Sunday, February 15, 2004

Article 28: Dixit!

Article 28: Dixit!

I've attached the full text of AC 28, because it is worth our reading in full. So do that now, before you read my comments...

Did you do it? If not, read it now...

Ok, on to some comments. I'm most fascinated by what this article doesn't say! Although it deals at length with the power of the bishops to declare traditions re: food, the Sabbath, etc., the article deals not a wit with the "structure" and ordering of the church per se. It simply assumes that there are bishops, and they have an office. What is this office? To preach the gospel and administer the sacraments! It is the ministry of the Word. The confessors encourage the ecclesiological structures to exercise their authority in regard to the Word, and the civil authority in regard to the ordering of civil society. But again, this distinction does not concern itself with the proper ordering or structuring of the church itself.

Most notably, the "traditions" the confessors point out have nothing to do with traditions regarding the structure of the church, like the ordering of bishops, pastor, papal office, etc. Rather, tradition in this text refers to practices commanded by the bishops that can merit something before God, like feast days and fasts and the eating of certain foods.

Rather than hearing this article as a condemnation of papal or bishoply authority, we should hear it more as a condemnation of church's that meddle in civil ordinances. In fact, I imagine this article has more direct relevance to our church's writing of social statements, and our bishop's public letters to civil authorities regarding war, etc. If I am wrong on this, please correct me. We may decide that article 28 is wrong on this point in the modern era. At the very least, we should probably heed the article's distinction- if Bishop Hanson or any bishop of our church speaks out on civil or social issues not directly related to the Gospel, they do so on their own civil authority, not in their office as bishop.

Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.

There has been great controversy concerning the Power of
Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of
the Church and the power of the sword. And from this confusion
very great wars and tumults have resulted, while the Pontiffs,
emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have instituted
new services and burdened consciences with reservation of
cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken
to transfer the kingdoms of this world, and to take the Empire
from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in
the Church by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers,
for the comforting of men's consciences, were constrained to
show the difference between the power of the Church and the
power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of
God's commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as
the chief blessings of God on earth.

But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the
power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or
commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain
sins, and to administer Sacraments. For with this commandment
Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20, 21 sqq.: As My
Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy
Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;
and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Mark 16,
15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.

This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the
Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their
calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are
granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal
righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things
cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the
Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power
of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore,
since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is
exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not
interfere with civil government; no more than the art of
singing interferes with civil government. For civil government
deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers
defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against
manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily
punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not
be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission
to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it
not break into the office of another; Let it not transfer the
kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil
rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not
interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or
contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers
concerning the form of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, John
18, 33: My kingdom is not of this world; also Luke 12, 14: Who
made Me a judge or a divider over you? Paul also says, Phil.
3, 20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 2 Cor. 10, 4: The weapons
of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the
casting down of imaginations.

After this manner our teachers discriminate between the duties
of both these powers, and command that both be honored and
acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God.

If bishops have any power of the sword, that power they have,
not as bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by human
law having received it of kings and emperors for the civil
administration of what is theirs. This, however, is another
office than the ministry of the Gospel.

When, therefore, the question is concerning the jurisdiction
of bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Again, according to the Gospel
or, as they say, by divine right, there belongs to the bishops
as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the
ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction
except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines
contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of
the Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this
without human force, simply by the Word. Herein the
congregations of necessity and by divine right must obey them,
according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth you heareth Me. But
when they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then
the congregations have a commandment of God prohibiting
obedience, Matt. 7, 15: Beware of false prophets; Gal. 1, 8:
Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him
be accursed; 2 Cor. 13, 8: We can do nothing against the
truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath
given me to edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the
Canonical Laws command (II. Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap.
Oves). And Augustine (Contra Petiliani Epistolam): Neither
must we submit to Catholic bishops if they chance to err, or
hold anything contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.

If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in hearing and
judging certain cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc.,
they have it by human right, in which matters princes are
bound, even against their will, when the ordinaries fail, to
dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of

Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the
right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws
concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of
ministers, etc. They that give this right to the bishops refer
to this testimony John 16, 12. 13: I have yet many things to
say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He,
the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all
truth. They also refer to the example of the Apostles, who
commanded to abstain from blood and from things strangled,
Acts 15, 29. They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been
changed into the Lord's Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it
seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more
than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say
they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with
one of the Ten Commandments!

But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has
been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree
anything against the Gospel. The Canonical Laws teach the same
thing (Dist. IX) . Now, it is against Scripture to establish
or require the observance of any traditions, to the end that
by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit
grace and righteousness. For the glory of Christ's merit
suffers injury when, by such observances, we undertake to
merit justification. But it is manifest that, by such belief,
traditions have almost infinitely multiplied in the Church,
the doctrine concerning faith and the righteousness of faith
being meanwhile suppressed. For gradually more holy-days were
made, fasts appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of
saints instituted, because the authors of such things thought
that by these works they were meriting grace. Thus in times
past the Penitential Canons increased, whereof we still see
some traces in the satisfactions.

Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to the command of
God when they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and like
things, and burden the Church with bondage of the law, as if
there ought to be among Christians, in order to merit
justification a service like the Levitical, the arrangement of
which God had committed to the Apostles and bishops. For thus
some of them write; and the Pontiffs in some measure seem to
be misled by the example of the law of Moses. Hence are such
burdens, as that they make it mortal sin, even without offense
to others, to do manual labor on holy-days, a mortal sin to
omit the Canonical Hours, that certain foods defile the
conscience that fastings are works which appease God that sin
in a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by the authority of
him who reserved it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only
of the reserving of the ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the
reserving of the guilt.

Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon
the Church for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, Acts
15, 10, forbids to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples,
and Paul says, 2 Cor. 13, 10, that the power given him was to
edification not to destruction? Why, therefore, do they
increase sins by these traditions?

But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of
such traditions, as though they merited grace or were
necessary to salvation. Paul says, Col. 2, 16-23: Let no man
judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day,
or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days. If ye be dead with
Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living
in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste
not; handle not, which all are to perish with the using) after
the commandments and doctrines of men! which things have
indeed a show of wisdom. Also in Titus 1, 14 he openly forbids
traditions: Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments
of men that turn from the truth.

And Christ, Matt. 15, 14. 13, says of those who require
traditions: Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the
blind; and He rejects such services: Every plant which My
heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up.

If bishops have the right to burden churches with infinite
traditions, and to ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so
often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does
it call them "doctrines of devils"? 1 Tim. 4, 1. Did the Holy
Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?

Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things necessary,
or with an opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the
Gospel, it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to
institute or exact such services. For it is necessary that the
doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches,
namely, that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to
justification, as it is written in the Epistle to the
Galatians, 5, 1: Be not entangled again with the yoke of
bondage. It is necessary that the chief article of the Gospel
be preserved, to wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in
Christ, and not for certain observances or acts of worship
devised by men.

What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in
the house of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for
bishops or pastors to make ordinances that things be done
orderly in the Church, not that thereby we should merit grace
or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to
judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin
to break them without offense to others. So Paul ordains, 1
Cor. 11, 5, that women should cover their heads in the
congregation, 1 Cor. 14, 30, that interpreters be heard in
order in the church, etc.

It is proper that the churches should keep such ordinances for
the sake of love and tranquillity, so far that one do not
offend another, that all things be done in the churches in
order, and without confusion, 1 Cor. 14, 40; comp. Phil. 2,
14; but so that consciences be not burdened to think that they
are necessary to salvation, or to judge that they sin when
they break them without offense to others; as no one will say
that a woman sins who goes out in public with her head
uncovered provided only that no offense be given.

Of this kind is the observance of the Lord's Day, Easter,
Pentecost, and like holy-days and rites. For those who judge
that by the authority of the Church the observance of the
Lord's Day instead of the Sabbath-day was ordained as a thing
necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the
Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been
revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted. And yet,
because it was necessary to appoint a certain day, that the
people might know when they ought to come together, it appears
that the Church designated the Lord's Day for this purpose;
and this day seems to have been chosen all the more for this
additional reason, that men might have an example of Christian
liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the
Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.

There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of
the law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the
Sabbath-day, which all have sprung from the false belief that
there must needs be in the Church a service like to the
Levitical, and that Christ had given commission to the
Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to
salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the
righteousness of faith was not taught clearly enough. Some
dispute that the keeping of the Lord's Day is not indeed of
divine right, but in a manner so. They prescribe concerning
holy-days, how far it is lawful to work. What else are such
disputations than snares of consciences? For although they
endeavor to modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can
never be perceived as long as the opinion remains that they
are necessary, which must needs remain where the righteousness
of faith and Christian liberty are not known.

The Apostles commanded Acts 15, 20 to abstain from blood. Who
does now observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not; for
not even the Apostles themselves wanted to burden consciences
with such bondage; but they forbade it for a time, to avoid
offense. For in this decree we must perpetually consider what
the aim of the Gospel is.

Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and from day to
day many go out of use even among those who are the most
zealous advocates of traditions. Neither can due regard be
paid to consciences unless this mitigation be observed, that
we know that the Canons are kept without holding them to be
necessary, and that no harm is done consciences, even though
traditions go out of use.

But the bishops might easily retain the lawful obedience of
the people if they would not insist upon the observance of
such traditions as cannot be kept with a good conscience. Now
they command celibacy; they admit none unless they swear that
they will not teach the pure doctrine of the Gospel. The
churches do not ask that the bishops should restore concord at
the expense of their honor; which, nevertheless, it would be
proper for good pastors to do. They ask only that they would
release unjust burdens which are new and have been received
contrary to the custom of the Church Catholic. It may be that
in the beginning there were plausible reasons for some of
these ordinances; and yet they are not adapted to later times.
It is also evident that some were adopted through erroneous
conceptions. Therefore it would be befitting the clemency of
the Pontiffs to mitigate them now, because such a modification
does not shake the unity of the Church. For many human
traditions have been changed in process of time, as the Canons
themselves show. But if it be impossible to obtain a
mitigation of such observances as cannot be kept without sin,
we are bound to follow the apostolic rule, Acts 5, 29, which
commands us to obey God rather than men.

Peter, 1 Pet. 5, 3, forbids bishops to be lords, and to rule
over the churches. It is not our design now to wrest the
government from the bishops, but this one thing is asked,
namely, that they allow the Gospel to be purely taught, and
that they relax some few observances which cannot be kept
without sin. But if they make no concession, it is for them to
see how they shall give account to God for furnishing, by
their obstinacy, a cause for schism.

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