SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : PECULIARITIES OF TENNESSEE SYNOD.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

PECULIARITIES OF TENNESSEE SYNOD.

118. Opposed to Incorporation. -- The peculiarities of the Tennessee Synod, several of which have already been alluded to, may be accounted for partly by the lack, on their part, of correct logical distinctions and clear conceptions, partly by their fear of synodical tyranny over the individual ministers and congregations. Conspicuous among these abnormalities is the rejection of civil incorporation us a reprehensible commingling of State and Church. Article 5 of the Constitution declares: |This Synod shall never be incorporated by civil government, nor have any incorporated Theological Seminary under their care.| (B.1828, 20; 1827, 22; 1853, 26.) The |Remarks| appended explain: |This article prohibits this body ever from being incorporated by civil government. That the government of the Church ought not to be blended (vereinbart) with the State, is a tenet of the Augustan Confession, amply supported by the Scriptures. See 28th Article. Our Lord declared that His kingdom was not of this world. John 18, 36. That the Church ought not to be blended with the State is also according to the Constitution of the United States, whose spirit and design is to secure to every person full liberty with respect to spiritual matters. The kingdom of Christ admits of no bondage, for 'it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost,' Rom.14,17; 'and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,' 2 Cor.3, 17. But when the Church is identified with the State, it is also fettered by human traditions, aspiring priests obtain the power to tyrannize men's consciences. However, an ecclesiastical body may be incorporated by civil authority, and yet not be the established Church of the nation; and so far as I am acquainted with our civil constitutions there is nothing contained in them to prohibit a legislative body from incorporating any society. But when a Church is incorporated, it approximates to a State coalition. The Church, by an act of incorporation, if I am not greatly misinformed, would have power to enact laws and regulations binding upon all their members, and could recover by a civil suit at law any property, or its value, bequeathed to them. Thus empowered, could they not also borrow money upon the credit of their whole community for the establishment of any institution? An incorporated Church may not only preserve their funds, but they may also lend out their money on usury, and obtain a vast increase. The aspiring priests of such a body, knowing that the wealth of the Church is their interest, they invent many schemes to enlarge the so-called treasury of God, lest it should ever get exhausted. They fetter the conscience of some persons, by telling them that they ought to promote the cause of God, by casting their donations into the sacred treasury, so that they yield to their request, whilst they denounce those who refuse to comply with their importunities as foes to Christ and His holy Gospel. They contrive to obtain testamentary devices to the injury (in many cases) of widows and orphans; they condescend to flatter the female sex until they have begged all that they are able to bestow. Thus by the instrumentality of those clerical beggars, and by the cause of Christ being made a pander, the Church becomes wealthy; and wealth creates power, and power, tyranny and oppression. That many of the clergymen of the day possess an aspiring spirit is evident from the several attempts they have made to get some of their institutions incorporated by civil authority. If a few of the most numerous denominations in the United States were to unite, join their funds, in one, and could succeed in obtaining an incorporation act, they would not only be extremely wealthy already; but they might also increase in wealth to such a degree as would endanger our civil as well as ecclesiastical liberty. But if it be asked in what manner this could be effected, I answer: In various ways, as, for instance, such a gigantic body might by means of their wealth establish so great a number of printing-offices as would enable them to print and sell Bibles at so reduced a price that they would engross the sales of all the Bibles wanted in America, which would be an annual revenue of millions. They would be enabled to educate thousands for the ministry who otherwise had no inclination to embark in that office; and they, tutored in the principles of aristocracy, and the churches filled with them, those principles might be disseminated among millions; they could also supply the most of the common schools with their teachers, and thus the rising generation would imbibe the same pernicious principles, until at length persons of this description would occupy all the civil offices in our country, which would ultimately effect the destruction of civil liberty. In a similar manner the Roman Church became elevated above the State. By testamentary devises from the people, as well as from noblemen and kings, by the sales of indulgences and other inventions, the Church became exceedingly wealthy; cloisters were erected, and they occupied by friars and nuns supported at the expense of the people, it was their interest to support the power and dignity of the Roman pontiff. The same causes will produce the same effects. If the Church should ever acquire great wealth, aspiring priests will grasp great power. Whereas this body know these things, and wish to preserve both spiritual and civil liberty, and to prevent their successors from attempting to blend the Church with the State, they have by this article prohibited an incorporation of this body, and of any theological seminary under their care, and from accumulating funds for the support of such a seminary and of missionaries.| (1853, 27.)

119. Establishment of Seminaries Discouraged. -- Tennessee did not only oppose the incorporation of seminaries, but, strangely enough, never did encourage the establishment of any kind of theological school whatever. According to their views, theological and literary schools, supported by the Church, were superfluous, since the languages might be studied in the secular academies of the country, and a course of theology could be pursued with some able divine. The Fifth Article of the Tennessee Constitution provides: |Neither shall they have any particular treasury for the purpose of supporting . . . theological seminaries.| (1853, 26.) The |Remarks| appended to this article explain: |Although this body shall have no incorporated theological seminary under their care, nor any particular treasury for its support, nevertheless they consider it highly beneficial to the Church for every minister to understand the original tongues of the Scriptures, and to be well skilled in theology. But such qualifications may be acquired without an incorporated theological seminary. There are already a goodly number of academies dispersed throughout our country which are not under the care of any particular denomination, in which the student may acquire a classical education. He, in like manner, may have the opportunity of studying theology with some able divine.| (1853, 26.) However, though Tennessee in no way encouraged the establishment of a theological seminary, the conclusion must not be drawn that they underestimated or despised a well-educated ministry. The minutes of 1821 record: |A motion was made by Rev. David Henkel that no person shall be ordained a pastor of our Church unless he understands as much of the Greek language as will enable him to translate the New Testament. But no resolution respecting it was passed. It remains postponed until the next Synod, when it shall be taken into contemplation.| (1821, 8.) In 1827 Tennessee made the following recommendations and declarations with, respect to the German, Greek, and Hebrew languages: |Whereas the Symbolical Books of our Church, particularly Luther's works, are extant in the German language, and as sundry extracts have been made out of them, and most erroneously translated into the English; and as it is probable that such frauds may be practised in future, this body recommend the study of the German language to all the members of the Church. This would enable them to detect the glaring frauds practised by men under the garb of Lutherans. It was resolved that a more strict attention shall be paid to the literary qualifications of those who enter the ministry than has been done heretofore. A deacon should at least understand the language in which he officiates with some degree of accuracy, and be able to make the logical compositions in writing. A pastor ought, in addition to these qualifications, be acquainted with the Greek, the original tongue of the New Testament. Also an acquaintance with the Hebrew, the original tongue of the Old Testament, would the more amply qualify him for the sacred ministry. The Synod, however, do not think that there are not also useful men in the ministry who do not possess all those qualifications. For there are men whose manifold experience supplies some literary defects. But when a whole body of ministers are illiterate, they are not able to defend the truth of the Gospel against the subtile attacks of enemies. Suppose false teachers were to make a spurious translation of the Scriptures, how could such an illiterate body of ministers detect the forgery? If the knowledge of the original tongues should ever become extinct, the Gospel might soon become forged and corrupted. It is to be lamented that there are too many young men who wish to be ministers; notwithstanding, they are too indolent to acquire a knowledge of the original tongues. They are infatuated to think that they are immediately inspired from heaven, and that, therefore, they need no literary qualifications. In order to check this growing evil, and to oppose this fanaticism, it was resolved that every candidate for the ministry shall stand a literary as well as a theological examination, and be promoted agreeably to his industry. This resolution principally respects young men.| (11.)

120. General Mission Treasury Regarded Dangerous. -- The Report of 1824 records: |Synod has not, and does not want to have, a treasury to pay traveling missionaries.| (8.) The |Remarks| appended to the Fifth Article of the constitution, rejecting |any particular treasury for the purpose of supporting missionaries and theological seminaries,| explain as follows: |There are but few, if any, young men in our country who are not able to defray the expenses of their education either by means of their property or industry. Yet if there be such whose indolence is the cause why they are not able to defray the expenses of their education, they should by no means embark in the ministry, as the faithful discharge of ministerial duties requires men of great industry. It must also be observed that this article does not limit the charities of liberal Christians who wish to encourage the promulgation of the Gospel; for they may, if they deem it expedient, assist any student in getting his education, or any indigent congregation in getting ministerial labors. Nor does it prohibit individual congregations from having funds under their own care, for the purpose of defraying their own expenses, and assisting any of their indigent brethren. It would be expedient for every congregation to have a fund, yet by no means to hold such under an act of incorporation. Again, although this article prohibits this body from having any particular treasury for the purpose of supporting missionaries, yet some of the ministers of this body annually perform missionary labors. Now if it be asked how they are supported, it may again be asked, How were the apostles of Christ supported when they went into all the world to preach the Gospel? Did Christ recommend the establishment of a general fund by begging donations, and obtaining testamentary devises from dying men to remunerate His apostles for missionary labors? By no means. He said unto them that they should 'first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness,' and that 'all these things should be added unto them.' Matt.6, 33. See also vv.25-31. Thus they had the promise of being supported whilst they labored in the Lord's vineyard. Every faithful minister may rely upon these promises. If he be industrious in preaching the Gospel and instructing the ignorant, he will turn many unto righteousness, who will consider it their duty and privilege to manifest their gratitude in contributing towards his support. But such people as manifest an avaricious disposition, so that they will suffer faithful ministers to serve them without contributing something towards their support, prove themselves unworthy of the Gospel, and minister to others, who will receive them with gratitude.| (1853, 26.) In their |Objections| to the constitution of the General Synod, Tennessee declared: |We cannot conceive the propriety of paying missionaries out of a general fund. How many pious ministers heretofore have preached the Gospel in remote parts, without such a provision. Men who are commissioned by Christ to preach the Gospel, 'take no thought, saying, What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?' Matt.6, 31-34. Their daily employment is to teach and admonish the people -- for their support they depend on the faithful promise of our Lord who said: 'All these things shall be added unto you.' Men who are sent of God shall profit the people; the Lord, therefore, who feeds the winged songsters, though they toil not, and arrays the lilies of the field, stirreth up the hearts of the people, and fills them with gratitude, so that they freely honor Him with their substance in supporting His ministers. Thus the promise of Christ shall evermore be verified. But hirelings and wolves do not believe this promise. They are either entangled with some temporal employment to secure their support, or else must know what they are to have from a general fund before they go forth to labor in the Lord's vineyard. When men know what they shall get from a general fund, before they preach, they have no need to exercise faith in the promise of Christ, for their trust is in the general fund! The country is already filled with such hired circuit-riders, whose trust for a support is not in the promise of our Lord; because they first bargain with their superiors or general synods what they are to have per month or year from the general fund. Was the mission of the primitive apostles conducted in this manner? Had Christ established a general treasury, out of which He had hired His apostles by the month or year? No. Is it not degrading for Christians to depart so far from the paths of Christ and His apostles? Is it not enough that we have His promise? Genuine ministers have no need of a general fund to support them; their mission is profitable to the people, whose hearts, being moved by the Lord, will support their teachers -- but such men, who are not called of God do not profit the people; they therefore do not expect to be be supported by the promise of Christ, hence they must look to the general treasury. What is better calculated to induce hirelings to enter into the holy orders than their sure wages, by a general fund?| (1821, 31.) The German Report of 1821 concludes these remarks as follows: |Give an itinerant preacher 40 to 50 dollars a month, as some already receive, and it will prove to be a veritable bait to lead all manner of evil men into the ministry, whether they are called of God or not; for the salary calls them!| (28.)

121. Funds for Widows and Orphans of Pastors Denounced. -- Regarding Christian benevolence and charity, Tennessee admonished the Christians to be liberal, and also to establish a congregational treasury to meet their needs. General treasuries, however, were denounced as leading to synodical tyranny and worldly-mindedness. This was applied also to the establishment of general funds for the support of widows and orphans of pastors. In the Report of 1821 we read: |Why are ministers' widows and orphans, and poor ministers only, to be supported by a general fund, and not also the poor members of the church? Are the families of ministers a nobler race than other people, so that extraordinary provisions must be made for them in preference to others? Would it not be better if every congregation had a fund of its own to support their needy at home? Each congregation are best acquainted with their own poor, and know who deserves help. Is it necessary that the congregations should send their money several hundred miles from home, into the general fund, and that the poor should receive it from thence? Pious ministers accustom their families to honest labor, so that they may know how to support themselves when they need it. Who supports the people's widows and orphans? It is too lamentable a fact that too many ministers do not accustom their children to labor, but indulge them in their pride, vanity, indolence, and in the imitation of rich, proud, and pompous people of the world. Behold how many ministers with their wives, in our time, surpassing humility -- how grand their attire, how lofty their appearance, how great their association with the wealthy of this world! With what contempt do they view the poor! How numerous their waiters, and how little do they expose themselves to preach the Gospel unto the poor! There is no similarity between them and Christ, whose ministers they affect to be -- for He was poor; He appeared lowly and in the form of a servant. Such vain, arrogant, and indolent families truly cannot support themselves in such style after their fathers' decease; a general treasury indeed might be considered necessary to support such in their vanity. The farmers and mechanics may labor hard to procure money to fill this treasury, of which, though, their widows and orphans in their straits could expect no assistance. Have we any nobility in America whom the people must bear upon their hands? What a constant tax is hereby imposed upon the congregations! How frequently the ministers or church-council must admonish the people to cast their mites into the general fund, lest it should be exhausted! There would be no end to begging and expostulating with the people for money. Howbeit, it is said that no person is compelled to contribute towards the general fund. We grant it in one sense, but not in another; for such as did not freely contribute would be viewed with a contemptible eye, and frequently reproved as avaricious, hardened wretches, so that at last they would find themselves obliged to contribute. Such widows and orphans who by some misfortune are rendered unable to support themselves generally find benefactors, in addition to those means civil government hath already provided.| (33.) The |Remarks| to the Third Article of the constitution conclude as follows: |Can it be believed that the majority of the clergy of the day are true shepherds? and that they do not cherish the most aspiring views? Why are there so many attempts made to identify the Church with the State? Why are so many petitions sent to legislative bodies for incorporation? Why is there such an insatiable thirst for creating funds of immense sums for churches under incorporation acts, if the clergy of the day did not cherish the most aspiring views, and did not wish to acquire a spiritual dominion blended with civil power?| (1853, 24.) It was in keeping with these views on general funds when Tennessee, in 1841, resolved not to participate in the Lutheran centenary jubilee advocated by the General Synod, also for the reason that they were opposed to the plan of collecting [USD]150,000 as an endowment fund for its literary and other institutions. (15.)

122. Doctrinal Peculiarities. -- Evidently at the time of its organization, the views prevailing in the Tennessee Synod concerning |The Last Things| were not as yet sufficiently clarified. They believed that by the organization of the General Synod the way was prepared for |the great falling away,| spoken of in the Bible, when |the Antichrist prophesied 2 Thess.2 would set himself in the temple of God.| In the |Conclusion| of his |Objections| to the constitution of the General Synod, David Henkel said: |We do not expect finally to prevent the establishment of this General Synod by publishing our objections, because we believe, agreeably to the divine predictions, that the great falling away is approaching, so that Antichrist will set himself into the temple of God.2 Thess.2 We also believe that the establishment of General Synods are preparing the way for him. Antichrist will not, nor cannot, get into power without a general union, which is not effected by a divine harmony of godly doctrines, but by common temporal interests and the power of a majority. Notwithstanding, we consider it our duty to make the people attentive to those things, and to instruct such as are not wilfully [tr. note: sic] blind. But should we be deceived in our opinion, and clearly be convinced of it, we shall not be ashamed to recant. In vain people dream of the Millennium before crosses and tribulations shall have visited the Christian world by the rage of Antichrist. His kingdom is reared under a good garb; if this were not the case, no person would be deceived. Men who are notoriously immoral and vicious cannot deceive, but they only who appear like innocent lambs. May God preserve all His people against every temptation, for Jesus' sake! Amen.| (1821, 35.) In a letter of Jacob Larros, appended to the German Report of 1821, we read: |O that our dear brethren in office would recognize the prophecies of Holy Writ concerning the kingdom of Antichrist which . . . soon will undergo a great change and appear in its highest stage; for then they would be on their guard. Of him it is written: 'And it was given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds and tongues and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him.' He desires a universal communion (Universalgemeinschaft) to reach his purpose. This he neither can nor denies to attain by [bringing them all into] agreement with the Scriptures, but by the majority of votes. Oh, how it will grieve our brethren when they, having by their well-meant Planentwurf [constitution of the General Synod] organized a universal communion, behold that, as forerunners, they have only prepared the way for Antichrist to reach his goal and obtain his dominion. From this, Lord God, preserve our Church and our dear brethren in the ministry! Amen.| (36.) -- Concerning the ministry the Sixth Article of the constitution, adopted 1828, declares: |The grades of the ministry are two: pastor and deacon, or, as St. Paul calls them, bishop and deacon. They must possess the qualifications which are described by St. Paul 1 Tim.3, 1-14; Titus 1, 4-9.| (1853, 25.) Both of these offices, as well as ordination, were regarded as necessary. Says the Report of 1820: |As concerning the states and grades of the ministry (des Lehramts), we do not recognize more than two, to wit, pastor and deacon, as necessary for the preservation and propagation of the Church. A pastor is an evangelical teacher who discharges the office fully, in all its parts, or who performs all ministerial acts. He must be ordained and consecrated to this office by prayer and the imposition of hands by one or more pastors, when he also solemnly promises faithfully to discharge such office according to the Word of God and the doctrine of our Church. A deacon is indeed also a minister of the Word of God, but he does not discharge this office fully, like a pastor, but conducts catechetical instruction, reads sermons, conducts funerals, exhorts and, in the absence of a pastor, also baptizes children, where such is desired. He must be a regular member of the church and possess the testimony of a Christian conversation. At the request of the church-council he is to be examined at the synod as to his qualifications. If he is found able, he is dedicated [gewidmet] to such service by one or more pastors by prayer and laying on of hands either at the conference or in one of the congregations which he serves. And in the presence of the whole congregation he is, at the same time, to make the solemn promise that he will faithfully discharge his office according to his instructions. If such a deacon proves to be diligent in his office and acquires the knowledge and ability needed for the discharge of the office of a pastor, and also receives a regular call from one or more congregations who are without a minister, he may be consecrated and ordained a pastor in the manner indicated before.| (1820, 6.) -- In the celebration of the Lord's Supper the Tennessee Synod adhered to the custom of breaking the bread, instead of using wafers. When questioned by Missouri concerning this practise, they appealed to 1 Cor.10, 16 and to passages of the Confessions which speak of a |breaking of the bread.| In 1856 Synod declared: |With all due deference to the learning and high character of the Missouri Synod for orthodoxy, we have been unable to see sufficient reason to make any change in our manner of administering the Lord's Supper. We are influenced in our practise in this respect by the authority of both the Holy Scriptures and the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church. . . . For the present, therefore, we feel fully justified in our present practise.| (R.1856, 23 f.) Self-evidently, Tennessee did not adhere to this practise in the interest of Reformed or unionistic views.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy