Augsburg Confession

Augsburg Confession

(Confessio Augustana), the first Protestant confession of faith.

I. History. — After Charles V concluded peace with France, he summoned a German Diet to meet at Augsburg April 8, 1530. The writ of invitation called for aid against the Turks, who in 1529 had besieged Vienna; it also promised a discussion of the religious questions of the time, and such a settlement of them as both to abolish existing abuses and to satisfy the demands of the pope. Elector John of Saxony, who received this writ March 11, directed (March 14) Luther, Jonas, Bugenhagen, and Melancthon to meet in Torgau (q.v.), and draw up a summary of the most important and necessary articles of faith, in support of which the evangelical princes and states should combine. These theologians (with the exception of Jonas, who joined them somewhat later) drew up a profession of their faith on the ground of the seventeen articles which had been prepared by Luther for the convention at Schwalbach (q.v.), and fifteen other articles, which had been drawn up at the theological colloquy at Marburg (q.v.), Oct. 3, 1529, and subsequently presented to the Saxon elector John at Torigau. (The original articles were for the first time published by Heppe, in Niedner's Zeitschrift fur histor. Theologie, 1848, 1st number.) The first draft made by the four theologians, in seventeen articles, was at once published, and called forth a joint reply from Wimpina, Mensing, Redoerfer, and Dr. Elgers, which Luther immediately answered. The subject of the controversy had thus become generally known. Luther, Melancthon, and Jonas were invited by the Saxon elector to accompany him to Augsburg. Subsequently it was, however, deemed best for Luther's safety to leave him behind. Melancthon, soon after his arrival at Augsburg, completed the Confession, and gave to it the name of Apologia. On May 11 he sent it to Luther, who was then at Coburg, and on May 15 he received from Luther an approving answer. Several alterations were suggested to Melancthon in his conferences with Jonas, the Saxon chancellor Briick, the conciliatory bishop Stadion of Augsburg, and the imperial secretary Valdes. To the latter, upon his request, 17 articles were handed by Melancthon, with the consent of the Saxon elector, and he was to have a preliminary discussion concerning them with the papal legate Pimpinelli. Upon the opening of the Diet, June 20, the evangelical theologians who were present — Melancthon, Jonas, Agricola, Brenz, Schnepf, and others-presented the Confession to the elector. The latter, on June 23, had it signed by the evangelical princes and representatives of cities who were present. They were the following: John, elector of Saxony; George, margrave of Brandenburg; Ernest, duke of Lunenburg; Philip, landgrave of Hesse; John Frederic, duke of Saxe; Francis, duke of Lunenburg; Wolfgang, prince of Anhalt; and the magistrates of Nuremberg and Reutlingen. The emperor had ordered the Confession to be presented to him at the next session, June 24; but when the evangelical princes asked for permission to read it, their petition was refused, and efforts were made to prevent the public reading of the document altogether. The evangelical princes declared, however, that they would not part with the Confession until its reading should be allowed. The 25th was then fixed for the day of its presentation. In order to exclude the people, the little chapel of the episcopal palace was appointed in the place of the spacious City Hall, where the meetings of the Diet were held. In this episcopal chapel the Protestant princes assembled on the appointed day, Saturday, June 25, 1530, at 3 P.M. The Saxon chancellor Bruck (Pontanus) held in his hands the Latin, Dr. Christian Bayer the German copy. They stepped into the middle of the assembly, and all the Protestant princes rose from their seats, but were commanded to sit down. The emperor wished to hear first the Latin copy read, but the elector replied that they were on German ground; whereupon the emperor consented to the reading of the German copy, which was done by Dr. Bayer. The reading lasted from 4 to 6 o'clock. The reading being over, the emperor commanded both copies to be given to him. The German copy he handed to the archbishop of Mayence, the Latin he took along to Brussels. Neither of them is now extant. He promised to take this highly important matter into serious consideration, and make known his decision; in the mean while the Confession was not to be printed without imperial permission. The Protestant princes promised to comply with this; but when, soon after the reading, an erroneous edition of the Confession appeared, it became necessary to have both the Latin and German texts published, which was done through Melancthon. On June 27 the Confession was given, in the presence of the whole assembly, to the Roman Catholic theologians to be refuted. The most prominent among them were Eck, Faber, Wimpina, Cochlaeus, and Dietenberger. Before they got through with their work a letter was received from Erasmus, who had been asked for his opinion by cardinal Campegius, recommending caution, and the concession of the Protestant demands concerning the marriage of the priests, monastic vows, and the Lord's Supper. On July 12 the Roman Catholic "Confutation" was presented, which so little pleased the emperor, that "of 280 leaves, only twelve remained whole." A new "Confutation" was therefore prepared and read to the Diet, August 3, by the imperial secretary Schweiss. No copy of it was given to the evangelical members of the Diet, and it was not published until 1573 (by Fabricius, in his Harmonia Conf. Aug. Cologne, 1573; the German text in Chytrsus, Historie der Augsburg. Conf., Rostock, 1576). Immediately after the reading of the Confutation, the Protestants were commanded to conform to it. Negotiations for effecting a compromise were commenced by both parties, but led to no result. Negotiations between the Lutherans and the Zuinglians were equally fruitless. Zuinglius had sent to the emperor a memorial, dated July 4 (Ad Carolum Romans Imperatorem comitia Augustae celebrantem fidei Huldrychi Zwinglio ratio), and Bucer, Capito, and Hedio had drawn up, in the name of the cities of Strasburg, Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau, the Confessio Tetrapolitana, which was presented to the emperor July 11. Neither of these two confessions was read, and both were rejected.

Against the Roman Catholic "Confutation," Melancthon, at the request of the evangelical princes and cities, prepared an "Apology of the Confession" (Apologia Confessionis), which was presented by the chancellor Bruck, on Sept. 22, to the emperor, who refused to receive it. Subsequently Melancthon received a copy of the "Confutation," which led to many alterations in the first draft of the Apology. It was then published in Latin, and in a German translation by Jonas (Wittenberg, 1531). A controversy subsequently arose, in consequence of which Melancthon after 1540 made considerable alterations in the original Augsburg Confession, altering, especially in Art. 10, the statement of the doctrine of the Lord's Supper in favor of the Reformed view. Melancthon, who had already before been charged with "crypto-Calvinism," was severely attacked on account of these alterations; yet the "Confessio Variata" remained in the ascendency until 1580, when the Confessio Invariata was put into the "Concordienbuch" in its place, and thus the unaltered Confession has come to be generally regarded as the standard of the Lutheran churches. But the altered Confession has not ceased to find advocates, and several branches of the Lutheran Church have even abrogated the authoritative character of the Confession, and do not demand from the clergy a belief in all its doctrines.

II. The following is the table of contents of the Confession and of the Apology:

Part I.

1. Acknowledges four oecumenical councils: —

2. Declares original sin to consist wholly in concupiscence: —

3. Contains the substance of the Apostles' Creed: —

4. Declares that justification is the effect of faith, exclusive of good works: —

5. Declares the Word of God and the sacraments to be the means of conveying the Holy Spirit, but never without faith: —

6. That faith must produce good works purely in obedience to God, and not in order to the meriting justification: —

7. The true church consists of the godly only: —

8. Allows the validity of the sacraments, though administered by the evil: —

9. Declares the necessity of infant baptism.

10. Declares the real presence in the Eucharist, continued with the elements only during the period of receiving; insists upon communion in both kinds: —

11. Declares absolution to be necessary, but not so particular confession: —

12. Against the Anabaptists: —

13. Requires actual faith in all who receive the sacraments: —

14. Forbids to teach in the church, or to administer the sacraments, without being lawfully called: —

15. Orders the observation of the holy days and ceremonies of the church: —

16. Of civil matters and marriage: —

17. Of the resurrection, last judgment, heaven, and hell: —

18. Of free will: —

19. That God is not the author of sin: —

20. That good works are not altogether unprofitable: —

21. Forbids the invocation of saints.

Part II.

1. Enjoins communion in both kinds, and forbids the procession of the holy sacrament: —

2. Condemns the law of celibacy of priests: —

3. Condemns private masses, and enjoins that some of the congregation shall always communicate with the priest: —

4. Against the necessity of auricular confession: —

5. Against tradition and human ceremonies: —

6. Condemns monastic vows: —

7. Discriminates between civil and religious power, and declares the power of the church to consist only in preaching and administering the sacraments.

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession contains sixteen articles, which treat of original sin, justification by faith, fulfillment of the law, penitence, repentance, confession, satisfaction, number and use of the sacraments human ordinances, invocation of the saints, communion in both kinds, celibacy, monastic vows, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The "Confessio," with the "Apologia," may be found in Francke, Libri Symbolici Ecclesiae Lutherance (Lips. 1847, 12mo); in Hase, Libri Symbolici Eccl. Evangelicae (Lips. 1846, 12mo), which contains also the papal Augustance Confessionis Responsio of Faber, in Tittmann, Libri Symbolici (1817, 8vo). It has also been edited by Winer (1825), Zweiten (1840, 1850), Francke (1846), Miuller (1848), Heppe (Kassel, 1855). There are works on the history of the Confession by Chytraeus (Rost. 1576); Miller (Jena, 1705); Cyprian (Gotha, 1730); Salig (Historie der A. C. und deren Apologie, Halle, 1730, 3 vols.); Weber (Kritische Gesch. der A. C. Leipz.

1783, 2 vols.); Rottermund (Hann. 1830); Danz (De A. C. nach ihrer Gesch. Jena, 1829); Rudelbach (Historische Einleitung in die A. C. Dresd. 1841),; Rickert (Lumhers Verhaltniss zur A. C. Jena, 1854); Calinich (Luther und die A. C. Leipzig, 1861). See also Evang. Qu. Review, April, 1864, art. 6; Zeitschriiftfur hist. Theol. 1865, Heft. 3; Hardwick, Hist. of 39 Articles, ch. 2; Smith's Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrine, § 215; Gieseler, Church History (Smith's edit.), 4:432. The history and literature of the "Confession" are given in a very summary but accurate way by Hase, in his Prolcgomena, etc., to the Lib. Symb.; see also Guericke, Christliche Smymbolik, § 14. On the relation of the Variata edition of 1540 to the original, see Heppe, Die confessionelle Elntwicklung der alt- protsstantischen Kirche Deutschlands (Marb. 1854); Fbrstemann, Urkundenbuch (Halle, 1833-35). English versions of the "Confession" have been published by Rev. W. H. Teale (Leeds, 1842); also in P. Hall's harmonyi of Confessions (Lond. 1842), and in Barrow, Summary of Christian Faith and Practice, vol. 1 (London, 1822, 3 vols. 12mo); the latest American edition is Henkel's, of Baltimore, 1853 (a revised translation). SEE CONFESSIONS.

 
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