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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


64. C. F. L. Endress Denounces Form of Concord. -- Among the better class of Lutherans prominent in the Pennsylvania Synod during the decades immediately preceding and following the year 1800 were such men as J. B. Schmucker, H. A. Muhlenberg, Lochman, Probst, and Endress. In the Proceedings of the General Synod, 1827, Lochman and Endress are spoken of as belonging to |the Fathers of our General Synod, and able ministers of the Lord Jesus,| as the |oldest and most respected members| of the Synod of East Pennsylvania, as |men who were among the brightest ornaments of the Lutheran Church, and whose departure is lamented no less by the synods in general than by that to which they more immediately belonged.| (12.21.) Yet they, too, were absolutely indifferent as to the Lutheran Symbols. Dr. C. F. Endress, a pupil of Helmuth, a leading spirit in the Pennsylvania Ministerium and most prominent in the unionistic transactions with the German Reformed Church, declared his theological position as follows: |We have the Formula Concordiae, in which expulsion, condemnation, anathema, were, in the most liberal manner, pronounced and poured forth against all those who were of a different opinion, which, however, thank God, was never received universally by the Lutheran Church. I would suffer both my hands to be burned off before I would subscribe that instrument.| |As we have hitherto received the Augsburg Confession and Luther's Catechism and Melanchthon's Apology, so I have no objection that they should be kept in reverence and respect as our peculiar documents, but not to overrule the Bible. For by this shall the Lutheran Church forever distinguish itself from all other religious connections, that the Bible, the Bible alone, shall remain the only sun in Christ Jesus, and that we rest upon human declarations of faith only in so far as they receive their light more or less from that great light.| |What shall I answer on the question, What is the confession of faith of the Lutheran Church? Answer: I will not dictate to you what you should say; but if I should be asked, I would say, first, and principally, and solely, and alone: The Holy Word of God contained in the writings of the prophets and apostles. The confessions of faith by the Church of the first four centuries we hold in conformity with the Bible, and receive them, as far as I know, universally in the Lutheran Church. The confession of the princes of the German Empire presented at the Diet of Augsburg is held by all in honor and respect, and when we compare it with other human confessions, we give it a decided preference. Luther's Catechism is used in all Lutheran churches, and no catechism of other religious denominations has that honor. The so-called Apology is in possession of very few Lutheran ministers; but whether they have read it or not, they consider it a good book. The Smalcald Articles I have often read. In Germany they are taken up among the Symbols. I know not whether any other divine in the Lutheran Church in America ever read it except Muhlenberg and Lochman. In short, we hold firmly and steadfastly to our beloved Bible, when the one holds to Calvin, the other to Zwingli, a third to the Heidelberg Catechism, a fourth to the Confession of the Synod of Dort, a fifth to the Westminster Catechism, a sixth to the Common-prayer Book, a seventh to the Solemn League and Covenant, and the eighth to the darkened and depraved reason per se, the ninth to reason under the name of Holy Spirit, and the tenth to the devil himself in the form of an angel of light. But I will cleave to my beloved Bible, and hereby it shall remain. Amen.| (Luth. Observer, Sept., 1881.)

65. Rev. Probst Defending Union. -- The Lutheran Observer, September, 1881, from whose columns we quoted the statements above concerning Dr. Endress, continues: Rev. Probst, who was a member of the Pennsylvania Synod from 1813 until his death, and well acquainted with the sentiments of his brethren, in a work published in 1826 for the express purpose of promoting a formal and complete union of the German Reformed and Lutheran churches in America, entitled, Reunion of the Lutherans and Reformed, says that there was no material difference of doctrinal views between them, the Lutherans having relinquished the bodily presence, and the Reformed unconditional election. Speaking of the supposed obstacles to such union, he remarks: |The doctrine of unconditional election cannot be in the way. This doctrine has long since been abandoned; for there can scarcely be a single German Reformed preacher found who regards it as his duty to defend this doctrine. Zwingli's more liberal, rational, and Scriptural view of this doctrine, as well as of the Lord's Supper, has become the prevailing one among Lutherans and Reformed, and it has been deemed proper to abandon the view of both Luther and Calvin on the subject of both these doctrines.| (74.) |The whole mass of the old Confessions, occasioned by the peculiar circumstances of those troublous times, has become obsolete by the lapse of ages, and is yet valuable only as matter of history. Those times and circumstances have passed away, and our situation, both in regard to political and ecclesiastical relations, is entirely changed. We are therefore not bound to these books, but only to the Bible. For what do the unlearned know of the Augsburg Confession, or the Form of Concord, or the Synod of Dort?| (76.) |Both churches [the Lutheran and the Reformed] advocate the evangelical liberty of judging for themselves, and have one and the same ground of their faith -- the Bible. Accordingly, both regard the Gospel as their exclusive rule of faith and practise, and are forever opposed to all violations of the liberty of conscience.| (76.) |All enlightened and intelligent preachers of both churches agree that there is much in the former Symbolical Books that must be stricken out as antiquated and contrary to common sense, and be made conformable with the Bible, and that we have no right to pledge ourselves to the mere human opinions of Luther, or Calvin, or Zwingli, and that we have but one Master, Christ. Nor is any evangelical Christian bound to the interpretations which Luther, or Calvin, or any other person may place on the words of Christ; but each one has the right to interpret them according to the dictates of his own conscience.| (80.) |Inasmuch as all educated ministers of the Lutheran and Reformed churches now entertain more reasonable and more Scriptural views on those doctrines which were formerly the subjects of controversy, what necessity is there of a continued separation?| (81.)

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