their faith, and
bowing the knee to their Saviour amid the prayers and benedictions of
the Church? This is confirmation.
The catechumen has been examined by the pastor as to his fitness
for this important step. The pastor has found that he possesses an
intelligent understanding of the doctrines taught in the Catechism,
and that the experience of his heart bears witness to their truth and
power. On this account he is adjudged as fit and well prepared to be
admitted to the holy communion. He now comes of his own accord--not
because he is old enough, or knows enough, or because father, mother,
or pastor wants him to--before the altar of Christ. There, in the
presence of the assembled congregation and the all-seeing God, his
lips confess the faith of his heart, the faith into which he was
baptized as a child: He now voluntarily takes upon himself the vows
and promises that parents or sponsors took for him at baptism. He
receives an earnest admonition from his pastor to hold fast that which
he has and be faithful unto death. The whole congregation, together
with the pastor, lift their hearts in earnest intercessory prayer to
God for His continuous blessing and protection on the young confessor;
and, the catechumen kneeling at the altar, the pastor directs the
intercessions of the Church to each kneeling one in turn, by laying
his hands on him and offering up for him a fervent petition in
This is the simple and appropriate ceremony we call confirmation.
We claim for it no magical powers. It is not a sacrament. It adds
nothing to the sacrament of baptism, for that is complete in itself.
There is no conferring of Grace by the pastor's hands, but simply a
directing of the Church's prayers to the individual.
The confirming, strengthening and establishing of--the catechumen
in Grace, is effected primarily alone through Christ's own means of
Grace, viz.: the Word and the Sacraments. The Word has been applied to
mind and heart all along from tenderest childhood. It is now brought
home in the review and admonition of the pastor, amid specially solemn
surroundings. The previous administering of baptism, and the perpetual
efficacy of that sacrament, are now vividly recalled and impressed.
And this unusually impressive application of the power of Word and
Sacrament confirms and strengthens the divine life in the catechumen.
Thus the means of Grace do the confirming, or rather the Holy Spirit
through these means. Instrumentally also the pastor may be said to
confirm, since he, as Christ's ambassador or agent, applies His means
In still another, though inferior sense, the catechumen confirms.
He receives the offered means of Grace, assents to their truth and
efficacy, obtains divine virtue and strength through them, and with
this imparted strength lays hold on Christ, draws nearer to Him, is
united to Him as the branch to the vine, and thus confirms and
establishes the covenant and bond that unites him to his Saviour.
We do not claim for the rite of confirmation a "_thus saith the
Lord_." We do not claim that it possesses sacramental efficacy, or
that it is absolutely essential to salvation. We do claim, however,
that there is nothing unevangelical or anti-scriptural in this
ceremony. On the contrary, we believe it is in perfect harmony with
the whole tenor and spirit of the Gospel. If we cannot trace it to
apostolic usage, we can find it in all its essential features in the
pure age of the Church immediately succeeding the Apostles. In some
form or other it has been practiced in the Church ever since.
True, it has often been and is still grossly abused. It has often
been encumbered and entangled with error and superstition; and
therefore there have not been wanting radical purists who have not
only set it aside, but cried it down as Romish and heathenish. The
more sober and conservative churches have been content to purge it of
its error and superstition. In its purified form they prize it highly,
cherish its use, practice it, and find it attended by God's richest
It is a significant fact also that some of those who were once
its most bitter opponents are gradually returning to its practice. We
find, for example, that certain Presbyterian churches confirm large
classes of catechumens every year.
Certain Methodist book concerns and publishing houses
also-publish confirmation certificates, from which we infer that some
of their churches also must practice this rite. Again, we find in
certain "pastors' record books," gotten up to suit all denominations,
columns for reporting the number of confirmations.
All churches must indeed have some kind of a ceremony for the
admission of the young among the communicants of the church. And there
certainly is no more befitting, beautiful and touching ceremony than
confirmation, as described above and practiced in the Lutheran Church.
THE LORD'S SUPPER--PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.
Our catechumen has now been confirmed. The pastor has given him,
in the name of the congregation, the right hand of fellowship, and
also publicly authorized him to join with the congregation in the
celebration of the Lord's Supper. For the first time, then, the young
Christian is to partake of this holy sacrament, in order that thereby
he may be still further strengthened and confirmed in the true faith.
This sacred institution, also, is a part of God's Way of
Salvation. It is one of the means of Grace appointed and ordained by
Christ. It "hath been instituted for the special comfort and
strengthening of those who humbly confess their sins and who hunger
and thirst after righteousness."
It is true that multitudes do not regard it as a means or channel
of Grace. To them it is only an ancient rite or ceremony, having no
special significance or blessing connected with it. It is at most a
symbol, a sign, or representation of something, entirely absent and in
no way connected with it. If there is any blessing at all attached to
it, it consists in the pious thoughts, the holy emotions and sacred
memories, which the communicant tries to bring to it and which are in
some way deepened by it. At best, it is a memorial of an absent
Saviour, and in some form a representation of His sufferings and
Now if this were all that we could see in the Lord's Supper, we
would not regard it as a part of God's Way of Salvation. But our
Church sees much more in it. With her it is indeed an essential and
integral part of that Way. And since this is another of the few points
on which the Lutheran Church differs materially from many others, it
will be well for us to devote some space and time to its study.
Much has been written on this important subject. We may not have
anything new to add, but it is well often to recall and re-study the
old truths, so easily forgotten. Before we consider the nature of this
sacrament, we will make a few preliminary observations that will help
us to guard against false views, and to arrive at correct conclusions.
We observe first, the importance of bearing in mind the _source_
from which this institution has come. Who is its author? What is the
nature or character of its origin? Our views of any institution are
generally more or less influenced by thus considering its origin.
Whence then did the Church get this ordinance which she has ever so
conscientiously kept and devoutly celebrated? Did it emanate from the
wisdom of man? Did some zealous mystic or hermit invent it, because
forsooth he supposed it would be pleasant and profitable to have such
an ordinance in the Church? Or did some early Church Council institute
it, because those earnest fathers in their wisdom deemed it necessary
that the Church should have such a service? Can it, in short, be
traced to any _human_ origin? If so, then we can deal with it as with
any other human institution. We are then at liberty to reason and
speculate about it. We can apply to it the rules of human science and
learning. We can test it, measure it, sound it by philosophy, logic,
and the laws of the mind. Each one then has a right to his own opinion
about it. Each one can apply to it the favorite test of common sense,
and draw his own conclusions.
But now, we know that this is not a human institution. The Church
has received it from the hands of the Son of God. It was ordained by
Him who could say, "_All power is given unto Me in heaven and in
earth_," and, "_In whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead
bodily_;" who even before his birth in human form was called "_the
Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace_." When we
come to deal with an institution of His, we dare never expect to
fathom or test it by our poor, short-sighted and sin-blinded reason,
philosophy, science, or common sense. "_For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your
ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts._" Whenever, therefore, we
come to deal with anything that comes from His hands, it is no longer
of the earth, earthy, and is not subject to earthly laws and human
rules. His acts, His deeds, His words, belong to the realm of faith,
and not of reason. Reason must ever be taken captive and made to bow
before the heavenly things connected, with Him. Or shall we try to
reason out His human birth, His growth, His nature, His deeds? Shall
we reason out the feeding of the multitudes with those few barley
loaves and fishes? No; they came through His hands, and the power of
those hands we cannot comprehend. We cannot comprehend how that
afflicted woman could receive virtue, health and life, by touching the
hem of His garment--a mere fabric of cloth--or how the clay and
spittle from His hands could open the eyes of one born blind.
Whenever, therefore, we come to study this ordinance, let us ever
bear in mind its divine origin. It is _the Lord's_ Supper. This
precaution will be a safeguard against error, and a help to the truth.
We notice secondly the _time_ of institution. It was "_in
the night in which He was betrayed_." That awful night, when the
clouds of divine wrath were gathered over Him, and were ready to burst
upon Him; when the accumulated guilt of a sinful race was all to be
laid on Him, borne by Him as though it were His own, and its
punishment endured as though He had committed every sin. Then, when
the strokes of justice were about to fall, our blessed Saviour,
"_having loved His own, He loved them to the end_." He gathered
His little band of chosen ones about Him for the last time before His
crucifixion. He spoke to them His farewell words, uttered His
high-priestly prayer, instituted and administered to them this holy
sacrament. All the surroundings conspired to throw round it a halo of
heavenly mystery. Everything was calculated to impress that little
band that what He now ordained and made binding on the Church, till He
would come again, was something more than an empty sign or ceremony.
Thus the time, the circumstances, and all the surroundings of the
institution of this holy sacrament, prepare us in advance to believe
that there must be in it or connected with it some heavenly gift of
Grace that can be obtained nowhere else.
We notice thirdly the significant _term_ by which Jesus
designates this institution. When he administered the cup He said:
"This cup is the _New Testament_ in my blood." He calls it a
testament. A testament is a last _will_.
Jesus was about to go forth to die. Before he departed, He made
His will. He bequeathes to the Church an inheritance. The legacy that
He leaves is this sacrament. Before we undertake to study the words of
the institution, we wish to impress this thought. A will is the last
place where one would use ambiguous or figurative language. Every
maker or writer of a will strives to use the clearest and plainest
words possible. Every precaution is taken that there may be no
doubtful or difficult expression employed. The aim of the maker is to
make it so plain that only one meaning can be taken from it.
Neither is any one permitted to read into it any sense different
from the clear, plain, literal meaning of the words. Fanciful,
metaphorical, or far-fetched interpretations are never applied to the
words of a will. Much less is any one permitted to _change_ the
words by inserting or substituting other words than those used by the
maker. Christ's words of institution are the words of His last Will
We will consider the _nature_ of the Sacrament of the Lord's
Supper in the next chapter.
THE LORD'S SUPPER--CONTINUED.
In the former chapter we made some preliminary observations,
intended to be helpful, as guards against false conclusions, and as
guides to a correct understanding of the subject under consideration.
It is important that we always keep these in mind in our study of the
doctrine of the Lord's Supper; Let us ever keep before us therefore
the _Author_ or _Founder_ of this institution, the _time_ and
_circumstances_ of the institution, and its _testamentary_ character.
We are now ready to inquire further into the _nature_ and
_meaning_ of this holy ordinance. And in order to determine this
we desire to go directly to the law and to the testimony. We want to
know, first of all: what does the Word of God teach on the subject?
Before we proceed, however, to note and examine the passages of
Scripture bearing on the matter, let us recall what we said, as to the
interpretation of Scripture, in one of the chapters on the Sacrament
of Baptism. We there stated that our Church has certain plain and safe
principles of interpretation that are always to guide the searcher
after the truth of God's word, viz.:
1. "A passage of Scripture is always to be taken in its plain,
natural and literal sense, unless there is something in the text
itself, or in the context, that clearly indicates that it is meant to
2. "A passage is never to be torn from its connection, but it is
to be studied in connection with what goes before and follows after."
3. "Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, the dark
passages are to be compared with the more clear, bearing on the same
4. "We can never be fully certain that a doctrine is Scriptural
until we have examined and compared all that the Word says on the
On these principles we wish to examine what the Word teaches as
to the nature of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We note first the
accounts of the institution as given by the three Evangelists,
Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew xxvi. 26-28, we read, _"Jesus
took bread and blessed it and brake it, and gave it to the disciples
and said; 'Take, eat, this is my body.' And he took the cup and gave
thanks and gave it to, them saying: 'Drink ye all of it. For this is
My blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the
remission of sins.'"_ With this the accounts in Mark xix. 22-24,
and in Luke xxii. 19, 20, substantially agree. There is a slight
variation of the words, but the substance is the same.
We notice only this difference: Luke adds the words, "_This do
in remembrance of Me_." On this point let us notice, in passing,
that St. Luke's was the last written of the three. The Gospels of
Matthew and Mark had been written and were read and used in the
churches several years before St. Luke's. And yet the two former do
not contain the words, "_Do this in remembrance of Me_." Now we
submit right here, if to _remember_ Christ were all that is in
this sacrament, or even the chief thing, why did those who wrote the
first Gospels, and knew that there were no others, leave out these
words? But we go on.
Almost thirty years after the time of the institution of this
sacrament, the great apostle of the Gentiles wrote a letter to the
Church at Corinth. That Church was made up of a mixed multitude--Jews
and Gentiles, freemen and slaves. Many of them were neither clear nor
sound on points of Christian doctrine and practice. In his fatherly
and affectionate letters to the members of this Church, Paul, among
other things, gives them instruction concerning this sacrament; and,
lest some of them might perhaps suppose that he is giving them merely
his own wisdom and speculation, he takes especial care to disavow
this: "_For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered
unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed,
took bread_," etc., giving in substance the same words of institution
as given by the Evangelists (1 Cor. xi. 23, 24, 25).
After thus giving them the words of institution, Paul goes on to
instruct them about worthy and unworthy communing. In these
instructions we cannot help but notice how he takes the real presence
of Christ's body and blood for granted all the way through. Notice his
language. Verse 27: _"Whosoever shall eat of this bread and drink of
this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood
of the Lord."_ Verse 29: _"For he that eateth and drinketh
unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning
the Lord's body."_ Going back to chapter ten, verse sixteen, we
find the Apostle giving the doctrine of the Lord's Supper in a few
words thus: _"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the
communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not
the communion of the body of Christ?"_
We have now noted all the passages that speak directly on this
subject. There are other strong passages that are often quoted in
defence of the doctrine of the real presence, and which we doubtless
have a right to use in corroboration of those above quoted. We refer
to John vi. 53-56: _"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the
flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life ... for
my flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth
my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him."_
As it is a disputed point, however, whether this passage refers
to the Lord's Supper or not, we are willing to waive it here. We are
content to take those passages quoted above, which every one
acknowledges as referring directly to our subject. These we would have
the reader carefully examine. Note particularly the language, the
words employed. In the four accounts given of the institution, three
by the Evangelists and one by Paul, we have the same clear, plain
words concerning the bread and wine--words of the last will and
testament of the Son of God, our Saviour--"_This is my body." "This is
my blood of the New Testament_;" or "_the New Testament in my blood_."
Note the language of Paul: _"Guilty of the body and blood of the
Lord." "Not discerning the Lord's body."_ The cup is called _the
communion of the blood_, and the bread, _the communion of the body_ of
Christ. The word communion is made up of two Latin words, _con_ and
_unio_, meaning union with, or connection with. The marginal reading
in our family Bibles, as well as in the revised version, is
"participation in." The plain English of the verse then is, the bread
is a participation in, or a connection with Christ's body, and the
wine with His blood.
We are now ready to take all these passages together, to compare
them one with another, and to ask, What do they teach? What is the
Bible doctrine of the Lord's Supper? Is it transubstantiation? Is it
consubstantiation? Is it that the bread and wine are mere
representations or memorials of the absent body and blood of Christ?
Or do these passages teach "That the body and blood of Christ are
truly present under the form of bread and wine and are communicated to
those that eat in the Lord's Supper?" (Augsburg Confession, Art. X.)
THE LORD'S SUPPER--CONCLUDED.
We have quoted, noted, collected and compared the words of
Scripture that speak of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We now
wish to ask and examine the question: What do these passages taken
together and compared with one another teach? Or, in other words, what
is the Bible doctrine of the Lord's Supper?
Does the Bible teach the doctrine of Transubstantiation, as held
and confessed by the Roman Catholic Church? If our investigation of
the teachings of the Holy Scriptures convinces us that they teach
Transubstantiation, we will be ready to believe and confess that
doctrine, no matter who else may believe or disbelieve it. What we
want to know, believe, teach and confess, is the _Bible
What is Transubstantiation? The word means a change of substance.
The doctrine of the Romish Church is that after the consecration by
the priest, the bread in the sacrament is changed into the material
body of Christ, and the wine into His blood--so entirely changed in
substance and matter, that after the consecration there is no more
bread or wine there; what was bread has been converted into the flesh
of Christ, and what was wine has been converted into His blood. Is
this the doctrine of God's word? Does the Word anywhere tell us that
the bread and wine are thus changed? Does it call the bread flesh,
either before or after the consecration? Let us see. "Jesus took
_bread_." "I will not drink of the _fruit of the vine_." "The _bread_
which we break." "For as often as ye eat this _bread_ and drink this
cup." Such is the language of inspiration. Now we ask, if the Holy
Spirit desired that plain and unprejudiced readers should find the
doctrine of Transubstantiation in His words, why does He call the
earthly elements _bread_ and _wine_ before, during and after the
consecration Why does He not say, "as often as ye eat this flesh and
drink this blood?" Evidently because the bread is, and remains plain,
natural bread, and so with the wine. There is no change in the
component elements, in the nature, matter, or substance of either.
Transubstantiation is not the doctrine of God's word; neither was it
the doctrine of the early Church. It is one of the human inventions
and corruptions of the Church of Rome.
Do then these words of Scripture teach the doctrine of
Consubstantiation? There are persons who talk a great deal about
Consubstantiation, and yet they know not what it means. What is it? It
is a mingling or fusing together of two different elements or
substances, so that the two combine into a third. A familiar example,
often given, is the fusing or melting together of copper and zinc
until they unite and form brass. Applied to the sacrament of the
altar, the doctrine of Consubstantiation would teach that the flesh
and blood of Christ are physically or materially mingled and combined
with the bread and wine; so that what the communicant receives is
neither plain, real bread, nor real flesh, but a gross mixture of
Again we ask, is this the teaching of the Word? The very same
proofs that convince us that the divine Word does not teach
Transubstantiation, also convince us that it does not teach
Consubstantiation. The simple fact that the earthly elements are
called _bread_ and _the fruit of the vine_, before, during and after
consecration, satisfies us that they remain plain, simple bread and
wine, without physical change or admixture. Consubstantiation is not
the teaching of the Word; neither is it, nor has it ever been, the
teaching of the Lutheran Church. It often has been, and is still
called the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper, but it is found in
none of her confessions. It was never taught by a single recognized
theologian of our Church. One and all, they have repudiated it and
repudiate it still. The question then is still unanswered What is the
doctrine of the divine Word?
There are many who have a ready and easy answer as to this
doctrine. They say it is only a Church ceremony, one of the old,
solemn rites by which Church members are distinguished from outsiders.
There is indeed no special significance or Grace connected with it.
There is really nothing in it but bread and wine. There is no presence
of Christ at all in this sacrament in any way different from His
general presence. The bread represents or signifies, is a sign, or
symbol, or emblem of Christ's body, and the wine of His blood. The
communicant receives nothing but bread and wine, and while he partakes
of these he remembers Christ's sufferings and death. Whatever special
benefit he is to derive from this sacrament he must first put into it,
by bringing to it pious thoughts, good feelings, deep emotions, tender
memories, and a faith that swings itself aloft and holds communion
with Christ far off in heaven.
This is about the current, popular view of this subject as held
and taught in nearly all the Protestant Churches of to-day, outside of
the Lutheran Church. As a natural consequence of this superficial
view, the whole matter is treated very lightly. There is little, if
any, solemn, searching preparation. In many places there is no formal
consecration of the elements. The table is thrown open to any one who
desires to commune. There are no regulations, no guards, no
disciplinary tests, connected with it. Even unbaptized persons, and
persons who have never made a public profession of faith, are often
permitted to commune. But we digress.
We return to the question: Is the view just noticed in harmony
with and based on the Word? Let us see. If there is nothing on the
altar but bread and wine, why does Christ say, "This is _My body ...
My blood_?" Why not say, This is bread, this is wine? If Christ wanted
us to understand that the bread and wine merely represent or are
emblems of His body and blood, why did He not say so? Did He not know
how to use language? Did He use dark or misleading words in His last
Will and Testament? Why does Paul, in speaking of worthy and unworthy
communing, speak of the body of Christ as present, as a matter of
course? Was he inspired to misunderstand Christ and lead plain readers
astray? If there is nothing more in the sacrament than to remember
Christ, why--as already noticed--did not the writers of the first two
Gospels put in the words, "_Do this in remembrance of Me_?" Or why did
not Christ plainly say, "Take, eat this bread, which represents My
body, in remembrance of Me?" Clearly, the doctrine in question is not
based on the words of Scripture. It cannot be supported by Scripture.
Neither do its defenders attempt to support it by the passages that
clearly speak of this sacrament. If they try to bring in any Scripture
proof, they quote passages that have nothing to do with the subject.
They draw their proofs and supports principally from reason and
Surely a doctrine that changes the words of the institution,
wrests and twists them out of their natural sense, and does violence
to all sound rules of interpretation that must bolster itself up by
the very same methods of interpretation that are used to disprove the
divinity of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the eternity of
future punishment, is not the doctrine of Christ.
We have not found the Bible doctrine in any of the views
examined. Can we find it? Let us see. We are satisfied, from our
examination of the passages that have to do with our subject, that
there must be earthly elements present in this sacrament. They are
bread and wine. They remain so, without physical change or admixture.
We also find from these passages that there is a real presence of
heavenly elements. These are the body and blood of Christ. Not indeed
that body as it was in its state of humiliation, when it was subject
to weakness, hunger, thirst, pain and death. But that glorified,
spiritual, resurrection body, in its state of exaltation, inseparably
joined with the Godhead, and by it rendered everywhere present. And
this body and divinity, we remark in passing, were already present,
though veiled, when the God-man walked this earth. Peter and James and
John caught a glimpse of it on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is of
this body, and blood, of which Peter says, 1 Peter i. 18, 19, that it
is _not a corruptible thing_, and of which the Apostle says, Heb. ix.
12, "_By his own blood he entered in once into the Holy Place_" (that
is, into heaven), and of which Jesus spoke when He said, "_Take eat,
this is my body_ ... _this is my blood_."
Of this body and blood, the Scriptures affirm that they are
present in the sacrament. The passage which sets forth the _double_
presence, that of the earthly and heavenly elements, which indeed sums
up and states the Bible doctrine in a few words, is 1 Cor. x. 16.
There Paul affirms that the bread is the communion of Christ's _body_,
not of His Spirit or His influence. If the bread is the communion of,
participation in, or connection with His body, then bread _and_ body
must both be present. It takes two things to make a communion. They
must both be present. It would be absurd to speak of bread as a
communion of something in no way connected with it.
As we have already said, the plain sense of the words of this
passage is, that the bread is a connection with, or a participation in
Christ's body, and so with the wine; so much so that whoever partakes
of the one must, in some manner, also become a partaker of the other.
The bread, therefore, becomes the medium, the vehicle, the conveyance,
that carries to the communicant the body of Christ, and the wine
likewise His blood. And this, we repeat, without any gross material
transmutation or mixing together. The bread and wine are the earthen
vessels that carry the Heavenly treasures of Christ's body and blood,
even as the letters and words of the Scriptures convey to the reader
or hearer the Holy Spirit. This is the clear, plain, Bible doctrine of
the Lord's Supper. There is nothing gross, carnal, Capernaitish or
repulsive about it.
And exactly this is the teaching and doctrine of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church. Article X., Augsburg Confession, says, "Of the Lord's
Supper they teach that the true body and blood of Christ are truly
present, under the form of bread and wine, and are there communicated
to those that eat in the Lord's Supper." And Luther's Catechism says,
"The sacrament of the altar is the true body and blood of Jesus
Christ, under the bread and wine, given unto us Christians to eat and
drink, as it was instituted by Christ Himself."
We therefore find that on this point also our dear old Church is
built impregnably on the foundation of Christ and His Apostles. And
though she may here differ from all others, she cannot yield one jot
or tittle without proving false to her Lord and His truth. It is not
bigotry. It is not prejudice, that makes her cling so tenaciously to
this doctrine. She knows, as the great Reformer knew, that the very
foundations are at stake; that if she gives up on this point, and
changes the Scriptures to suit human reason, she will soon have to
give up other doctrines, and by and by the rock on which the Church is
built will be removed, and the gates of hell will prevail.
And further, if there is any risk of being mistaken--which she,
however, does not admit--she would rather run that risk, by taking her
Master at His word, than by changing His word. In childlike confidence
and trust, she would rather believe too much than not enough. She
would rather trust her dear Master too far than not far enough. And
therefore here she stands; she cannot do otherwise. May God help her!
Others may still say, "This is a hard saying, who can bear it?
The idea of eating and drinking the body and blood of our Lord offends
Well, it also offended the late Henry Ward Beecher, that his
salvation should depend on the literal shedding of the literal blood
of Jesus. This idea was repulsive to the great Brooklyn divine. But it
does not offend us. On the contrary, this same doctrine is to us the
very heart of the whole Gospel, and is therefore more precious than
Neither does it offend us that the mother, whose pure and tender
love to her infant child is an emblem of the divine love to us poor
sinners, while she presses to her bosom that little one, soothes away
its frettings and sings away its sobbings, at the same time feeds and
nourishes that feeble life with her own physical life, giving it
literally her body and blood. This is no offense to us.
And why should it offend us that our dear loving Saviour comes so
close to us, leads us into His banqueting house, where His banner over
us is love, speaks to us words that are the out-breathings of the
yearning love of His divine heart, and, at the same time, feeds us
with His own spiritual and glorified body and blood, and thus makes us
partakers of the divine nature.
Instead of being offended, let us rather bow down, and worship,
and adore, and sing:
"Lord, at Thy table I behold
The wonders of Thy Grace;
But most of all admire that I
Should find a welcome place."
"I that am all defiled by sin;
A rebel to my God:
I that have crucified His Son
And trampled on His blood!"
"What strange surprising Grace is this
That such a soul has room;
My Saviour takes me by the hand.
And kindly bids me come!"
THE PREPARATORY SERVICE; SOMETIMES CALLED
THE CONFESSIONAL SERVICE.
In our examination of the nature and meaning of the Lord's
Supper, we have found that it is indeed a most important and holy
Sacrament. It is in fact the most sacred of all the ordinances of the
Church on earth. There is nothing beyond it--nothing so heavenly, on
this side heaven, as this Feast. Nowhere else does the believer
approach so near to heaven as when he stands or kneels, as a
communicant at this altar, the Holy of Holies in the Church of Christ.
What a solemn act! To approach this altar, to participate in its
heavenly mysteries, to become a partaker of the glorified body and
blood of the Son of God! Surely no one who understands the import of
this Sacrament, will dare to approach hastily, thoughtlessly, or on
the impulse of the moment. Surely there must be forethought and
preparation. Our Church has realized this from the very beginning. She
has had, and still has, a special service for those who intend to
commune. Her preparatory service precedes her communion service. And
we can safely affirm, that no Church has so searching and suitable a
preparatory service as the Lutheran Church. Where this service is
properly conducted and entered into by pastor and people, it is not an
unimportant step in the Way of Salvation.
Our Church, in this particular also, is purely scriptural. Israel
of old had seasons of special preparation, previous to special
manifestations from God. There was a season of special preparation
before the giving of the Law; also before the receiving of the quails
and the manna from heaven. There were days of preparation before and
in connection with the great annual festivals, as well as in
connection with other great national and religious events. Our Lord,
Himself, observed a most solemn preparatory service with His disciples
before He instituted the Last Supper. He not only spoke very
comforting words to them, but He also plainly pointed out to them
their sins, _e.g._, their pride, their jealousy, their quarrels,
their coming defection, the fall of Peter and the treachery of Judas.
In harmony with all this, Paul directs: _"But let a man examine
himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup."_
And it is to aid and assist the communicant in this
self-examination that we have our preparatory service. Its great
object is to enable the communicant to realize his own sinfulness, to
deepen in him true penitence and longing for forgiveness, and also to
aid him in appropriating and rejoicing in the full and free
forgiveness of Christ. To this end we sing our penitential hymns,
plead for Grace to know ourselves, our sinfulness, and the fulness of
Christ's Grace, and hear such searching appeals from the pastor as
often pain and agonize the heart.
Then follows, on the part of the whole congregation, a united,
audible and public confession of sin, of sorrow because of it, of
earnest desire for forgiveness, of faith in Christ as the divine
Saviour, and of an earnest purpose to hate and avoid all sin in the
future. After this public confession in the presence of the pastor and
of one another, the same confession is repeated, on bended knees,
directly to God. This two-fold confession--first in the presence of
the pastor and of one another, and then directly to God--is followed
by the words of absolution from the pastor.
In pronouncing the absolution the minister uses the following, or
words to the same effect: "Almighty God, our heavenly Father, having
of His great mercy promised the forgiveness of sins to all those who
with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto Him, and having
authorized His ministers to declare the same, I pronounce, to all who
do truly repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and are
sincerely determined to amend their ways and lead a godly and pious
life, the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Then follow a few words in which he assures the impenitent and
hypocritical that their sins are not forgiven, but will certainly
bring upon them the fearful wrath of Almighty God, unless they
speedily repent, turn from their sins, and fly to the Lord Jesus
Christ for refuge and salvation. This is the closing part of the
preparatory service, which is called Confession and Absolution.
Some time ago we were asked, by a minister of another
denomination, why Lutherans retained and practiced Romish confession,
and forgiveness by the minister. We gave him our formula for
Confession and Absolution, and asked him to examine it and point out
to us wherein it was Romish or unscriptural. After examination he
handed it back, saying: "I cannot say that it is exactly unscriptural.
In fact, I can easily see how you can quote Scripture in its defense."
And so we can. In Matt. xvi. 19, Jesus says to Peter: _"I will
give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou
shalt bind on earth shalt be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou
shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."_ In Matt. xviii. 18,
the Saviour gives the same power in the same words to all the
disciples as representatives of the Christian congregation. In John
xx. 21-23, He says again to the disciples: _"As my Father hath sent
me, even so send I you, ... whosesoever sins ye remit, they are
remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are
What do these words of Christ mean? They must mean something.
They must be of some use. Our Lord certainly does confer some kind of
authority or power on His Church, which is His Bride. Does He hereby
give into her hand the keys of His kingdom, and authorize her to
dispense its treasures? Does she, through her ministry, employ these
keys, bring forth heavenly treasures, and distribute and withhold them
among the children of men? To the Church's ministers Christ says, Luke
x. 16; _"He that heareth you, heareth Me: and he that despiseth you,
despiseth me."_ One of these ministers, who certainly understood his
office and its prerogatives, speaking in the name of all true
ministers of Christ, says, 2 Cor. v. 20: _"Now then we are ambassadors
for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in
Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."_ If we would see how this
ambassador exercised his high authority in an individual case, he
tells us in 2 Cor. ii. 10: _"If I forgave anything, to whom I forgave
it for your sakes forgave I it, in the person of Christ."_
If now we take these passages together, we must admit that in
their plain literal sense; they do teach that Christ, the Head of the
Church, has _in some sense_ committed to His Church the power to
remit and retain sins, and that this power is exercised in the Church
through its ministry.
In what sense then has a minister power to remit sin? Certainly
not by any inherent virtue of his own, nor by any power originating in
his own person. In this sense only God can forgive sin, as all sin is
committed against Him. But God can _delegate_ that power to
another, and permit him to use it _in His name_. And this is all
the power any human being can have in this matter. It would indeed be
blasphemy for any man to claim that he had power in _himself_ to
forgive sins. If he can have any power at all, it must be
_Christ's_ power. He can only use it as a deputy, as an
ambassador, or as an agent. And this is exactly what the Word teaches.
The minister is Christ's ambassador. He beseeches and speaks in
Christ's stead, as though God were speaking by him. Paul forgave the
penitent Corinthian, not in his own name or by his own authority, but
"_in the person of Christ_."
When part of our country was in rebellion, the government sent
deputies to those who had renounced their allegiance, empowered to
confer pardon, and reinstate as citizens, all who accepted the
government's terms of pardon. These agents had no power in themselves,
but they were authorized to carry the pardoning power of the
government, and to those who accepted it from them, it was as valid as
though each one had received a special proclamation of pardon from the
government. Just so does the pastor, as Christ's ambassador, offer and
bestow Christ's forgiveness to the penitent and believing sinner. He
offers this pardon only on the terms laid down by Christ. The means
through which he conveys this pardon is God's Word. This Word,
_preaching repentance and remission of sins_, when spoken by the
minister, is just as effective as when it fell from the lips of Christ
or His inspired apostles. Whenever he preaches God's Word he does
nothing else than declare Christ's absolution. It is the Word of God,
that still remits and retains, that binds and looses.
The pastor can only _declare_ that Word, but the Word itself does
effectually work forgiveness to him that rightly receives it. Not only
can the minister carry this Word of God, this key of the kingdom, this
power of God unto salvation, and apply it, but any disciple of Christ
can do so. Dr. Krauth beautifully says: "The whole pastoral work is
indeed but an extension of the Lutheran idea of Confession and
Absolution." And Dr. Walther says: "The whole Gospel is nothing but a
proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, or a publication of the same
Word to all men on earth, which God Himself confirms in heaven." Dr.
Seiss somewhere says: "Every time a believer in Christ sits down
beside a troubled and penitent one, and speaks to such an one Christ's
precious promises and assurances of forgiveness, he carries out the
Lutheran or scriptural idea of absolution."
And even the minister of another denomination, above referred to,
acknowledged to the writer, that when he found one of his parishioners
of whom he was convinced that she was a true penitent, despondent on
account of her sins, he unhesitatingly said to her, "Your sins are
forgiven by Christ."
We had intended to still say something about the _public_
confession of Israel at Mizpeh, 1 Sam. v. 6, and of the multitudes who
went out to John the Baptist, Matt. viii. 6; also of the _private_
Confession and Absolution of David and Nathan, 2 Sam. xii. 13. But
each one can examine these cases for himself. Enough has been said to
assure us that our Church, in this matter also, is grounded on the
eternal Word of God, and that she did wisely when, after repudiating
the blasphemous practices of the Romish confessional, she yet retained
an evangelical Confession and Absolution.
When we therefore hear the declaration of absolution from God's
Word, let us believe it, "even as if it were a voice sounding from
And therefore the Augsburg Confession, Art. XXV, says that "On
account of the very great benefit of Absolution, as well as for other
uses to the conscience, Confession is retained among us."
Such evangelical Confession and Absolution establishes and
maintains the true relation that should exist between an evangelical
pastor and the members of his flock. Instead of a mere preacher, a
platform orator, he becomes a true spiritual guide, a _curate_
for the _cure_ of souls. He encourages his members to reveal to
him their weaknesses, their besetting sins, their doubts and spiritual
conflicts, in order that he may instruct, direct, comfort and
strengthen them with the all-sufficient and powerful Word of God.
And thus, wherever he finds true penitence and faith, however
weak, he carries out the divine commission which directs him:
"_Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith the Lord, speak ye
comfortably to_--i.e. speak ye to the heart of--_Jerusalem, and cry
unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is
pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her
sins_" Is. 40, I, 2.
"How beauteous are their feet,
Who stand on Zion's Hill!
Who bring salvation on their tongues,
And Words of peace reveal.
"How charming is their voice!
How sweet the tidings are!
'Zion behold thy Saviour King;
He reigns and triumphs here.'"
THE WORD AS A MEANS OF GRACE
In the last chapter we learned that the Word of God is the key of
the kingdom, which key Christ has given to His Church, and that this
Word, declared by the pastor, does really convey and apply the
forgiveness of sins to the penitent and believing. Following out this
idea, we wish now to show that God's Word is the power and effective
means through which the Holy Spirit operates on the minds and hearts
of the children of men.
The popular idea in regard to the use of the Word, seems to be
that it is intended merely as a book of instruction and a guide--that
its purpose is merely to tell us about sin and salvation; that like a
guide-post it points out the way of salvation, and shows the necessity
of repentance, faith, and holiness. That it tells about the need of
the Holy Spirit to effect a change of heart, and that further than
this it affords no help for fallen man. A poor sinner goes to that
Word. He reads it, or hears it preached. He learns indeed that he is a
sinner, but he has no deliverance from sin. He learns of Christ's
redemption, but its benefits are not applied to him. He sees that he
must repent and believe, but by his own reason and strength he cannot.
He learns further, that he needs the Holy Spirit to enable him to
repent and believe, but, according to the current opinion, that Spirit
is not in the Word, nor effective through it, but operates
independently of it. The using of the divine Word is at best an
_occasion_ that the Spirit may use for independent operation. He might
go from his Bible and from many a sermon and say: "I know I need
religion--I need the Spirit of God, and I hope at some time the Spirit
may come to me and bless me with pardon and peace, but I cannot tell
when or how this may be." According to this popular conception, the
Holy Spirit might be compared to a dove flying about, and alighting at
hap-hazard on this one and on that one.
The Lutheran Church does not so understand the teaching and
claims of the Word concerning itself. According to her faith the Word
of God is more than a book of information. It not only tells about sin
and salvation, but _delivers_ from sin and _confers_ salvation. It not
only points out the way of life, but it leads, nay more, we might say,
it carries us into and along that way. It not only instructs
concerning the need of the Holy Spirit, but it _conveys_ that Spirit
to the very mind and heart. It is indeed a precious truth, that this
Word not only tells me what I must do to be saved, but it also
_enables me to do it_. It is indeed the principal of the means of
Grace. It is the vehicle and instrument of the Holy Spirit. Through it
the Holy Spirit works repentance and faith. Through it He regenerates,
converts, and sanctifies.
This is the doctrine of the Lutheran Church, concerning the use
and efficacy of the divine Word. Thus, Luther's Small Catechism,
Apostles' Creed, Art. III. explanation: "I believe that I cannot by my
own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to
Him; but the Holy Spirit hath called me _through the Gospel_,
enlightened me by His gifts," etc. Thus also Augsburg Confession, Art.
V.: "For by the Word and Sacraments, as by instruments, the Holy
Spirit is given; who worketh faith, where and when it pleaseth God,
_in those that hear the Gospel_," etc.
Is this the teaching of the Word itself? Let us see. In John vi.
63, Jesus says: _"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and
they are life."_ In Romans i. 16, Paul says of the Gospel: _"It is the
power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."_ Heb. iv.
12: _"For the word of God is quick_ (living) _and powerful, and
sharper than any two-edged sword."_ 1 Peter i. 23: _"Born again not of
corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which
liveth and abideth forever."_ James i. 21: _"Receive with meekness the
engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls."_ It is clear,
therefore, that the Word does claim for itself virtue, life, power,
But does it claim to be the Spirit's means and instrument, by and
through which He operates? In 2 Cor. iii. 8, it is called a
"_ministration of the Spirit_." In Eph. vi. 17, Paul calls it the
"_sword of the Spirit_."
We learn the same truth from the fact that the same effects are
ascribed indiscriminately to the Spirit and the Word, showing clearly
that where one is, there the other is also, and that one acts through
Thus the divine _call_ is ascribed in one place to the
Spirit, and in another to the Word. Rev. xxii. 17. _"The Spirit ...
says come."_ In the parables, Christ's ministers, preaching the
Word, say: _"Come, for all things are ready."_
In like manner, _enlightening_, or teaching, is ascribed to
both. John xiv. 26, Jesus says of the Spirit: "_He shall teach you
all things_;" chapter xvi. 13, "_He shall guide you into all
truth_." He is called a "_spirit of wisdom_"--a "_spirit of
light_." On the other hand, the Word is called a "_Word of
wisdom_;" also, Ps. cxix. 130: "_The entrance of thy Words giveth
light_;" 2 Tim. iii. 15: The Scriptures are said to be "_able to
make wise unto salvation_;" 2 Pet. i. 19: It is as "_a light that
shineth in a dark place_."
So, also, regeneration is ascribed to both. John iii. 5: "_Born
of water and of the Spirit_:" verse 6: "_That which is born of
the Spirit is spirit_;" verse 8: "_So is every one that is born
of the Spirit_:" 1 John v. 4: "_For whatsoever is born of God_
(_i.e._, of God's Spirit) _overcometh the world_." But of
the divine Word it is said, 1 Pet. i. 23, "_Born again ... by the
Word of God_;" James i. 18: "_Of his own will begat he us, with
the Word of truth_."
In like manner, _sanctification_ is ascribed to both. John
xvii. 17: "_Sanctify them through thy truth: thy Word is truth_;"
but 1 Cor. vi. 11, "_Ye are sanctified ... by the Spirit of our
And thus we might go on, and show that what is ascribed in one
place to the Spirit, is ascribed in another place to the Word--proving
conclusively that the two always go together. Where one is, there the
other is also. The Spirit operates through the Word, whether it be the
written, the preached, the sacramental, or the Word in conversation or
reflection. The ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit are through
that Word. Those who are renewed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit are
those who have been influenced by this regenerating and sanctifying
This blessed Word of God, _quick, powerful, able to save the
soul_, because of the life-giving Spirit connected with it, is not
only to be read, but to be preached and heard. This is God's own
arrangement. From the days of Enoch, Noah, the patriarchs and
prophets, down to Jesus and the apostles, and from them to the end of
the Gospel dispensation, He has had and will have His preachers of
Our Lord preached His own Gospel, the words of spirit and life.
He commissioned His apostles to preach the same Gospel. They "_went
everywhere preaching the Word_." The Church called and sent others,
whose life-work it was to "_preach the Word, to be instant in season
and out of season, reproving, rebuking, exhorting_." And this divine
arrangement is to continue. Rom. x. 13-15: _"For whosoever shall call
on the name of the Lord, shall be saved; how then shall they call on
Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him
of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a
preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?"_ 1 Cor. i.
21: "_It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that
believe_;" Rom. x. 17: "_So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing
by the Word of God_." Therefore, according to Rom. x. 6-8, let no one
say, "_Who shall ascend into heaven_ (_i.e._, to bring Christ down
from above), _or who shall descend into the deep_?" (_i.e._, to bring
Christ up again from the dead) for "_the Word is nigh thee ... that is
the Word of faith which we preach_." This then is evidently God's
order of the application of divine Grace.
And yet, notwithstanding these plain declarations, men try all
sorts of measures and methods to bring Christ near, because they
cannot understand that when they have the Word, they have the Spirit,
and when they have the Spirit, they have Christ. In Luke xi. 27, we
read how a woman called down a blessing on the mother of our Lord
because she was privileged to have borne Him. But Jesus answered,
"_Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep
it_." Because that Word carries the Spirit to the hearer, and
through it converts the sinner and sanctifies the saint. In the Acts
of the Apostles also we read how again and again the Spirit was given
through and in connection with the Word. The Apostles depended on
nothing but Word and Sacrament.
The Lutheran doctrine, then, that the Word of God is the great
effectual means of Grace; that it is the vehicle and instrument of the
Holy Spirit; that through it, the Spirit renews the soul, applies
forgiveness, and sanctifies the hearer or reader more and more--is the
pure truth of Christ. Hence, wherever the Lutheran Church is true to
her name and faith, she preaches the whole counsel of God, and relies
on that for ingathering and upbuilding. A true Lutheran pulpit cannot
be a sensational pulpit, for discoursing wordly wisdom, philosophy,
poetry, or politics. It must expound the Word, and never gets done
preaching repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
What a beautiful and harmonious system of God's methods of saving
men is thus brought into view! How helpful to the sinner desiring
salvation! Instead of waiting and hoping and dreaming of something
wonderful to happen to bring him into the kingdom, he needs only to go
to the divine Word and let that Word do its work in his heart.
"Though devils all the world should fill,
All watching to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They cannot overpower us.
This world's prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none,
He's judged, the deed is done,
_One little Word_ o'erthrows him.
"The _Word_ they still should let remain.
And not a thank have for it,
He's by our side upon the plain,
With His good gifts and Spirit;
Take they then our life,
Goods, fame, child and wife;
When their worst is done,
They yet have nothing won,
The Kingdom ours remaineth."
CONVERSION, ITS NATURE AND NECESSITY.
Closely related to the doctrine of the power, or efficacy, of the
divine Word--as considered in the last chapter--is the doctrine of
conversion. It is the subject of conversion, therefore, that we now
purpose to examine. It is an important subject. It deserves a
prominent place in treating of the Way of Salvation. It is also an
intensely personal subject. Each one who desires to be in the Way of
Salvation is personally interested in it. The eternal destiny of every
one who reads these pages is closely connected with the question
whether or not he is converted. To be in an unconverted state, is to
be in a state of great peril. The issues of eternity are involved in
the final decision of the soul, in reference to this great subject. It
is of the most vital importance, therefore, that each one examine and
And yet, strange as it may seem, there are few subjects
concerning which those interested are more in the dark. Stranger
still, often those who preach and talk most about it, who are loudest
in proclaiming its necessity, know least about it. Ask them as to its
meaning, its nature, its elements. Ask them who needs it, how it is
brought about, and what are the evidences of its existence; and they
give at best very confused and unscriptural answers. We therefore
propose to examine it in the light of the Word of God, and may He, the
Spirit of truth, enable us to know and believe its divine teachings!
What then is conversion? The original and simple meaning of the
word convert is _to turn_--to turn about. This is also the
meaning of the Latin word from which the English comes. The Greek
word, which in the New Testament is translated "convert" or
"conversion," also refers to the act of turning. It is so translated
quite frequently. Thus the same Greek word that is in some places
translated convert, is in other places translated _turned, e.g._,
as in Mark v. 30: "Jesus ... _turned_ him about in the press."
Acts xvi. 18: "But Paul ... _turned_ and said." Matt. xii. 44:
"I will _return_ into my house." Acts xxvi. 18: "To _turn_
them from darkness to light." And so in many other places. It is
plain, then, that the meaning of the word is a turning or facing
about--a returning, or a changing of direction--as if a traveler, on
finding himself going the wrong way, turns, returns, changes his
course, comes back, he converts himself.
Applying this word now to a moral or religious use, it means a
turning from sin to righteousness, from Satan to God. The transgressor
who had been walking in the way of disobedience and enmity against
God, and towards eternal death, is turned about into the way of
righteousness, towards eternal life. This is a change of _direction_,
but it is also something more. It is a change of _state_--from a state
of sin to a state of Grace. It is still more. It is a change of
_nature_--from a sinner unto a saint. It is finally a change of
_relation_--from an outcast and stranger unto a child and heir. Thus
there is an outward and an inward turning, a complete change.
That this is the scriptural meaning of conversion is very clear
from Acts xxvi. 18. The Lord is about to send Paul to the Gentiles for
the purpose of converting them. He describes the work of conversion
thus: _"To open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light,
and from the power of Satan unto God; that they may receive
forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified
by faith that is in me."_
As already remarked, the word here translated to "turn" is the
same that is elsewhere translated to "convert."
If we now inquire more particularly into the nature, or process
of this change which is called "conversion," we find in it two
constituent elements. The one is penitence or contrition, the other is
faith. Taken together, they make up conversion. In passing, we may
briefly notice that sometimes the Scriptures use the word "repentance"
as embracing both penitence and faith, thus making it synonymous with
Penitence or contrition, as the first part of conversion, is
sorrow for sin. It is a realizing sense of the nature and guilt of
sin; of its heinousness and damnable character. True penitence is
indeed a painful experience. A penitent heart is, therefore, called
"_a broken and a contrite heart_." It takes from the sinner his
self-satisfaction and false peace. It makes him restless, dissatisfied
and troubled. Instead of loving and delighting in sin, it makes him
hate sin and turn from it with aversion. It brings the sinner low in
the dust. He cries out, "_I am vile_;" "_I loathe myself_;" "_God be
merciful to me a sinner_."
This is the penitence insisted on by the prophets, breathed forth
in the penitential psalms, preached by John the Baptist, by Christ and
all His apostles. It is not necessary to quote passages in proof of
this. Every Bible reader knows that the Word is full of exhortations
to such sorrow and repenting for sin.
But penitence must not stop with hating and bemoaning sin, and
longing for deliverance. The penitent sinner must resolutely turn from
sin towards Jesus Christ the Saviour. He must believe that he took
upon Himself the punishment due to his sins, and by His death atoned
for them; that he satisfied a violated law, and an offended Law-giver;
that thus he has become his Substitute and Redeemer, and has taken
away all his sins. This the penitent must believe. Thus must he cast
himself upon Christ, and trust in Him with a childlike confidence,
knowing that there is now, therefore, no condemnation. Having this
faith, he is justified, and "_being justified by faith, he has peace
True penitence always grows into faith, and true faith always
presupposes penitence. Where one is, there the other is, and where
both are, there is conversion. Penitence, therefore, is not something
that goes before conversion, and faith something that follows after,
and conversion an indefinable something sandwiched in between, as some
seem to imagine; but penitence and faith are the constituent elements
that make up conversion.
In the next place we would inquire: Who need this change? We
answer, first, all who are not in a state of loving obedience to God;
that is, all who are not turned away from and against sin and Satan,
and turned toward holiness and God. On the other hand, all who really
hate sin, mourn over it, strive against it, trust in and cling to
Christ as their personal Redeemer, need no conversion. No matter
whether they can tell where and when and how they were converted or
not. All who know by blessed experience that they now have in their
hearts the elements of penitence and faith, are in a state of
conversion, and if they earnestly ask God, may have the assurance that
their sins are forgiven and they are accepted in the Beloved. True,
this assurance may sometimes be dimmed by doubt or under the strain of
strong temptation, but as long as there is real hatred of sin and an
earnest desire to rest in Christ alone, there is Grace and acceptance
To the class of those who are in a converted state belong those
baptized children of the Church who have kept their baptismal
covenant. Given to Christ in holy baptism, the seeds of the new life
implanted through that divine ordinance, reared and trained by
Christian parents or guardians, they have belonged to Christ from
their childhood. From their earliest years they have hated sin,
repented of it, trusted in Christ, and loved Him. They are "_turned
from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God_." They need
only that daily dying to sin, and daily turning to Christ, which all
Christians need on account of the sins and infirmities of the flesh
which still cleave to them. Such were Joseph, and Samuel, and Daniel,
and Jeremiah, and John the Baptist, and Timothy, and others of whom we
read in the Scriptures. They were children of the covenant, and
therefore children of God. Of this class we have written in former
chapters. We need not enlarge on them here. They need no conversion,
because they are in a converted state. Yet there are well-meaning
people, who have more zeal than knowledge, who would violently exhort
even such to be converted, or they cannot be saved! Thus would they
confuse them, distract them, unsettle their faith in Christ, quench
the Spirit, and, perhaps, drive them to unbelief and despair. From all
such teachers, we pray: "Good Lord, deliver us."
CONVERSION--VARIED PHENOMENA OR EXPERIENCE.
We have spoken of the meaning of this term, inquired into the
nature of the change, and noted its essential elements. We have also
learned that there are some who do not need it because they are in a
converted state, and that all who are not in such a state of Grace, do
need conversion, regardless of anything that may or may not have taken
place in the past.
We inquire now as to the agencies or means by which this change
is brought about. For it is a change which man can certainly not
effect by his own efforts. Of this change it can certainly be said
that it is "_not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the
Lord_." To have this change brought about in the heart, all need to
pray in the words of the Psalmist, Ps. lxxxv. 4, "_Turn us, O God of
our salvation;_" or as Ephraim in Jer. xxxi. 18, "_Turn thou me and I
shall be turned, for thou art the Lord my God;_" or as Judah in
Lamentations, v. 21, "_Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be
turned_." It is God the Holy Ghost who must work this change in the
soul. This He does through His own life-giving Word. It is the office
of that Word, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, to bring about a
knowledge of sin, to awaken sorrow and contrition, and to make the
sinner hate and turn from his sin. That same Word then directs the
sinner to Him who came to save him from sin. It takes him to the
cross, it enables him to believe that his sins were all atoned for
there, and that, therefore, he is not condemned. In other words, the
Word of God awakens and constantly deepens true penitence. It also
begets and constantly increases true faith. Or, in one word, it
converts the sinner. Of this wonderful power and efficacy in the Word
we have already fully written, so that we need not enlarge upon this
again. To the Word, then, let the unconverted sinner go. Let him be
careful to put no barrier in the way of its influence. Let him permit
it to have free course, and it will do its own blessed work.
We desire now to notice and to call special attention to the
diversified phenomena and experiences incident to this change.
There are some, indeed, who will not admit that there are any
variations. They would measure all by the same standard, and that
standard often a very abnormal one. With some, the only standard is
their own distorted experience. In their pharisaic self-righteousness
they are ready to assert that every one whose experience does not in
every respect conform to their own is not converted. The writer has
frequently, in his pastoral work, met poor, downcast souls, who were
groping in the dark, bemoaning themselves, and living a cheerless
life, because they had been taught that, as they had not an experience
just like somebody else, they were not converted, and had neither part
nor lot in the kingdom of God. He has also met more than one who, by
just such vagaries and delusions, had been almost driven to unbelief
and despair. And what a relief it often is to such poor, benighted
ones, if they are not too far gone, to be led out of their vain
imaginings into the blessed light of God's truth.
We notice, first, that not all conversions are alike clearly
marked. Some are more strongly marked than others. There are greater
and less degrees of intensity in the change. The degree of intensity,
or depth of experience, may depend on several things. It may depend,
to, a certain extent, on the temperament of the individual. One person
is of a phlegmatic temperament; his mind is sluggish; his feelings are
not deep; he rarely becomes excited. Of a cool, calculating
disposition, he does everything deliberately and cautiously. He feels
the ground before him ere he takes a step. When God's Word comes to
such an one, it does not generally revolutionize him at once. He hears
it, carries it home, weighs it, ponders it, and wants to hear more.
Gradually, slowly, his mind is enlightened, his heart is interested,
his will is changed. In him the Word is likely to _grow as a seed_, or
operate _like leaven in meal_. There is seldom much excitement, and
little outward manifestation.
Another is of a sanguine temperament; he is impulsive, easily
aroused, and ready to jump at conclusions. When God's Word comes to
him, and is not opposed, it is more likely to take strong hold of him.
It may so alarm him, and take away his peace, that he may at once see
the depth of his guilt. Again, when Christ, His atonement and love for
guilty men, are presented, he may quickly lay hold of the hope set
before him in the Gospel, and rest on Christ. God's Word comes to him
_like a hammer that breaks the stony heart_. Both persons have
been led by the same Spirit, through the same Word. Both have repented
and believed, but each in his own way.
The degree of intensity may also depend on the former life of the
One has wandered very far from his Father's house. He has wasted
his substance in riotous living. He has sunken very low in sin and
guilt. When God's Word comes to such an one, and shows him his
wretched state, when he _comes to himself_, his penitence is likely to
be deep and painful, and when he is enabled to believe, his faith will
probably be quite joyful, because he realizes the depth from which he
was drawn. God's Word has acted on him _like a fire_, burning deep
down into the conscience, consuming its dross.
Another has never wandered so far away. He has all along been
more or less under divine influence. Baptized in childhood, brought up
amid Christian restraints, he has at least observed the outward
obligations of religion, though he may not in the past have yielded
himself unreservedly unto Christ. When such an one does give himself
to God, his repentance may not be so marked, or his faith be so
demonstrative, but on this account the conversion is none the less
real. God's Word, at length, _opened his heart_, as the heart of
Lydia, the seller of purple, was opened.
We notice in the next place that there are differences in the
duration of the process. With some the process lasts longer than with
others. This fact is implied indeed in the variations noted above. On
one person the Word may make but a superficial impression at first. It
may be only a slight dissatisfaction with self. But with more light
and knowledge, the feeling of penitence is deepened. Longings for
something better are awakened. Yearnings and outcryings after
deliverance arise from the heart. There is then only a first timid
trembling look to Christ. Gradually, slowly, the faith is drawn out,
until the heart is enabled to cast itself on the Saviour and rest
trustingly there. It may be weeks, months, or even years, before that
penitent comes out into the clear sunlight of assurance and peace. In
all such cases it is "_first the blade, then the ear, and then the
full corn in the ear_."
On the other hand, we freely admit that there are sudden
conversions. God's word comes _as a hammer or as a fire_ (Jer.
xxiii. 29). It smites and burns until the sinner is brought low in the
dust. The heart is broken and becomes contrite, and ready to lay hold
of the Crucified One, as soon as He is presented. To this class,
generally, belong some of those noted above as of sanguine
temperament, and those who have fallen deeply into sin. Going to the
Word of God for examples of the two latter classes, we might mention
Zaccheus, Saul of Tarsus, the Philippian jailer, and the three
thousand on the day of Pentecost, as cases of sudden conversion--while
we might instance the disciples of Christ in general, as cases of slow
and gradual conversion. 1 Cor. xii. 6, "_There are diversities of
operation, but it is the same God which worketh all in all_."
From all this it follows that not every one can tell the exact
time when, and the place where, he was converted. True, some can.
Zaccheus, and the jailer, and Saul, and the three thousand, would
doubtless always remember and be able to tell about the time and place
and circumstances of their entrance into the kingdom. But could the
apostles of Jesus tell? Do we not read how slowly they were
enlightened; how, little by little, their errors had to be removed,
and the truth applied? They did not, in fact, become established in
the faith until after the resurrection.
And so it is with many, probably, indeed, with most of the very
best Christians in the church to-day. They cannot tell when they were
Neither is it necessary. On the Day of Judgment the question will
not be asked: "Where and when and how were you converted?" The
question will be, "Were you in a converted state, turned from darkness
to light, and from the power of Satan to God?" No matter whether you
belonged to that favored class who kept their baptismal covenant
unbroken; or whether, after you had been a stranger and a foreigner
for a time, you were slowly, and through much doubt and, misgiving,
brought to penitence and faith; or whether you were suddenly brought
into the kingdom.
Can each one then tell whether he is at present in a converted
state or not? We answer unhesitatingly, Yes, to a certainty. The
inquirer need only look into his heart and see _how his sins affect
him_. Do his sins grieve him? Does he hate them? Does he earnestly
long and strive to be rid of them? Does he daily turn to Jesus Christ
for forgiveness and strength? If he can answer these questions in the
affirmative, he has the elements and evidences of conversion and the
new life. Though faith be weak, it is accepted. Though assurance at
times be dim, the vision of faith clouded, and faith itself almost
unconscious, it still saves; for it is not the assurance, but the
faith, that justifies.
But if, on the other hand, his sins do not trouble the sinner; if
they are as trifles to him; if they do not daily drive him to the
Cross, the elements and evidences of the new life are certainly
wanting. Such a person is in an unconverted state. And let not such an
one delude himself with the false idea that something, which he called
a change, had taken place at some time in the past. He can know
whether he is _now_ in the faith.
It is poor theology, it is altogether anti-scriptural, for a
Christian to go through the world singing plaintively:
"Tis a point I long to know;
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord, or no?
Am I His, or am I not?"
He whose faith, reaching up out of a heart that mourns over and
hates sin, lays hold of Christ, even tremblingly, can say, "_I know
in whom I have believed_," "_I know that my Redeemer liveth_."
He can joyfully sing:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!
What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
He lives, He lives, who once was dead,
He lives, my ever-living Head.
"He lives to bless me with His love,
He lives to plead for me above,
He lives my hungry soul to feed,
He lives to help in time of need.
"He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears,
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.
"He lives, all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus, still the same;
Oh the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!"
CONVERSION--HUMAN AGENCY IN
What part and responsibility pertain to the human will in
Before we leave the subject of conversion, it is important that
we consider and understand this question also. For on this point also
grievous and dangerous views and practices prevail. Human nature tends
to extremes. Here too, there is a tendency to go too far, either in
the one direction or the other. There are those, on the one hand, who
virtually and practically make this change of heart and of nature a
_human_ work. They practically deny the agency of the Holy
Spirit, or His means of Grace. On the other hand, there are those
whose ideas and teachings would rid man of all responsibility in the
matter, and make of him a mere machine, that is _irresistibly_
moved and controlled from above.
Is either of the above views the correct and scriptural one? If
not, what is the Bible doctrine on this subject? What has the human
will--_i.e._, the choosing and determining faculty of the mind--to do
with conversion? What, if any part of the work, is to be ascribed to
it? Is it a factor in the process? If so, in what respect, and to what
extent? Where does its activity begin or end? In how far is the human
will responsible for the accomplishment or non-accomplishment of this
change? These questions we shall endeavor briefly and plainly to
We must necessarily return to man as he is before his conversion,
while still in his natural, sinful, unrenewed state. In this state of
sin, the will shares, in common with all the other parts of his being,
the ruin and corruption resulting from the fall. The natural man has
the "_understanding darkened;_" "_is alienated from the life of
God, through the ignorance that is in him, because of the blindness of
his heart_." He "_receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God
... neither can he know them_." He is "_in darkness_," "_dead in
trespasses and sins_."
Thus is the _whole man_ in darkness, blindness, ignorance,
slavery to Satan, and at enmity with God. He is in a state of
spiritual death. The will is equally affected by this total depravity.
If the natural man cannot even _see_, _discern_, or _know_ the things
of the Spirit, how much less can he _will to do_ them!
Before his conversion, man is utterly impotent "_to will or to
do_" anything towards his renewal. The strong words of Luther, as
quoted in the Form of Concord, are strictly scriptural: "In spiritual
and divine things which pertain to the salvation of the soul, man is
like a pillar of salt, like Lot's wife, yea, like a log and a stone,
like a lifeless statue, which uses neither eyes nor mouth, neither
senses nor heart." (Matt. iii. 9.) But that same God who could, out of
the very stones, raise up spiritual children to Abraham, can also
change the stony heart of man, and put life into those who were dead
in trespasses and sins.
The first movement, however, must always be from God to the
sinner, and not from the sinner to God. God does, indeed, in His great
mercy, come first to us. This He does through His own means of Grace.
In holy baptism He meets us even on the threshold of existence,
takes us into His loving arms, places His hands in blessing upon our
heads, breathes into us a new life, and adopts us into His own family.
If the sinner afterwards fall from this baptismal Grace, goes back
into the ways of sin, and breaks his side of the covenant, God is
still faithful and comes to him again by His Holy Spirit through His
Word; strives with him and endeavors to turn or convert him again
_from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God_.
We should notice here a distinction between those, who have at
some time been under divine influence, as by virtue of the sacramental
Word in baptism, or the written or preached Word, and those who have
never been touched by a breath from above. When the Spirit of God
comes to the former, He finds something still to appeal to. There is
more or less _receptivity_ to receive the Grace of God, as there is
more or less life still in the germ formerly implanted. When He comes
to the latter class there is nothing to work on. The foundations must
be laid. A receptivity must be brought about, a new life must be
inbreathed. In other words, in the conversion of the latter the Holy
Spirit must do what He has already done in the former. The one is the
conversion of a once regenerate but now lapsed one. The other is the
regeneration and conversion of one heretofore always dead in sin.
But in every case, God comes first to the sinner; whether it be
in the sacramental, or the written and preached Word. It is always
through that Word, as we have already shown, that the Spirit of God
operates on the sinful heart, enkindling penitence and begetting faith
Now, what part does the will perform in this great work? Is it
entirely passive, merely wrought upon, as the stone by the sculptor?
At first, the will is doubtless entirely passive. The first movements,
the first desires, the first serious thoughts, are beyond question
produced by the Spirit, through the Word. These are the advance
signals and heralds of Grace. They are the preparatory steps, and
hence these first approaches of divine influence are called by
theologians _Prevenient Grace_, that is the divine influence of Grace
which precedes or goes before all other movements in the return of the
soul to God.
This preparatory Grace comes to the sinner unsought, and is so
far unavoidable. It is purely and entirely the work of the Holy Spirit
_upon_ the sinner. The human will has nothing whatever to do with
the first beginnings of conversion. Of this our Confessions testify:
"God must first come to us." "Man's will hath no power to work the
righteousness of God, or a spiritual righteousness, without the spirit
of God." Of this the Prophet speaks when he says, Zech. iv. 6, "_Not
by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord_." Also, 1
Cor. xii. 3, "_No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the
After prevenient Grace, however, begins to make itself felt, then
the will begins to take part. It must now assume an attitude, and meet
the question: Shall I yield to these holy influences or not? One or
the other of two courses must be pursued. There must be a yielding to
the heavenly strivings, or a resistance. To resist at this point
requires a positive act of the will. This act man can put forth by his
own strength. On the other hand, with the help of that Grace, already
at work in his heart, he can refuse to put forth that act, of his
will, and thus remain non-resistant.
If man, thus influenced from above, now deliberately uses his
will power, and _resists_ the gracious influences of prevenient
Grace, he quenches the Holy Spirit of God, whereby he is sealed to the
day of redemption. He has hardened his heart. His last state is worse
than the first. He remains unconverted, and on himself alone is the
If, on the other hand, he even _with_ the assistance of
prevenient Grace, permits it to do its work, the process goes on. His
will is being renewed. It experiences the pulsations of a new life. It
realizes the possession of new powers. There is an infusion from God's
will into his will, and now prevenient Grace is changed into operating
Grace. The Word has _free course_. _It runs and is glorified._ He
"_works out his own salvation with fear and trembling_," while it
is all the time "_God that worketh in him both to will and to do of
His good pleasure_."
Such a person is a new creature in Christ Jesus. Operative Grace
goes out into cooeperating Grace. He becomes a worker with God, and as
he grows in Grace and in knowledge, his will becomes more and more
free as it comes more and more into harmony with God's will.
Again we ask, What has the human will to do with this great
change? We answer, Two things.
First, man can and will to go to church where the means of Grace
are, or he can will to remain away. If he deliberately wills to absent
himself from where their influence is exerted, he remains unconverted,
and _on himself is the responsibility_. If, on the other hand, he
wills to go where God speaks to man in His ordinary way, he does so
much towards permitting God to convert him.
Secondly, when the means of Grace do carry renewing power, and he
is made to realize their efficacy--though it be at first only in an
uneasiness, dissatisfaction with self, and an undefined longing after
something better--he can, as we have seen, permit the work to go on.
Thus he may be said, negatively, to help towards his conversion. On
the other hand, he can shake off the good impressions, tear away from
the holy influences, resist the Spirit, and remain unconverted.
Clearly, _on himself is all the responsibility_ if he perish. God
desired to convert him. He "_rejected the counsel of God against
himself_." Luke vii. 30.
And thus our Lutheran doctrine of _Grace through the means of
Grace_, clears away all difficulties and avoids all contradictions. It
gives God all the glory, and throws on man all the responsibility.
Sailing thus under the colors of scriptural doctrine, we steer
clear of the Scylla of Calvinism on the one hand, and also escape the
Charybdis of Arminianism on the other.
We give to Sovereign Grace all the glory of our salvation just as
much as the Calvinists do. And yet we make salvation as free as the
boldest Arminian does. Whatever is excellent in both systems we
retain. Whatever is false in both we reject. We refuse to make of man
a machine, who is _irresistibly_ brought into the kingdom of God,
and forced indeed to accept of Sovereign Grace. On the other hand, we
utterly repudiate the idea that man is _himself_ able to "get
religion," to "get through," to "grasp the blessing," or to "save
himself." To such self-exaltation we give no place--no, not for a
With Luther we confess, "I believe that I cannot, by my own
reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him.
But that the Holy Spirit hath called me by His Gospel, enlightened me
by His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith; in
like manner as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole
Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ
in the true faith. In which Christian Church He daily forgives me
abundantly all my sins and the sins of all believers, and will raise
up me and all the dead at the last day, and will grant everlasting
life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly
"Grace first contrived the way
To save rebellious man;
And all the steps that Grace display
Which drew the wondrous plan.
"Grace taught my roving feet
To tread the heavenly road;
And new supplies each hour I meet,
While pressing on to God.
"Grace all the work shall crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise."
Among all the doctrines of our holy Christian faith, the doctrine
of Justification by Faith alone, stands most prominent. Luther calls
it: "The doctrine of a standing or a falling church," _i.e._, as
a church holds fast and appropriates this doctrine she remains pure
and firm, and as she departs from it, she becomes corrupt and falls.
This doctrine was the turning point of the Reformation in the
sixteenth century. It was the experience of its necessity and efficacy
that made Luther what he was, and equipped him for a Reformer.
Naturally, therefore, it occupies the chief place in all our
Confessions, and is prominent in all the history of our Church.
In these chapters on the "Way of Salvation," it has been
_implied_ throughout. There is indeed no doctrine of salvation
that is not more or less connected with or dependent on this one.
Some time ago we noticed a statement of a certain bishop in a
large Protestant Church, declaring that "not Justification, but the
Divinity of Christ, is the great fundamental doctrine that conditions
the standing or falling of a church." At first sight this seems
plausible. But when we come to reflect, we cannot but see that the
true doctrine concerning the Person of Christ is not only implied, but
embraced in the doctrine of Justification by Faith. A man might be
sound on the Divinity of Christ, and yet not know aright the Way of
Salvation. But a man cannot be sound on Justification without being
sound, not only on the Person of Christ, but also on His work and the
Way of Salvation through Him.
So much has been written and preached in our Church on this
subject, that it is not necessary for us to enter upon a full
discussion here. We will endeavor, therefore, merely in outline, to
call attention to a few of its most prominent and practical features.
We inquire briefly into its meaning and nature. Justification is
an act of God, by which He accounts or adjudges a person righteous in
His sight. It is not a change in the person's nature, but it is a
change in his _standing_ in the sight of God. Before justification he
stands in the sight of God, guilty and condemned. Through
justification, he stands before God free from guilt and condemnation;
he is acquitted, released, regarded and treated as if he had never
been guilty or condemned. The justified person stands in the sight of
God, as if he really had never committed a sin and were perfectly
innocent. Thus it is clear that justification treats of and has regard
to the sinner's _relation_ to God. It has nothing to do with his
change of nature. It is of the utmost importance that this be kept
constantly in mind. It is by applying justification to the change in
the sinner's nature that so many become confused, and fall into
grievous and dangerous errors.
The original source, or moving cause of justification, is God's
love. Had God not "_loved the world_" there would have been no
divine planning or counseling for man's justification. Truly it
required a divine mind to originate a scheme by which God "_could be
just and yet justify the ungodly_." All the wisdom of the world
could never have answered the question: "_How can mortal man be just
Man stood, in the sight of God, as a rebel against His divine
authority, a transgressor of divine law, guilty, condemned, and wholly
unable to justify himself, or to answer for one in a thousand
offences. God had given His word that, because of guilt, there must be
punishment and suffering. This word was given before sin was
committed, and was repeated a thousand times afterwards. There must
then be obedience to an infinite law, or _infinite_ punishment
for transgression. How could this gulf be bridged, and man saved?
There was only one way. "_God so loved the world that He gave
His only-begotten Son._" That Son, "_the brightness of the
Father's glory and the express image of His person_," "_in whom
dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily_," came into our
world. He came to take the sinner's place--to be his substitute.
Though Lord and giver of the law, He put Himself under the law. He
fulfilled it in every jot and tittle. He did no sin, neither was guile
found in his mouth. Thus He worked out a complete and perfect
righteousness. He did not need this righteousness for Himself, for He
had a righteousness far above the righteousness of the law. He wrought
it out not for Himself, but for man, that He might make it over and
impute it to the transgressor. Thus then while man had no obedience of
his own, he could have the obedience of another set down to his
account, as though it were his own.
But this was not enough. Man had sinned and was still constantly
sinning, his very nature being a sinful one. As already noted, the
divine Word was pledged that there must be punishment for sin. The
Son, who came to be a substitute, said: Put me in the sinner's place;
let me be the guilty one; let the blows fall upon me. And thus, He
"_who knew no sin was made sin_ (or a sin-offering) _for us_." He
"_was made a curse_," "_bore our sins_" and "_the iniquity of us
all_." He, the God-man, was regarded as the guilty one, treated as the
guilty one, suffered as the guilty one.
He suffered as God, as well as man. For the Divine and human were
inseparably united in one person. Divinity by itself cannot suffer and
die. But thus mysteriously connected with the humanity it could and
really did participate in the suffering and dying. And who will
calculate what Immanuel can suffer? What must it have been when it
crushed Him to earth, made Him cry out so plaintively, and at last
took His life! Our old theologians loved to say, that what the
sufferings of Christ lacked in _extensiveness_ or duration, they
made up in _intensiveness_. Thus there was a perfect atonement.
_All_ the punishment had been endured. A perfect righteousness
had been wrought out, and the Father set His seal to it in the
resurrection and ascension of His dear Son. Here, then, was real
substitution, and this is the _ground_ for our justification.
It has been asked, on this point, if Christ by His perfect life
wrought out a complete righteousness, which He needed not for Himself,
but intended for the sinner, why was not this sufficient? Why was His
death necessary? On the other hand, if His death is a perfect
atonement for all sin, why does the sinner, in addition to a full and
free forgiveness, procured by the death of Christ, need also the
application of the righteousness of the life of Christ? In a word, why
are both the life and death necessary to justify the sinner?
We answer: By His death or suffering obedience He wrought out a
_negative_ righteousness, the forgiveness of sins. By His life,
or active obedience, He wrought out a _positive_ righteousness.
The former releases from punishment. The latter confers character,
standing and honor in the kingdom of God.
To illustrate. Two persons have broken the laws of their land,
are guilty, condemned, and suffer the penalty in prison. To one comes
a message of pardon from the king. The prison doors are opened and he
goes forth a free man. The law cannot again seize him and condemn him
for the crimes of which he is pardoned. But as he goes forth among his
fellow-men he realizes that though released from punishment, and
_negatively_ righteous, he has no standing, no character, no
positive righteousness, unless he earn and merit it for himself.
To the other criminal also comes a message of pardon from his
king. In addition to pardon, or release from punishment, he is assured
that his king has adopted him as his son, will take him into his
family and endow him with his name and all the privileges of his
Now this pardoned one has a double righteousness; Negatively,
pardon and release from punishment; positively, a name, standing,
character, honor, and the richest endowments of the kingdom.
Even thus has the Son of God wrought out for us a two-fold
righteousness, viz.: Negatively, by His sufferings and death, the
forgiveness of sin and release from punishment; and positively, by His
life of obedience, the appropriation of a perfect righteousness, a
name and a place in His kingdom, with all its honors and blessings.
In the procuring of this double righteousness, Christ wrought out
first the positive and then the negative. In the conferring of it He
gives first the negative and then the positive.
And therefore the two-fold message of consolation. Is. xl. 1, 2:
"_Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably
to_--(i.e., speak ye _to the heart of_)--_Jerusalem, and cry unto her
that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned; for
she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins._"
This justification has been purchased and paid for. But it is not
yet applied. The sinner has not yet appropriated it and made it his
own. How is this to be done? We answer: BY FAITH. Faith is the eye
that looks to Christ. It sees His perfect atonement and His spotless
righteousness. It is, at the same time, the hand that reaches out and
lays hold of Christ, and clings to him as the only help and the only
hope. This faith, springing from a penitent heart, that realizes its
own unworthiness and guiltiness, renouncing all claim to merit or
self-righteousness, casts itself on the divine Saviour, trusts
implicitly in Him, and rests there. This faith justifies. Not because
it is an act that merits or earns justification. No! In no sense.
Christ has earned it. Faith only lays hold of and appropriates what is
already purchased and paid for.
There certainly can be no merit in our faith, because it is
itself a "_gift of God_," as the Scriptures declare. He that has
the faith is justified, acquitted, forgiven. The appropriation or
application, is when we believe with all the heart on the Son of God.
Such, in brief, is the Lutheran doctrine of "Justification by
Faith." We have not thought it necessary to quote from the Augsburg
Confession or the Formula of Concord for proof. Neither is it
necessary or desirable that we lengthen out this chapter with
quotations from standard theologians. Any one desiring further proof
or amplification can find abundance of it in all our Confessions, and
in all recognized writers in the Church. Nor have we taken up the
space with Scripture quotations. To quote all that the Bible says on
the subject would be to transcribe a large proportion of its passages.
It would necessitate especially a writing out of a large part of the
writings of Paul, who makes it the great theme of several of his
epistles. Every devout reader of Paul's letters will find this great
doctrine shining forth in every chapter, so much so that the Romish
Bishop who was driven by Luther to a study of the New Testament threw
down his book and said: "_Paul also has become a Lutheran_!"
In conclusion, we desire to impress one thought. The doctrine of
Justification is so highly prized by the believer, not so much because
of the grand and matchless scheme it brings to light, as because of
the peace and comfort it has brought into his heart. He who truly
embraces this doctrine, realizes its efficacy and power. It is
precious to him, above all things, as a matter of personal experience.
This experience is not the doctrine, but the result of receiving it.
He has realized the blessedness of having his own sins forgiven, his
transgressions covered. Being _justified by faith, he has peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ_.
This blessed experience was the root and spring of Luther's
courage and strength. Without this heart-experience, all theorizing
about the doctrine is vain. Such a scriptural experience never
develops a Pharisee. It never runs into self-exaltation. It constantly
exalts and magnifies Christ. It habitually humbles self. It lays self
low at the foot of the cross, and remains there. Not that it is a
gloomy or despondent spirit. For while it constantly mourns over the
imperfections and sins of self, it, at the same time, constantly
rejoices in the full and perfect salvation of Christ. While it never
ceases in this life to shed the tears of penitence, it also never
ceases to sing the joyful song of deliverance. It develops a Christian
after the type of Paul and Luther, and Gerhard and Francke. Blessed is
he who understands and experiences justification by faith. Doubly sad
the state of him who has the doctrine, without its experience and
peace and glory.
"Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
"Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully through these absolved I am
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.
"This spotless robe the same appears,
When ruined nature sinks in years:
No age can change its constant hue;
Thy Blood preserves it ever new.
"Oh let the dead now hear Thy voice;
Now bid Thy banished ones rejoice!
Their beauty this, their glorious dress,
Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness."
In the last chapter we showed that the doctrine of justification
deals with the sinner's change of relation, or change of state.
We also learned that faith is the instrumental or applying cause
of justification. In another place we showed that true faith
presupposes penitence, and this again presupposes a sense and
knowledge of sin. Again we showed that penitence and faith are the two
essential elements of conversion; that where these elements are found
there is a change of heart, and the beginning of a new life. This new
life is, however, only in its germ. These are the _beginnings_ of
new views, new affections, new actions, a new _life_.
They are of a germinal or seed character. Now it belongs to the
very nature of life to develop, increase, and make progress. And it is
this development or growth of the new life that we wish now to
consider. It is called _sanctification_, or growth of the soul
into the image of a holy God.
It is closely related to justification, and yet clearly distinct
from it. In justification, God _imputes_ or _counts over_ to the
sinner the righteousness of Christ. In sanctification, God _imparts_
the righteousness of the new life. Justification is what God does
_for_ the believer; sanctification is what His Spirit does _in_ him.
Justification being purely an act of God, is _instantaneous_ and
complete; sanctification being a work in which man has a share, is
_progressive_. Justification takes away the _guilt_ of sin;
sanctification gradually takes away its _power_. Sanctification begins
with justification. So soon as the sinner believes he is justified;
but just so soon as he believes, he also has the beginnings of a
In time, therefore, the two come together; but in thought they
are distinct. And it is of the greatest importance that these
distinctions be understood and kept in mind. It is by confounding
justification with sanctification, and _vice versa_, that all the
flagrant, soul-destroying errors concerning the so-called "higher
life," "sinless perfection," etc., are promulgated and believed. It is
by quoting Scripture passages that speak of justification, and
applying them to sanctification, that this delusion is strengthened.
How often have we not heard that precious passage, 1 John i. 7, "_The
blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin_," quoted to
prove entire sanctification. Now, if we understand the Scriptures at
all, that passage speaks of the _forgiveness_ of sin through the
efficacy of Christ's blood, and not of overcoming sin in the believer,
or eradicating its very fibres and impulses.
But this, perhaps, is a digression. Let us understand clearly
what we mean by sanctification. The English word comes from a Latin
word that means sacred, consecrated, devoted to holy purposes. The
Greek word translated sanctify in our English Bible also means to
separate from common and set apart for holy purposes. The same word
that is translated sanctify, is in many places translated consecrate,
or make holy. The English word _saint_ comes from the same Latin
root, and is translated from the same Greek root, as sanctify. It
means a sanctified one, or one who is being sanctified. Thus we find
believers called saints, or sanctified ones. We find, indeed, that the
apostles call all the members of their churches saints. Thus they
speak of "_the saints which are at Jerusalem_," "_The saints which are
at Achaia_," "_To all that be in Rome ... called to be saints_," "_As in
all the churches of the saints_." So in many other passages.
In harmony with the apostolic usage, we confess in the Apostles'
Creed: "I believe in the Holy Christian Church (which is) the
communion--or community--of saints." If then saints means sanctified
ones, or holy persons, do not the Bible and the Apostles' Creed demand
perfect sinlessness? By no means. Christians are indeed to strive to
constantly become more and more free from sin. They are "_called to be
saints_," are constantly being sanctified or made holy. But their
sanctity or holiness is only _relative_.
They have indeed "_come out from the world_," to "_be separate_."
They are "_a peculiar people_." They hate sin, repent of it, flee from
it, strive against it, and overcome it more and more. They "_mortify
the deeds of the body_," "_keep it under_," "_crucify the flesh with
its affections and lusts_," "_present_--(or consecrate)--_their
bodies, as living sacrifices to God_." They have pledged themselves at
Christ's altar to "renounce the devil and all his works and ways, the
vanities of the world and the sinful desires of the flesh, and to live
up to the doctrines and precepts of Christ."
In so far, they are separated from the world, set apart to become
holy, consecrated to Christ. Not that their sanctification or
saintship is complete. If that were the case, the apostles would not
have written epistles to the saints. For perfect beings need no
Bibles, no Churches, no means of Grace. The angels need none of these
things. There is indeed not one sinless person mentioned in the Bible,
except that divine One, "_who did no sin, neither was guile found in
If there were one Scripture character who, if such a thing were
possible, would have attained to sinless perfection, that one would
certainly have been the greatest of all the apostles, Paul. He labored
more than they all; he suffered more than they all; he went deeper
into the mysteries of redemption than they all. He was not only
permitted to look into heaven, as the beloved John, but he "_was
caught up into the third heaven, and heard words that it was not
lawful for him to utter_" on this sinful earth. Oh, what purifying
through suffering! What visions and revelations! What experience of
Grace! And yet this burnished vessel never professed sinless
perfection. Indeed, he never ceased to mourn and lament the sinfulness
and imperfection of his own heart, and called himself the chief of
sinners. He does indeed speak of perfection. Hear what he says, Phil.
iii. 12, 13, 14: "_Not as though I had already attained, either were
already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for
which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not
myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those
things that are behind, and reaching forward unto those things which
are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling
of God in Christ Jesus._"
The saints on earth, then, are not sinless ones. The Bible does
indeed speak of those born of God sinning not, not committing sin,
etc. But this can only mean that they do not _wilfully_ sin. They do
not intentionally live in habits of sin. Their sins are sins of
weakness and not sins of malice. They repent of them, mourn over them,
and strive against them. They constantly pray, "_Forgive us our
trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us_." But their
heart-purity and sanctification are only relative.
Sanctification is gradual and progressive. We have seen that Paul
thus expressed himself. He was constantly "_following after_,"
"_reaching forth_," "_pressing toward_" the mark. He exhorts
the Corinthians, 2 Cor. vii. 1, to be "_perfecting holiness in the
fear of the Lord_," and again, 2 Cor. iii. 18, to be "_changed
into the same image from glory to glory_." He tells them in chapter
iv. 16 that "_the inward man is renewed day by day_." He exhorts
the saints or believers, again and again, "_to grow_," "_to
increase_," "_to abound yet more and more_."
Growth is the law of the kingdom of nature. And the same God
operates in the kingdom of Grace, and, indeed, much after the same
order. Our Saviour, therefore, so often compares the kingdom of God,
or the kingdom of Grace, to growth from a seed, where it is "_first
the blade, then the ear, and then the full corn in the ear_," Mark iv.
26-29. In harmony with all this Paul calls those who have but lately
become believers, "_babes in Christ_." He tells them they must be
"_fed with milk as babes_," etc. Therefore, it is quite natural that
we find so many exhortations to grow in Grace and in knowledge.
How directly contrary to all this is the unscriptural idea, not
only of entire sanctification, but of instantaneous sanctification.
Surely, in this fast age, many have run far ahead of prophets,
apostles, martyrs, reformers and the most eminent saints of all ages.
As we read the lives and words of these heroes of faith, we find that
the more Christ-like and consecrated they were, the more did they
deplore their slow progress and their remaining sin.
While, therefore, we have no Scripture warrant to expect
sinlessness here, while we must "_die daily_," "mortify our members_,"
and "_fight the good fight of faith_," between the old Adam, whose
remnants cleave to us, and the new man in Christ Jesus, we can still
do much to promote our sanctification, and make it more and more
complete. We can use the powers that God has given us to carry on the
warfare with sin. We can increase these powers, or rather permit
divine Grace to increase them, by a diligent use of the means of
Grace. In the chapter on the Word of God as a means of Grace, we
showed that the Holy Spirit sanctifies through the Word. In the
chapters on baptism and the baptismal covenant, we showed how that
holy sacrament is a means of Grace, whose efficacy is not confined to
the time of its administration, but that it is intended to be a
perennial fountain of Grace, from which we can drink and be refreshed
while life lasts. In the chapters on the Lord's Supper, we learned
that it also was ordained and instituted to sustain and strengthen our
We have, therefore, all the means necessary for our
sanctification. Do we prayerfully use them? Might we not be much
further on in the work of holiness than we are? Do we use the truth as
we should, that we maybe "_sanctified through the truth_?" Do we
"_desire the sincere milk of the Word, that we may grow thereby_?"
Does it "_dwell richly among us_?" Know we not, or have we forgotten
it, that "_as many of us as have been baptized into Christ, were
baptized into His death_?" Do we say, with those early Christians,
"_henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of
the Lord Jesus_?" And when we go to our Lord's Table do we realize
that His "_flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed_?" Do
we go in the strength of that heavenly nourishment many days? Might we
not, by making a more sincere, hearty and diligent use of all these
means of Grace, live nearer to Christ, lean more confidingly on Him
and do more effectually all things through Him who strengthened us?
Yes, doubtless, we must all confess that it is our own fault that
we are not sanctified more fully than we are; that if, in the strength
derived from a proper use of the means of Grace, we would watch more
over self, pray more, meditate more on divine things and thus surround
ourselves more with a spiritual atmosphere, we would be more
spiritual. "_This is the will of God, even your sanctification._"
"_Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord._"
"And what am I? My soul, awake,
And an impartial survey take.
Does no dark sign, no ground of fear
In practice or in heart appear?
"What image does my spirit bear?
Is Jesus formed and living there?
Ah, do His lineaments divine
In thought and word and action shine?
"Searcher of hearts, O search me still;
The secrets of my soul reveal;
My fears remove; let me appear
To God and my own conscience clear."
We might have closed our studies of the Way of Salvation with
Sanctification, without giving any attention to the subject of
Revivals. We remember, however, that, in the estimation of many,
revivals are the most essential part of the Way; so much so that, in
certain quarters, few, if any, souls are expected to be brought into
the way of life, otherwise than through so-called "revivals of
religion." According to this widespread idea, the ingathering of
souls, the upbuilding of the Church, her activity, power and very
life, are dependent upon the revival system.
In view of all this, we have concluded to bring our studies to a
close with an examination of this system. Before we enter upon the
subject itself, however, we desire to have it distinctly understood
that we intend to discuss the _system_, and not the _people_ who
believe and practice it. There doubtless are very excellent Christian
people who favor a religion built up and dependent on such movements,
and there may be very unchristian people who oppose it. With this we
have nothing to do. We are not discussing _persons_, but _doctrines_
and _systems_. The advocates of modern revivalism claim the right to
hold, defend and propagate their views. We only demand the same right.
If we do not favor or practice their way, our people have not only a
right to ask, but it is our duty to give grounds and reasons for our
In discussing this subject, we intend, as usual, to speak with
all candor and plainness. We desire to approach and view this subject,
as every subject, from the fair, firm standpoint of the opening words
of the Formula of Concord, viz.: "We believe, teach and confess that
the only rule and standard, according to which all doctrines and
teachings should be esteemed and judged, are nothing else than the
prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament." We
wish to test it by the infallible Word. By it, we are willing to be
judged. According to it, our views and doctrines must stand or fall.
What then is a revival? The word revive means to bring back to
life. It presupposes the existence of life, which for a time had
languished or died. Life was present, it failed and was restored.
Strictly speaking, therefore, we can only use this word of the
bringing back of a life that had been there formerly and was lost.
Applying it to spiritual life, strictly speaking, only a person who
has once had the new life in him, but lost it for awhile and regained
it, can be said to be revived. So, likewise, only a church or a
community that was once spiritually alive, but had grown languid and
lifeless, can be said to be revived. On the other hand, it is an
improper use of terms to apply the word revival to the work of a
foreign missionary, who for the first time preaches the life-giving
Word, and through it gathers converts and organizes Churches. In his
case it is a first bringing, and not a restoring, of life.
All those Old Testament reformations and restorations to the true
worship and service of the true God, after a time of decline and
apostasy, were revivals according to the strict sense of the word. For
these revivals patriarchs and prophets labored and prayed.
On the other hand, the labors and successes of the apostles in
the New Testament were not strictly revivals. They preached the Gospel
instead of the law. They preached a Redeemer who had come, instead of
one who was to come. It was largely a new faith, a new life, a new way
of life that they taught, and in so far a new Church that they
established. Its types, shadows and roots, had all been in the old
covenant and Church. But so different were the fulfillments from the
promises, that it was truly called a _New_ Dispensation. And,
therefore, the labors of the apostles to establish this dispensation
were largely missionary labors. It was not so much the restoring of an
old faith and life, as the bringing in of a new. We find their
parallel in foreign mission work much more than in regular Church
work. It is by overlooking this distinction that many erroneous
doctrines and practices have crept into the Church, _e.g._, as to
infant baptism, conversion and modern revivalism.
As to revivals, popularly so-called, we maintain, first of all,
that it ought to be the policy and aim of the Church to preclude their
It is generally admitted that they are only needed, longed for
and obtained, after a period of spiritual decline and general
worldliness. A Church that is alive and active needs no revival. A
lifeless Church does. Better then, far better, to use every right
endeavor to keep the Church alive and active, than permit it to grow
cold and worldly, with a view and hope of a glorious awakening.
Prevention is better than cure. We would rather pay a family physician
to prevent disease and keep us well, than to employ even the most
distinguished doctor to cure a sick household; especially if the
probability were that, in some cases, the healing would be only
partial, and in others it would eventuate in an aggravation of the
In the chapters on the Baptismal Covenant and Conversion, we
showed that it is possible to keep that covenant and thus always grow
in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. While we
sorrowfully admitted that the cases of such as do it are not as
numerous as is possible and most desirable, we also learned that they
might be far more numerous, if parents and teachers understood their
responsibility and did their duty to the baptized children. We verily
believe that thus it might become the rule, instead of the exception,
that the children of Christian parents would grow up as Christ's lambs
from baptism, would love Him with their earliest love and never wander
into the ways of sin. We also firmly believe that those thus early
consecrated, trained, taught and nurtured in faith and love, make the
healthiest, the strongest and most reliable members and workers in
Neither can we for a moment doubt but that such is the good and
gracious will of Him who desires the little children to be baptized
into Him. It certainly seems repugnant to all that we have ever
learned of our God and Saviour, that it should be His will that our
dear children, who have been _conceived and born in sin_, and are
therefore _by nature_, or by birth, _the children of wrath_, should
remain in this state of sin and condemnation until they are old enough
to be converted at a revival. Yet it must be either that, or a denial
of the Bible doctrine of original sin, if we accept the teachings and
practices of modern revivalism. For either of these positions we are
Therefore it is our great aim and object to recall the Church to
the old paths. Therefore we are concerned to see the Church firmly
established on the old foundations of the doctrine of original sin, of
baptism for the remission of sins, of training up in that baptismal
covenant by the constant, diligent and persevering teaching of God's
Word, in the family, in the Sunday-school, in the catechetical class
and from the pulpit. In proportion as this is accomplished, in that
proportion will we preclude the necessity of conversions and,
consequently, of revivals.
Who will say, that a congregation made up of such as are
"_sanctified from the womb_," "_lent to the Lord_," from
birth, having "_known the Holy Scripture_" from childhood, would
not be a healthy, living Church? Such a Church would need no revival.
Would it be possible to have such a Church? Is it possible for
any _one_ member to grow up and remain a child of God? If possible for
one, why not for a whole congregation? Are the means of Grace
inadequate? No, no! The whole trouble lies in the neglect or abuse of
the means. With their proper use, the whole aspect of religious life
might be different from what it is. It is not a fatal necessity that
one, or more, or all the members of a church must periodically grow
cold, lose their first love, and backslide from their God. It is not
God's will, but their fault, that it should be so.
While the church at Ephesus lost its first love, and that at
Pergamos permitted false doctrine to creep into it and be a stumbling
block, and that at Thyatira suffered Jezebel to seduce Christ's
servants, and that at Sardis did not have her works found perfect
before God, and that of Laodicea had become lukewarm; yet the church
at Smyrna, with all her tribulation and poverty and persecution,
remained rich and faithful in the sight of God, and that at
Philadelphia had kept the Word of God's patience, and her enemies were
to know that God loved her. While the former five were censured, the
latter two were approved. The former might have remained as faithful
as the latter. It was their own fault and sin that the former needed a
revival. The latter needed none. Which were the better off?
We believe that where there is a sound, faithful and earnest
pastor, and a docile, sincere, earnest, united and active people, many
will grow up in their baptismal covenant; and among those who wander
more or less therefrom, there will be frequent conversions, under the
faithful use of the ordinary services and ordinances of the Church.
Such, we believe, were the pastorates of Richard Baxter, at
Kidderminster; of Ludwig Harms, at Hermansburg; of Oberlin, at
Steinthal; and of our late lamented Dr. Greenwald, at Easton and
Lancaster. None of these churches, after their pastors were fairly
established in them, needed revivals. And such, doubtless, have been
thousands of quiet, faithful pastorates, some known to the world, and
others known only to God. Blessed are those churches in which the work
of Grace is constantly and effectively going on, according to God's
Way of Salvation.
We have shown that it ought to be the great aim and object of the
Church to preclude the necessity of occasional religious excitements.
We also showed, by example from Scripture and from Church history,
that it is possible to attain this end. If parents did but understand
and do their duty in the family, teachers in the Sunday-school and
pastors in the catechetical class and pulpit, children would very
generally grow up in their baptismal covenant; and a church made up of
such members would not depend for its growth and life on periodic
But--alas, that _but_!--parents, teachers and pastors too often
come short of their duty. Carelessness, worldliness and godlessness
hold sway in too many of the congregations, homes and families. There
is a spirit of love of pleasure, greed for gain and haste to be rich,
that has taken hold of the heart and life of too many professedly
Christian parents. There is no time for God's Word or earnest prayer
with and for the children. There is often little if any religious
instruction or Christian example. The little ones breathe in a
withering, poisonous, materialistic atmosphere. The germs of the
divine life, implanted in baptism, either lie dormant, or are blighted
after their first manifestations. They grow up with the idea that
the great object of life is to gain the most, and make the best of
In the Sunday-school the teachers are often careless and
trifling. They do not live close to Christ themselves, and how can
they lead their pupils nearer to Him? They scarcely pray for
themselves, much less for their pupils, and how can they instil into
them a spirit of prayer?
Many pastors, also, are not as earnest and consecrated as they
should be. They are not burning with a desire for souls. They go
through their ministerial duties in a formal, lifeless manner, and
their labors are barren of results. These things should not be so, but
unfortunately they are. As a result, children grow up ignorant of
their covenant with God, or soon lapse therefrom, and are in an
unconverted state. The communicants of the church lose their first
love, and become lukewarm. An awakening is needed.
If then we admit that, owing to man's imperfections and faults,
_times of refreshing_ are needed, why not have them after the manner
of those around us? Why not adopt the modern system, have union
meetings, evangelists, high-pressure methods, excitements, the anxious
bench, and all the modern machinery for getting up revivals?
We will briefly state our objections to this system.
_First._ We object to the modern revival system, because it
rests on an entire misconception of the coming and work of the Holy
Spirit. The idea seems to be that the Holy Spirit is not effectively
present in the regular and ordinary services of the sanctuary; that He
came to the Church as a transient guest on the day of Pentecost, then
departed again, and returned when there was another season of special
interest. That He then left again, and ever since has come and worked
with power during every revival, and then departed to be absent until
Now we claim that this is directly contrary to the teaching of
the Divine Word.
When Jesus was about to leave His disciples they were filled with
deep sorrow. He gathered them around Him, in that upper chamber at
Jerusalem, and comforted them in those tender, loving words, recorded
in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of John. In these
chapters He promises and speaks much of a Comforter, whom He would
send. The whole discourse goes to show that this Comforter was
intended to be substituted for the visible presence of Himself. His
own visible presence was to be withdrawn. The Comforter was to be sent
to take His place, and thus, in a manner, make good the loss. Jesus
had been their comforter and their joy. They would no longer have Him
visibly among them, to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to hear the
life-giving words that fell from His lips. The announcement made them
feel as if they were to be left "comfortless" and forsaken. But he
says, John xiv. 16: "_I will pray the Father, and He will give you
another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit
of truth_;" verse 18, "_I will not leave you comfortless_:" revised
version, "I will not leave you _desolate_;" more literally still, as
in the margin, "I will not leave you _orphans_." John xvi. 5, 6, 7:
"_But now I go my way to Him that sent me.... But because I have said
these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your hearts. Nevertheless I
tell you the truth. It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I
go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I
will send Him unto you._"
Now, from these words, and others in the same chapters, two
things are plain: First, that the Comforter came as _Christ's
substitute_; Secondly, that He came _to abide_. While Jesus was to be
absent, as far as His visible presence was concerned, the divine
Comforter, the Holy Spirit, was to take His place. His presence was to
substitute Christ's. But if He had come to be present only briefly,
and occasionally, after long intervals of absence, it would be a poor
filling of the painful void. Evidently the impression designed to be
made by the words of Jesus was, that the Holy Spirit would come to
abide. And this is made still more clear by the plain words of Jesus
quoted above "I will not leave you _orphans_;" "He shall _abide_
with you _forever_." He came, then, as a substitute; He came also to
The revival system is, however, built up on the idea that He
comes and goes. He visits the Church, and leaves it again. At
so-called revival seasons the Church has a Comforter. During all the
rest of the time she is left in a desolate or orphaned state. Thus is
the revival system built up on an entire misconception and
misapprehension as to the coming and abiding of the Holy Spirit.
It likewise misconceives entirely the _operations_ of the Spirit.
The idea seems to be that this Blessed One operates without means,
directly, arbitrarily and at haphazard. The Word and Sacraments are
not duly recognized as the divinely ordained means and channels,
through which He reaches the hearts of the children of men. That this
is an unscriptural idea we have shown elsewhere. That the Spirit uses
the means of Grace as channels and instruments, through which He comes
and operates on the hearts of men and imparts to them renewing and
sanctifying Grace, is taught all through the New Testament. We need
not enlarge on these points again, but refer our readers to what has
been written above on this subject.
Our _second_ objection to the modern revival system arises out of
the first. Because of the errors concerning the coming and the
operations of the Holy Spirit, the system undervalues the
divinely-ordained means of Grace. Little if any renewing Grace is
expected from the sacrament of Christian Baptism. Few if any
conversions are expected from the regular and ordinary preaching of
the Word. Little if any spiritual nourishment is expected from the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Who that has attended such meetings
has not heard the idea of Grace bestowed through Baptism ridiculed?
Who has not heard so-called revival preachers scout the idea of
"getting religion"--which must mean receiving divine Grace if it means
anything--through catechising the young in the doctrines of the divine
Word? Are not these divine means often entirely set aside by the most
enthusiastic revivalists? Who does not know that often at these
revival services the reading and preaching of the Word are entirely
omitted? Thus God's means, the means used by Christ and His apostles,
are undervalued. While they are used at the ordinary services, when
there is no revival going on, not much is expected of them.
Our _third_ objection again arises from the second. Because
the regular Church ordinances are undervalued, they are largely
fruitless. Because people have not much faith in their efficacy, they
do not receive much benefit from them. Few conversions are expected or
reported during the ten or eleven months of regular or ordinary church
services, while many, if not all, are expected and reported from the
few weeks of special effort. Even the work of sanctification is
largely crowded into the few weeks. It is during these few weeks that
saints expect to be quickened, refreshed, strengthened and purified,
more than during all the rest of the year.
It is doubtless both as a cause and a result of this undervaluing
and general fruitlessness of the ordinary Church ordinances, that we
find so much levity and irreverence in many so-called revival
Churches. Because the Holy Spirit is not supposed to be effectively
present, is not in the Word and Sacraments, does not bring His saving
and sanctifying Grace through them; therefore there is nothing solemn,
awe-inspiring, or uplifting in these things. Therefore the young, even
if they are members, and sometimes older ones, go to these churches as
to places of amusement, to have a good time, to laugh, to whisper, to
gaze about, write notes, get company, and what not.
A careful observer cannot fail to notice that in Churches which
believe in and preach Grace through the means of Grace, there is an
atmosphere of deeper solemnity and more earnest devotion than in such
revival Churches. The above objection to the revival system we believe
will explain the difference.
_Fourth._ We object to the so-called revival system because, as a
natural result of the above, it begets a dependence on something
extraordinary and miraculous for bringing sinners into the kingdom. As
we have seen, these Churches expect nearly all their conversions from
"revivals." It naturally follows that the unconverted will shake off
and get rid of all serious thoughts and impressions, under the plea
that they will give this matter their attention when the next revival
comes round. We have more than once heard persons say, in effect, "Oh
well, I know I'm not what I ought to be, but perhaps I'll be converted
at the next revival." Thus the gracious influences of the blessed
Spirit, as they come through the Word, whether from the pulpit, the
Sunday-school teacher, or Christian friend, or even when that Word is
brought to a funeral or sick-bed, are all put aside with the hope that
there may be a change at the next revival. And we verily believe that
such ideas, fostered by a false system, have kept countless souls out
of the kingdom of God.
We object _fifthly_ that at these so-called revivals there
is a dependence on methods not sanctioned or authorized by the Word of
God. As we have seen, God's means are generally slighted. On the other
hand, human means and methods are exalted and magnified.
The anxious or mourner's bench is regarded by many otherwise
sensible people, as a veritable mercy-seat, where Grace is supposed to
abound--as though the Spirit of God manifested His saving and
sanctifying power there as nowhere else. But this is a purely human
institution, and has no warrant in the Word. On this point it is not
necessary to enlarge.
MODERN REVIVALS, CONTINUED.
We continue our objections to the modern revival system.
Our _sixth_ objection is the utter indifference to doctrine that
generally goes hand in hand with its methods and practices. To
"_contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints_,"
seems to be altogether out of place at a modern revival. There is no
"_taking heed unto the doctrine_," or "_holding fast the form of sound
words_," or "_becoming rooted and built up in Christ, and established
in the faith as ye have been taught_." There is no counselling to "_be
no more children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind
of doctrine_;" no warning against false teachers and false doctrines.
Instead of thus following Christ and His Apostles, in insisting on the
truth, the faith, and the doctrine; instead of thus warning against
error and false doctrine, and showing that it "_doth eat as a
canker_," and endanger the very salvation of the soul, the modern
revival system habitually inveighs against all such loyalty to the
truth, and contending for the faith and pure doctrine, as bigotry,
intolerance, lack of charity, if not lack of all "experimental
religion." In many quarters indeed the idea is boldly advanced that
the more a person stands up for pure doctrine, for Word and Sacrament
as channels of Grace, the less Grace he has; and the more he makes
light of doctrine, the less positive conviction he has; the less he
thinks of creeds, catechism, and confessions of faith, the more
religion he has! The popular sentiment is: it makes no difference what
a person believes, or to what Church he belongs, or indeed, whether he
belongs to any, if only he is converted; if only he means well; if
only the heart is right! Now, it is not necessary to show here again
that all such indifference to doctrine is directly contrary to the
teaching of Christ and His Apostles.
Our _seventh_ objection is closely connected with the last. Where
there is so much indifference to the Truth as it is in Jesus, that it
often amounts to open contempt, we cannot expect any provision for
teaching His saving truths to men. Hence we find but small provision,
if any, for doctrinal instruction in the revival system. Those who are
expected to be gathered in, converted and brought to Christ, are not
first instructed. They do not learn what sin is, what Grace is, and
how it is communicated and applied. They are left in ignorance of the
great doctrines of sin and salvation. They have the most imperfect
conception of God's Way of Salvation. And yet they are expected to
enter upon that way, and walk in it. They are exhorted to be
converted, to get religion, and to believe, while it is seldom, if
ever, made clear what all this means, and how it is brought about.
Surely it is not necessary that we should show that if ever a
person needs to act intelligently--if ever he needs to know exactly
what he is doing, why he is doing it, and what is involved in so
doing--it is when he is acting in the interests of his eternal
salvation. Then, if ever, he should act understandingly and honestly.
And for this he needs instruction. We have shown elsewhere that this
is God's way, the Bible way, the way of the early Church, the way of
the great Protestant Reformation, and the way of our Church of the
Reformation to this day.
We therefore object to this modern revival system, because it has
largely supplanted the old time systematic and thorough indoctrination
of the young. And, as we have elsewhere said, we are convinced that,
just in proportion as the youth are uncatechised and uninstructed in
the great doctrines of God's Word regarding sin and Grace, in that
proportion will doubt, skepticism, unbelief and infidelity infect
them, and lead them into the paths of the destroyer.
Our _eighth_ objection to this modern revival system, is
that it is so largely built up on the excitement of the feelings. The
first and great object of the revivalist seems to be to work directly
on the emotional nature of his hearers. If he can stir the depths of
the heart until it throbs and thrills with pent-up emotions, if he can
play upon its chords until they vibrate and tremble under his touch,
until its hidden chambers ring again with responsive longings, until
at last the repressed intensity breaks forth in overpowering
excitement, he is considered a successful revival preacher. To reach
this end the preaching is made up of exhortations, anecdotes and
appeals. There are touching stories, calculated to make the
tender-hearted weep. There are thrilling and startling experiences,
calculated to frighten the more hard-hearted. There are lively,
emotional songs, with stirring music, calculated to affect the nervous
system and bring about strange sensations. And when the feelings are
aroused, when the excitement is up, the hearers are urged to come
forward, to go to the inquiry-room, to stand up, or do something to
show that they are ready to take the decisive step.
Now, as we have shown above, if ever a person needs to be calm
and deliberate, it is when about to take the most important step of
his whole life. But men don't generally take important steps, or enter
upon decisive movements, when they are excited. When one is excited he
is very apt to do the wrong thing, and regret it afterwards.
Not that we object to _all_ feeling in religion. We by no
means believe in a religion without feeling. We know of no true piety
without deep and heartfelt sorrow for sin, and earnest longings for
ever closer union and fellowship with God, together with a childlike
trust and a fervent love to Him. We believe, however, that the heart,
with its emotions, can only be effectively reached _through the
understanding_. Through the mind we work on the heart. Through the
judgment we change the feelings. We appeal first to the intellect, to
instruct, to enlighten, to give clear and correct views and ideas,
then through the intellect to the heart. When Paul was sent to convert
the Gentiles, his direction was first of all "_to open their
eyes_"--that is, to instruct them--and _then_ to "_turn them
from darkness to light_." Paul was not to begin on the feelings,
but on the intellect. But the modern revival system reverses this
method. It makes a short cut, and goes at once to the feelings,
without first enlightening the mind. This is contrary, not only to the
Scriptures, but it is also directly contrary to the science and laws
of the mind. It contradicts mental philosophy as well as the Bible.
We believe that where there is the proper instruction in the
great saving doctrines of God's Word, where the mind is properly
enlightened to know what sin is, what salvation is, and how it is
obtained, there, unless there is a positive and determined resistance
to the power of truth, the proper feelings will come of their own
accord. It will require no heart-rending stories, no frantic appeals,
no violent exhortations to bring them about. But we object to the
revival system, because it is almost entirely built up on feeling, and
thus reaches only one department of man's complex nature. Instead of
changing the whole immaterial man--his intellect, his sensibilities,
and his will--it spends its force on the sensibilities alone.
Our _ninth_ objection we can state briefly. Because the
revival system undervalues sound doctrine and instruction therein, and
because it depends so largely on feeling, it not only permits but
encourages the ignorant and inexperienced to assist in exhorting and
helping those who are inquiring after life and salvation.
Those who have scarcely "got through" themselves, who have given
little earnest study to God's Way of Salvation, who do not know the
alphabet of Grace, and the means and methods of Grace,--these are
often the pretended instructors at the anxious bench and in the
meetings for inquirers. Now, we object strongly to such procedures.
"_Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall in the
ditch?_" Better let these novices themselves sit at the feet of
Christ. Let Christ's teachers instruct them in God's Way of Salvation,
before they undertake to lead other lost and groping ones.
We object _finally_ that, at the experience meetings, held
in connection with modern revivals, not only novices, as described
above, but those who have been the veriest profligates, are encouraged
to speak, and are at least permitted to recount and seemingly glory in
their former sins. They do not speak as Paul did, when compelled to
refer to his former life, with deep sorrow and shame, but often
jestingly, flippantly, and as if they imagined that they ought now to
be looked upon and admired as great heroes. We believe that this is
all wrong, and productive of great harm. The unconverted youth,
listening to such talk, says to himself, "Well, if such a person can
so suddenly rise and be looked up to and made a teacher of others, a
leader of the experience and prayer-meeting, certainly I need not be
uneasy; for I have a long way to go before I get as far as he was."
Therefore, we object to all such conduct. It is not only unscriptural,
but unbecoming. It is an offense against good breeding and common
decency. It does great harm.
But enough. We might still speak of the spirit of
self-righteousness engendered and fostered by this system. We might
speak of the sad results that follow with so many--how that persons
become excited, have strange sensations and feelings, imagine that
this is religion, afterwards find that they have the same old heart,
no strength against sin, no peace of conscience, none of that bliss
and joy they heard others speak of and expected for themselves, and
how they gradually fall back into their old mode of life, become
bolder than ever, and at last drift into hopeless unbelief, and say:
"There is nothing in religion; I've tried it, and found it a
delusion." Thus is _their last state worse than their first_. We
might show that in sections of country where this false system has
held sway, worldliness and skepticism abound. These places have been
aptly called "burnt districts." It seems next to impossible to make
lasting impressions for good on such communities.
We might speak of the proselyting spirit that so often
accompanies this system. How with all its protestations for charity,
brotherly love, and union, it often runs out into the meanest spirit
of casting aspersions on others and stealing from their churches. We
might speak of the divided churches that often result. As Dr. Krauth
once forcibly said, "They are united to pieces, and revived to death."
We might point to the divided households, to the destruction of family
peace, to the many sad heart-burnings and alienations that result. But
we forbear. The whole system is an invention of man. It is
unscriptural from beginning to end. We cannot conceive of our blessed
Saviour or His apostles conducting a modern revival. The mind revolts
at the idea.
MODERN REVIVALS, CONCLUDED.
We have given a number of reasons for refusing to favor or adopt
the modern revival system as a part of the Way of Salvation. We would
now add the testimony of others, not only of our own communion, but
also of other denominations.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest and most important of these
religious movements was that one which swept over Presbyterian and
Congregational Churches of New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and
Virginia, about the middle of the last century. It is generally known,
and spoken of as "_the great awakening_." Its leading spirits
were such staunch and loyal Calvinists as Jonathan Edwards, the
Tennents, Blair, and others. In the matter of doctrinal preaching and
instruction it was certainly very far in advance of the so-called
revivals of the present day. And yet in many of its direct results it
was anything but salutary. It was the principal cause of the division
of the Presbyterian Church into Old and New School.
Let us hear what some of the eminent theologians of these
Churches say of the results of "the great awakening:"
Dr. Sereno E. Dwight, the biographer of Jonathan Edwards, and one
of his descendants, says: "It is deserving perhaps of inquiry, whether
the subsequent slumbers of the American Church for nearly seventy
years may not be ascribed, in an important degree, to the fatal
reaction of these unhappy measures."
Jonathan Edwards, himself the most zealous and successful
promoter of the whole movement, in 1750, when its fruits could be
fairly tested, writes thus:--"Multitudes of fair and high professors,
in one place and another, have sadly backslidden; sinners are
desperately hardened; experimental religion is more than ever out of
credit with the far greater part, and the doctrines of Grace and those
principles in religion that do chiefly concern the power of godliness
are far more than ever discarded. Arminianism and Pelagianism have
made strange progress within a few years.... Many professors are gone
off to great lengths in enthusiasm and extravagance in their notions
and practices. Great contentions, separations, and confusions in our
religious state prevail in many parts of the land."
The above is from a letter to a friend in Scotland. We give also
a brief quotation from his farewell sermon to his church at
"Another thing that vastly concerns your future prosperity is
that you should watch against the encroachments of error, and
particularly Arminianism and doctrines of like tendency.... These
doctrines at this day are much more prevalent than they were formerly.
The progress they have made in the land within this seven years
(_i.e._, since the revival), seems to have been vastly greater
than at any time in the like space before. And they are still
prevailing and creeping into almost all parts of the land, threatening
the utter ruin of the credit of those doctrines which are the peculiar
glory of the Gospel and the interests of vital piety."
Dr. Van Rensselaer, in commenting on these and other serious
words of the great Jonathan Edwards, says:
"And what was the final result? Arminianism led the way to
Socinianism, and near the beginning of the present century there was
but a single orthodox Congregational church in Boston. Harvard
University had lapsed into heresy, and about a third of the churches
of the Puritans denied the faith held by their fathers." And all this
he traces back to that "great awakening." He further says: "A work so
great and extensive was accompanied by incidents which made many good
men doubtful as to its effects on the Church. Special seasons of
religious interest are seasons of danger and temptation even under the
guidance of the most enlightened and prudent.... Good men differ much
in their estimate of the awakening, and the fruits of the work in many
places afforded reason of much apprehension.... In its earlier stages
the revival was unquestionably the occasion of the conversion of many
souls. It was like one of those mighty rains of summer which refresh
many a plant and tree, but which are accompanied, in many places, with
hail and storm and overflowing desolation, and which are followed by a
long, dreary drought. The Presbyterian Church welcomes fair revivals,
sent by the Holy Spirit, but is averse to man-made schemes for getting
up temporary excitements which have been so prevalent in our day."
During the years between 1830-1850, another revival agitation
swept over the American Church. It was during this time, especially,
that our English Lutheran churches caught the contagion, introduced
the "new measures," such as the "mourner's bench," protracted
meetings, the admission of members without catechetical instruction,
and many other novelties. In not a few places, so-called Lutherans
vied with the most fanatical sects in their wild extravagances. Those
who adhered to the time-honored method and spirit of conservative
Lutheranism, who preached the Word in all its simplicity, catechised
the young, taught that the Spirit and Grace of God can only be
expected to operate through Christ's own means, through Word and
Sacrament, were denounced as formalists, who knew nothing of vital
piety. Among the leading advocates of the new way was the Rev. Reuben
Weiser. This now departed brother, with many other serious and
thoughtful men, afterwards saw the error of his ways, and frankly and
publicly confessed his change of conviction in the _Lutheran
Observer_. He says:
"In 1842 Dr. J.W. Nevin, of the German Reformed Church, published
a pamphlet called 'The Anxious Bench.' It was, for that time, a bold
and vigorous arraignment of the whole modern revival system. He warned
the German churches against this style of religion, but his warning
was not much heeded at the time. I felt it my duty to reply to Dr.
Nevin in a pamphlet called "The Mourners' Bench." At that time I was
in the midst of the most extensive revival of my whole ministry. I was
honest and sincere in my views, for I had not seen many of the evils
that were almost certain to follow in the wake of revivals as they
were then conducted. Personally, I respected and esteemed Dr. Nevin
highly, but as he had opposed my cherished views, I felt it my duty to
write against him. I said some things long since regretted, and now,
after the lapse of nearly half a century, make this _amende
honorable_. And it must be a source of pleasure to Dr. Nevin, who is
still living, that the views which he so ably advocated in the face of
much bitter opposition, have been generally adopted by nearly all the
Dr. Weiser proceeds: "Many of our churches that fostered this
system were in the end injured by it.... Under the revival system it
was very natural for the people to become dissatisfied with the
ordinary means of Grace. There was a constant longing for excitement,
and when the ebullition of feeling abated, many thought they had 'lost
their religion.' The next move was that as the preacher was so dead
and lifeless they must get another who had more fire, and thus the old
pastor was sent adrift."
Elsewhere Dr. Weiser has clearly expressed himself as having
become firmly convinced that the old churchly method of careful and
systematic instruction of the young, is the only sure and safe way of
building up the Church. He also quotes Dr. Morris as saying: "The
mourners' bench was introduced into Lutheran churches in imitation of
the Methodists, and disorders, such as shouting, clapping of hands,
groaning, and singing of choruses of doggerel verses to the most
frivolous tunes, whilst ministers or members, and sometimes women,
were engaged in speaking to the mourners. Feelings were aroused, as
usual, by portraying the horrors of hell, reciting affecting stories,
alluding to deaths in families, violent vociferation, and other means.
At prayer often all would pray as loud as the leader. These exercises
would continue night after night, until the physical energies were
Dr. H.E. Jacobs, in his preface to Rev. G.H. Trabert's tract on
Genuine versus Spurious Revivals, writes thus of the system: "This
system, if system it may be called, is in many of its elements simply
a reproduction of the Romish errors against which our fathers bore
testimony in the days of the Reformation. Wide as is the apparent
difference, we find in both the same corruption of the doctrine of
justification by faith alone without works, the same ignoring of the
depths of natural depravity, the same exaltation of human strength and
merit, the same figment of human preparation for God's Grace, the same
confounding of the fruits of faith with the conditions of faith, the
same aversion to the careful study of God's Word, the same
indifference to sound doctrine, and the same substitution of
subjective frames of mind and forms of experience for the great
objective facts of Christianity, as the grounds of God's favor.
"In both cases, all spiritual strength, which is inseparable from
complete dependence solely upon the Word and promise of God, and not
in any way upon human sensations and preparations, is either withheld,
destroyed, or greatly hindered; and uncertainty and vacillation,
despair, infidelity and ruin, often end the sad story of those who are
thus left without any firm support amidst the trials of life, and
under the strokes of God's judgments.
"The same Church which in the days of the Reformation raised her
voice against these errors, when she found the entire life of
Christianity endangered by them, can be silent in the present hour,
when the same errors appear all around her, only by betraying her
trust, and incurring the guilt of the faithless watchman who fails to
Let us hear also the testimony of our late lamented Dr. Krauth.
He says, as quoted by Rev. Trabert: "How often are the urging that we
are all one, the holding of union meetings, the effusive rapture of
all-forgiving, all-forgetting, all-embracing love, the preliminary to
the meanest sectarian tricks, dividing congregations, tearing families
to pieces, and luring away the unstable. The short millennium of such
love is followed by the fresh loosing of the Satan of malevolence out
of his prison, and the clashing in battle of the Gog and Magog of
sectarian rivalry. There is no surer preparation for bitter strife,
heart-burnings, and hatred, than these pseudo unionistic combinations.
One union revival has torn religious communities into hateful
divisions which have never been healed.... And none have suffered so
much, by these arts, as our Lutheran people, who, free from guile
themselves, did not suspect it in others. Well might we ask with the
'Apology:' 'Are they not ashamed to talk in such terms of love, and
preach love, and cry love, and do everything but practice love?'"
In conclusion we wish to present the testimony of some of the
most eminent divines of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Of all others
they will certainly not be accused of being prejudiced against modern
revivals. And of all modern revivals, those conducted by the
Evangelists, Moody and Sankey, are probably the least objectionable.
At the close of the celebrated "Hippodrome revival," in New York
City, conducted by Messrs Moody and Sankey, in the spring of 1876, the
Methodist Episcopal ministers, at a stated meeting, reviewed the
revival and its results. The New York _Herald_ gave the following
account of their meeting, which we copy from Rev. Trabert's tract:
"The Methodist ministers had under consideration the question of the
value of special evangelistic efforts in regular Church work, with
particular reference to the number of Hippodrome converts who may have
united with their churches. For two weeks a member of the Hippodrome
committee had distributed cards to the preachers with the names of
persons who declared themselves converts of Mr. Moody's meetings. Four
thousand had been reported as the fruits of the ten weeks special
effort. Ten thousand inquirers had been reported.
"Dr. Robert Crook took the ground that special evangelistic
agencies are not necessary, and that the work is more permanent and
successful when performed through the regular church channels. Rev. J.
Selleck, of Lexington avenue church, had sent about sixty of his
members as singers and ushers, and had not only received not a single
convert from that place into his church, but had been unable to gather
in the members he gave them, who were still running here and there
after sensations! Rev. J.F. Richmond had received a number of cards,
and could report two or three converts who would unite with his
church, but in connection with Hope Chapel he had not much success. He
had gone to five places indicated on the cards as residences of
converts, but could find none of them. This was his experience also
with many others whom he had sought out. Rev. John Jones had received
many cards, and had found out some direct frauds, and many others
nearly so. He did discover eight persons converted at Mr. Moody's
meetings, six of whom would unite with his church. Rev. C.G. Goss did
not think any one effort or kind of effort was going to convert the
world. We could not measure religious efforts by financial or
numerical measurements. As to the general question, he had the history
of ten city churches always known as revival churches. In 1869 they
had reported one hundred probationers each. In 1870 they reported a
net loss of five hundred, making, with the probationers reported, a
_loss_ of fifteen hundred in one year, in ten churches.
"Bedford street church was an example of a revival church: St.
Paul's the opposite. The former reported, in twenty years, twenty-five
hundred probationers. But the increase of her membership for that
period was only one hundred and twenty-eight. He could not account for
this. On the other hand, St. Paul's reported four hundred and
forty-eight probationers, for twenty-five years, and her increase in
membership has been two hundred and eighty-six. This was to him an
argument in favor of regular church work."
In the preceding pages we have seen that the Church ought
constantly to aim at keeping up such a state of spiritual life as to
render revivals unnecessary.
We have also admitted that, owing to human infirmity,
carelessness, and neglect of a proper and prayerful use of the means
of Grace, the spiritual life will ofttimes languish in individuals, in
families, in congregations and communities; and that, at such times, a
spiritual awakening or refreshing is necessary.
We have further shown, that the modern revival system is
unscriptural and positively injurious in its consequences, and
therefore cannot be regarded or adopted as a part of God's Way of
Salvation. What then is to be done? A revival is really needed. What
sort of a revival shall be longed for, prayed for, and labored for?
In the first place, let there be a revival in each individual
heart. Let there be an earnest and prayerful return to the neglected
Word. Let there be a devout reading and meditation of the Law of God,
an earnest, persevering searching of the heart and life in the light
of that law, until there is a feeling of guilt and shame. Then let
there be a prayerful reading and re-reading of the Penitential Psalms,
the seventh chapter of Romans, the fifty-third of Isaiah, the
fifteenth of Luke, the fifth and eighth of Romans, and the epistles of
John. Along with this private use of the Divine Word, let there be a
like prayerful public use. In case of perplexity and doubt, let there
be an unburdening before the pastor, with a request for instruction
and prayer. This process will bring about penitence for sin and faith
in Christ. Let it continue to be a _daily dying unto sin, a daily
living unto righteousness, a daily putting off the old man, a daily
putting on the new man_--a daily repentance for sin, and a daily
turning to and laying hold of Christ. Such a revival is Scriptural and
efficacious. It will not only put an end to the languor and deadness
of the past, but it will preclude the necessity of future periodic
Along with this individual reviving, let there be an earnest
praying and striving for a reviving of the whole congregation, a life
that may abide. Let every service in God's house be a revival service.
Let each worshiper be a mourner over his sins, each pew an anxious
seat. To this end let the preaching of the Word be plain and direct.
Let it be full of "_repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus
Christ_." Where hearts are not wilfully closed against such preaching
of "_the truth as it is in Jesus_," they will, through its power,
become "_broken and contrite hearts_," from which will arise earnest
pleadings for forgiveness and acceptance. Faith will come and grow by
hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Where the Word is truly
preached and rightly heard, there will be a constant and scriptural
revival. Each service will be "_a time of refreshing from the presence
of the Lord_."
In addition to the regular weekly service, the Church also has
her stated communion seasons. These, if rightly improved by pastor and
people, can be made still richer seasons of Grace.
In our Lutheran Church, with her deep, significant and inspiring
doctrine of this holy Sacrament, with her solemn and searching
preparatory service, every such season ought to be a time of
refreshing. What an auspicious opportunity is here offered for special
sermons to precede the Holy Communion, for recalling the wanderer,
awaking the drowsy, stirring up the languid, instructing the
inquiring, and establishing the doubting! What pastor, who has a
Christ-like interest in the spiritual welfare of his people, and who
has used his communion seasons to this end, has not often realized
that they are indeed _times of refreshing from the Lord_?
These communion seasons become still more effective and valuable
when they come, as they generally do in our Lutheran Church, in
connection with our great Church Festivals. Our Church has wisely held
on to these great historic feasts. They have from the earliest times
been the Church's true revival seasons. Church historians inform us
that during the age immediately succeeding the time of the Apostles,
when the Church was still comparatively pure and fervently devout,
these Festival Seasons were the real high-days, the crowning days of
the year. On these occasions the Word was preached with more than
ordinary power, and the Sacraments were dispensed with unusual
solemnity. Then the churches were filled to overflowing. A solemn
stillness reigned over city and country. Worldly cares and pleasures
were laid aside, and the great saving facts of the Gospel then
commemorated were the all-absorbing theme. At such times, even the
worldly and careless felt an almost irresistible impulse to follow the
happy Christian to the house of God. Multitudes of sinners were
converted and gathered into the Church of Jesus Christ, while saints
were strengthened and built up in their holy faith.
Thus these festival communion seasons were true revival seasons.
And why should it not be so still? What can be more inspiring and
impressive than these great facts which our church festivals
commemorate? If the solemn warnings of the Advent season, the glad
tidings of the Christmas season, the touching and searching lessons of
the Lenten season, the holy, inspiring joyousness of the Easter
season, or the instructive admonitions of the Pentecostal season, will
not attract and move and edify the hearts of men, what will?
What has the radical part of the Church gained by setting aside
these seasons, hallowed by the use of Christ, His apostles and
martyrs, the Church Fathers and Reformers? Is the modern revival
system and the Week of Prayer arrangement an improvement? Can any
modern self-appointed committee get up a better and more effective
program than our historic Passion Week services, crowned with its
Easter communion? Assuredly no! There can be no new "program," however
broad or spicy, that can be adapted to bless the saint and sinner,
like our old order, following the dear Saviour, step by step, on his
weary way to the cross and tomb, and thus preaching Christ Crucified
for, at least, one whole week in a year. Though there may be
progressive Greeks to-day to whom this preaching of Christ Crucified
is "_foolishness_," or materialistic Jews to whom it is "_a
stumbling-block_," we know it is still _the power of God and the
wisdom of God to all who believe_. We know that there can be nothing
so truly promotive of genuine piety, so well adapted for the
conversion of sinners and the sanctifying of believers, as this
preaching of the cross. We do not wonder, therefore, that, after a
comparatively short experience in the new way, earnest voices are
raised, in quarters, whence a few years ago came nothing but ridicule
of Lenten services, pleading for the old historic Passion Week,
instead of the new Week of Prayer. Not that we object to a week of
prayer. We only object to the substitution of this modern week, with
its diversified program, for the old week with its Bible Passion
Thus then we see that there is abundant provision and opportunity
for special seasons of awakening and refreshing, by following the
regular Church Year.
We would not, however, claim that, in the present state of
affairs, on account of a lack of proper understanding and churchliness
and because of the unconscious influence of popular notions, there is
no need, occasion, and opportunity for still more marked and general
awakenings. The word of God speaks of "_times of visitation_," "_times
of refreshing_," an "_accepted time_," a "_day of salvation_," "_thy
day_," etc. There are times and seasons when the good Lord draws
especially near to sinners to convert and save them; times when His
Spirit manifests Himself more fully in the Church than at other times.
In His own wise Providence He brings about and prepares the Church for
such time. Thus, when, from causes noted above, the Church grows cold
and languid, He sends afflictions of various kinds. People are made to
realize the uncertainty and unsatisfactoriness of the affairs of this
life. By losses, diseases, bereavements, or bitter disappointments,
God seeks to wean them from their worldly idols. He brings them to
reflection. They "_come to themselves_." They are ready to recall and
hear the Father's voice. They are willing to hear the long neglected
Word. They go to the house of God. They listen eagerly. The Word finds
free course. There is no wilful resistance. _It drops as the rain and
distils as the dew. It does not return void._
If now the pastors and people _know_ this "time of visitation,"
if they realize that it is a "time of refreshing _from the Lord_," not
gotten up by human expedients, they will quickly respond to these
gracious indications. Whether such times come in connection with the
communion and Festival seasons or not, special provision ought to be
made to gather the quickly ripening harvest. It is sometimes well to
make provision for special services. There may be a series of special
sermons. The preaching must be, above all things, _instructive_, a
plain and direct setting forth of the Way of Salvation. The appeal
must be first of all to the understanding, and through it to the
heart. The exhortations and invitations must be based on and grow out
of these instructions. The great themes of sin and Grace, and the
application and reception of Grace, should be set forth with all
possible simplicity and earnestness.
This preaching of the Gospel and instruction in the way of life
should not be confined to the pulpit. The wise pastor will give
opportunity for all inquirers to meet him privately, or will seek them
out to tell them the way of God, as it relates to each individual
case, still more plainly. This will be a true revival. Only let the
churches discern and use the times, when "_Jesus of Nazareth passeth
Every faithful, earnest pastor, if he cannot always have living,
earnest and consecrated churches, can have such seasons of refreshing
from the presence of the Lord. Every such pastor in looking back over
a reasonable period of service can point to such precious seasons in
his ministry. Such seasons result in a growth of true Church life. The
means of Grace, after such revivals, are more diligently and more
prayerfully used than before. The Word of God and prayer take their
proper place in the home. The church in the house is quickened into
life and activity. There is increased liberality in the congregation.
The pocket book is converted as well as the heart. There is a revival
of strict honesty and truthfulness in all business affairs. All tricks
of trade, deceptions, imposing on ignorance, short weights and
measures, adulterations, making money by betting, taking or giving
chances of any kind, everything in fact that is _questionable_, if not
openly dishonest, is abolished.
Worldly companionship, questionable amusements, pleasures that
draw the heart away from God, are avoided. Religion is not only a
Sunday garment, but a living force that shows itself in every
department of life. The world _takes knowledge_ of true converts
that they _have been with Jesus and learned of Him_. Such are the
results of a true revival. In such we believe.
With this chapter we conclude our studies of the Way of
Salvation. They have been extended much beyond our original purpose.
As we remarked in the beginning, we have written for plain people; for
those who, surrounded by all forms and varieties of belief and
unbelief, are often attacked, questioned and perplexed as to their
faith, and their reasons for holding it. Our object has been to assist
our unpretentious people always to be ready to give an answer to those
who ask a reason for the hope that is in them.
We also remarked in the beginning that there often come to our
people arrogant and self-righteous persons, who say "the Lutheran
Church has no religion," that it "does not bring its members into the
light," and does not "believe in or insist on personal salvation."
Unfortunately there are only too many Lutherans who do not know
how to answer such bold and baseless assertions. Sometimes they
apologize for being Lutherans, and timidly hope that they may find
salvation in their own Church! Many also have been persuaded to
abandon the Church and faith of their fathers to find more light and
religion elsewhere. After having been wrought upon and strangely
affected by human and unscriptural methods, after they have
experienced some new sensations, they proclaim to the world that now
they have found the light which they could never find in the Lutheran
Church! And thus not a few of our simple-minded and unreflecting
people are led to depart from the faith and follow strange delusions.
Our people need to be better informed about their own Church.
When they come to understand what that Church is, and what she
teaches, they will be "_no more children, tossed to and fro, and
carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of man and
cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive_."
It is to assist them to such an understanding and appreciation of
the truth as it is in Jesus, and is confessed by our Church, that we
have written these pages. If they have strengthened any who are weak
in the faith, removed any doubts and perplexities, established any who
wavered and made any love the Church and her great Head more, we are
more than repaid.
Whatever may have been the effect of reading these chapters, the
writing of them has made the Church of the Reformation, her faith and
practices, more precious than ever to the writer. He has become more
and more convinced that what Rome stigmatized as "Lutheranism" is
nothing else than the pure and simple Gospel of our Lord and Saviour
Let us take a rapid backward glance. We see that the Lutheran
Church grasps fully and accepts unreservedly the whole sad and
unwelcome doctrine of _sin_. She believes all that is written as
to the deep-going and far-reaching consequences of sin--that every
soul comes into this world infected with this fearful malady, and,
therefore, unfit for the kingdom of God, and under condemnation. She
believes therefore that every human being, down to the youngest
infant, must have its nature changed before it can be saved. The
necessity of this change is absolute and without exception.
In the very beginning, therefore, we see that no Church places
the necessity of personal renewal and salvation on higher ground than
does the Lutheran Church. She believes that our blessed Saviour has
appointed a means, a channel, a vehicle, by and through which His Holy
Spirit conveys renewing Grace to the heart of the tender infant, and
makes it a lamb of His flock. She believes that where Christ's
Sacrament of holy Baptism--which is the means referred to--does not
reach a child, His Spirit can and will reach and renew it in some way
not made known to us.
She believes that the beginning of the new life in a child is a
spiritual _birth_; that this young and feeble life needs
nourishment and fostering care for its healthy development; that it is
the duty of Christian parents to see to this; that the Sunday-school
and catechetical class are helps offered to the parents by the Church.
She believes that by this nourishing of the divine life in the family
and Church, "_with the sincere milk of God's Word_," the
baptismal covenant can be kept unbroken, and the divine life developed
and increased more and more.
After careful instruction in the home and Church, if there is due
evidence that there is Grace in the heart, that penitence and faith,
which are the elements of the new life, are really present, she admits
her children to the communion of the body and blood of Christ, by the
beautiful and significant rite of confirmation.
The scriptural doctrine of Christ's holy sacrament, which our
Church holds and sets forth, and the solemn, searching preparatory
service which she connects with it, make it truly calculated to
strengthen the child of God, and unite him closer to Christ.
Our Church insists that the whole life of the believer, in the
fellowship of the Saviour and His people, is to be a "growth in Grace and
in knowledge." In this, also the believer is wonderfully assisted by our
teachings concerning the efficacy of the Word of God as a means of Grace,
a vehicle and instrument of the Holy Spirit. He is further comforted and
quickened by that precious doctrine of justification--alone by faith
in Jesus Christ. He is encouraged to press forward to the mark, to
purify himself more and more, to become more and more active, earnest
and consecrated by what the Church teaches of sanctification.
Nor does the Church overlook or forget the sad fact that
many--often through the fault of those who ought to be their spiritual
guides in the home and Church--lapse from their baptismal covenant, or
forget their confirmation vows, and thus fall back into an unconverted
state. She insists on the absolute necessity of conversion or turning
back, for all such. She does not, however, expend all her energies in
proclaiming its necessity, but also sets forth and makes plain the
nature of conversion, and the means and methods of bringing it about.
While the Church would, first of all, use every endeavor to
preclude the necessity of conversion, by bringing the children to
Jesus that He may receive and bless them through His own sacrament;
and while she would use all diligence and watchfulness to keep them
true to Christ in their baptismal covenant, yet, when they do fall
away, she solemnly assures them that except they repent and be
converted, they will eternally perish.
And if this lamentable backsliding should take place more or less
with a large portion of a congregation, our Church prays and labors
for a revival. While she repudiates and abhors all that is
unscriptural, and therefore dangerous, in the modern revival system,
she yet appreciates and gives thanks for every "_time of refreshing
from the Lord_."
Yes, the Lutheran Church does believe in salvation, in the
absolute necessity of its personal application, and in eternal
perdition to every one who will not come to God in the only way of
salvation--through Jesus Christ.
And thus the Lutheran system is a _complete_ system. It
takes in _everything_ revealed in the Word. It teaches to observe
_all_ things that Christ has commanded. It declares the
_whole_ counsel of God.
The Lutheran Church believes in a _Way_ of being saved. She has a
positive _system_ of faith. Her system of the doctrines and methods of
Grace is a complete, a consistent, a simple, an attractive one. It
avoids the contradictions and difficulties of other ways and systems.
It is thoroughly loyal to God's Word. Where it differs from other
systems and faiths, it is because it abides by and bows to what is
written, while others depart from and change the record to suit their
reasons. It gives all the glory of salvation to God. It throws all the
responsibility of being saved on man. It is indeed the highway of the
Lord, where the redeemed can walk in safety and in joy. It is the old
path, the good Way wherein men can find rest unto their souls. It is
the Way trodden by Patriarchs, Prophets, and ancient servants of God.
It is the Way of the Apostles, and Martyrs, and Confessors of the
early Church--the Way that became obscured and almost hidden during
the dark ages. It is the Way for the bringing to light and re-opening
of which God raised up Martin Luther.
Yes, the nominally Christian Church had largely lost that Way.
God wanted to put her right again. For this purpose He raised up the
great Reformer. Is it not reasonable to believe that He would lead him
and guide him and enlighten him to know and point out this Way aright?
If the Lutheran Reformation was a work of God, does it need constant
improvements and repetitions? No! we believe that God led Luther
aright, that the Way of Salvation to which He recalled the Church
through him is the Divine Way. Millions have walked in it since his
day, and found it a good, safe, and happy Way. No one who has ever
left it for another way has gained thereby.
To abandon the Lutheran Church for another is to exchange a
system that is based on sound and well-established principles of
interpretation, logical, consistent, thoroughly scriptural, and
therefore changeless in the midst of changes, for one without fixed
principles of interpretation, only partially loyal to the inspired
record, more or less inconsistent, uncertain, shifting and changing
with the whims or notions of a fickle age.
It is to exchange a faith that satisfies, brings peace, and
manifests itself in a child-like, cheerful, joyous trust in an
ever-living and ever-present Redeemer, for one that ofttimes
perplexes, raises doubts, and is more or less moody and gloomy. A
faith that is built either on uncertain and ever-varying experience or
on an inexorable and loveless decree, cannot be as steadfast and
joyous as one that rests implicitly in a Redeemer, who _tasted death
for every man_.
We conclude with the eloquent words of Dr. Seiss: "We do not say
that none but Lutherans in name and profession can be saved. But we do
assert that if salvation cannot be attained in the Lutheran Church, or
the highway of eternal life cannot be found in her, there is no such
thing as salvation. There is no God but the God she confesses. There
is no sacred Scripture which she does not receive and teach. There is
no Christ but the Christ of her confession, hope and trust. There are
no means of Grace ordained of God, but those which she uses, and
insists on having used. There are no promises and conditions of divine
acceptance, but those which she puts before men for their comfort. And
there is no other true Ministry, Church, or Faith, than that which she
acknowledges and holds."
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH.
My Church! my Church! my dear old Church!
My fathers' and my own!
On Prophets and Apostles built,
And Christ the Corner-stone!
All else beside, by storm or tide
May yet be overthrown;
But not my Church, my dear old Church,
My fathers' and my own!
My Church! my Church! my dear old Church!
My glory and my pride!
Firm in the faith Immanuel taught,
She holds no faith beside.
Upon this rock, 'gainst every shock,
Though gates of hell assail,
She stands secure, with promise sure,
"They never shall prevail."
My Church! my Church! my dear old Church!
I love her ancient name;
And God forbid a child of hers
Should ever do her shame!
Her mother-care I'll ever share,
Her child I am alone,
Till He who gave me to her arms
Shall call me to His own.
My Church! my Church! my dear old Church!
I've heard the tale of blood,
Of hearts that loved her to the death--
The great, the wise, the good.
Our martyred sires defied the fires
For Christ the Crucified;
The once-delivered faith to keep
They burned, they bled, they died.
My Church! my Church! I love my Church,
For she exalts my Lord;
She speaks, she breathes, she teaches not
But from His written Word;
And if her voice bids me rejoice,
From all my sins released,
'Tis through th' atoning sacrifice,
And Jesus is the Priest.
My Church! my Church! I love my Church,
For she doth lead me on
To Zion's palace Beautiful,
Where Christ my Lord hath gone.
From all below she bids me go
To Him, the Life, the Way,
The truth to guide my erring feet
From darkness into day.
Then here, my Church! my dear old Church!
Thy child would add a vow
To that whose token once was signed
Upon his infant brow:
Assault who may, kiss and betray,
Dishonor and disown,
MY CHURCH SHALL YET BE DEAR TO ME,
MY FATHERS' AND MY OWN!
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