Norton Professor of Systematic Theology in the Theological Seminary of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Philadelphia; Translator and
Editor of the “Book of Concord,” Schmid’s “Doctrinal
Theology of the Ev. Lutheran Church” etc. etc.
G. W. FREDERICK,
Copyrighted, 1890, by G. W. Frederick.
INVESTIGATIONS into the history of the English translations of the Augsburg Confession, made several years ago, in co-operation with the late Rev. B. M. Schmucker, D. D., led the writer into a much wider field than he had originally intended to enter. Notes taken, in the beginning, for his own information, soon accumulated to such extent, that he embodied their results in a series of articles, that appeared in The Lutheran in 1887. During the preparation of the articles, every available source of information was laid under contribution for additional facts. The number of articles grew beyond expectation. Requests having been made from various quarters, that they should be published in a more permanent form, this volume is the result. The material here given has only in part appeared before. Much has been rewritten, while several of the earlier chapters, and nearly all of the latter part of the book, are entirely new.
It will speak for itself. Its facts, supported by the documentary evidence, will suggest their own lessons. It has not been written chiefly in a polemical interest. Its great end is to promote a thorough understanding of the historical relation of the Lutheran Church to the various English-speaking communions of this country, whose course has been influenced by the history of the Church in England during the Sixteenth Century. [[@Page:viii]]
With so much material on the subject, readily accessible, it is surprising that a book filling this place, has not appeared before. English writers, however, as a rule, have felt little interest in acknowledging their dependence on the German Reformation; a few, like Archbishop Laurence and Archdeacon Hardwick, forming brilliant exceptions. German writers have generally assumed that the English could be relied upon for the facts of their own history, and, therefore, have not exercised their characteristic caution, or their customary practice of being satisfied with nothing short of the first sources. Although the correspondence of Luther and Melanchthon, and that rich storehouse of documentary evidence, Seckendorf’s Historia Lutheranismi abound in most valuable information on the subject, but little attention has hitherto been given to what, with a little industry, could have been drawn from their pages.
The time has come, however, for a more careful and thorough examination of these facts. In this country, the Lutheran Church has become a communion of over a million communicants, and not less than four or five millions of a population. The English language has again become the medium for the Lutheran faith. As the various nationalities which its adherents represent, merge in the one American nationality, so their various languages, sooner or later, are laid aside for the common language of the country. Even before this process is complete, the one medium through which those worshipping in different languages can confer with and know one another, must necessarily be the English. The problem of the hour for the Lutheran Church in America, is, how to unite these various elements in the historical faith of the Lutheran Church as embodied in her historical Confessions, and with the worship prescribed in her historical Liturgies and [[@Page:ix]]Church Orders. As in the earlier efforts of Cranmer, Fox, Barnes, Coverdale, Rogers, Taverner and others in the Sixteenth Century in England, so here, the English language is again employed to furnish the mould in which Lutheran Theology is to be recast. In this work, the historical connection is again preserved. The good foundation then laid is not to be ignored. We gladly resume the undertaking, at the stage in which it was left by our predecessors in the same field, and, with humble recognition of their admirable success, take it up simply where it was left incomplete by the intervention of the Calvinistic reaction, during the second period of the reign of Edward VI, as examined in these pages. But in doing so, it becomes necessary to explain our relations to the Church of England, and to carefully discriminate between what is common territory, and what is peculiar to each Church. It is a matter, not of regret, but of rejoicing, that the Church of England, and her daughter in America, have jealously preserved, and heartily commended by constant usage so much of the common heritage, not only antedating the Reformation and extending even far back beyond the corruptions of the Middle Ages, but also of what they have directly drawn from the Lutheran Reformers. It must not, however, be forgotten that the political complications, as well as other elements that entered, rendered the work of the Lutheran Church in reforming the old Church Service incomplete in many parts of Germany, and that even among those who have been faithful Lutherans in their Confessional position, there may be found those who are ready to indiscriminately censure what is common property, as though it were alien to the Lutheran Church.
Nor must the aggressive attitude of the Churches of the Anglican [[@Page:x]]family be overlooked. The challenge to all other bodies of Christians to establish their historical position, has been bravely made, and, with a determination, that shows that it will not be satisfied with skilful evasions of the question. It will certainly be of service, in giving this subject the serious consideration which it justly demands, to take into the account all the historical factors accessible. The effort to require all movements at union to rest upon a clear, distinct and unequivocal historical basis is certainly in the right direction. It is to be hoped, however, that this principle will be consistently maintained. No progress can be made, nor any permanent results gained, by laying emphasis upon one class of facts, and resolutely closing the eyes to another; urging the examination of History at one point, and begging to be excused from looking into it at another. We sincerely hope that this book may inspire among our Lutheran people a true respect for much that is valuable and scholarly, and admirable in the results of the faith of the Reformation that have abounded in the English Church and her daughters in all periods since; and, that, on the other hand, it may introduce some readers from these communions to the rich stores of gospel truth, with which their fathers were familiar, and which have most powerfully influenced their entire career since.
The question of the revision of Creeds and Confessions, is now attracting wide-spread attention. This is a critical age, persistently demanding all professions to be put to a rigid test. Much light will be found upon the subject, by a careful reading of the accounts of the discussions between the English and the Lutheran theologians, in their several Conferences. There is scarcely an item which enters into a discriminating view of the subject that was not there anticipated. There were many hints [[@Page:xi]]given then by the Wittenberg theologians which are just as applicable to the present situation and movements, in the Presbyterian and Lutheran, as well as the Episcopal Church.
At the risk of violating somewhat the unity of the subject, an Excursus on “The Typical Lutheran Chief Service,” has been introduced. While treating of the relation of the English Service to the Lutheran Orders, there seemed to be a call for giving some attention to a Service, for whose explanation even Lutherans are entirely dependent upon material not found in the English language.
Beyond the acknowledgment of the generous aid rendered the writer, above all, by the late Dr. B. M. Schmucker, mention should be made of others to whose kindness he is much indebted. Among them, he wishes especially to name Rev. Karl Wolters, Pastor of St. Peter’s Church, Hamburg, Germany, who has taken much interest in making researches for this book in the Archives at Hamburg. We only regret that information he communicated concerning the visit of John Æpinus, afterwards Superintendent at Hamburg, to England, and his conferences with Henry VIII, on ecclesiastical matters, before the sending of the English Commission to Wittenberg, whose history is given in Chapter IV, came after that chapter had already been set up. We refer to it for the information of those who may make this volume the starting-point for further investigations. Rev. J. A. Seiss, D.D., LL. D., kindly furnished his copy of Cranmer’s Catechism, with notes showing the results of his comparisons with the Latin edition. Rev. Prof. W. J. Mann, D. D., LL. D., especially interested himself in gathering information concerning Ernest Sarcerius, the Nassau theologian. Rev. Prof. A. Spaeth, D. D., has freely given aid on Hymnological and Liturgical questions. [[@Page:xii]]Pencil notes of the late Rev. Prof. C. P. Krauth, D. D., LL. D., on the margin of books, now in the Library of the Theological Seminary at Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, indicate that he had progressed far in similar investigations, and have repeatedly given us the clue to much valuable information.
In addition to the many friends in the Lutheran Church who have assured us of their interest in these studies, we wish especially to recognize the courtesy of Rev. Prof. George P. Fisher, D. D., LL. D., of Yale University, for urging that they should be embodied in a volume, as well as for his kind reference to what we had previously published on the Anglican Catechisms, in an address delivered in the Autumn of 1888, at Harvard University.
Trusting that the facts here given will contribute towards the clearer understanding of the causes of difference among the various American churches, and, thus, in God’s own time, if possible, towards their ultimate adjustment, we offer this volume to the calm and unprejudiced consideration of thoughtful readers.
HENRY E. JACOBS.
Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church