Vol. 7, Chapter IX. The Diet and Confession of Augsburg. a.d. 1530

117. The Diet of Augsburg

I. Sources

Collection in Walch, XVI. 747-2142. Luther’s Letters of the year 1530, in De Wette, vol. IV. Melanchthon’s Letters in the “Corpus Reformatorum,” ed. Bretschneider and Bindseil, vol. II., and documents relating to the Augsb. Conf. in vol. XXVI. Spalatin, Annal., ed. by Cyprian, 131-289. The Roman Cath. representation: Pro Religione Christiana Res Gestae in Comitiis Augustae Vindelicorum habitis, 1530, reprinted in Cyprian’s Historie der Augsb. Conf. Brück wrote a refutation published by Förstemann, “Archiv für Ref. Gesch.,” 1831. Collection of documents by Förstemann: Urkundenbuch zu der Gesch. des Reichstages zu Augsburg in J. 1530. Halle, 1833, ‘35, 2 vols. By the same: Neues Urkundenbuch, Hamburg, 1842. Schirrmacher: Briefs und Acten zur Gesch. des Religionsgesprächs zu Marburg, 1529, und des Reichstages zu Augsburg, 1530, nach der Handschrift des Aurifaber, Gotha, 1876.


II. Histories of the Augsburg Diet and Confession

See list in “Corp. Ref.” XXVI. 101-112. D. Chytraeus (Kochhafe): Historie der Augsb. Conf., Rostock, 1576, Frcf. 1577, 1578, 1600. G. Coelestin: Hist. Comitiorum a. 1530 Augustae celebratorum, Frcf. 1577, 4 vols. fol. E. Sal. Cyprian: Hist. der Augsb. Conf., Gotha, 1730. Cur. A. Salig: Historie der Augsb. Conf. und derselben Apologie, Halle, 1730-35, in 3 parts. Weber: Vollständige Gesch. der Augsb. Conf., Frcf. 1783-84, 2 vols. Planck: Gesch. des protest. Lehrbegriff’s (Leipz. 1792), vol. III. I. 1-178. Fickenscher: Gesch. des Reichstages zu Augsb. 1530, Nürnb. 1830. Pfaff: Gesch. des Reichstags zu Augsburg, 1530, Stuttg. 1830. Add special works on the Augsb. Conf. mentioned in §119.


III. The Relevant Sections in the General Church Histories Of

Schröckh, Mosheim, Gieseler, etc.; in the Histories of the Reformation by Marheineke, Hagenbach, Merle D’aub., Fisher; in the general Histories of Germany by Ranke (Prot.), vol. III. 162-215, and Janssen (Rom. Cath.), vol. III. 165-211. Also the numerous Lives of Luther (e.g., Köstlin, Book VI., chs. XI. and XII., vol. II. 198 sqq.), and Melanchthon (e.g., C. Schmidt, 190-250).

IV. Special Points

H. Virk: Melanchthon’s Politische Stellung auf dem Reichstag zu Augsburg, in Brieger’s “Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte,” 1887, pp. 67 and 293 sqq.


The Diet of Augsburg

The situation of Protestantism in 1530 was critical. The Diet of Speier had forbidden the further progress of the Reformation: the Edict of Worms was in full legal force; the Emperor had made peace with the Pope, and received from him the imperial crown at Bologna; the Protestants were divided among themselves, and the Conference at Marburg had failed to unite them against the common foe. At the same time the whole empire was menaced by a foreign power. The Turks under Suleiman “the Magnificent,” who called himself “Lord of all rulers, Dispenser of crowns to the monarchs of the earth, the Shadow of God over the world,” had reached the summit of their military power, and approached the gates of Vienna in September, 1529. They swore by the beard of Mohammed not to rest till the prayers of the prophet of Mecca should be heard from the tower of St. Stephen. They were indeed forced to retire with a loss of eighty thousand men, but threatened a second attempt, and in the mean time laid waste a great part of Hungary.

Under these circumstances the Diet of Augsburg convened, April 8, 1530. Its object was to settle the religious question, and to prepare for war against the Turks. The invitation dated Jan. 21, 1530, from Bologna, carefully avoids, all irritating allusions, sets forth in strong language the danger of foreign invasion, and expresses the hope that all would co-operate for the restoration of the unity of the holy empire of the German nation in the one true Christian religion and church.

But there was little prospect for such co-operation. The Roman majority meant war against the Protestants and the Turks as enemies of church and state; the Protestant minority meant defense against the Papists and the Turks as the enemies of the gospel. In the eyes of the former, Luther was worse than Mohammed; in the eyes of the Lutherans, the Pope was at least as bad as Mohammed. Their motto was, — 

“Erhalt uns Herr bei Deinem Wort

Und steur’ des Papsts und Türken Mord.”

The Emperor stood by the Pope and the Edict of Worms, but was more moderate than his fanatical surroundings, and treated the Lutherans during the Diet with courteous consideration, while he refused to give the Zwinglians even a hearing. The Lutherans on their part praised him beyond his merits, and were deceived into false hopes; while they would have nothing to do with the Swiss and Strassburgers, although they agreed with them in fourteen out of fifteen articles of faith.

The Saxon Elector, as soon as he received the summons to the Diet, ordered the Wittenberg theologians, at the advice of Chancellor Brück, to draw up a confession of faith for possible use at Augsburg, and to meet him at Torgau. He started on the 3d of April with his son, several noblemen, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Spalatin, and Agricola, stopped a few days at Coburg on the Saxon frontier, where Luther was left behind, and entered Augsburg on the 2d of May.

The Emperor was delayed on the journey through the Tyrol, and did not arrive till the 15th of June. On the following day he took a devout part in the celebration of the Corpus Christi festival. He walked in solemn procession under the most scorching heat, with uncovered head, heavy purple cloak, and a burning wax-candle. The Protestant princes absented themselves from what they regarded an idolatrous ceremony. They also declined to obey the Emperor’s prohibition of evangelical preaching during the Diet. Margrave George of Brandenburg declared that he would rather lose his head than deny God. The Emperor replied: “Dear prince, not head off, not head off.” He imposed silence upon the preachers of both parties, except those whom he should select. The Protestant princes held service in private houses.

The Diet was opened on Monday, June 20, with high mass by the Cardinal Archbishop of Mainz, and a long sermon by Archbishop Pimpinelli of Rossano, the papal nuncio at the court of Ferdinand. He described, in elegant Latin, the tyranny of the Turks, reproved the Germans for their sleepiness and divisions, and commended the heathen Romans and Mohammedans for their religious unity, obedience, and devotion to the past. A few days afterwards (June 24) the papal nuncio at the Diet, Laurentius Campegius (Campeggi) warned the Estates not to separate from the holy Catholic church, but to follow the example of other Christian kings and powers.

The Emperor desired first to secure help against the Turks, but the Protestants insisted on the priority of the church question. He accordingly commanded them to have their confession ready within four days, and to hand it to him in writing. He did not wish it to be read before the Diet, but the Protestants insisted upon this. He then granted the reading in Latin, but the Elector of Saxony pressed the rights of the German vernacular. “We are on German soil,” said he, “and therefore I hope your Majesty will allow the German language.” The Emperor yielded this point, but refused the request to have the Confession read in the city hall where the Diet met.

On the twenty-fifth day of June — the most memorable day in the history of Lutheranism, next to the 31st of October — the Augsburg Confession was read, with a loud and firm voice, by Dr. Baier, vice-chancellor of Electoral Saxony, in the German language, before the Diet in the private chapel of the episcopal palace. The reading occupied nearly two hours. The Emperor, who knew little German and less theology, soon fell asleep. But the majority listened attentively. The Papists were surprised at the moderation of the Confession, and would have wished it more polemical and anti-catholic. The bishop of Augsburg, Christoph von Stadion, is reported to have remarked privately that it contained the pure truth. Duke William of Bavaria censured Eck for misrepresenting to him the Lutheran opinions; and when the doctor said he could refute them, not with the Scriptures, but with the fathers, he replied: “I am to understand, then, that the Lutherans are within the Scriptures, and we Catholics on the outside?”

Dr. Brück, the Saxon chancellor who composed the preface and epilogue, handed to the Emperor a German and a Latin copy of the Confession. The Emperor kept the former, and gave the latter to the Elector of Mainz for safe-keeping. The Latin copy (in Melanchthon’s own handwriting) was deposited in the archives of Brussels, and disappeared under the reign of Duke Alba. The German original, as read before the Diet, was sent, with the acts of the Diet, to the Council of Trent, and never returned. But unauthorized editions soon appeared in different places (six German, one Latin) during the Diet; and Melanchthon himself issued the Confession in both languages at Wittenberg, 1531.

Both documents were signed by seven princes; namely, the Elector John of Saxony, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Margrave George of Brandenburg, Duke Ernest of Lüneburg, Duke John Frederick of Saxony, Duke Francis of Lüneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt; and by two representatives of free cities, Nürnberg and Reutlingen.

The signing required considerable courage, for it involved the risk of the crown. When warned by Melanchthon of the possible consequences, the Saxon Elector nobly replied: “I will do what is right, unconcerned about my Electoral dignity. I will confess my Lord, whose cross I esteem more highly than all the power on earth.”

This act and testimony gave great significance to the Diet of Augsburg, and immortal glory to the confessors. Luther gave eloquent expression to his joy, when he wrote to Melanchthon, Sept. 15, 1530: You have confessed Christ, you have offered peace, you have obeyed the Emperor, you have endured injuries, you have been drenched in their revilings, you have not returned evil for evil. In brief, you have worthily done God’s holy work as becometh saints. Be glad, then, in the Lord, and exult, ye righteous. Long enough have ye been mourning in the world; look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh. I will canonize you as a faithful member of Christ. And what greater glory can you desire? Is it a small thing to have yielded Christ faithful service, and shown yourself a member worthy of Him?”

The only blot on the fame of the Lutheran confessors of Augsburg is their intolerant conduct towards the Reformed, which weakened their own cause. The four German cities which sympathized with the Zwinglian view on the Lord’s Supper wished to sign the Confession, with the exception of the tenth article, which rejects their view; but they were excluded, and forced to hand in a separate confession of faith.


118. The Negotiations, the Recess, the Peace of Nürnberg

The remaining transactions during this Diet were discouraging and unfruitful, and the result was a complete, but short-lived, victory of the Roman Catholic party.

Melanchthon during all this time was in a state of nervous trepidation and despondency. Before the delivery of the Confession he thought it too mild and pacific; after the delivery, he thought it too severe and polemic. So far was he carried away by his desire for reunion, and fears of the disastrous results of a split, that he made a most humiliating approach to the papal legate, Campeggi, who had advised the Emperor to crush the Protestant heresy by fire and sword, to put Wittenberg under the ban, and to introduce the Spanish Inquisition into Germany. Two weeks after the delivery of the Confession, he assured him that the Lutherans did not differ in any doctrine from the Roman Church, and were willing to obey her if she only would charitably overlook a few minor changes of discipline and ceremonies, which they could not undo. And, to conciliate such a power, Melanchthon kept aloof as far as possible from the Zwinglians and Strassburgers. On the 8th of July he had a personal interview with Campeggi, and Aug. 4 he submitted to him a few mild conditions of peace. The cardinal expressed his great satisfaction at these concessions, but prudently reserved his answer till he should hear from Rome.

All these approaches failed. Rome would listen to nothing but absolute submission.

Melanchthon soon found out that the papal divines, especially Eck, were full of pharisaical pride and malice. He was severely censured by the Nürnbergers and by Philip of Hesse for his weakness, and even charged by some with treason to the evangelical cause. His conduct must be judged in the light of the fact that the Roman Church allowed a certain freedom on the controverted points of anthropology and soteriology, and did not formally condemn the evangelical doctrines till several years afterwards, in the Council of Trent. The Augsburg Confession itself takes this view of the matter, by declaring at the close of the doctrinal articles: “This is the sum of doctrine among us, in which can be seen nothing which is discrepant with Scripture, nor with the Catholic or even with the Roman Church, so far as that Church is known from the writings of the Fathers.” Melanchthon may be charged with moral weakness and mistake of judgment, but not with unfaithfulness. Luther remained true to his invaluable friend, who was indispensable to the evangelical cause, and did it the greatest service at Augsburg. He comforted him in his letters from Coburg.

The Lutheran Confession was referred for answer, i.e., for refutation, to a commission of twenty Roman theologians, who were present at the Diet, including Eck, Faber, Cochlaeus, Wimpina, and Dittenberger. Their answer was ready July 13, but declined by the Emperor on account of its length and bitter tone. After undergoing five revisions, it was approved and publicly read on the 3d of August before the Diet, in the same chapel in which the Protestant Confession had been read. The Emperor pronounced the answer “Christian and well-considered.” He was willing to hand a copy to the Protestants, on condition to keep it private; but Melanchthon prepared a refutation, at the request of the Lutheran princes.

The Emperor, in his desire for a peaceful result, arranged a conference between the theological leaders of the two parties. Eck, Wimpina, and Cochlaeus represented the Roman Catholics; Melanchthon, Brenz, and Schnepf, the Lutherans. The discussion began Aug. 16, but proved a failure. A smaller committee conferred from the 24th to the 29th of August, but with no better result. Melanchthon hoped against hope, and made concession after concession, to conciliate the bishops and the Emperor. But the Roman divines insisted on a recognition of an infallible church, a perpetual sacrifice, and a true priesthood. They would not even give up clerical celibacy, and the withdrawal of the cup from the laity; and demanded a restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction, of church property, and of the convents.

Luther, writing from Coburg, urged the hesitating theologians and princes to stand by their colors. He, too, was willing to restore innocent ceremonies, and even to consent to the restoration of episcopacy, but only on condition of the free preaching of the gospel. He deemed a reconciliation in doctrine impossible, unless the Pope gave up popery.

On the 22d of September the Emperor announced the Recess of the Diet; that, after having heard and refuted the Confession of the Protestants, and vainly conferred with them, another term for consideration till April 15, 1531, be granted to them, as a special favor, and that in the mean time they should make no new innovations, nor disturb the

Catholics in their faith and worship, and assist the Emperor in the suppression of the Anabaptists and those who despised the holy sacrament. The Emperor promised to bring about a general council within a year for the removal of ecclesiastical grievances.

The signers of the Augsburg Confession, the cities of Frankfurt, Ulm, Schwäbisch Hall, Strassburg, Memmingen, Constance, Lindau, refused the recess. The Lutherans protested that their Confession had never been refuted, and offered Melanchthon’s Apology of the same, which was rejected. They accepted the proposed term for consideration.

The day after the announcement of the Recess, the Elector of Saxony returned home with his theologians. The Emperor took leave of him with these words: “Uncle, uncle, I did not look for this from you.” The Elector with tears in his eyes went away in silence. He stopped on the journey at Nürnberg and Coburg, and reached Torgau the 9th of October. The Landgrave of Hesse had left Augsburg in disgust several weeks earlier (Aug. 6), without permission, and created fears of an open revolt.

Luther was very indignant at the Recess, which was in fact a re-affirmation of the Edict of Worms. To stop the progress of the gospel, he declared, is to crucify the Lord afresh; the Augsburg Confession must remain as the pure word of God to the judgment day; the mass cannot be tolerated, as it is the greatest abomination; nor can it be left optional to commune in one or both kinds. Let peace be condemned to the lowest hell, if it hinder and injure the gospel and faith. They say, if popery falls, Germany will go to ruin. It is terrible, but I cannot help it. It is the fault of the papists. He published early in 1531 a book against the Edict of Augsburg, which he ascribes to Pope Clement “the arch-villain,” and Campeggi, rather than to the Emperor, and closes with the wish that “blasphemous popery may perish in hell as John prophesies in Revelation (Rev_14:8; Rev_18:2; Rev_22:20); let every Christian say, Amen.” In the same year he warned the Germans to be ready for defense, although it did not become him as a minister to stir up war.

The Recess of the Diet was finally published Nov. 19; but its execution threatened to bring on civil war, and to give victory to the Turks. The Emperor shrank from such consequences and was seriously embarrassed. Only two of the secular princes, Elector Joachim of Brandenburg and Duke George of Saxony, were ready to assist him in severe measures. The Duke of Bavaria was dissatisfied with the Emperor’s efforts to have, his brother Ferdinand elected Roman king. The archbishops of Mayence and Cologne, and the bishop of Augsburg, half sympathized with the Protestants. But the Emperor had promised the Pope to use all his power for the suppression of heresy, and was bound to execute as best he could the edict of the Diet after the expiration of the term of grace, April 15, 1531.

The Lutheran princes therefore formed in December, 1530, at Smalcald, a defensive alliance under the name of the Smalcaldian League. The immediate object was to protect themselves against the lawsuits of the imperial chamber of justice for the recovery of church property and the restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction. Opinions were divided on the question whether the allies in case of necessity should take up arms against the Emperor; the theologians were opposed to it, but the lawyers triumphed over the theological scruples, and the Elector of Saxony pledged the members for defensive measures against any and every aggressor, even the Emperor. At a new convent at Smalcald in March, 1531, the League was concluded in due form for six years. It embraced Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Lüneburg, Anhalt, Mansfeld, and eleven cities. Out of this League ultimately arose the Smalcaldian war, which ended so disastrously for the Protestant princes, especially the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse (1547).

But for the present, war was prevented by the peace at Nürnberg, 1532. A renewed invasion of Sultan Suleiman with an army of three hundred thousand, in April, 1532, made conciliation a political and patriotic duty. The Emperor convened a Diet at Regensburg, April 17, which was transferred to Nürnberg; and there, on July 23, 1532, a temporary truce was concluded, and vigorous measures taken against the Turks, who were defeated by land and sea, and forced to retreat. The victorious Emperor went to Italy, and urged the Pope to convene the council; but the Pope was not yet ready, and found excuses for indefinite postponement.

John the Constant died in the same year, of a stroke of apoplexy (Aug. 16, 1532), and was followed by his son John Frederick the Magnanimous, who in the Smalcaldian war lost his electoral dignity, but saved his evangelical faith.


119. The Augsburg Confession

I. Editions of the Augsb. Conf.: The best critical edition in the 26th vol. of the “Corpus Reformatorum,” ed. Bretschneider und Bindseil (1858), 776 pages. It gives the Invariata and the Variata, in Latin and German, with critical apparatus, list of MSS. and early editions, and the preceding documents: viz., the Articles of Visitation, the Marburg, the Schwabach, and the Torgau Articles.

The Confession in Latin or German, or both, is embodied in all the collections of Lutheran symbols by Rechenberg, Walch, Weber, Hase, Meyer, Francke, Müller.

Separate modern editions by Twesten, Tittmann, Weber, Wiggers, Förstemann, Harter, etc.

English translation, with Latin text, in Schaff, Creeds, III. 3-73; in English alone, in Henkel, Book of Concord, 1854, and Jacobs, Book of Concord, Philad., 1882. The first English translation was made by Richard Taverner, London, 1536, the last, on the basis of this, by Charles P. Krauth. (See B. M. Schmucker: English Translations of the Augsb. Conf., Philad., 1887, 34 pp.)

On the literature compare Köllner: Symbolik der Lutherischen Kirche, Hamburg, 1837, pp. 150-152, with a full history of the Conf., pp. 153-396.

II. Histories and monographs: the works of Chytraeus, Coelestin, Cyprian, Salig, Pfaff, Fickenscher, Forstemann, etc., quoted in §117. Recent works: Köllner, 1837 (see above). Rudelbach: Die Augsb. Conf. nach den Quellen, Dresden, 1841. G. Plitt: Einleitung in die Augustana, Erlangen, 1867-68 2 Parts; Die Apologie der Augustana, Erl., 1873. W. J. Mann: A Plea for the Augsburg Confession, Philadelphia, 1856. Stuckenberg: The History of the Augsb. Confession, Philad., 1869. Zöckler: Die Augsb. Conf., Frkf.-a.-M., 1870. Vilmar: Die Augsb. Confession erklärt, Gütersloh, 1870. A brief account in Schaff: Creeds (4th ed. 1884), I. 225-242. On the Roman Catholic side see Janssen, III. 165-211, and L. Pastor: Die kirchlichen Reunionsbestrebungen während der Regierung Karls V., Freiburg, 1879, 22 sqq.

III. On special points: Luther’s relation to the Augsb. Conf. is discussed by Rückert, Jena, 1854; Calinich, Leipz., 1861; Knaake, Berlin, 1863. The relation of the A. C. to the Marburg, Schwabach, and Torgau Articles is treated by Ed. Engelhardt in the “Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol.,” 1865, pp. 515-529; and by Th. Brieger in “Kirchengesch. Studien,” Leipzig, 1888, pp. 265-320.

The Augsburg Confession is the first and the most famous of evangelical confessions. It gave clear, full, systematic expression to the chief articles of faith for which Luther and his friends had been contending for thirteen years, since he raised his protest against the traffic in indulgences. By its intrinsic merits and historic connections, it has become the chief doctrinal standard of the Lutheran Church, which also bears the name of the “Church of the Augsburg Confession.” It retains this position to this day, notwithstanding the theological and ecclesiastical dissensions in that communion. It furnished the keynote to similar public testimonies of faith, and strengthened the cause of the Reformation everywhere. It had a marked influence upon the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. In the final revision by the author, and with the necessary change in the tenth article, it has also been frequently adopted by Reformed divines and congregations. But it was never intended, least of all by Melanchthon, who mended it to the last moment and even after its adoption, as an infallible and ultimate standard, even of the Lutheran Church. It was at first modestly called an, “Apology,” after the manner of the Christian Apologies in the ante-Nicene age, and meant to be simply a dispassionate statement in vindication of the Lutheran faith before the Roman Catholic world.

It is purely apologetic, and much more irenic than polemic. It aims to be, if possible, a Formula of Concord, instead of Discord. It is animated by a desire for reconciliation with Rome. Hence it is remarkably mild in tone, adheres closely to the historic faith, and avoids all that could justly offend the Catholics. It passes by, in silence, the supremacy of the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice, and some of the most objectionable features in the Roman system, — as indulgences, purgatory, and the papal primacy (which Melanchthon was willing to tolerate on an impossible condition). In short, it is the most churchly, the most catholic, the most conservative creed of Protestantism. It failed to conciliate Rome, but became the strongest bond of union among Lutherans.

The Confession is the ripe fruit of a gradual growth. It is based chiefly upon three previous confessional documents — the fifteen Articles of Marburg, Oct. 4, 1529, the seventeen Articles of Schwabach (a modification and expansion of the former by Luther, with the insertion of his view of the real presence), adopted by the Lutheran princes in a convent at Schwabach, near Nürnberg, Oct. 16, 1529, and several Articles of Torgau against certain abuses of the Roman Church, drawn up by Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, and Bugenhagen, by order of the Elector, at his residence in Torgau, March 20, 1530. The first two documents furnished the material for the first or positive part of the Augsburg Confession; the last, for its second or polemical part.

Melanchthon used this material in a free way, and made a new and far better work, which bears the stamp of his scholarship and moderation, his power of condensation, and felicity of expression. He began the preparation at Coburg, with the aid of Luther, in April, and finished it at Augsburg, June 24. He labored on it day and night, so that Luther had to warn him against over-exertion. “I command you,” he wrote to him May 12, “and all your company that they compel you, under pain of excommunication, to take care of your poor body, and not to kill yourself from imaginary obedience to God. We serve God also by taking holiday and rest.”

If we look at the contents, Luther is the primary, Melanchthon the secondary, author; but the form, the method, style, and temper are altogether Melanchthon’s. Nobody else could produce such a work. Luther would have made it more aggressive and polemic, but less effective for the occasion. He himself was conscious of the superior qualification of his friend for the task, and expressed his entire satisfaction with the execution. “It pleases me very well,” he wrote of the Confession, “and I could not change or improve it; nor would it be becoming to do so, since I cannot tread so softly and gently.” He would have made the tenth article on the real presence still stronger than it is; would have inserted his sola in the doctrine of justification by faith, as he did in his German Bible; and rejected purgatory, and the tyranny of popery, among the abuses in the second part. He would have changed the whole tone, and made the document a trumpet of war.

The Augsburg Confession proper (exclusive of preface and epilogue) consists of two parts, — one positive and dogmatic, the other negative and mildly polemic or rather apologetic. The first refers chiefly to doctrines, the second to ceremonies and institutions. The order of subjects is not strictly systematic, though considerably improved upon the arrangement of the Schwabach and Torgau Articles. In the manuscript copies and oldest editions, the articles are only numbered; the titles were subsequently added.

I. The first part presents in twenty-one articles — beginning with the Triune God, and ending with the worship of saints — a clear, calm, and condensed statement of the doctrines held by the evangelical Lutherans: (1) in common with the Roman Church; (2) in common with the Augustinian school in that church; (3) in opposition to Rome; and (4) in distinction from Zwinglians and Anabaptists.

(1) In theology and Christology, i.e., the doctrines of God’s unity and trinity (Art. I.), and of Christ’s divine-human personality (III.), the Confession strongly re-affirms the ancient catholic faith as laid down in the ecumenical creeds, and condemns (damnamus) the old and new forms of Unitarianism and Arianism as heresies.

(2) In anthropology, i.e., in the articles on the fall and original sin (II.), the slavery of the natural will and necessity of divine grace (XVIII.), the cause and nature of sin (XIX.), the Confession is substantially Augustinian, in opposition to the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian heresies. The Donatists are also condemned (damnant, VIII.) for denying the objective virtue of the ministry and the sacraments, which Augustin defended against them.

(3) The general evangelical views more or less distinct from those of Rome appear in the articles on justification by faith (IV.), the Gospel ministry (V.), new obedience (VI.), the Church (VII., VIII.), repentance (XII.), ordination (XIV.), ecclesiastical rites (XV.), civil government (XVI.), good works (XIX.), the worship of saints, and the exclusive mediatorship of Christ (XX.).

These articles are so guardedly and skillfully worded as to disarm the papal opponents. Even the doctrine of justification by faith (Art. IV.), which Luther declared to be the article of the standing or falling church, is briefly and mildly stated, without the sola so strongly insisted on by Luther, and so objectionable to the Catholics, who charged him with willful perversion of the Scriptures, for inserting it in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom_3:28).

(4) The distinctively Lutheran views — mostly retained from prevailing catholic tradition, and differing in part from those of other Protestant churches — are contained in the articles on the sacraments (IX., X., XIII.), on confession and absolution (XI.), and the millennium (XVII.). The tenth article plainly asserts the doctrine of a real bodily presence and distribution of Christ in the eucharist to all communicants, and disapproves (improbant) of those who teach differently (the Zwinglians). The Anabaptists are not only disapproved, but condemned (damnamus) as heretics three times: for their views on infant baptism and infant salvation (IX.), Civil offices (XVI.), the millennium and final restoration (XVII.).

These anti-Zwinglian and anti-Baptist articles, however, have long since lost their force in the Lutheran Church. Melanchthon himself changed the wording of the tenth Article in the edition of 1540, and omitted the clause of disapproval. The damnation of unbaptized infants dying in infancy, which is indirectly indorsed by condemning the opposite, is a fossil relic of a barbarous orthodoxy, and was justly denied by the Baptists, as also by Zwingli and Bullinger, who on this point were ahead of their age. The first official deliverance against this dogma was raised by the Reformed Church of Scotland, in the Second Scotch Confession (1581), which condemns among the errors of “the Roman Antichrist” “his cruel judgment against infants departing without the sacrament, and his absolute necessity of baptism.”

The doctrine of the second advent and millennium (rejected in Art. XVII.), if we except the dreams of the radical wing of the Anabaptists, has found advocates among sound and orthodox Lutherans, especially of the school of Bengel, and must be regarded as an open question.

The last Article of the doctrinal part expresses the assurance that the Lutherans hold no doctrine which is contrary to the Scriptures, or to the Catholic or even the Roman Church, as far as known from the fathers, and differ from her only on certain traditions and ceremonies. Luther knew better, and so did the Romanists. Only Melanchthon, in his desire for union and peace, could have thus deceived himself; but he was undeceived before he left Augsburg, and in the Apology of the Confession be assumed a very different tone.

II. The second part of the Confession rejects, in seven articles, those abuses of Rome which were deemed most objectionable, and had been actually corrected in the Lutheran churches; namely, the withdrawal of the communion cup from the laity (I.), the celibacy of the clergy (II.), the sacrifice of the mass (III.), obligatory auricular confession (IV.), ceremonial feasts and fasts (V.), monastic vows (VI.), and the secular power of the bishops as far as it interferes with the purity and spirituality of the church (VII.). This last Article is virtually a protest against the principle of Erastianism or Caesaro-papacy, and would favor in its legitimate consequences a separation of church and state. “The ecclesiastical and civil powers,” says the Confession, “are not to be confounded. The ecclesiastical power has its own commandment to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. Let it not by force enter into the office of another, let it not transfer worldly kingdoms,” etc. And as to the civil power, it is occupied only with worldly matters, not with the gospel, and “defends not the minds, but the bodies and bodily things, against manifest injuries.” This protest has been utterly disregarded by the Protestant rulers in Germany. The same Article favors the restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction with purely spiritual and ecclesiastical authority. This also was wholly disregarded by the signers, who were unwilling to give up their summepiscopate which they had claimed and exercised since 1526 with the consent of the Reformers.

The Confession concludes with these words: “Peter forbids bishops to be lords, and to be imperious over the churches (1Pe_5:3). Now, our meaning is not to take the rule from the bishops, but this one thing only is requested at their hands, that they would suffer the gospel to be purely taught, and that they would relax a few observances which cannot be held without sin. But if they will remit none, let them look how they will give account to God for this, that by their obstinacy they afford cause of division and schism.” Thus the responsibility of schism in the Latin Church was thrown upon Rome. But even if Rome and the Diet had accepted the Augsburg Confession, the schism would still have occurred by the further progress of the Protestant spirit, which no power on earth, not even Luther and Melanchthon, could arrest.

The style of the Latin edition is such as may be expected from the rare classic culture and good taste of Melanchthon; while the order and arrangement might be considerably improved.

The diplomatic preface to the Emperor, from the pen of a lawyer, Chancellor Brück, is clumsy, tortuous, dragging, extremely obsequious, and has no other merit than to introduce the reader into the historical situation. The brief conclusion (Epilogus) is from the same source, and is followed by the signatures of seven princes and two magistrates. Several manuscript copies omit both preface and epilogue, as not properly belonging to the Confession.

Space forbids us to discuss the questions of the text, and the important variations of the Unaltered Confession of 1530, and the Altered Confession of 1540, which embodies the last improvements of its author, but has only a semi-official character and weight within the Lutheran Church.


120. The Roman Confutation and the Protestant Apology

I. Corpus Reformatorum (Melanchthonis Opera), ed. by Bretschneider and Bindseil, vol. XXVII. (1859), 646 columns, and vol. XXVIII. 1-326. These volumes contain the Confutatio Confessionis Augustanae, and the two editions of Melanchthon’s Apologia Conf. Aug., in Latin and German, with Prolegomena and critical apparatus. The best and most complete edition. There are few separate editions of the Apology, but it is incorporated in all editions of the Lutheran Symbols; see Lit. in §119. The Latin text of the Confutatio was first published by A. Fabricius Leodius in Harmonia Confess. Augustanae, 1573; the German, by C. G. Müller, 1808, from a copy of the original in the archives of Mainz, which Weber had previously inspected (Krit. gesch. der Augsb. Conf., II. 439 sqq.).

II. K. Kieser (R. Cath.). Die Augsburger Confession und ihre Widerlegung, Regensburg, 1845. Hugo Lämmer: Die vor-tridentinisch-katholische Theologie des Reformations-Zeitalters, Berlin, 1858, pp. 33-46. By the same: De Confessonis Augustanae Confutatione Pontificia, in Neidner’s “Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol.,” 1858. (Lämmer, a Lutheran, soon afterwards joined the Roman Church, and was ordained a priest, 1859, and appointed missionarius apostolicus, 1861.) G. Plitt (Luth.):Die Apologie der Augustana geschichtlich erklärt, Erlangen, 1873. Schaff: Creeds, etc., I. 243. The history and literature of the Apology are usually combined with that of the Confession, as in J. G. Walch, Feuerlin-Riederer, and Köllner.

The Roman “Catholic Confutation,” so called, of the Augsburg Confession, was prepared in Augsburg by order of the Emperor Charles, by the most eminent Roman divines of Germany, and bitterest opponents of Luther, especially Drs. Eck, Faber, Cochlaeus, in Latin and German. The final revision, as translated into German, was publicly read before the Emperor and the Diet, in the chapel of the episcopal palace, Aug. 3, and adopted as the expression of the views of the majority.

The document follows the order of the Augsburg Confession. It approves eighteen doctrinal articles of the first part, either in full or with some restrictions and qualifications. Even the fourth article, on justification, escapes censure, and Pelagianism is strongly condemned. The tenth article, on the Lord’s Supper, is likewise approved as far as it goes, provided only that the presence of the whole Christ in either of the substances be admitted. But Article VII., on the Church, is rejected; also Art. XX., on faith and good works, and Art. XXI., on the worship of saints.

The second part of the Confession, on abuses, is wholly rejected; but at the close, the existence of various abuses, especially among the clergy, is acknowledged, and a reformation of discipline is promised and expected from a general council.

The tone of the Confutation is moderate, owing to the express direction of the Emperor; but it makes no concession on the points under dispute. It abounds in biblical and patristic quotations crudely selected. As to talent and style, it is far inferior to the work of Melanchthon. The Roman Church was not yet prepared to cope with the Protestant divines.

The publication of the Confutation as well as the Confession was prohibited, and it did not appear in print till many years afterwards; but its chief contents became known from notes taken by hearers and from manuscript copies.

The Lutheran members of the Diet urged Melanchthon to prepare at once a Protestant refutation of the Roman refutation, and offered the first draught of it to the Diet, Sept. 22, through Chancellor Brück; but it was refused.

On the following day Melanchthon left Augsburg in company with the Elector of Saxony, re-wrote the Apology on the journey, and completed it leisurely at Wittenberg, with the help of a manuscript copy of the Confutation, in April, 1531.

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession is a scholarly vindication of the Confession. It far excels the Confutation in theological and literary merit. It differs from the apologetic Confession by its polemic and protestant tone. It is written with equal learning and ability, but with less moderation and more boldness. It even uses some harsh terms against the papal opponents, and calls them liars and hypocrites (especially in the German edition). It is the most learned of the Lutheran symbols, and seven times larger than the Confession, but for this very reason not adapted to be a symbolical book. It contains many antiquated arguments, and errors in exegesis and patristic quotations. But in its day it greatly strengthened the confidence of scholars in the cause of Protestantism. Its chief and permanent value is historical, and consists in its being the oldest and most authentic interpretation of the Augsburg Confession, by the author himself.

The Apology, though not signed by the Lutheran princes at Augsburg, was recognized first in 1532, at a convent in Schweinfurt, as a public confession; it was signed by Lutheran divines at Smalcald, 1537; it was used at the religious conference at Worms, 1540, and embodied in the various editions of the Confession, and at last in the Book of Concord, 1580.

The text of the Apology has, like that of the Confession, gone through various transformations, which are used by Bossuet and other Romanists as proofs of the changeableness of Protestantism. The original draught made at Augsburg has no authority, as it was based on fragmentary notes of Camerarius and others who heard the Confutation read on the 3d of August. The first Latin edition was much enlarged and improved; the German translation was prepared by Justus Jonas, assisted by Melanchthon, but differs widely from the Latin. Both were published together with the Augsburg Confession in October, 1531. Changes were made in subsequent editions, both of the Latin original and the German translation, especially in the edition of 1540. Hence there is an Apologia invariata and an Apologia variata, as well as a Confessio invariata and a Confessio variata. The Book of Concord took both texts from the first edition.


121. The Tetrapolitan Confession

I. Editions. The Latin text was first printed at Strassburg (Argentoratum), a.d. 1531, Sept. (21 leaves); then in the Corpus et Syntagma Confess. (1612 and 1654); in Augusti’s Corpus libr. symb. (1827), p. 327 sqq.; and in Niemeyer’s Collect. Confess. (1840), p. 740-770; Comp. Proleg., p. LXXXIII.

The German text appeared first at Strassburg, Aug. 1531 (together with the Apology, 72 leaves); then again, 1579, ed. by John Sturm, but was suppressed by the magistrate, 1580; at Zweibrücken, 1604; in Beck’s Symbol. Bücher, vol. I., p. 401 sq.; in Böckel’s Bekenntniss-Schriften der evang. reform. Kirche (1847), p. 363 sq.

II. Gottl. Wernsdorff: Historia Confessionis Tetrapolitanae, Wittenb. 1694, ed. IV. 1721. Schelhorn: Amaenitates Litter., Tom. VI., Francf. 1727. J. H. FELS: Dissert. de varia Confess. Tetrapolitanae fortuna praesertim in civitate Lindaviensi, Götting. 1755. Planck: Geschichte des protest. Lehrbegriffs, vol. III., Part I. (second ed. 1796), pp. 68-94. J. W. Röhrich: Geschichte der evangel. Kirche des Elsasses. Strassburg, 1855, 3 vols. J. W. Baum: Capito und Butzer (Elberf. 1860), p. 466 sqq. and 595. Schaff: Creeds, I. 524-529.

The Tetrapolitan Confession, also called the Strassburg and the Swabian Confession, is the oldest confession of the Reformed Church in Germany, and represented the faith of four imperial cities, Strassburg, Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau, which at that time sympathized with Zwingli and the Swiss, rather than Luther, on the doctrine of the sacraments.

It was prepared in great haste, during the sessions of the Diet of Augsburg, by Bucer, with the aid of Capito and Hedio, in the name of those four cities (hence the name) which were excluded by the Lutherans from their political and theological conferences, and from the Protestant League. They would greatly have preferred to unite with them, and to sign the Augsburg Confession, with the exception of the tenth article on the eucharist, but were forbidden. The Landgrave Philip of Hesse was the only one who, from a broad, statesmanlike view of the critical situation, favored a solid union of the Protestants against the common foe, but in vain.

Hence, after the Lutherans had presented their Confession June 25, and Zwingli his own July 8, the four cities handed theirs, July 11, to the Emperor in German and Latin. It was received very ungraciously, and not allowed to be read before the Diet; but a confutation full of misrepresentations was prepared by Faber, Eck, and Cochlaeus, and read Oct. 24 (or 17). The Strassburg divines were not even favored with a copy of this confutation, but procured one secretly, and answered it by a “Vindication and Defense” in the autumn of 1531.

The Tetrapolitan Confession consists of twenty-three chapters, besides preface and conclusion. It is in doctrine and arrangement closely conformed to the Lutheran Confession, and breathes the same spirit of moderation, but is more distinctly Protestant. This appears at once in the first chapter (On the Matter of Preaching), in the declaration that nothing should be taught in the pulpit but what was either expressly contained in the Holy Scriptures, or fairly deduced therefrom. (The Lutheran Confession is silent on the supreme authority of the Scriptures.) The evangelical doctrine of justification is stated in the third and fourth chapters more clearly than by Melanchthon; namely, that we are justified not by works of our own, but solely by the grace of God and the merits of Christ, through a living faith, which is active in love, and productive of good works. Images are rejected in Chap. XXII.

The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (Chap. XVIII.) is couched in dubious language, which was intended to comprehend in substance the Lutheran and the Zwinglian theories, and accords with the union tendency of Bucer. But it contains the germ of the Calvinistic view. In this ordinance, it is said, Christ offers to his followers, as truly now as at the institution, his very body and blood as spiritual food and drink, whereby their souls are nourished to everlasting life. Nothing is said of the oral manducation and the participation of unbelievers, which are the distinctive features of the Lutheran view. Bucer, who had attended the Conference at Marburg in 1529, labored with great zeal afterwards to bring about a doctrinal compromise between the contending theories, but without effect.

The Tetrapolitan Confession was soon superseded by the clearer and more logical confessions of the Calvinistic type. The four cities afterwards signed the Lutheran Confession to join the Smalcald League. But Bucer himself remained true to his union creed, and reconfessed it in his last will and testament (1548) and on his death-bed.