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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


85. Always Prominent and Liberal. -- The Synod of Maryland and Virginia, organized October 11, 1820, has always been prominent in the General Synod. |The Lutheran Observer, the Pastors' Fund, the Lutheran Ministers' Insurance League, the Missionary Institute, now Susquehanna University, were all born in this venerable Synod, which was also first to suggest the observance of Reformation Day. Lutherville and Hagerstown Female Seminaries are within its bounds. It has always been abreast of the most advanced, evangelical, and catholic life of the Church, giving no uncertain sound upon the divine obligation of the Lord's Day and the saloon.| (J. G. Butler in the Luth. Cycl., 482.) Among its noted pastors were J. D. and B. Kurtz, J. G. Morris, F. W. Conrad, S. W. Harkey, Theo. and C. A. Stork, D. F. Schaeffer, C. Philip and C. Porterfield Krauth, S. S. Schmucker, H. L. Baugher, Sr., W. A. Passavant, Sr., Ezra Keller. But men of this synod also led the van in doctrinal and practical liberalism. Harkey and Kurtz were New-measurists and enthusiastic revivalists. Harkey moved the publication of a monthly, The Revivalist, which Synod, however, declared |inexpedient.| Through the endeavors of Kurtz a committee was appointed to bring in a report on the |New Measures,| which was referred back to the committee. In 1844 Synod resolved to issue an |Abstract of the Doctrines and Practise of the Ev. Luth. Synod of Maryland.| Fourteen doctrinal articles were prepared by H. L. Baugher, B. Kurtz, and S. W. Harkey, containing, among other statements, also the following: |We believe that the Scriptures teach that God has given to man, as a natural gift, the power of choice, and that, whilst he is influenced in his volitions by motives, he always possesses the ability to choose the opposite of that which was the object of his choice. God, in His providence and grace, places before man the evil and the good, urging him by the most powerful considerations to choose the latter and reject the former. When the sinner yields to God, that is regeneration.| |We believe that the Scriptures teach that there are but two Sacraments, viz., Baptism and the Lord's Supper, in each of which truths essential to salvation are symbolically represented. We do not believe that they exert any influence ex opere operato, but only through the faith of the believer. Neither do the Scriptures warrant the belief that Christ is present in the Lord's Supper in any other than a spiritual manner.| |We regard them [the Lutheran Symbols] as good and useful exhibitions of truth, but do not receive them as binding on the conscience, except so far as they agree with the Word of God.| Evidently these articles of the Maryland |Abstract,| as A. Spaeth puts it, |not only avoid or contradict the distinctive features of the Lutheran Confession, but have a decided savor of Arminianism and Pelagianism.| (C. P. Krauth, 1, 111 f.) October 17, 1856, the Maryland Synod declared that every one is at liberty to accept or reject the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession which the |Definite Platform| rejected as false, provided that thereby the divine institution of the Sabbath be not rejected, nor the doctrinal basis of the General Synod changed. (L. u. W.1856, 382.)

86. Maryland Abstract of Doctrines. -- On the un-Lutheran, Reformed, and Arminian articles of the Maryland |Abstract| we quote Dr. A. Spaeth as follows: |This report was first recommitted, and, in 1846, was laid on the table and indefinitely postponed. The Lutheran Observer referred to it in an extended editorial (November 27, 1846), and printed it in full, with a few slight alterations and omissions. We quote from this article as follows: 'When asked what Lutherans believe, the question is not always so easily answered to the satisfaction of the inquirer. We may refer him to books, confessions, catechisms, etc.; but the proponent, most probably, has neither inclination nor time to hunt up and examine such authorities. He desires to be told in a few words, distinctly and definitely, what is the prevailing belief in the Lutheran Church on all fundamental points of religious truth. A short tract, a page or two comprehending an epitome of the doctrines and usages of the mass of Lutheran Christians in the United States, is what would suit him. Is there anything of this kind to be found in the Church? The want of it has long been felt and expressed. From the North and the South, the East and the West, we have been asked for something of this nature. The question assumed such importance that it was finally agitated some two years ago in the Synod of Maryland, and afterward in the General Synod (1846), held in Philadelphia. In both instances committees were appointed to draw up and report an abstract of our |doctrine and practise.| The committee appointed by the Maryland Synod complied; and though the |Abstract| itself was approved, the Synod, for reasons which we have not time at present to explain, did not think proper to adopt the report and recommend it to the Church. The committee was composed of some of our most intelligent and valued ministers; when they had prepared it, they sent a copy to every minister of the Synod, soliciting his emendations on the margin, and after its final return it was reprinted with the benefit of these emendations; and it is in this improved form that we now present it. We find no difficulty in subscribing the document, and in presenting it as a fair, honest exhibition of Lutheran doctrine and practise as understood in the latitude in which we reside; and if we are not greatly mistaken, the great mass of our American ministers throughout the land would not make any material objection to it.'| Dr. Spaeth continues: |This attempt to substitute such an 'abstract' for the full and precise language of the Confession of the Church was a sort of forerunner of the famous 'Definite Platform,' which appeared about ten years afterward, and whose principal author, Prof. S. S. Schmucker in Gettysburg, was so much pleased with the 'abstract' that he referred to it again and again in his lectures and articles, and even made his students commit to memory its principal statements. In an article on the 'Vocation of the American Lutheran Church' (Evangelical Review, Vol. II, p.510) he says: 'With the exception of several minor shades of doctrine, in which we are more symbolic than Dr. Baugher, we could not ourselves, in so few words, give a better description of the views taught in the Seminary [Gettysburg] than that contained in his |Abstract of the Doctrines and Practise,| etc. No ground of apprehension as to our seminary, since the doctrines of our Symbols and the prevailing doctrines of our American Church are here faithfully taught.'| (112.)

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