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American Lutheranism Vindicated; or, Examination of the Lutheran Symbols, on Certain Disputed Topics Including a Reply to the Plea of Rev. W. J. Mann

American Lutheranism Vindicated; or, Examination of the Lutheran Symbols, on Certain Disputed Topics
Including a Reply to the Plea of Rev. W. J. Mann
Title: American Lutheranism Vindicated; or, Examination of the Lutheran Symbols, on Certain Disputed Topics Including a Reply to the Plea of Rev. W. J. Mann
Release Date: 2006-04-02
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of American Lutheranism Vindicated; or,Examination of the Lutheran Symbols, on Certain Disputed Topics, by Samuel Simon Schmucker

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Title: American Lutheranism Vindicated; or, Examination of the Lutheran Symbols, on Certain Disputed Topics Including a Reply to the Plea of Rev. W. J. Mann

Author: Samuel Simon Schmucker

Release Date: April 2, 2006 [EBook #18107]

Language: English


Produced by Rev. Kurt A. T. Bodling, presently at the StateLibrary of Pennsylvania

Professor of Christian Theology in the Theological
Seminary of General Synod at Gettysburg, Pa.

Earnestly contend for the faith, once delivered to the saints. JUDE 3.


Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1856,

TO THE READER.The design of the following treatise, and the occasion which elicitedit, are indicated both on the title page and in the introduction of thework itself. Its primary object is not to discuss the obligation ofSynods to adopt the doctrinal basis of the Platform. What we felt it aduty to the church to publish on that subject, we have presented in theLutheran Observer. But the pamphlet of the Rev. Mann, entitled Plea forthe Augsburg Confession, having called in question the accuracy of someof the interpretations of that Confession contained in the DefiniteSynodical Platform, and affirmed the Scriptural truth of some of thetenets there dissented from; it becomes a question of interest among usas Lutherans, which representation is correct. For the points disputedare those, on the ground of which the constitutions of the GeneralSynod and of her Seminary avow only a qualified assent to the AugsburgConfession. In hope of contributing to the prevalence of truth, and theinterests of that kingdom of God which is based on it, the writer hascarefully re-examined the original documents, and herewith submits theresults to the friends of the General Synod and her basis. Since theseresults as to the question, what do the symbols actually teach? arededuced impartially, as must be admitted, from the original symbolicalbooks themselves, as illustrated by the writings of Luther, Melancthon,and of the other Reformers of the same date; those who approve of thosebooks should so far sustain our work: and those who reject these tenets,that is, the New School portion of the church, will not object to seeinga vindication of the reason why they and the General Synod avow only aqualified assent even to the Augsburg Confession, namely, because theseerrors are there taught.

The topics here discussed, are all such as are left free to individualjudgment, both by the Constitution of the General Synod, and that of herTheological Seminary. Both explicitly bind to the Augsburg Confession,only so far as the fundamental doctrines, not of that confession, butof the Scriptures are concerned. A fundamental doctrine of Scriptureis one that, is regarded by the great body of evangelical Christians asessential to salvation, or essential to the system of Christianity; sothat he who rejects it cannot be saved, neither be regarded as abeliever in the system of Christian doctrine. The doctrinalpeculiarities of no denomination, though often highly important, cantherefore be regarded as fundamental, without unchurching all otherdenominations and consigning them to perdition. The topics herediscussed are, 1. Ceremonies of the Mass. 2. Private Confession andAbsolution. 3. The Divine institution of the Christian Sabbath. 4.Nature of Sacramental Influence. 5. Baptismal Regeneration. 6. Thenature of the Saviour's presence in the Lord's Supper; and, 7. Exorcism.Now, not one of these is found in the list of fundamentals published bythe Synod of Maryland, and by the great Evangelical Alliance of all theprominent Christian denominations assembled in London in 1846,consisting of more than a thousand ministers of Christ, delegated fromnearly all parts of Europe and America. That list is found in theLutheran Manual, and is the following:—

"1. The Divine inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the HolyScriptures. 2. The right and duty of private judgment in theinterpretation of the Scriptures. 3. The unity of the Godhead, and theTrinity of persons therein. 4. The utter depravity of human nature inconsequence of the fall. 5. The incarnation of the Son of God, his workof atonement for sinners of mankind, and his mediatorial intercessionand reign. 6. The justification of the sinner by faith alone. 7. Thework of the Holy Spirit in the conversion and sanctification of thesinner. 8. The Divine institution of Christian ministry, and theobligation and perpetuity of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; and 9. Theimmortality of the soul and the judgment of the world by our Lord JesusChrist, with the eternal blessedness of the righteous and the eternalpunishment of the wicked." Not one of these are here discussed.

As to the doctrines taught in this little volume, they are the sameinculcated in our Popular Theology twenty-one years ago, and in ourdifferent works published since that time. And here it seems proper toavail ourselves of this public opportunity to correct an errorcommitted by our esteemed friend, Dr. Schaff, of Mercersburg, in hisrecent work on the American churches, in which he represents us asdenying the reality, as well as the guilt of natural depravity. Thisis entirely a mistake. The reality of Natural Depravity is a doctrineso clearly taught in God's word, as well as by the history of the humanrace, that we have never even been tempted to doubt it. In the eighthedition of the Popular Theology, (p. 144,) which has recently left thepress, our views on this subject are thus summed up:— "The AugsburgConfession seems to combine, both these views, (i.e. both absence ofholiness and predisposition to sin,) and the great body of Lutherandivines has regarded natural, or original, or innate depravity, as thatdisorder in the mental and bodily constitution of man, which wasintroduced by the fall of Adam, is transmitted by natural generationfrom parent to child, and the result of which is, that all men who arenaturally engendered, evince in their action want of holiness and apredisposition to sin. Without the admission of such a disorder in thehuman system, no satisfactory reason can be assigned for theuniversality of actual transgression amongst men." "Our own views onthis disputed subject, maybe summed up in the following features: 1.All mankind, in consequence of their descent from fallen Adam, are bornwith a depraved nature, that is, their bodily and mental system is sodisordered, as in result of its operation to evince a predispositionto sin. 2. This natural depravity disqualifies its subjects forheaven. Because the action of depraved (disordered) faculties andpowers, would not, even in heaven itself, be conformed to the divinelaw, and could not be acceptable to God In our natural state,moreover, we have not the qualifications requisite for the enjoymentof heaven, having no spiritual appetites. But we cannot suppose thatGod would condemn us to positive and eternal misery merely on account ofthis depraved (disordered) nature; for we are in no sense the authors orcauses of it; and a just God will not punish his creatures for actswhich they did not perform;" (p. 147.) It is evident, therefore, that wedo maintain the reality of natural depravity inherited from our firstparents, but deny the imputation of it to us as personal guilt. Thiscorrection, we doubt not, Dr. Schaff will make in the future editions ofhis work. Nor are we more chargeable with even the remotest tendency torationalism, than the great mass of American and English theologians,including such men as Drs. Dwight, Mason, Woods and Alexander, who alldistinguish things above reason from those contrary to it, andwhilst they deny that revelation teaches any doctrine of the latterclass, admit and believe a number of its doctrines, such as the Trinity,Incarnation, &c., to be above the comprehension of human reason. Withthem, moreover, we maintain, that in doctrines which lie within thegrasp of human reason, it is proper and a duty to expect and toinculcate a harmony between the teachings of revelation and the dictatesof reason, thus to exhibit and confirm the intrinsic moral fitness andglory of those truths of revelation. And it is these and similar thingswhich a certain class of German theologians of late are wont to stylerationalizing tendencies.

As to the necessity of this work; two little volumes have appeared,assailing some of the positions of the Definite Platform, and none invindication of them. The New School must therefore receive credit formoderation. Those volumes were hailed with exultation by the four orfive Old-School papers of our church, and all of them, even theMissionary, invite the continuance of the discussion in pamphlet form.Those publications did not agitate the church, neither will this. Thatman must be ignorant of human nature, who does not perceive a vastdifference between a controversy conducted in the newspapers of thechurch, and one confined to independent pamphlets or volumes. In theformer case, the dispute is forced upon all who see the paper, andreaches fifty times as many persons, amongst whom may be many who, fromprejudice, or want of sufficient intelligence, do not appreciate theimportance of the discussion; in the latter, it reaches only those whodesire to see it, and feel sufficient interest to purchase the volume.Yet the Definite Platform, be it remembered, was not the cause but theresult of Symbolic agitation, continual, progressive, and aggressive, inthe several Old-School papers and periodicals, for eight or ten yearspast. As it evinced a spirit of resistance, they of course pounced downupon it, and labored hard for its destruction. But their continueddiscussion has brought to light such high-toned and intolerant groundsof opposition, that the church generally, we doubt not, will settledown, in a just appreciation of the case.

The course pursued by the ministers of the General Synod, has alwaysbeen a liberal one. They have freely expressed their sentiments on thesedisputed topics, and cheerfully conceded to others the same liberty.This principle pervades the Constitution of the General Synod and ofher Seminary. Even within the last few weeks, the Directors of theSeminary have listened to a vindication of the entire symbolic system,in the Inaugural of their German Theological Professor, and resolvedto publish it, although it advocates some views rejected by themajority of the Board, and by the other members of the Faculty. Aftersuch a specimen of liberality, we may well hope that the propriety ofany of the other Professors advocating the doctrines, which have fromthe beginning been taught in the institution, will be conceded by all.

For the information of those foreign brethren who have recently takenpart in our ministry, we deem it just to remark, that the termAmerican was employed in reference to our church, many years beforethe existence of the political party now designated by this name, andis used by us, not in distinction from those born in foreign lands, butto designate those peculiarities of doctrine, discipline, and worship,which characterize the great mass of the churches of the General Synod,as the terms Danish Lutheran, or Swedish Lutheran, and GermanLutheran, indicate the peculiarities of our church in those countries.Some of our best American Lutherans are natives of foreign lands.

In conclusion, we repeat the assurance, that it has been with deepregret that we have felt compelled, in defence of American, that is,New School Lutheranism, to exhibit what we regard the errors of theformer symbols. But as the existence of these errors has of late yearsbeen perseveringly denied, and New School Lutherans have beenincessantly reproached for not yielding an unqualified assent, to thesebooks, necessity was laid on us; and the evil of the controversy, ifany, lies at the door of the aggressors.

Praying that our Divine Master may bless this little volume

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