|Book of Concord (Triglot Concordia): The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church | Calvin's Institutes | Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ | Heretics by Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936) | Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis | Josephus: The Complete Works | Orthodoxy by Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936) | Sermons on Gospel Themes by Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) | The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688) | The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman, 1605-1691) | Walther's Law and Gospel | Westminster Confession & Catechisms ||
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To speak my mind briefly, this is the sum of what I think. If these things had been kept as play for the youth and for young pupils, so that they would have had a childish game of Christian doctrine and life, in the same way that we must give children dolls and hobby-horses and other toys; and if the custom had been allowed to stay at that, as we teach the children to fast for the sake of the Christ-child and of St. Nicholas, so that they may give them presents on their nights (for it was thus, as we can see, that our ancestors meant it to be); if it were to be left at that, the palm-ass, the ascension and many things of the kind could be tolerated, for then they would not lead anyone's conscience astray. But for us old fools to go about in miters and clerical finery, and take it seriously, - so seriously, indeed, that it becomes an article of faith, - so that whoever does not adore this child's-play must have committed a sin and have his conscience tortured by it, - that is the very devil!
It follows, then, that all the things above mentioned, however childish and laughable they may be, do nevertheless fight against and corrupt the Christian faith and the really necessary things, which have also been mentioned above, as though there were no help for one who did not keep them. For, sad to say, it has been our experience heretofore this childs' - and fools' - play has been practiced more, and more seriously, than the things that are really important. This, then, is our opinion: If, for the sake of the young, we can help to retain these childish games which are tolerable, without injury to the really serious and important things, we shall gladly do it. But that we should hold them for articles of faith and even play the fool in bishops' hats, - nothing will come of that, no matter who is angry or who laughs!
I have spoken these things to you this time as a kindly and faithful admonition, and I ask with all diligence that you will join us in calling upon God that He may grant you grace and wisdom so to do and to act in these matters that it may be for His honor and the salvation of us all; and also that He may prevent you from self-adornment, and from excusing, defending, or forcibly continuing your former misconduct. For what good is done by making more bad blood among the people? Men's hearts are already too deeply embittered, and not without good cause. It is necessary to sweeten and soften and quiet them with humble confession and open reformation, and not to irritate them further. You know that, even if there were no Gospel, your order is so fallen and corrupt, even when judged by your own laws, that it cannot be endured if you try to brazen things through.
You know, too, that Pope Hadrian himself confessed, through his legate at Nuremberg, that the Roman See was the source of much evil, and offered to reform it. Why, then, should you be ashamed to confess the same thing, and obstinately persist in your pride, and grant nothing and yield nothing, but carry things off with force, caring nothing whether the result is better or worse? For you know, or ought to know, that Christian rule or authority has been ordained by God to make things better, not to corrupt them, as Paul says, and is not to be a tyranny, but a service. If you were to admit this, we could help to raise you in the opinion of the people.
For I maintain that you cannot do without the Lutherans, those godly heretics, and least of all can you do without their prayers, if you are going to accomplish any permanent results. But if you are going to force your way through this business stiffly and stubbornly (which may God forbid!), then, together with all who believe with me, I hereby call God and all the world to witness that it is no fault of ours if you are dashed to pieces, when your pride fails you. Your blood be on your own head! We are and will be guiltless of your blood and your condemnation; for we pointed out to you your offenses, admonished you faithfully to repent, sincerely implored you, and made you every offer that could serve the cause of peace, seeking and desiring nothing else than that sole support and comfort of our souls, - the free and pure Gospel. Thus we can boast with a good conscience that the fault has not been ours.
But may the God of peace and consolation give you His Spirit, to guide you and lead you to all truth, through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be praise and thanks for all His unspeakable grace and gifts forever and ever.
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