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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


107. Confession No Mere Dead Letter. -- That Tennessee did not regard the Lutheran Confession a mere dead document appears from her attitude toward the Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and other unfaithful Lutheran synods, as delineated above. The treatise appended to the Report of 1827 declared: It is necessary to correct the wrong opinion that Lutheran ministers are at liberty to deviate from the Augustan Confession whereinsoever they conceive it as erroneous. As long as a minister pretends to be a Lutheran minister, he has no right to deviate from any article of this Confession. Let him remember his vows! If any one should discover that the Augsburg Confession is unscriptural, he is justified and bound to renounce it. But if he continues to preach under its cover, he is guilty of a twofold fraud. He deceives the Church by causing Lutherans to believe that he agrees with them. And he deceives the Christians by failing to warn them against what he regards erroneous teaching. If Luther and the Lutheran Confessions erred, |why do such as believe this call themselves Lutherans? Such practise a fraud by being called Lutherans, when they affirm that Luther taught erroneous doctrines; or else must own that, by being called after him, they sanction such errors.| (38.) Tennessee was not satisfied with being called Lutheran. They were seriously determined to be Lutherans. The Lutheran Confessions were the living norm of both their preaching and their practise. In publishing books, receiving pastors and teachers, examining candidates, in negotiating with other synods, Tennessee was scrupulously guided and governed by the Lutheran Symbols. In 1821 they resolved on a Liturgy to be prepared by Paul Henkel |according to the Augsburg Confession of Faith and the Bible.| (7.) In 1826 it was resolved that Luther's Smaller Catechism should be translated into the English language, and that Ambrose Henkel was to provide both for an accurate translation and for the publication of the Catechism. (7.) Numerous instances where pastors were carefully examined with respect to doctrine before they were admitted to membership are recorded in the synodical minutes. In the Report of 1831, e.g., we read: |Mr. Rankin [who previously had been a member of the Presbyterian Church] presented himself to the committee. He was first made a full member of the Lutheran Church by confirmation. Then, having taken the most solemn pledge, he was ordained a pastor of the same Church with prayer and laying on of hands.| (8.) The Report of 1832 records: |Whereas Mr. Rankin, as appears from a letter of Mr. Bonham, addressed to Synod, and from other trustworthy sources from Green County, Tenn., has departed from the Augsburg Confession, both as to doctrine and discipline, it was resolved that Mr. Rankin be requested to attend the next session of our Synod, and there defend himself against the above-mentioned charges, otherwise we can regard him as member of this Synod no longer.| (9.16.) In the Report of 1827 we find the following entry: |It was considered necessary that one of the pastors should visit all the other pastors, and their congregations, and examine whether there be any who deviate from the doctrines and rules of our Church. But as none of the pastors who were present could undertake this visit, it was resolved that any of the absent ministers who may volunteer his services shall hereby be authorized to make this visit, and to reprove all errors that may come within his knowledge. Whatever pastor may undertake this visit is requested to inform the secretary of his intention, and to hand in a report of his journey at the next session.| (12.)

108. Symbols Regarded as Necessary. -- In the |Remarks,| appended to the Second Article of the constitution, adopted 1828, the necessity of symbols in explained as follows: |Now the question may be put, Is not the Augustan Confession a human composition? Why is it adopted by this body? Answer: The Apostle Peter exhorts Christians to 'be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them,' etc.1 Pet.3, 15.16. From the history of the Reformation it is evident that the Protestants were called upon to deliver their confession of faith before the diet assembled at Augsburg. Every Christian is not only privileged, but also commanded to confess what he believes. Although the Scriptures be a sufficient guide without any other, and though there be but one explanation of them which can be correct, yet not all who profess Christianity explain them alike, for their views are widely different. Hence, as all do not explain the Scriptures alike, it could but be known what each body of Christians believed; consequently others could not know whether they should fellowship them, provided they had not a formal declaration of their views on the points of doctrine contained in the Scriptures. But when a body of Christians make a formal declaration of their views on the Holy Scriptures, others are enabled to judge whether they be correct, and thus may know with whom to hold Christian fellowship. . . . Lutherans acknowledge the Holy Scriptures as the only rule of doctrine and discipline; nevertheless they receive the Augustan Confession because it exhibits the same views they have on the Scriptures, and is a formal declaration of what they believe.| (22.) According to his own report of a conversation with a pastor of the General Synod, dated December 2, 1824, Andrew Henkel answered as follows the objection that the Scriptures are sufficient, and that for that reason symbols are superfluous: |I told him then that he had departed from the Augsburg Confession, and, of course, from the Lutheran Church. He then told me that the Bible was his creed, and not the Augsburg Confession, and that the said Confession contained things which were not in the Scriptures. I then replied and said that every fanatic and sectarian said so, and that Lutherans as much considered the Scriptures to be the only guide in doctrines as he or any other person did, but that it was necessary to have some standard by which men could know how the Scriptures were understood by this or the other denominations, as men varied materially in their explanations of the Scriptures. I then demanded of him to show wherein the Confession did not correspond with the Scriptures. He referred me to the word 'real' in the article of the Lord's Supper, and added that that word was inserted by the hotheaded Luther.|

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