Book of Concord for Sunday

31] Neither have the bishops the power to institute services, as though they justified, or were necessary for justification. Yea, the apostles, Acts 15:10, say: Why tempt ye God to put a yoke, etc., where Peter declares this purpose to burden the Church a great sin. And Paul forbids the Galatians 5:1, 32] to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Therefore, it is the will of the apostles that this liberty remain in the Church, that no services of the Law or of traditions be judged as necessary (just as in the Law ceremonies were for a time necessary), lest the righteousness of faith be obscured, if men judge that these services merit justification, or are necessary for justification. 33] Many seek in traditions variousejpieikeiva [mitigations] in order to heal consciences; and yet they do not find any sure grades by which to free consciences from these chains. 34] But just as Alexander once for all solved the Gordian knot by cutting it with his sword when he could not disentangle it, so the apostles once for all free consciences from traditions, especially if they are taught to merit justification. The apostles compel us to oppose this doctrine by teaching and examples. They compel us to teach that traditions do not justify; that they are not necessary for justification; that no one ought 35] to frame or receive traditions with the opinion that they merit justification. Then, even though any one should observe them, let him observe them without superstition as civil customs, just as without superstition soldiers are clothed in one way 36] and scholars in another [as I regard my wearing of a German costume among the Germans and a French costume among the French as an observance of the usage of the land, and not for the purpose of being saved thereby]. The apostles violate traditions and are excused by Christ; for the example was to be shown the Pharisees that these 37] services are unprofitable. And if our people neglect some traditions that are of little advantage, they are now sufficiently excused, when these are required as though they merit justification. For such an opinion with regard to traditions is impious [an error not to be endured].

38] But we cheerfully maintain the old traditions [as, the three high festivals, the observance of Sunday, and the like] made in the Church for the sake of usefulness and tranquillity; and we interpret them in a more moderate way, 39] to the exclusion of the opinion which holds that they justify. And our enemies falsely accuse us of abolishing good ordinances and church-discipline. For we can truly declare that the public form of the churches is more becoming with us than with the adversaries (that the true worship of God is observed in our churches in a more Christian, honorable way]. And if any one will consider it aright, we conform to the canons more truly than do the adversaries. [For the adversaries, without shame, tread under foot the most honorable canons, just as they do Christ and the Gospel.] 40] With the adversaries, unwilling celebrants, and those hired for pay, and very frequently only for pay, celebrate the Masses. They sing psalms, not that they may learn or pray [for the greater part do not understand a verse in the psalms], but for the sake of the service, as though this work were a service, or, at least, for the sake of reward. [All this they cannot deny. Some who are upright among them are even ashamed of this traffic, and declare that the clergy is in need of reformation.] With us many use the Lord’s Supper [willingly and without constraint] every Lord’s Day, but after having been first instructed, examined [whether they know and understand anything of the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments], and absolved. The children sing psalms in order that they may learn [become familiar with passages of Scripture]; the people also sing [Latin and German psalms], in order that they may either learn or pray. With 41] the adversaries there is no catechization of the children whatever, concerning which even the canons give commands. With us the pastors and ministers of the churches are compelled publicly [and privately] to instruct and hear the youth; and this ceremony produces the best fruits. [And the Catechism is not a mere childish thing, as is the bearing of banners and tapers, but a very profitable instruction.] 42]Among the adversaries, in many regions [as in Italy and Spain], during the entire year no sermons are delivered, except in Lent. [Here they ought to cry out and justly make grievous complaint; for this means at one blow to overthrow completely all worship. For of all acts of worship that is the greatest, most holy, most necessary, and highest, which God has required as the highest in the First and the Second Commandment, namely, to preach the Word of God. For the ministry is the highest office in the Church. Now, if this worship is omitted, how can there be knowledge of God, the doctrine of Christ, or the Gospel?] But the chief service of God is to teach the Gospel. And when the adversaries do preach, they speak of human traditions, of the worship of saints [of consecrated water], and similar trifles, which the people justly loathe; therefore they are deserted immediately in the beginning, after the text of the Gospel has been recited. [This practise may have started because the people did not wish to hear the other lies.] A few better ones begin now to speak of good works; but of the righteousness of faith, of faith in Christ, of the consolation of consciences, they say nothing; yea, this most wholesome part of the Gospel they rail at with their reproaches. [This blessed doctrine, the precious holy Gospel, they call Lutheran.] 43]On the contrary, in our churches all the sermons are occupied with such topics as these: of repentance; of the fear of God; of faith in Christ, of the righteousness of faith, of the consolation of consciences by faith, of the exercises of faith; of prayer, what its nature should be, and that we should be fully confident that it is efficacious, that it is heard; of the cross; of the authority of magistrates and all civil ordinances [likewise, how each one in his station should live in a Christian manner, and, out of obedience to the command of the Lord God, should conduct himself in reference to every worldly ordinance and law]; of the distinction between the kingdom of Christ, or the spiritual kingdom, and political affairs; of marriage; of the education and instruction of children; of chastity; of all the offices of love. 44] From this condition of the churches it may be judged that we diligently maintain church discipline and godly ceremonies and good church-customs.

 

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